Like many of you, school librarian summers are spent catching up on books to share with my students and thinking and rethinking ways to engage students and teachers in our library. This summer, however, was much different. Measuring tape in hand and library map prepared, I spent the summer calculating how many students I could safely fit into the library and what six foot of social distancing looks like. I worried, I freaked out a bit, and I’m on level 520 of Bubble Pop. In the end, I sat down and prepared a two page document of library operating procedures for the coming school year. I had to let a few things go to make room for safety procedures. The end game was to keep students in our library and build a robust digital platform to serve every one of our 1800 students regardless of their location - school or home.
In my heart, I felt the least prepared I have ever felt before the first day of school. However, when the students hit the halls and the questions started rolling in, I did what comes naturally. I helped, problem solved, directed, and escorted a few shaky freshmen to their classes. I worked with teachers through the kinks of the Google Classroom transition knowing whatever came our way, it was the platform that would support learning. The worries of the summer fell away and within our safety procedures, we rolled. We helped. And we persisted.
School librarians have an opportunity to take a seat at the table providing resources and support to meet the needs of students in large and small ways. As our teachers rethink their instruction plans, we can offer collaboration and insight. Rethinking the workflow in our libraries shows our students ingenuity and grit. We can move through this season of uncertainty with courage. My hope for all of you this fall as school opens in whatever capacity, is that you roll and you persist.
By Cynthia Stogdill
We get to continue to build relationships with our kiddos.
Very few teachers are as fortunate as we are. We get to spend years developing relationships and really getting to know our students, and that’s something that this pandemic cannot take away from us.
So as you enter this school year, my advice to you is to set aside your worries about how you will manage to get books in kids hands, how you will need to quarantine library materials, and how you will teach in person or online. Because at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. What does, is that you spend time with your students.
Greet them at every chance you can. Do some fun icebreakers. Sit and talk to them. Let them get to know you. And build that relationship.
By Kelly Kenny
As a library media specialist (LMS), I often find myself pulled in many directions at any given time during any given day. In this teaching position, that I love so much, I have come to expect that my days will likely never look the same.
Like all of you, before I was a LMS, I was a classroom teacher. Whether I was teaching in the elementary classroom or middle school mathematics, my students and I thrived on our classroom routines, expectations, and normal day-to-day goings on. (An assistant superintendent once asked me if my consistent classroom schedule was for the students or for me. I told him it was for “all of us” - and that was the truth.) Our classroom routine made it so I could focus on teaching and my students could focus on learning. It aided my classroom management.
In my first years as a LMS, I was teaching in a middle school with a set library schedule, which I learned to make work for me. I saw 6th grade students on Mondays and Tuesdays, 7th grade students on Wednesdays, and 8th grade students on Thursdays. Fridays were set as my enrichment days. With the students, I established library “norms” and expectations. I was able to give book talks, share book trailers, talk with students about books, etc. All was well!
Fast forward several years to my current LMS position. I serve middle school and high school students. I have no set schedule. Every day is a NEW adventure!
One of the many things I love about being a LMS is talking to kids about books and reading. I love hearing about their latest reads, their passion for a series, their irritation with how long it takes their favorite author to write a book, etc. Oftentimes during these chats, I get new suggestions of books to order. I also love suggesting books to students to read. When a student approaches me and indicates a need for help finding a book to read, I must admit, my inner-librarian self squeals and claps with excitement. It’s like a puzzle I get to put together. So - the questions begin. What was the last book you read? What did you like about it? What’s your favorite book? What makes the book your favorite? Etc. Until - voila! A “book match” is made!
Unfortunately, I’m not always available to do my beloved “book matching”. This saddens my librarian’s heart, but it is what is. So here’s what I do… Every month, I have a new quirky, punny library theme, complete with posters, signs, a bookmark, and a bookmark with my Bitmoji on it. I display books on the tops of our shelves, and each book has a bookmark placed in it. If I’ve read the book and enjoyed it, I put the bookmark with my Bitmoji on it in the book. This is my way of suggesting books to my kiddos without actually being there! (At the beginning of each school year, I communicate my bookmark “strategy” with ALL of my students. For the 6th grade students this is new information, but for the rest of the student body - it’s a reminder. So, EvErYoNe knows!)
My hope is that each student looks forward each month to what that “CrAzY” Mrs. Fiala is going to “do” in the Media Center. For the record, I’ve not had a repeated monthly theme in the six-years I’ve been at Aurora Public Schools!
by Emmy Fiala
“Ok...Here we go. Focus. Speed.”
Lightning McQueen says at the start of the movie Cars this famous line. He learns a few lessons along the way, but it still comes back to his finish and how managed to accomplish this task.
I’d like to add to his two words—attitude and discipline. We need to have all these things at the end of the year. We ask our students to take state tests; we ask our students to wrap up their end-of-the-year projects; we ask her students to show up and continue learning even though the days are really nice outside and they’d rather be somewhere else.
How about school library? Are we ready to finish strong? What is our focus at the end of the year? I know many times we are “busy” and caught up with other things. You may have requisitions on your plate; you may have weeding; you may have inventory; you may have teachers who want to try something new. We are librarians. We persevere. We still need to continue and finish strong. Whether it’s students, teachers, your entire school family, I remind you, remember your focus.
Speed...when we’re looking at the rate of things that need to be done between now and the end of the year (and then you throw in having no school), what’s the speed in which we need to accomplish certain tasks? Although sleep is sometimes an afterthought, take care of yourself too. You can’t be up to speed if you’re not up to yourself. How can we have school librarians support our teachers in finishing the end of the year and finishing strong?
We hear attitude is everything. We teach that attitude is everything. I remind you that you wake up each day and you decide who you’re going to be, you wake up each day and decide how the day is going to go. We are in charge of our lives; we’re in charge of our school library lives. Our attitude determines a lot. The attitude that we as school librarians have is one of the biggest influences in our school. Time to help you with making a connection to project even though we are swamped with things going...we sure do have the time! We always have the attitude that we still need to be there for our students. For some, the book that is checked out from us is the only book they have at home. For some, the conversation they have with us about a book is one positive adult relationship that they have in their life. For some, the library is a place for them to make and create. How can our attitude better support students in their ongoing quest for knowledge?
Finally, what discipline do we have? This is the 4th quarter—it’s time to dig deep. I myself need to rise to the occasion so I can be a stronger person. What can I learn? What new skills can I gain because then I can export those onto my students? Or better yet, what new books can I read that I can then share with a student? I know on days off from school there are so many other things pulling at me...potentially new books that I want to read, always my housework, the nice days that make me want to be outside, there’s probably something that needs to be organized in my life...but I need to have that discipline to finish what I’m doing.
I challenge you school librarians to have your focus, your speed, your attitude, and your discipline in check and finish strong.
So as we wrap up the final quarter or term of the school year, let’s all finish strong.
by Crys Bauermeister
I know you are asking yourself - where did half of the school year go? Let’s start this new year off with some fresh ideas for your library! Here are a few bulletin board, book display and library ideas for you to try out in your space. These ideas can be tweaked for libraries big or small - elementary, middle and high school!
In January I have always had students cut out snowflakes to decorate the library, but I always forget about snowmen! Have your classes decorate snowmen and hang them up on a bulletin board or around your space. I feel that these are just as unique as paper snowflakes.
(Credit: Tillysha Naomi on Facebook)
If you don’t have bulletin board space (like me), decorate your doors! What a great and inviting way to welcome your students into the library.
(Credit: Kimberly Lane on Facebook)
If you like puns, then you will love this idea!
(Credit: Sherrie Rizzo on Facebook)
Snowflakes and snowmen aren’t the only thing that represent winter. How can you incorporate New Year’s Resolutions in your displays? Ask students anonymously what their goals are for 2020 and hang them in a window or on a bulletin board for all to see. It’s a great way for students to reflect, but to also see what their peers wrote.
A great way to start the year is to start a new series. Create a display using the 1st book of any of the series in your library.
Have students who are makers? Create a display of “New Year, New Hobby” with maker books, knit/crochet, various how-to non-fiction books that will spark some interest!
(Credit: St. Louis Public Library)
Something I am incorporating into my library in 2020 is Adopt-A-Shelf. I originally saw this idea on Facebook. I am at a large middle school and you could say that by the end of the day or week, my shelves need some love. This is an awesome way for students to hold ownership within your library. Students will “adopt” a shelf to take care of. This can be just a row or even a whole shelf. A fun way to get students to buy in is to make adoption signs about who “owns” the shelf. You could allow students to decorate their area or not. Let them run with it! Students can come in before or after school, during their library time, at the end of the week, etc. However it will work for you. In return, it saves you a few extra minutes of straightening up your shelves.
Here are a few links to get you started:
Adopt a Shelf!
A fun twist on adopt a shelf https://shawnacoppola.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/our-adopt-a-shelf-program-the-deets/
Happy New Year!
By Rachel Westphalen
Hey all! I am Angie Blankenship, School Librarian at Pershing Elementary in Lexington, Nebraska. I wanted to share a quick video with you for my blog post on how to use Facebook Collections and Groups for professional development! Please feel free to email me with any questions after watching the video!
I have also listed a few of my favorite groups to follow. Please share with us if you have any you LOVE.
Future Ready Librarians
School Librarian Connection
By Angie Blankenship
As I took a step back to think about what would be most important to Nebraska school librarians at this time of year, I eventually landed on the topic of equity. Equity is at the forefront of the work of the Nebraska State Department of Education (https://www.education.ne.gov/ndeday/). Take a look at the Nebraska Department of Education’s definition of educational equity:
Educational equity means all students have meaningful access to the educational resources they need at the right moment, at the right level, and with the right intensity...Educational equity allows students to discover and explore their passions and make meaningful connections within the context of their postsecondary interests. (https://www.education.ne.gov/ndeday/)
Isn’t this what we do as librarians? I bet you’ll run out of fingers counting all the ways you create equity through instruction and library programming. We are all about equity and we always have been, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grow and get better at it.
With that said, let’s think about how we as librarians can create equitable opportunities for our students.
Equitable access to resources at the right moment, at the right level, and with the right Intensity
Of course, diverse collections come to mind when we think about equity in the library. We want our libraries to be full of books and resources representing the diversity of experiences in our world. As you start a book order list for the coming school year, make a commitment to take a look at diverse book lists from sources such as We Need Diverse Books and the Lincoln Public School’s MOSAIC. In fact, on the We Need Diverse Books website you’ll find a list of sites you can explore to discover even more diverse books.
We all know that access to books alone will not improve students’ experiences. We need to pair our diverse collections with qualified school librarians who can recommend titles to our students. What can you do this year to promote diverse literature? It can be as easy as creating displays and book talking diverse titles. Perhaps you could select a diverse book and start a One Book One School program.
Allowing students to discover and explore their passions and make meaningful connections within the context of postsecondary interests
When you teach a student to code or engage them in a makerspace activity, you are allowing them to explore their passions and make connections within the context of postsecondary interests. The young student building elaborate structures with K’nex may be exploring an interest that could lead to a career in architecture or engineering. A student who spends his time in the library using your virtual reality set, may be preparing to work in the movie or video game industry. Let’s make sure we tie our makerspaces to real world applications and promote them that way with our administrators.
Three important questions
What else can we do? I think we can ask ourselves some really important questions, research the answers to these questions, and make programming changes that further promote equity. Let’s start with just a few really good questions:
I know we as librarians are champions of equity, and I am so grateful that our spaces are welcoming to all. Let’s keep doing this great work and find even more ways to advance the NDE’s equity goals.
By Joy Harvey
Tonight I was driving home from school and realized this school year is my tenth year as a school librarian. I started thinking about those first few months on the job, ten years ago. How would I know all the kids? Where were the light switches? (The light switch issue seems to be a recurring theme in my career). How many things did I not know that I needed to know? How would I wrap my brain around this massive task which I suddenly had no idea how to do? One student at a time, one light switch at a time, and one task at a time. Eventually, I moved to a place of gratitude. Grateful for all the faces I could put names to, and for those who showed me where things were, and held me up as I learned my profession. As my third year in Papillion La Vista South High School started, I am excited for familiar faces, smiles, and high fives as we open our amazing library to the students.
A few things come to mind as I reflect on my journey. I give great advice, but seldom take my own. Take care of you. As school librarians, we problem solve, share our energy, and take on many tasks in support of our students and learning. Over time, it’s easy to become frustrated and overwhelmed. Find ways to renew your energy and love for what we do. This summer I started each morning with yoga, usually with a cat or dog as a companion. Curl up with an anticipated title and read the whole thing. Stop and grab a favorite coffee or treat, just because. It’s the little things that make a big difference, and they will keep you going.
Do not travel this journey alone. A network of professionals who speak your language and walk in your shoes is key. One of the most meaningful conversations I had as new school librarian was with another librarian during my practicum. I learned so much from watching another professional. I also learned that the things I worried about were shared by someone else. If you are new to the library profession, seek out a mentor to guide and support you. One of the action items for NSLA is to support our membership with a mentor network. Contact us if you would like to be paired with a mentor as you transition into a new position or profession. We have a few different opportunities available to fit your individual needs.
Connect with other librarians and take care of yourself by participating in professional learning. For the first time, NSLA will be holding a Fall Spectacular on Saturday, October 5th at Papillion La Vista South High School. It will be a day packed with great learning, amazing presenters, and wonderful people. Registration is open! We know from membership feedback, conference attendance is difficult to negotiate so we’ve put together a great Saturday of fun and networking.
Finally, advocating for what you are passionate about is another great way to re-new your enthusiasm. Currently, two bills have been introduced as federal legislation regarding K-12 education. The two bills, HR.3667 (Morelle) and S.2070 (Merkley) were introduced in July. Both would create federal grants to keep school libraries open during the summer in conjunction with free lunch programs. What a great way to keep students engaged with the library while receiving a healthy meal during the summer months. Keep an eye on these two bills. Also, Nebraska Rule 10 is under revision. Keep an eye out for updates!
Best wishes for a super school year, and reach out to us for support! We are here for you!
By Cynthia Stogdill
Happy Summer Librarians! As we get ready to begin the school year I wanted to share some ideas I use to tie in research to our sections of the library. As we meet each week it’s also important to build a connection with students and build relationships.
1st Grade - Each week we learn a letter in sign language. I use that letter to choose my books to read to the students while also teaching Fiction and Non-Fiction choices. Using the Non-Fiction book, we then do some research about the topic. We use maps and websites to find our more information. Sometimes the students have a template to fill out or other times they do an art project related to the topic. Some of the websites we love to use are: National Geographic for kids, Pebblego, and San Diego Zoo Kids. These websites have terrific facts and videos to go with our topics. At the end of all the letters we then learn a few songs in sign language to help the students see how sign language helps people communicate if they can’t hear or talk.
2nd - 5th Grade - The Golden Sower book choices give many opportunities to find out facts share information about the authors and the topics of the stories. This last year with “The Water Princess” and the “Boston Marathon” we were able to research about villages that don’t have fresh water and how women couldn’t participate in running races. Students then either do some writing, create posters, word collages, slide shows, or an art project to share what they learned.
3rd Grade - As we learned about the different genres and sections of the Dewey Decimal System, the students researched states and practiced taking notes from a website. We research planets, animal groups, and body systems also when I teach those Non-Fiction sections. Pinterest has great graphic organizers for students to fill in as they use books or the internet to find out more.
4th Grade - Our favorite research unit was about the weather. We tied it into the Non-Fiction section reading about different kinds of storms that affect our country. Students were able to use books and the internet to make a poster about their storm. They also had to include safety tips.
5th Grade - We use our Google accounts each week, so we have had fun doing many projects this year! Our favorite right now is finding out about inventions and inventors. They are researching an important invention they use in their home or at school that they couldn’t live without. The students are being very creative as they prepare their Google Slide and it gives them the opportunity to share their creation with whoever they want.
During all these activities it’s important to build relationships with the students. Students need to feel welcome in the library anytime. I have students coming in already at 7:30 to find books or just to visit. Students come in during their lunch recess to volunteer to help or see what I’m teaching the other grades. Then after school is a great time to send students off with books for the night or weekend. Even though we get busy and have lots to do, it’s important to take time to listen and give students the message that the library is a safe place they can come when they need to talk, get a hug, or find more books!
Have a great school year! Thanks for all you do to help our students love books, collaborate with others, and problem solve for our future!
By Laurie Schlautman
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.