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Sweet success

Sweet Success

Our high school hosted its first author visit in 2011. I’ll never forget it both as a first for the school and a first for my librarian career. It was also Ellen Hopkins (go big or go home, right?) And it just seemed to stick. I can honestly say that it is a part of our school culture now. It’s not if we have an author visit, it is when.

Jeff Zentner was our second author visit of this school year, with our first being Nic Stone as part of a partnership with The New York State Writer’s Institute. Zentner visited this past Thursday and resoundingly captivated our student and staff attendees with his stories from music, publishing, and law. It’s one thing to write for teens and it’s another to know what kind of stories they’ll be engaged in during school visits. Zentner certainly knew our teenagers, regaling them with snapshots of cases he’s tried, a few chords on a guitar, and a no-flash-photography cover reveal for his upcoming book Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee. In return, our students shared their concerns with writing their own stories, played their music for him, and queried him on politics. He spoke Portuguese with a student, signed posters inspired by his books, and sat “between two ferns” interview-style in a conversation about leading a creative life.

I took notes on inspiring messages he shared, teared up watching our students show off their sound recording studio and music, and smiled from ear to ear at another successful author event when I sipped my tea after the day was done in the darkness of my living room viewing pictures taken by our school’s communications staff.

Days before the visit, an art teacher shared a few images on her social media account with a group of students touring an art museum on a field trip. She quoted her colleague who said “this is why I became an art teacher” as she watched her students enjoying themselves at the museum. I had commented that we all need days like these. And not more than two days later, that day was again knocking at my door because nothing can beat the connection that students make with authors: it could be from reading their books. It could be the motivational messages imparted by them. It could be validating our teenagers’ struggles. Zentner’s words struck a chord when he mentioned that Toni Morrison was 39 when she published her first book, and she is a pillar in the literary world– writing knows no age. Readers want mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Everyone has a story to share.

Are author visits stressful? Absolutely. No matter how many we do, they’re still nerve-wracking. Are they worth it? Every last moment spent on them because I get to talk to the students for days and years after the visit about what we learned from their visit. I still reference Jason Reynolds’ message from his with us two years ago. Plus, I feel more connected to my colleague as we support each other in our efforts to build the best library program we can for our school because they deserve it.

As I close, I’ll share several of my favorite pictures courtesy of our communications person, Jake. And, a picture of a sweet treat I made to celebrate the sweet success of the visit.

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Celebration

Celebration

It wasn’t a secret, but it wasn’t something that I readily discussed- being on a selection committee through the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) arm of the American Library Association (ALA) for 2017. I sat on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee with an amazing group of public, school, and academic librarians from across the country deciding on the best graphic novels. And from that list, selecting the top ten. You can see the final list here, just announced last week as part of the yearly celebration of books at the Youth Media Awards. You’ll notice looking back at 2017 that I rarely shared and definitely didn’t review graphic novels because of this appointment but was immersed in this world (no complaints here!)

The midwinter ALA conference is smaller in comparison to the annual conference but it packs the biggest punch because of the Youth Media Awards. That’s where winners of awards like the Coretta Scott King and Caldecott Medal are announced. Committees hunker down and make those final decisions and in one hour, people across the country stream it and hundreds sit in person to hear them spoken aloud with the gleaming medal proudly shared on a big screen. There is applause and some exclamations, dancing in the aisles and gasps. All drama and and sparkles.

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There’s an added bonus because for some committees naming their top picks, the authors are at the conference to speak about their books and bask in the glory of literature lovers and book pushers after the ceremony itself. I got to listen to some finalists and award winners of the William C. Morris Award and the Nonfiction Award.

It’s an inspiring way to end the conference on the highs of excellence in literature…. on a Monday morning at 8am. I hope it inspires authors to keep writing and contributing to the shaping of young minds and inspires the students who sit in their classrooms and libraries across the country streaming it to one day want to be like them.

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2018 in Authors, Childrens, Events

 

My cup runneth over (feeling the pride)

Filling my cup

Three times a year, I spend the day outside of the library doing a non-librarian task that is meaningful to me personally and to our school’s community. I’m the faculty adviser for the school’s blood drives.

2016-10-20 09.46.32As a large city school district, we have the ability to host three drives a year: October, January, and May and collect about 100 units per drive which is amazingly powerful. A smattering of staff, but the majority of these units are donated by upperclassmen looking to help our community.

In my eight years of overseeing the drives, I have never had to ask students to step up to be the student volunteers nor have we ever had a lack of enthusiasm from staff and administration in supporting the drives. Everyone rallies to help whether it’s the PE department giving up their space for the day, teachers giving during prep time, and the students overcoming their fear of needles or first time jitters. No matter what happens, I always finish the day down a pint of blood but feeling full of Falcon pride.

These are the moments that reinvigorate me. There are days I feel like I’m only fixing printer issues or checking passes. Then there are days that I’m riding high on research questions and inquiry. Then there are the blood drives. What do other educators do outside of their regular duties that make them feel as fulfilled as what they do each day?

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This year’s three senior student volunteers and me (second from right). Photo courtesy of Jake Planck, communications for our district. 

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2018 in Events, Librarian Life, Miscellaneous

 

We all “gotnicced”

This post first appeared on the Times Union Books Blog.

NicStoneDearMartin

Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @getnicced

When Albany High School collaborates with the New York State Writers Institute, magic always happens. It was like that in 2015, when Jason Reynolds came hot off the publication of the nationally-acclaimed All American Boys. Fast forward to 2017 and Nic Stone. A fresh-faced debut author whose book is on the short list for the Morris Award and whose book, Dear Martin, is another contemporary look at social injustice.

As she explained to an room of fans, students, educators, and community members at the New York State Museum’s Huxley Theater yesterday evening in their capstone event, she hopes people who read the book take away the message to think critically in a world too quick to tweet, overshare, and not consider the experiences of others. Likewise, her entertaining presentation included a captivating reading of the first chapter of her book along with diving in to social movements past and present, and then taking questions from the audience before signing books. She was personable and relaxed, letting the message of her book speak for itself while indulging the audience in revealing a bit about her next few projects (can’t wait!) Plus, she writes a kick-butt book personalizations that show she’s paying attention and has a style to die for, making mention of her boots she bought to prepare her for heading to the arctic tundra that is upstate New York (she grew up in Atlanta before spending three years living in Israel, then moved back to Atlanta where she currently resides with her husband and two children).

And it was a different, more personal feel for her visit to Albany High School in the afternoon. While events that have already been shared in the media did interrupt the presentation for a brief time, students’ appreciation for her style and brains had them chatting on Washington Avenue during the fire drill and picking up where we left off once we were back inside. The questions from the students ranged from personal to professional and all needed a picture with her before leaving, looking forward to reading the book if they hadn’t already. It’s evident that she is comfortable discussing the issues that her books bring up and does not shy away from sharing her thoughts and picking the brains of the teens on what they think. It’s again what she wants the message of the book to be, think about your perspective but learn from the perspectives of others.

I’m sure the same could be said for the conversation that occurred in the University at Albany class that she taught earlier in the day, making for a long day but fulfilling day with an up-and-coming author. That she shared she’s working on a middle grade novel and literary fiction makes it known that she doesn’t plan on going anywhere soon. The fact that the New York State Writers Institute grabs these authors as their stars ascend is magical and to be applauded with the hard work of staffers like Mark Koplik.

Therefore, if you haven’t yet followed the New York State Writers Institute and their array of events, do so now. Their collaborative style is beneficial to the greater community and the institutions that they partner with enriching us all. But especially when it comes to connecting students with authors for those of us who work with a teen population and want to continue to encourage a love of reading, learning, and exploring.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Authors, Blogging, Events, Young Adult

 

Lock-in love

Two times in one day? Yes, I’ll post twice if it matters and I’m sitting here way past my bedtime, writing about the library’s second lock-in. Though, this time we decided to change the scenery and work with our fabulous public library friends and host the lock-in after-hours in their space giving our high school students the opportunity to stretch their legs in their own backyards.

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With a few meeting and study rooms and two floors, our students were playing video games, watching a movie, playing card games, having dance parties, and (wait for it) sitting quietly and reading. Double points for the two girls sitting together and reading out loud to one another. I know, don’t you feel the library love when high school students who we are led to believe don’t read are sitting together and reading out loud? Several students got library cards. Some students interacted with others that they never would have in school. They played life-sized Connect 4 and some sat at the children’s tables and played chess. It was what they wanted to do, safely, and in a community space past most of the adult’s bedtime and they had a ball. The pizza and candy at the end didn’t hurt either.

Pictures were taken, memories were made because two entities decided to work together. Doesn’t collaboration look good? Two public librarians, two school librarians, and a few volunteers including parents and community members and it was a perfect Friday night in the library.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2017 in Events

 

Unforgettable!

As part of the #edublogclub year-long challenge to blog on education, this week’s topic focuses on professional learning and conferences.

Things just came together so nicely for this week’s #edublogsclub prompt about professional learning and conferences because I knew I would be away at one. Now that I’ve returned, I’m ready to impart a few pieces of wisdom, though I know more information will seep into future posts as I had an amazing time at my first American Library Association annual conference (in Chicago!)

Now that I’ve settled back for a day, here are a few suggestions when attending a conference like ALA:

  1. LegsUptheWallDefinitely bring the comfortable shoes, though I know the temptation for those like me, were to also be a bit fashion-forward. So even if you wore the *almost* comfortable shoes to match the dress, do this stretch when you get back to your room each night since you’ll be on your feet all day.
  2. 2017-06-24 10.33.54Dress the part. By nature, I’m a dress-loving, dress-wearing kind of gal. That’s not to say you can’t be comfortable, so wear what works for you, as long as it doesn’t look like you’re going to run three miles when you leave the conference hall. Dressing the part may mean being photo ready when you meet your idol (see picture) or to use as a conversation-starter when swimming in a sea of colleagues from across the country who you don’t know, but want to get to know!
  3. Know your limits. Maybe you don’t want to stand in that line or you desperately need a mental break so you skip a session, it’s okay. Part of enjoying any conference is also enjoying the break it provides from the routine. I spent time walking back and forth between sessions enjoying the weather rather than taking the shuttles. It provided the space to go into the next session ready to learn.
  4. Remember when I said you’d be swimming in a sea of colleagues that you don’t know? Get to know them! Ask questions and listen. Promote yourself and what you do. Trade tips. Some people you’ll want to exchange cards with and others were just a fun way to pass the time and restore that good ol’ fashioned energy you get from face-to-face conversation. It’s invigorating.
  5. 2017-06-26 14.31.19Indulge in local food and try to do at least one touristy thing. I was in Chicago, so that did mean that I would have to stop for some deep dish pizza. I also took at a picture at The Bean and walked along the water in that picturesque city.

Of course, the list can go on of both personal and professional suggestions related to attending conferences, but the listicle above provides a good start. You can tell I enjoyed myself, so be sure to head to any conference with a sense of adventure.

 

SLJ’s day to shine: librarian love

It is the best and worst kept secret. The fact that School Library Journal changes venues each year for it’s annual Day of Dialog but never increases its footprint means that they like things just the way they are. But, once a librarian experiences Day of Dialog, they have torn feelings: do I tell other librarian colleagues about the most amazing professional day of our life so they can enjoy the same awesomeness or do we keep it a secret so that it’s mine, all mine (cue villainous music)? Yet, here I am, writing about it because it’s hands-down my favorite professional day of the year.

2017-05-31 17.44.32The format is simple– opening, lunch, and closing keynotes by engaging authors with something to say. Then, four ingeniously organized panels of authors and illustrators centered around a central idea. Interspersed within that are a few breaks for vendor time while publishers panels stump for their top five picks from their publishing houses. Then, putting the cherry on the sundae, there is an announcement by The Boston Globe/Horn Book on their award-winners.

I have come to love each portion of the event for its varied purposes: you can only keep up with publishing so much before it’s nice to have a little help, you can only love so many authors and illustrators before falling in love with more after each panel like the capacity to love each new child as they’re born into your family. You imagine yourself one of the moderators engaging them in dialog, especially the ones who just have a knack for it (I see you Deborah Taylor!). And, you also enjoy collecting galleys for giveaways for your students. Because, well, we know that librarians give it away for free…

So if you ever find yourself in need of somewhere to go to remember why you’re a librarian, be sure to take the day to attend Day of Dialog. I was able to spend a train ride from Albany catching up with fellow colleagues, see IRL the librarians I admire from social media, and laugh, cry, and sigh with prolifically talented authors and illustrators. And even as long as the day was and I devoured Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds like Thanksgiving dinner on my solo train trip home, I can’t help but appreciate the hard work and dedication of my professional magazine in bringing valuable insight into the publishing world.