Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Fair Idea

I have a wonderful book fair idea I wanted to share with you. Some of you may have a hard time getting adult visitors to your book fair, so I wanted to let you know what I have done that’s been very successful at our school.
Every year, our school hosts a “Grandparents Day.” Every student makes something for the grandparents to look at or to take home, and their work is displayed for the grandparents to view and dote over. We usually have some simple snacks with a banner welcoming them to our school. Students get to take their grandparents on a school tour to see their classroom, the lunchroom, gym, music room, art room, computer lab, and of course  the library! I almost always try to schedule my book fair week during the time we will be hosting “Grandparents Day.” I would just like to share that my sales for that day alone are sometimes in excess of $3,000. Grandparents love shopping and buying BOOKS for their grandchildren. I had one grandfather spend over $60 for one grandchild. His reply, “I don’t mind spending my money on something worthwhile, like books, for my grandson.”
Just a couple of tips: Make sure you can take credit cards/debit cards, and make sure you have plenty of adult helpers. You will need them! Good luck, and happy sales!

Pam McMickens

Oak Grove Elementary



Monday, November 26, 2012

A Constitution Website

With the recent Presidential election and speculation about Supreme Court appointees that could possibly be made during his tenure, it seems like information about the Constitution is more prominently taking a place in the news.

I had heard about the Hillsdale College offer to let any American citizen take a free on-line class on the Constitution, taught by their professors, but I wasn’t aware until last week that they also offer a website with the same information.  The U.S.Constitution: A Reader, found at , has the college’s core course on the Constitution. 

It also has digitized and searchable topics important to understanding American government, key debates from our Founding Fathers, the Progressives, and others, a database of quotes, and an illustrated timeline of American Constitutional history.

If you personally need brushing up on your knowledge of our Constitution, I found this to be a great resource.  I’ve just gotten into the first sections, but I have learned a lot (Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was only 33 when he wrote theDeclaration of Independence and that he wrote it in 17 days?)!   The website can be perused or studied at your own pace which makes it a great resource for those of us who don’t have a lot of extended periods of study/reading time.  These documents are rich text that will fit in well with our new standards in Alabama, too!  High School librarians, please share with your social studies teachers.  You all may want to save the website and do something with it next year for Constitution Day or use it to brush up on your personal knowledge!

(posted on behalf of Meg Brooke)

Friday, November 2, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

We had two students approach us about sponsoring a "write in" for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). We had advertised the event last year using posters around the library, but had no takers. These two students remembered the event and that it was in November and approached us.
Cheryl and I set up a NaNoWriMo writing area:

GHS Library
We also set up a display for the window for recruiting more participants.
We have had three meetings (9 students writing just to write, no grades) with students and spoke to 8 classes about participating. offers a library kit ($10.00 shipping) and a forum for Media Specialists.

                On day one (Nov. 1) we had six students visit the library to write (combined writing over 8000 words) and a freshmen studies teacher (along with 94 freshmen) implement a classroom project based on NaNoWriMo. He will be back on November 2nd with 88 more freshmen.

                Often Cheryl and I feel that our students are consuming so much information, but not creating as much. NaNoWriMo provides an outlet for students to create any novel they want. If you want more information check out there is also a Young Writers Program ( that teachers can set up an online classroom to follow progress of students.


I will leave you, future novelist and novel facilitators, with two quotes from the founder of NaNoWriMo:

“There's a book in you that only you can write.” 

“A novel rough draft is like bread dough; you need to beat the crap out of it for it to rise.” 

James Green

Gardendale High School

NaNoWriMo 2012 Participant

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Collaborate with a Science Teacher!

Can you imagine how much you need to know to be a science teacher? It's an exciting subject and I love learning as I collaborate!

One of the ways I collaborate with science teachers is to send them links and ask them how I can help. Discovery Education is a great site to belong to. Regular e-mails come and I explore them when I have time. Here's what I found lately:

  • Hands on Science Activities
  • Siemens contest to win a science assemby
  • Teacher Support Center
  • New Hands on Science for K-3
  • Teacher Refresh Videos
Here are two great websites that can help you collaborate with a science teacher: (for elementary schools - win an assembly by daily log ins)

So, start a conversation today and good luck!

Monday, August 13, 2012

What's on Your Library Webpage?

Doug Johnson posted an article in June with some great thoughts on what school librarians should consider essential content for our webpages. Great thoughts to consider as we kick off the 2012-2013 school year!

Is there anything you would add or take away from the list on Doug's site?

Link to article

Friday, June 22, 2012

Back to School Conferences

All school librarians should make plans to attend the summer conferences for your respective grade levels in the coming months. We've not had the opportunity to participate in these before, but it is exciting to hear that we will be attending the same professional development trainings as our teacher colleagues. There will be special library-specific strands for us at each one of the conferences, so we will have the opportunity to mix and mingle with teachers as well as grow in our own field. Winner, winner!

Elementary: July 26 at McAdory Elementary School

Middle and High: July 31 at Pleasant Grove High School

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Siesta

LibraryVision will be on brief hiatus during the summer months. We may pop in here and there to advertise upcoming PD opportunities, but regular posts will resume in August. Feel free to use the search box or labels to review past posts on certain topics of interest to may have missed something good during the very busy 2011-2012 school year! If you are a JefCo librarian interested in writing a post for LibraryVision, please feel free to contact Michelle Wilson via our list-serv or email. All are welcome!

Happy summer, library friends!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Flashback (6)

Each Friday through May, I'll be posting some of our most popular posts from the year (judging by hit counts and comments).
*Originally posted on 12.6.11.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Flashback (5)

Each Friday through May, I'll be posting some of our most popular posts from the year (judging by hit counts and comments).
*Originally posted 3.13.12.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Flashback (4)

Each Friday through May, I'll be posting some of our most popular posts from the year (judging by hit counts and comments).
*Originally posted on 9.11.11.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

eLearning Opportunities

Alabama has developed a wonderful system for online PD. eLearning for Educators is a web-based system in which teachers can sign up for courses using STIPD, then participate in 6-week online courses that offer up to 30 hours of professional development. It also meshes nicely with Educate Alabama, so when you are determining your areas of growth for the year, try an eLearning course. 

There are courses offered on everything from "Teaching Students to Think Critically" to "Internet Safety in Schools." I took a course earlier this year on meeting the needs of English Learners in the classroom. I really enjoyed the format because the professor presented the class with our assignments from the first day, and we had complete freedom in completing each task whenever it was convenient for us. For me, sometimes that was at 2:00 in the morning; others, it was during my planning time. Flexibility is the greatest asset of learning in the 21st century, and that goes for professional learning as well! 

If you have any questions about these eLearning courses, please let me know. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Alabama Virtual Library: Searchasaurus

Searchasaurus is the last in a series of posts on elementary resources provided by the Alabama Virtual Library. 

Searchasaurus is a fairly "fun" database for young researchers simply due to the dino theme. Kids dig dinosaurs. They just do. 

Once you click in to Searchasaurus, one of the first things your eye will notice is the categorical browsing capacity. Students can click on the icons for categories such as Animals, Sports, Stories, and People to learn more about what they find interesting. 

One of the second things you will notice is that there are 5 buttons at the top offering choices (Home, Dictionary, Encyclopedia, Pictures, etc.). These are like what we call bread crumbs in Sharepoint and remain at the top of the screen no matter where you click within the database. This provides a handy anchor for young students. 

Teachers can also limit each individual student's search by Lexile level to ensure they are perusing content most appropriate for their reading level. 

Enjoy using this with your students! 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Getting Started with Twitter

Twitter is a wonderful source of information for educators of all brands. Librarians especially love it because it's a newer (kind's been around for almost 4 years) social media technology, and because it is so easy to connect with other librarians and ed-tech folks across the state, nation, and globe.

Though currently blocked by our district's filters, you can get your Twitter account started by following these steps at home.

1. Go to and click "Sign up for Twitter."
Choose your user name, password, and other account specifics. If this will be a solely professional account, it is acceptable to use your school email address. If you want to use it for any personal reasons, use your personal email address. You can only associate an email address with one Twitter account, so keep that in mind as well.

2. Choose your other account specifics. This is where you will want to consider how private you want this account to be. Many users prefer leaving their account open to promote more interaction with other people (teachers, librarians, etc.) For me, I never post anything I wouldn't want anyone to read (a wise rule of thumb in this information age, people!), but I do prefer having my account as private to keep spammers from having the ability to follow me without my permission. With a protected account, you have to approve each and every person who wants to read your tweets. If that sounds overwhelming, you may want to leave yours open. 

3. Now that you are all set up, you can start making connections. There are some great lists out there where you can find people to follow. Maximize what you get out of Twitter by following good tweeters. (Ahem, NOT those who overshare or tell you what they are having for breakfast.) We are keeping a list of librarians from our district who tweet (look to the right side column of this blog), so if you would like to be added to that, please do let me know and I will make it happen. 

4. Consider your profile. You have already chosen a user name, and you want to be sure to include just enough information in your bio to let people know you are legitimate but not so much that everybody knows all your beeswax. People won't want to connect with you if you leave your bio blank. They might think you are a spammer or some creepazoid surfing for "friends" and either block or deny your follow request.

 Here's mine:

5. Now it's time to get in on the conversation! start tweeting by clicking the blue box with the quill. Share great resources or links you have found, share ideas about issues or trends, and definitely post questions! I've received some seriously fast tech support/troubleshooting from my Twitter people. 

6. Here is an example of what your feed will look like once you've established some connections with other librarians, teachers, etc. 

7. Learn the lingo:

"Twitter" is the website/web 2.0 tool.

A "tweet" is what someone posts.

When you start a Twitter account and begin to use it, that makes you a "Tweeter."

Your Twitter user name is called your "handle." You always include the @ symbol before your name. (Ex: @mwilson518)

A "re-tweet" (symbol is RT) is when others repeat an important tweet. This might be someone's plea for votes in a classroom contest, or it might be a great quote about libraries. Re-tweeting is sort of like saying
"Yeah, what he/she said!"

A "mention" is when you have a conversation with another user (symbol is @ and then the person's user name, ex: check out Elizabeth Hester's reply to me in the third tweet above) or when someone mentions you in a tweet of their own. (ex: check out the second tweet above when BreakingNews mentions ABC, CNN, and AP media).

Well, okay! I hope this has been a helpful mini-tutorial. If you have any questions about using Twitter or want to know more about the value of it in education today (especially for librarians), please do not hesitate to contact me!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Flashback (3)

Each Friday through May, I'll be posting some of our most popular posts from the year (judging by hit counts and comments).
*Originally posted on 9.29.11.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

2012 LLSP Awards

On April 24, several librarians in our district were honored at the annual LLSP (Library Links for Success Program) luncheon. Congratulations to these finalists and award recipients!

Elementary Library Media Program of the Year 2012:  Hillview Elementary School, Barbie Miller, librarian

Semi-Finalist: Snow Rogers Elementary, Tiffany Reno, librarian
High School Library Media Program of the Year 2012: Corner High School, Sheila McAnnally, librarian
Library Media Aide of the Year 2012: Wanda Gipson, Chalkville Elementary School, Elna Allen, librarian

Most Exemplary Principal of the Year 2012: Phyllis Montalto, Irondale Middle School, Elizabeth Hester, librarian
Semi-Finalists: David Pike, Minor High School, Bobby Hill and Thomas Cast, librarians
and Angela Watkins, Erwin Elementary School, Steve Filoromo, librarian

John and Ella McCain Award Winners:
Valissa Burnham, Hueytown Middle (for work on eReader research)

Bobby Hill, Minor High (for service in IMC)
Dion Staton, North Jefferson Middle  (for work on eReader research) 
Michelle Wilson, North Highland Elementary (for LibraryVision blog)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Flashback (2)

Each Friday through May, I'll be posting some of our most popular posts from the year (judging by hit counts and comments).
*Originally posted on 10.18.11.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Flashback

Each Friday through May, I'll be posting some of our most popular posts from the year (judging by hit counts and comments).
*Originally posted 12.15.11.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Boy Books and Girl Books

I am a firm believer that all literature provides equal opportunity for any individual, regardless of gender. There are many who disagree. Some folks say girls don't like Hatchet, and some say boys would never be interested Little House on the Prairie. To them I would ask why a girl shouldn't enjoy a good survival book (Hunger Games demographics have very recently proven that), and also why a boy wouldn't enjoy a vividly descriptive work about pioneer life.

We can't put readers in our preconceived boxes. 

But just because it's true that some girls really don't like Hatchet, here is a great list of books recommended for the little ladies from ages 1-9.

Likewise, just as the young gentlemen can be a bit choosy sometimes when being proffered literature, here's another good list for them as well, appropriate for various ages through middle school.

These might be a neat idea for a display for the last two weeks in April. What would you title it? Boy Books and Chick Lit?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Disaster Preparedness

Unfortunately, our area has had more than our share of natural disasters in the past year. In one of the recent webinars from the state department, LeeAnna Mills (librarian at Northside Middle whose school experienced a fire in 2011) offered tips for disaster preparedness that she learned the hard way. Here are a few:

  • Catalog EVERYTHING. The stack of donated books, the extra professional resources brought in by administrators, books you bought at the book fair, items purchased with grant money, big books, puppets, supplemental materials, resource kits, realia, equipment, new stuff, old stuff worthy of keeping...everything. If you have to go through a disaster, you won't remember what you had or didn't have. This is your best method of ensuring your collection will be replaced. LeeAnna said even if you don't have time to catalog an item, scan ISBN numbers into a Excel file at the very least (saved to the server) so that you have some sort of record of these resources. 
  • Keep an electronic copy of your personal items (certificates, awards, etc. in list or PDF form). 
  • Make sure when cataloging equipment to include Title, Make/Brand, Model Number, Serial Number, Date of Purchase, and Funds Used. (All of these are part of our district's standard record-keeping procedures for equipment.)
  • Always have a wish list. After you experience a disaster, many times you will receive offers for help. Keep a digital list with a vendor (or Amazon) for generous people to purchase exactly what you need.
  • Keep an electronic copy of your library's floor plan. Pictures are very valuable, too. 

The American Association of School Librarians also offers a huge grant for libraries who have experienced disaster. You do not have to be an ASLA member to apply. Details can be found here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Philosophies of Teaching Keyboarding in the 21st Century

I've long since stopped believing that students should be taught keyboarding.

I can literally hear people gasping right now.

Don't throw your lunch at me or call me a techno-heretic just yet! Hear me out, people, hear me out...

My reasons are four-fold:

1. Keyboarding skill-and-drill practice takes time that could be spent on more valuable experiences with technology. (Example: Instead of practicing home keys or finding capital and lowercase letters, let students-even 5 year olds!-type a list of words that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Have older students type reports, blog posts, comments on other blog posts, etc.) I'm not saying never give them a few minutes here and there on some sort of open-source software, but for the love of Pete don't take your 45-minute lab class to make students practice finding j-j-j, then h-h-h, and so forth. Oy vey.

2. My own personal experiences with technology has proven that it just takes time and consistent connections to real-world tasks to acquire ease on a keyboard. I am a digital immigrant who was never taught keyboarding, and I have survived just fine.I believe that it is much more meaningful to give students more opportunities to type in context of their course content.

3. New technologies don't even utilize the classic QWERTY-style keyboard. If we're keeping our kids up to date with tech tools, then we're putting iPods and iPads in their hands.  

4. There really is no one "right" way to type. Whatever makes the user most comfortable and gets the job done most efficiently IS the right way for that person.

But you know what, don't take my word for it. Check out what these experts have to say on the subject!

And if you hate this philosophy of keyboarding (or rather, philosophy of NON-keyboarding), you don't even want to hear what I have to say about cursive handwriting (Which, from what I gather, was left completely out of the Common Core Standards)! ;)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Common Core Standards - 5 Things...

Rebecca Harris has written a wonderful article in SLJ's April issue: "All Aboard! Implementing Common Core offers school librarians an opportunity to take the lead". The article offers some background on Common Core Standards as well as lots of advice. Within the article there is a list highlighting how to get started.

According to Christopher Harris in his article "How to Get Started" in School Library Journal's latest issue, there are "five things you can do to get started with Common Core" (SLJ, April 2012).

To paraphrase, here they are:

1. Be the expert you've always been with curriculum issues, etc. Be sure to attend training sessions - online, face-to-face and read everything you can on the subject

2. Collection development - "focus on literary nonfiction resources"

3. What is already there on your shelves that can be used? What is online? Which databases do you subscribe to that will be useful? How will you use the Alabama Virtual Library more?

4. Harris says your library is the textbook - How will you spend the funds that you have? (however meager)

5. Harris says to work at the district level to secure new online resources. Money will go further that way.

Even though this process will work at different paces at different schools, it is something that we can all be working toward and thinking about. The whole emphasis is on reading and understanding texts better. There is a huge emphasis on students being more prepared for high school and college. That means the textbooks that they have been reading with small "excerpts" of whole texts will no longer really be adequate. So, our job will be to find whole texts for students to examine and read. Also, they will need to see multiple points of view and come up with their own opinions according to Barbara Stripling, Syracuse University (haven't we been talking about critical thinking for years?).

I believe we will be ready and it is an exciting time for libraries! But there is too much to discuss in a single blog entry, so click here to read the full article online.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My National Board Process

*This post was written by Jennifer Anders, school librarian at West Jefferson Elementary School. 

Over the past two years, the feeder pattern that my school is part of has been participating in a three year research study conducted by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Southeastern Regional Education Board. The researchers are trying to find out if marketing Take One! as a school transformation model is viable. Take One! is a process where a candidate can elect to do one National Board entry and bank the score, but also get a feel for the process before completing the full boards. This has been an intense, often frustrating, but for the most part, worthwhile project for me and my colleagues.

The first year of Take One! ( 2010-2011), I'll admit that I was not on board with the project. I was frustrated and because I'm the school librarian, became responsible for helping everyone edit and burn their videos. We were walking around confused and I was resentful that I was being "forced" to participate although I had an underlying belief that at some point I would want to become certified. I turned in a poor entry that I completed in about a week's time, and was rewarded with a score of 1.75. Compare that to a 1.75 on the ARMT. Red box! Year two would be different.

Over the summer of 2011, the researchers, organizers and school administrators met to re-organize and better meet the needs of the teachers for year two. They offered more support that was specific to certification field, bought us all kinds of cool DVD burning equipment and video cameras, but most importantly organized us into PLC's according to certification and gave us four, four-hour sessions to collaborate during school hours. I was named the teacher facilitator for the librarians. ( Yes, me, with the 1.75.) They also offered to pay for any candidate who wanted to pursue full certification. I talked with my husband, and we agreed that there may not be a better offer for me to certify, so I decided to complete the full National Board process.

I know several librarians who have certified with National Boards, and I have heard them talk about how difficult it was. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but no one could have explained to me what the process would be like. One friend compared it to having a baby, and that may be the closest description for it. There were times during the process when I was glowing because I was creating great lessons, working with teachers and librarians and my students were engaged and learning. There were times when I had terrible nausea and headaches. They type of writing required was so alien and difficult. The page lengths, standards, and questions swirled around in my brain like the tornado scene in the Wizard of Oz and the time, time, time! Towards the end, I felt bloated and fat and tired, but not able to sleep. (This may have been a direct result of the stress M&M's.)

And then I was finished, and I knew I had completed something that would transform my teaching practice.

Although I have not been scored yet, or taken the assessments, I know this process was worth the trouble. There is one main idea I have really taken to heart from this, and that is to stop and ask myself, as it relates to my job, "Why am I doing this?" and "What will my students learn?"

 If you are considering National Board Certification, I would recommend that you not travel this path alone. I didn't. I had support from the Candidate Support Person provided by the research group, great friends, and most importantly from the ASLA National Board Mentoring group administered by Tywanna Burton.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Podcasting is not LAME

I would love for my basic skills class to do a pod cast.  We are practicing open-ended ARMT items, and I think it would be beneficial if they could read their answers aloud and hear it back (so they can hear the flow or lack thereof).  I’m embarrassed to say that I have no idea how to do a pod cast.  Would you have time anytime this week during 1st period to teach my students?  I will be in there to learn as well.  I figured it may take one day of learning and one day to say it here and have them listen back to what they read.  I thought I’d let them fill out a little evaluation on how their answers sounded.

What do you think?



...And here is where collaboration begins! E-mails such as the one above are music to my ears. For the last few years, I have been inviting teachers to podcast with me. It can take a while. Sometimes teachers are not ready to use the technology or they don't see a need for it...yet. Offering short workshops or demonstrations will resonate with teachers, though, and soon the e-mail will come!

Thanks to school librarian Valissa Burnham, Hueytown Middle, and The Alabama Educational Technology workshop on podcasting that I attended five years ago, I have the tools to podcast. I should also add Lisa Boyd, Jefferson County (retired) technology guru, to that list. I must admit - it took a village.

Here is what is needed to get started:

A download called Audacity and an MP3 Encoder called LAME. These files should be saved on your computer and you should know where they are (you can always search for them, if you forget).

This 7th grader is on her way to podcasting!
Many tutorials on podcasting can be found with a quick Google search, but I have my favorites for ease of use.

Podcasting can be used for numerous projects, but this particular one was used to record open-ended questions that students had written in preparation for ARMT testing.

So, podcasting is not lame. It's a great way to support teachers in preparing their students for testing and lends a bit of levity to the days ahead. Tomorrow we will add music to their words.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Interesting Thoughts about Technology and School Librarians

Doug Johnson is one of the Great Thinkers in the field of librarianship and technology. The Alabama School Library Association (then AIMA) hosted him as our keynote speaker at our 2009 summer conference. He was phenomenal!

Check out his recent post regarding school librarians, technology, and ethics HERE. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

EdCamp Birmingham

There's an interesting movement among educators today called the "Unconference." Teachers come together just like a regular conference, but the details of who is presenting what isn't decided until everyone comes together. I love this idea because it emphasizes that EVERYONE has something, some expertise, to bring to the table. Edcamps bring that out.

Like what you're hearing? Go here to register!

If you're interested in learning more about Edcamps, see this page. 

Date: May 5, 2012
Times: 8:00-4:00
Location: Trace Crossings Elementary School

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Moon over Manifest (by Clare Vanderpool)

It is 1936 and Abilene is 12 years old when her daddy sends her to Manifest (supposedly just for a little while, though a little while soon turns into a long while). She has spent her whole life drifting from one town and job to another with Gideon (her father). Abilene knows all about being the new kid. She copes with this by determining that there are "universals" everywhere a person goes. Rich snobs, tricksters, odd balls, etc. are some of the labels she hastily applies to the people of Manifest.

It is only after discovering a box of trinkets and, along with the help of a few friends she quickly learns she has misjudged, Abilene uncovers the pieces to the mystery of Manifest...and her father as well.

*Moon over Manifest is the 2011 Newbery Award winner. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Alabama Educational Technology Conference

AETC is a technology conference that takes place every year in June. Educators from all over Alabama and beyond travel in to present at and attend this conference! This year the conference will take place at Hewitt-Trussville High School. For more info about AETC, click here.

Dates: June 13-15
Location: Hewitt-Trussville High School in Trussville, Alabama

Don't forget that the Alabama School Library Association Conference is Tuesday, June 12 at Mountain Brook High School. If you'd like to volunteer at the registration table, let me know!

Register today!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Volunteer Opportunity with ASLA

Have you registered for the ASLA Summer Conference? Well, what are you waiting for?! :) Click on over today and get yourself registered for the event of the year for school librarians.

I need a few volunteers to help at the registration tables. If you are interested, please email me. Thanks!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Alabama Library Association Annual Conference

The Alabama Library Association (ALLA) will hold their annual convention April 24-27 at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover. This conference moves each year throughout the state, so we are so very fortunate to have it so close to our area this time around.

Most of the sessions for children and young adult programming will take place on Wednesday, April 25. I hope you'll consider attending!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

National Latino Children's Literature Conference

The National Latino Children's Literature Conference will take place on March 29-30. Because it is being held at the University of Alabama (and sponsored by UA's School of Library and Information Studies-of which many of us are alumni), we should consider attending this highly unique and pertinent conference. What better way to reach our growing population of English Learners than to attend a conference focused on their literature and cultural needs?

Go here to see the schedule of speakers and here to register. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Breaking Britannica News

So it appears that after 244 years of printing volumes, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print. 

It is interesting to see what students' reactions will be to this. I can only imagine very few cases where patrons actually prefer print reference resources these days...especially the nature of encyclopedias and the number of databases available through the Alabama Virtual Library.

Still, it's most certainly the end of an era!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Let the Games begin!

*This post is by Carla Crews, one of the school librarians at Shades Valley High School/JCIB/Shades Valley Technical Academies.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, movie adaptations of books give us a great opportunity to promote recreational reading. Our library recently invited teachers and students to participate in our own version of The Hunger Games, based on the popular series by Suzanne Collins. The movie release is March 23, and we wanted to encourage students to read the book first! We set up activity stations around the library, which included archery, rope tying, costume design, arm wrestling, trivia questions, online games, and a viewing station for the movie trailer. Several of the station activities offered students a chance to put their name into the “reaping.” Here we deviated slightly from the book, as contestants actually wanted their name in this drawing. Students were quite competitive when they learned that a local theater donated movie passes for the prize drawing!

We began with some brainstorming sessions (and the Internet). The following two resources were particularly helpful during our planning phase:

We gathered our supplies, only spending money on a bow, arrows, and rope. We created themed signage for the event and typed questions for the trivia station. The braided nylon rope was cut into 18” pieces, and instructions were placed at the station for tying various types of knots. Paper rabbits were set up as targets at the archery station. Due to some concerns about teenagers shooting a bow in the library, we used a child-size bow and ‘play’ arrows that had suction cup tips... no damaged walls or speared children! For the opening ceremony costume designs, we already had all the necessary supplies – paper, pencils, crayons/markers, and lots of books on fashion, costumes, and clothing design. We also included a list of the districts’ trades and industries for inspiration. The Scholastic website offers some exciting online games related to The Hunger Games series. These online games, along with The Hunger Games Wiki, were set up as desktop icons at the computer station. Students could scan a QR code at the viewing station to watch the movie trailer. Tributes showed off their strength as they conquered opponents at the arm wrestling station, our school-friendly alternative to the brutal combat of the actual Games.

If you’re looking around on the web for ideas related to The Hunger Games, check out the hashtag #THGyalsa on Twitter. This was a YALSA-sponsored tweet session during Teen Tech Week to discuss the movie release and library programming ideas. One librarian tweeted that she is planning a Wii Archery tournament. And should you decide to turn your library into a Hunger Games arena…  may the odds be ever in your favor.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Managing Multiple Devices

Just for kicks, I wanted to share with you all one little tiny techno device that has really made my life a lot easier of late.

I was browsing Pinterest one night as a treat between graduate work assignments and stumbled across this adorable USB hub shaped like a little pot of tulips.

I immediately pinned it to my "WANTED" board. 

As luck would have it, one of my family members saw the pin and gave it to me for Christmas. Sweet! 

Many of you may be using these little hubs already, but this was my first one. Okay, it's true that I like it because it looks like a pot of tulips...but I LOVE it because of the added convenience it brings to my use of various technology pieces throughout the day. Now I can keep my printer, scanner, barcode scanner, digital camera/video camera, and a multitude of other devices connected at once, whereas before it was a matter of figuring out which item to unplug in order to use its port.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pinterest + Contest = Fun!

*Today's post was written by Meg Brooke, one of the school librarians at Shades Valley High School/JCIB. 

OK, all of you “Pinners” in the Jefcoed library world. We have a contest especially made for YOU!  Michelle wroteabout Pinterest on a blog post several weeks ago, and hopefully several of you have started using this tool for curating your ideas as well as others’ ideas on various boards. I know that several of you are Pinterest addicts because you follow me, and I, you!  It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve learned so much from you and others in the Pinterest world.

I ran across Joyce Valenza’s blog post today, and got really excited when I saw that it pertained to Pinterest.  Say the word, and I’m all about reading anything Pinterest related. Rather than recap her post, I’ve copied and pasted it below so that you can read it and see if the contest is something that would interest you. If so, the contest rules link is at the bottom of Joyce’s post.

Good luck, and happy pinning!

from NeverEndingSearch by joycevalenza
I am beginning to love Pinterest as a tool for searching, exploring, and curating visual content.  Teachers and librarians are currently settling this visual territory with their boards of professional content.
In the spirit of Pinterest Challenges, the iSchool at Syracuse University just announced a forward-thinking, library-flavored Pinterest challenge.  Participants are invited to share their new library vision on Pinterest, the highly popular, visual (and pretty) curation network.
The Pinterest Contest for the New Librarianship is a search for a a few good boards that define and illustrate the future of our profession.
But, well beyond the contest itself, the resulting boards should demonstrate the value of this tool for creating communities of practice and visual professional sharing.  I am hoping it will create beautiful inspiration for us all.
Kelly Lux, Executive Editor of Information Space and Social Media Strategist and Community Manager for the iSchool, writes of the Pinterest platform,
"communities revolving around shared interests are creating dialogue that transcends borders. Librarians are using it as a way to build a collection of resources, organize display ideas and facilitate collaboration. The Pinterest community is a reflection of your local community—members include Moms swapping recipes, lifelong educators and professionals networking and making their experience a resource for others, young people building their careers and defining their lives, artists and entrepreneurs sharing their products and services."

Lux shares the example of librarian Joe Murphy’s boards

To enter the Pinterest Contest for the New Librarianship challenge, submit your Pinterest Board URLs in any of these three ways:

Winners will receive a copy of David Lankes’ ground-breaking and provocative Atlas of New Librarianship.
Entries will be accepted through March 19th.  So start pinning your library future right now!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ASLA Honors and Awards

Look, you don't have to tell ME that you people rock. You are leading the information literacy and technology charge every stinking day in your schools. You don't do it for the money and you certainly don't do it for honor or prestige.

But hey, why not consider recommending one of your peers or administrators for one of the incredible awards presented at the Alabama School Library Association's annual summer conference?

Get all the deets here: ASLA Awards

Monday, March 5, 2012

Burrow Library Services: Spring Fling

I hope you are making plans to attend this event coming up in April. Hearing authors present on their work is one of my most favorite things in the world!

Contact their office if you have any questions about the Spring Fling. It sounds like it is going to be a wonderful day!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Big6 In Middle School: Teaching Information and Communications Technology Skills by Barbara A. Jansen

Spring is in the air which can only mean one thing in most of Alabama's public school libraries! Research. Paper. Season. It's an exciting time in the middle and high school library, but an anxiety-ridden time for those doing the research and writing papers.

Throughout the year I reach for The Big6 In Middle School: Teaching Information and Communications Technology Skills by Barbara A. Jansen to assist students and teachers with projects and research. But in the spring it is always within grasp. (The Big6 is a model of information problem-solving developed by co-authors Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz, The Big6 in Middle School, xi).

This book features many types of research organizers for students and is chock-ful of information essential for school librarians.

One of my favorite tools is the Big6 Assignment Organizer for Grades 7-9. It is found on page 181 of the reference book. The first question asks the student to answer, "What am I supposed to do?" It seems a simple question, but students get stumped and they have to go back to their teacher if they can't answer it. The sheet continues with Information Seeking Strategies, Location and Access, Use of Information, Synthesis, Evaluation, and due dates. It is a tidy little organizer that keeps research on track for students. Many other presentation guidelines and planners are featured in the book that are extremely useful as well. I wish I could copy it here, but the cover of the book will have to do.

Here are some other useful tidbits in the book:

  • Correlation Chart Between Big6 Skills and State Curriculum Standards or Tested Skills
  • Checklists for Writing Assignments for Different Grade Levels
  • Lesson Plan Examples
  • Note-Taking Methods
  • How To's of a Class Project Wiki
  • Many Different Charts and Graphs

The book, published by Linworth, is available from different jobbers, Amazon, and your favorite online ordering spot. If you order now, you'll have everything you need to ease the stress of busy researchers.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pebble Go

Although the Alabama Virtual Library offers several good databases for elementary aged children, they can still be a bit complicated for the youngest students in our buildings. 

Pebble Go is the best database for early childhood that I've ever used, and teachers of all grades here at North Highland LOVE using it with their children. You pay an annual subscription fee to have access, and then you will be given a school-wide user name and password to use. Our PTA paid for it the first year, and I have used library funds to split it with PTA the two years we've had it since then. Because it benefits every child in the school, the PTA really enjoys using their funds on this service. 

If you decide to subscribe, begin sending home notices to parents with the school login information. Print each teacher a sign for their class with the user name and password printed, and post several in your library and computer lab. 

Here are a few great reasons my teachers and students love Pebble Go:

Pebble Go truly is created for young readers/learners. It has all the basic features of a "big boy" database, but in simplistic terms and clicks that even first-week-of-school kindergarteners can operate. 

There are 3 different individual databases from which to choose (you can subscribe to one or all three). We use Animals most often with the lower grades, but the upper grades like Earth & Space and Biographies as well. Each database is filled with categories and sub-categories of entries. Here is an example of what you would see in PebbleGo Animals: 

Students can choose a category of animals and then a sub-category until they find an animal they are interested in. Most article have a "Watch" button, which students can click to view a short video of the animal in action. Each article also has a button students can click to have the article read to them aloud. Hyperlinked words provide students with definitions to unfamiliar terms as well. 

Each article also has printing capability and citation support, which will generate a citation for students to use in reporting their research. It's always good to promote ethical use of information even from the very beginning! 

If you have any questions about Pebble Go or would like to order it for your school, I can direct you to the vendor who represents this company in our area. Just shoot me an email! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alabama Virtual Library: Britannica Learning Zone

Another of our gems in the Alabama Virtual Library is Britannica Learning Zone. Though it is not searchable, it is a great database for the early childhood years. The interface is very simplistic and user-friendly. Once students "click to enter," they have four main categories from which to choose: Explore, Play, Read, or Draw. 

There are also several other content categories students may select. They include First Steps, I Can Read, Numbers, Sounds, Time, Words, etc. These scroll slowly across the bottom of the page, marquee-style to ease students' process of selection.  

One interesting feature is that once students enter BLC, the task bar as well as any additional open tabs are removed from the internet page, making it very difficult for the students to leave the site. I have a few little angels who like to click their way around the universe before I can stop them, so this is another very desirable feature for working with young children. :)

If students choose the "Explore" category, they can choose continents to learn about. Once they choose a continent, they can pick a specific area and one click will display a short video of life on that continent. This is an excellent feature for English Learners, as we work to build up their background knowledge about various topics. 

"Play" will take them to simple literacy and math games (instructions read aloud). 

"Read" will provide various words and definitions, with sample sentences (also read aloud). 

"Draw" is a more simplistic version of Microsoft Paint, but will permit printing so students can carry their work out of the library or computer lab. 

The only improvement I would suggest for BLC is to enable searching. Searching is the heart of information literacy, and even our youngest should be learning how to recognize and use search boxes. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Labels, Labels, Labels

Do you label your books with Accelerated Reader information? I do. This is common practice in many elementary libraries, and for several good reasons:
  • when used with STAR reading ranges, sticker labels help guide students to the books that are "just right" for them
  • they provide a clear visual to the amount of books your collection has on each grade level; a quick walk through your shelves will show if you need more books of a certain range
  • they help students find books with which they will experience success, and quickly (classroom time is precious indeed, and the more efficient we can make book browsing for students, the better all around)
These are good reasons for labeling books. After all, our goal is to make library use as easy as possible for students. Right? 



The American Association of School Librarians feels otherwise. Take a look at AASL's policy on labeling books:

Granted, some of AASL's concerns stem from the fact that lots of libraries are not only using labels but are organizing their shelving by labels (not adhering to standards of the profession), and that is most definitely a valid concern. We should be teaching students how libraries work, not just how OUR library works. If they understand that the Fiction books are in ABC order everywhere, then we have given them the key which unlocks every school, public, and eventually academic library they will ever use. This is a pretty big deal. 

Another of AASL's points about labels is that it violates the privacy of our students. Think about that. Do you have a 4th grader reading on a 1st grade level? I do. Whose business is it that he is not reading on grade level? His, his teachers', his parents', and mine. Certainly not other students, but they will be able to see that if he is carrying around books with 1st grade stickers on the spine. 


Personally, I have never, not once, in 10 years of serving in this profession, ever heard of a student being bullied or made fun of because of his or her reading level. But I also know that there is a lot that goes on behind the social scenes of kids that not even the most perceptive, Eagle Eye teacher can catch. I don't want to contribute to making any child in my school a target. 

My plan is to compromise between AASL's standards and what my teachers want in keeping AR labels (and encouraging students to choose books within their range) but placing them in a more discreet location. This will take some time, but I plan to eventually remove all spine labels and begin to teach students to look inside the cover of their book for AR reading level information. This will take require more browsing time for the students, and it will take away my ability to sweep my eyes across the collection and notice deficiencies, but remember that 4th grade kid on a 1st grade level? 

He's worth it.