In the club


Monday is the last day of regular classes before exams. So this past Friday was the last Friday of the school year and also the last meeting of our school’s Anime Club. It meant a two-hour party that included senior sendoffs, food, officer elections for next year, and more food… and a few tears.

The president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary were all seniors. They said a few words while fellow club members shared kindnesses back and just as I was finishing up to transition us to the next activity, my voice broke and I was a bucket of tears. These kids. Each week for 1-2 hours in addition to their regular visitation of the library proper every day, I had a lot of face time with them. And I won’t forget it.

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That’s why as librarians we get out and get involved in more than just what’s happening in our libraries. We’re running clubs, we’re providing community service, we’re volunteering ourselves to enrich the work we do each day with our students. With that, take a moment to think- if you’re not already involved in the larger school community, what’s one thing you can do to contribute?


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Posted by on June 16, 2019 in Librarian Life


Breaking it up


One of the discussions that occurs each time a readathon is on the horizon is about diversifying the book stack– not in terms of representation but format.

Do you have an audiobook so you can take a walk? A few short story or essay collections stacked alongside Harry Potter. For the basic reason that even though reading is exercise for the mind, our bodies need some if we sit too long reading and that reading the same thing might get a little boring. So add some stimulus with a graphic novel. Change the brain chemistry by switching from truth to fiction and back again.

So while I have a large committee commitment to read fiction– if I stuck solely to fiction for this entire year, my brain would explode or worse yet, seize up. I need change like the four seasons of upstate New York where I reside. I spend my lunch reading middle grade nonfiction or a sunny summerish day in the backyard with an adult biography.

Here were some recent non-YA fiction that I’ve read recently

  • The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein
  • Liberty Arrives!: How America’s Grandest Statue Found Her Home by Robert Byrd
  • Caught!: Nabbing History’s Most Wanted by Georgia Bragg
  • High: Everything You Wanted to Know About Drugs, Alcohol, and Addiction by David and Nic Sheff
  • Sea Sirens by Amy Chu
  • A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon by Suzanne Slade

If you’re feeling like you’re in a rut, when was the last time you read something just for you? Or outside of your comfort zone? Or reliving the good old days and reading a picture book. Consider diversification to keep it fresh.


Mood done right


While focused on reading fiction titles for 2019 sitting on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee, I do need to take breaks and read nonfiction and also vary my format with graphic novels. I especially have a fondness for graphic novels because of their power to capture readers’ imaginations visually. I can do a six sensational list at another date (*cough* Saga). In the meantime, I’m stopping to talk specifically about Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s May 2019 publishing of Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me and spend the majority of this post gushing about its use of mood.

With pink hues sparsely added with the black and white, certain memorable scenes created moments of pause. Literal pausing to stare more deeply at the characters’ interactions or background. As Frederica lays back on her bed pining away for her indifferent on/off again girlfriend Laura Dean, Valero-O’Connell highlights Frederica’s “sigh” in pink and with cursive. Scenes where Frederica is actively abandoning her friendship with Doodle to chase after Laura Dean hold so much emotion in the choices of posture and panel layout that readers are transported to the bedroom or the school. And a reader cannot forget the scenes in which Frederica has hopefully realized true friendship by comforting Doodle in a time of need.

And while the title character and her frustrating manipulation of Frederica, our protagonist is significant the secondary story with Frederica’s friend Doodle together stumbling through how to be a good friend makes Doodle the more memorable character. Readers feel every ounce of Doodle’s continual disappointment as Frederica runs after Laura Dean time and time again. But it’s how she deals with her own adversity toward the last third of the book that captures the mood of friendship and disappointment.

There are so many passages to reflect on as memorable quotes whether it’s the dialogue between characters or the narrative given in Post-it like windows, perhaps my favorite comes toward the end as Frederica is caring for Doodle and thinking about Laura Dean. It says

“The truth is, breakups are usually messy, the way people are messy, the way life is often messy. It’s okay for a breakup to feel like a disaster. It doesn’t feel okay, but I assure you it is okay. It’s also true that you can break up with someone you still love. Because those two things are not distinct territories: love and not loving anymore.”

If that doesn’t capture teen romance and feelings, I don’t know what does.

Ultimately when there are discussions about “the best” graphic novels, this one has clawed its way to the top as I continue to reflect on it several days after reading it. It’s a thinking book. It’s a work of art. Its positive and negative examples of relationships are masterpieces. It reduces us to our most basic needs and portrays vulnerability. I need more of these in my life done the way this one was, capturing mood so well it needs to be referenced in a dictionary next to the literary device. I advise everyone to read this.


The joy of author visits


I find myself writing a post yearly if not more after coming down from an author visit high. But as I walked with Dashka Slater to the car at the end of her visit with us at our high school, I said that my co-librarian and I know it’s a successful visit when we’ve teared up: over a student comment or powerful statistic or thoughtful interaction with a kid. Slater can check that box.

The New York Times writer, journalist, author of young adult narrative nonfiction and picture books just spent four days in our area visiting three local high schools and one elementary school. Programming looked different at each of our schools, but all were changed by her visit. At our school, programming was a visit to our alternative high school program, lunch with a book group, an open presentation for any interested students, then a teacher-focused after school session about a topic addressed in The 57 Bus: restorative justice. No one walked away without something to ponder. Plus her personable nature and presentation style endeared her to everyone “on stage” and off. How flexible and Swiss-Army is she that she can speak with a group of 2nd graders in a snail costume after discussing institutionalized racism or helping freshman understand the myriad of terms in the LBTQAI+ community the day before?

Do I wish more students and staff attended? Absolutely. Learning is never-ending and relationships are integral to a healthy society. When we bury ourselves in being busy/hectic educators and over-scheduled teenagers, we don’t see the opportunities that are right in front of us, myself included.

But what are the joys of an author visit? I will count the ways.

  1. Student response– everything from “I got to meet a real live author!” to “Man, you wrote that?” Or the doodler who shares his sketch of them while they’re speaking and they ask to keep it.
  2. Adding to school climate and culture– we want our students to love reading and we promote that every day and use author visits judiciously.
  3. Books! The authors wrote the books then readers get to read them.
  4. Seeing the culmination of planning and preparation– I’ve been thinking about this visit for a year. Others not so much. But as much as visits create sleepless nights and nervous energy, they bring so many groups together.
  5. Did I mention student response? It’s all about them whether they become “Insta famous” being on an author’s Instagram story or take a selfie because again, they met a real live author!

Then all that’s left are the emotions of the day, the pictures, and the personal, lasting memories.


My TLA experience


I can see why my North North Texan colleague from Castleton Elementary School in New York, Stacey Rattner, loves Texas librarians and their conference. With less than twelve hours left before I head to the airport, I’m glowing with love for my profession from colleagues a time zone away.

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The Texas Library Association does it right. They bring everyone together for a positively enriching three-day experience. The learning, my God, the learning! Each session was like choosing a favorite child– it just could not be done. I even wished to attend a few sessions when I was presenting myself. There was certainly some fierce competition but I appreciate the Texas Association of School Librarians for accepting my proposal to present about print and web resources for research. Those in attendance walked away with a booklist of awesome books to kick-start an inquiry-based project, information about encouraging students to question, and mini-lessons to offer as librarians to create a comprehensive research plan in collaboration with teachers. You can check out the materials from my presentation on my website

When I was not sharing, I was listening in sessions about graphic novels (Texas– I hope you do a cosplay fashion show again! I know I was inspired to add it to our Free Comic Book Day celebration in just a few short weeks), writing historically, GSuite add-ons and apps, and hacking my school library.

Then there was the food. How much better can you get than to have recommendations by Texans? I was not disappointed. I even had a lovely intimate dinner with a publisher and favorite author of mine, Cat Winters, whose new book The Raven’s Tale about a young Edgar Allan Poe was just released.

With so much to see, do, and experience, I know I only scratched the surface. I appreciate the experience and hope to return. Which begs the question, what librarians conference are you attending soon? Haven’t been to one, consider ALA Annual in Washington, D.C. in June or start researching a conference that you’d like to attend. We can’t attend them all and be everywhere, but we can be strategic about our sharing and learning. Yet the first step is always the hardest. My first step was several years ago and my school is better for having me attend conferences because of the networking and ideas that come back with me.

My sincerest hope is that you take the opportunities to ASK to attend, even when you haven’t before, because librarians know how to put on a conference. And certainly I’ve learned that Texas specifically wows.


Posted by on April 18, 2019 in Events, Librarian Life


Celebrating collaboration


A year ago I wrote a post about the feelings librarians get when students trust us enough to recommend books, but I think the same can be said for the feelings we get when teachers trust us to collaborate in the classroom.

With one last element being done today: a reflection by the students about the week-long project that I’m eager to read, yesterday’s culminating activity was a resounding success. Students were overheard saying “I’ve never been so nervous”, “I’m glad I did it,” and “I surprised myself”. The teacher said “They’re so engaged with one another, I never see this kind of connection between them all.” And in my head, I was thinking

“Another successful collaboration.”

The project began with the teacher stopping with an idea for a mini-project to include in a fairly new elective course for juniors and seniors called Medical Science. Mostly, students who are enrolled are interested in a medical field. So, how can we flesh out a project that involves some research into their chosen field, and what should be the summative activity? We met several times during planning periods and both walked away each time with some questions to answer and actionable items using our own expertise to build the project. Google Docs was our friend.

2019-03-21 08.36.55Yesterday was the culminating activity and students were buzzing for the double-period that they were in the library. Students were happily nervous, furiously reviewing their resumes (and finding additional mistakes that needed correcting), reassured their classmates that they’d do fine, fretted about their appearance, and even humorously voiced their annoyance about the project because it was affecting them- basically a job well done that connected previous learning that all of them engaged in in their freshman year taking a half-year course called College and Career Readiness and applying it to their current course and college/career path. And with the remaining fifteen minutes of the second period, the students had a chance to hear general feedback from their interviewers and tips for college and career preparedness– everything from figuring out your verbal ticks like like and finding a buddy to help you STOP saying it to learning about the aggregation of marginal gains (look it up!).

Watching the students walk over to the interviewer nervously and then walking back with a big smile of accomplishment was all I needed, but then the comments started. Today, as I mentioned, they’ll be writing an official reflection that I’m dying to read. And the teacher was extremely proud of his work that started with a seed of an idea. Job well done.

What does successful collaboration look like for you? For me, that was pushing students’ limits and working together to create a well-executed project with satisfactory results and real-world connections. It will look different every time, but they all fall under the umbrella of successful collaboration.

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Posted by on March 22, 2019 in Librarian Life, Research


Sons’ six sensational book series


Today we celebrate our sons’ 10th birthday. As active fourth graders who love music, Judo, soccer, Legos, origami, and Transformers along with eating, they’ve always had a love of reading. So in honor of their birthday, here are their six sensational book series.

  1. Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey
  2. The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown
  3. All of the Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson comic collections
  4. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
  6. Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce