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Category Archives: Librarian Life

I trust you

There is no sweeter three words that those three words said to a librarian– this is when you know you’ve hooked another reader, not that they weren’t a reader before, but because you finally understood what they liked and scored big on the last few recommendations that ultimately led to I trust you.

This student was a reader and clearly always has been and a few months back came into the library looking for a book for class. We didn’t have that book and we began talking about getting it from the public library. This led to a brief conversation in which I had to reach out to her branch librarian, but that she could check back. In the meantime, could I recommend something else? She seemed easygoing enough and decided to let me recommend something else. Usually this is also successful because I have earned the trust of the teachers in recommending substitutes for highly-sought books or books to adjust for a reading level in the past.

I started with my usual questions about books she read recently that she liked and who she was as a person to get to know her a bit better before we set her up with something she seemed happy to check out. Then, I saw her a few days later and before a “hello, how are you?” came out, she began to discuss the recent recommendation I had given her and how excited she was to continue reading it. She said she needed something else. She preferred to stick to series books (because who doesn’t love to get hooked on a group of books where you can live in a world for just a little bit longer?) and preferably a series where all the books have been published so she doesn’t have to wait. I lobbed a fast one. I told her I was sharing a series that wasn’t her “usual” but believe me, it was worthwhile.

And that’s when it happened. She finished the series within a week and a half and came in two days before our spring break for another recommendation. My usual line is “what are you in the mood for?” and that’s when she said “it doesn’t matter, whatever. I trust you.”

*heart melts into a puddle on the floor*

NapoleonDynamite

 

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in edublogsclub, Librarian Life

 

Assessments for reading: “Miss, this ain’t English class”

In this week’s suggested post topic around assessments, I’m going to connect with what I know best: reading and libraries. Specifically, finding an engaging way to assess reading rather than a book report, log, or journals. So I want to share what a science colleague and I have been doing for the last several years.

She became hooked on the Alane Ferguson forensic mystery series and came in to pick my brain about a way to incorporate reading into her forensics classes. I quickly shared dozens of ideas and pathways to get there asking questions about what product she wanted and what the objective was. What it became was a mix of reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills over the course of three to four weeks, twice a year. And our favorite line was spoken to her after our first attempt way back when when the student asked why they were reading in science class saying “Miss, this ain’t English class.” The process?

  • Come to the library for a book tasting where they get to interact with a diverse 2017-03-07 08.48.57group of fiction, nonfiction that included the graphic novel format and had a forensic theme. They would spend five minutes at each table and circulate until they found a book they wanted to check out.
  • They had two reading logs to complete throughout their reading time.
  • During this reading time (outside of class), science teacher would meet for brief intervals during a work day and ask them about how they were enjoying their book and sharing something interesting about hers to gauge their engagement. This was informal and not graded and provided an avenue to connect individually.
  • Students filled out a book profile card (similar to a dating profile) for their book to get down the basics and refresh their memory in preparation for the final activity with was book speed-dating. This preparation day included a brief video that modeled speed dating.
  • The following day, students would spend the forty minute period sitting for six minutes at a time one-on-one with a classmate sharing and questioning each other about their books. They’d be scoring their likelihood to want to read the book their classmate described and on the classmate’s “presentation” of the book. As the timer rang, they’d rotate again.

So, there are alternatives to a book report. Students must own their reading and be able to intelligently share out about their book to classmates. Their grade was based on their individual presentations to the classmates in a timed speed-date. An alternative to a book report? Absolutely! I’ll take these over a test about a book to show comprehension any day.

 

Keeping them all to myself

In a tongue-in-cheek address to this week’s #edublogsclub challenge that talks about ‘giving it away’, I’ll start with my need to keep it all to myself. With books that is. For many years (and I still struggle when a read is just that powerful), when I closed the book on a fabulous read, my next thought was literally, I want to keep this all to myself. I wanted to believe that the author wrote it just for me, that the book would sit only on my bookshelf, that it was mine, all mine. But it’s a preposterous thoughts because good books are meant to be shared and it’s kind of my job.

So in honor of my narcissistic belief that my favorite writers are writing just for me, I’m going to give some books away. I will send* a book box of sorts (within the United States) with one of my favorite books and a recently-reviewed galley with a bookish gift for good measure to the first person to answer correctly in the comments below: what porcelain item is on my personal bookshelf?

TruthKeepingBooksaSecret

Believe it or not, I didn’t actually create this, but I know I’m not the only one!

 
 

The art of the booktalk

This post originally appeared on the Books Blog for the Times Union

The art of the booktalk. When a friend asks you about the book you’re reading or you’re sharing a recent fabulous read, how do you approach it? Do you ask a question? Perhaps have a pre-planned teaser or maybe you’d rather share an overview. Sometimes I’m so blinded by the emotion of absolutely loving a book that I clutch the book to my chest and whisper I love this book and then just hope that someone will take my word for it. Luckily I’ve got some street cred with this approach.

2017-03-30 15.40.02-1But, I was thinking about the art of the booktalk after spending two days in classrooms talking to tenth graders about choosing a classic book to read for their fourth quarter project. I had a lot of ground to cover and not all of the books I had read. Yet that is nothing new because I booktalk frequently on topics that I may only know slightly and I am a firm believer that you can booktalk a book you haven’t read. I organized the books into categories that helped channel the number that I was talking about and then prepared my cheat sheet (things like publication date, title characters, main ideas, themes or topics, or a relevant current topic that paired nicely). And while this is necessary, I generally don’t use it as much as occasionally reference it since Benjamin Franklin put it best when he said

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

It’s there if I need it, but the preparation solidifies my approach and then I don’t actually need it. Especially when I capitalize on others in the room who may have loved one of the books and ask them to share. When I talk about a book I may ask a hypothetical question or have a one-liner that intrigues someone, saying little more. And I learn from others. I facilitate a book group of local school librarians and everyone has a slightly different approach, all valuable in their own way. There are some I could listen to all day myself, admiring their vocabulary and word choice. I aspire to be better after each delivery and rework it until I hit booktalk gold. We only get better with practice.

So not only am I constantly honing my booktalking skills based on my audience, I also realized I have a lot of classic literature to read (or reread to refresh my memory). Maybe I can make this a monthly post to review a classic book as a way to kickstart this exploration. Which would you start with?

 

The swinging pendulum

Things have settled down for a bit now, though every few years librarians, especially those in schools have a panic attack about what we’re called. Rest assured, I will never argue because I will never want to be called anything other than a librarian. The only qualifier I’d add is “school” librarian (versus public librarian or academic librarian) but even then, I’ve put too much effort into it.

LibrarianLooksLike

From the Cardies and Tweed WordPress blog

The panic can be attributed to two events: the infusion of technology in schools and the recession. The former called in to question what the role of the librarian was (or wasn’t) and the latter slashed jobs in reaction to tightening budgets at the expense of students (along with programs like music and art). So we wanted to keep relevant and with that came the need to reinvent ourselves a la Madonna or Sean Combs. Madonna did it with her music and fashion choices while Combs did it with name changes. Librarians followed Combs’ strategy. What if we called ourselves school media specialists? But we’re also instructors, so what about teacher librarians? Many couldn’t fathom staying librarians without a name change to go along with our changing role.

But I’ve never had this crisis. I’ve been a librarian for ten years and I will continue to be a librarian well into the future. Is it because I know what I’m about and therefore don’t need to fuss about a name? Probably and also it’s confusing to change names. Maybe that’s why many more women are also choosing to not change their names when marrying– there’s an ownership over who you were for years before meeting a significant other. I own being a librarian. I love being a librarian. I even had this conversation at a Board of Regents presentation several years ago.

And, it simplifies things when I go to work at the library every day. I’m a librarian and I work in a library? Mind blown! Plus, it translates well in their non-student lives because they have access to other libraries now and in their future and aren’t we about the same things? We’re sharing print and digital resources, providing community spaces, engaging in conversations and advocacy, and bringing people together.

That’s my mission, my passion, my job, my title. Period.

 

 

 
 

Embed THIS!

Embedding is always exciting and sometimes aggravating but imagine my excitement when I realized that the Padlet I created to share resources on a presentation I was giving actually has a specific embed code for WordPress– as in, copy and paste this address rather than lines of code inside the body of the blog post and it will automatically embed. Cool, huh? When we talk about how integrated and networked devices, apps, and websites are, these are the shining examples.

Today I had the privilege of presenting at the New York State Council for the Social Studies. The first presentation centered on current books representing timely topics like child exploitation, trafficking, and social movements. And the second (back to back and in separate rooms leaving little room for error in disconnecting and reconnecting my laptop, cables, and bags) was about new literacy. For the attendees, I wanted to share websites, articles, videos, and images and decided Padlet was my mode of delivery. So if you’re interested in the topic, check out the collection of resources

Made with Padlet

Enjoy the resources and be happy that you were not me during the presentation (though I will say I think I handled it flawlessly) where many of the resources and videos I wanted to show live never happened since the Internet wasn’t working. But damn, my slides looked amazing! (see previous post about the importance of images for me)

 

 
 

Feedback face-to-face

One of my favorite assignments when working with an upperclassmen group conducting research was when I came in to discuss the initial thoughts, tips, and tricks on “revving the engine for research”. For many teachers I worked with, I helped shape a document that set deadlines for parts of the research and subsequent paper that provided a realistic scaffold of conducting research but also helped demonstrate time management.

Specifically though, they had to submit several essential questions and a working thesis statement along with two complete citations of articles they had found so far. Then I graded this and went back into the classroom and talked with the students where they were given the next step: this was a formative grade, not summative. If students wanted to earn back points, they’d set up a meeting with me in the library and resubmit the assignment.

This served two purposes: first, students learned that revising and editing is as important as the process and the paper itself. Do not be afraid to revise. The second was that, we wanted them to grow as learners, which meant that reflecting on how well (or not well) something was working can be continually improved. So, providing an individual conference is a necessary step to provide reflection and also resources to help them move on, when sometimes students wouldn’t ask until it was too late, if at all.

As a school librarian, individual attention is just as important as group instruction, especially with upperclassmen. If in our large school of 2,500 students, their underclassmen teachers didn’t take advantage of the resources my colleague and I could provide, then students might not know the library was a resource. So as a sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen year old, individualized attention was almost a necessity to recoup some of that lost time from previous years.

And the levity they showed after a twenty-minute conference was a positive step in empowering them to ask questions, reach out, and reflect, so that they will return. So I leave you with a humorous meme from madamedefargeknits.tumblr.com:

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