Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Want to plan a party? Hire a librarian!

I know I’m up past my bedtime when a main street close to home has switched over to blinking yellow lights for nighttime drivers. But it was well worth it. Our high school library hosted it’s first-ever library lock-in. Hosted by the library’s Book Lovers Club run by my colleague and co-librarian, this was a dream realized after many years of seeing public libraries advertise their own lock-ins. Each will be different, each will have different hours, each will attract different audiences, but this one was pure library fun for our students with a mix of freshman through seniors run until 10pm.

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There was pizza, table games, cornhole, double-dutch, movies, a pinata, impromptu dance parties, computers, and conversation. What we really needed was some air conditioning, but instead we suffered through the extreme heat with as much ice cold water as possible and the support of administrators, hall monitors, and the two of us.

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We could hear the excitement, laughter, and singing throughout the night interspersed with exclamations of this being the best night of their life, or at least their high school career. It probably wasn’t the cute glass lemonade and iced tea serving dispensers or the strategic timing of the activities that the students’ remember, but that’s what librarians do best. We plan parties, oh sorry, programs. We plan programs.

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Coming off of our end to National Library Month with our second READ day during the school day before launching into the lock-in, the substitute teacher that helped us keep the pretzels full and the drinks ready shared that we should plan parties for her personally, which got me thinking that that’s absolutely what we are along with the myriad of other hats we wear.

But it’s programs like these, with a lot of student participation and planning that showcase the community within the school or at least within the library. Will this be our first and our last? Not by a long shot. There’s already a list started for what we can improve, change, add, alter, adapt, and include for our next one coming fall 2017!


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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Miscellaneous



I needed to tell this story similar to the last prompt but representative of this week’s prompt as part of the #edublogsclub weekly inspiration. This isn’t about student problem or project-based instruction rather than problem-based work that I recently completed with the help of colleagues and happens a few times a year. But this one affected me more.

Our library stores copies of old yearbooks. And because our school dates back to 1868, needless to say there’s some history. Our yearbook collection begins in 1918 and while many don’t come looking for ones that old, they are still looked through. Yet recently, we’ve been getting requests for pictures of alumni from the 1960’s. Can you guess why? Many of our students went off to war. Some never graduated. Some graduated, left for war, and never returned. And projects taken over by citizens to be sure they are properly memorialized means having to track down their high school yearbooks for a picture. Some do not have pictures next to their names on memorial walls because there wasn’t one and they want to be sure they are properly memorialized.

That means that when we’re contacted, the wheels begin turning. We had two high schools, so look through the yearbooks for an indication, if not contact our registrar to see if there is a file in our basement of past graduates and attendees. If they didn’t attend here or briefly, is there any information about where they left to or came from. Is it at our city hall if they went to a school which is now defunct? And so begins the circle, because to simply reply: “they did not graduate from here” or “they did graduate from here but aren’t in the yearbook, sorry” do not cut it. Not for this lady. I want to empower them with as many leads or as much information as possible. And that truly is problem-based and feels more like a quest than anything else.

We want our students not give ask yes or no questions and we want them to not give yes or no answers back, but to explore. And each time we field a call or email, we are leading by example.

And what was the resolution to this request? Our veteran who died in the second-worst helicopter accident in Vietnam. We have yearbook photos from another school district in his freshman and sophomore classes, but no transcript indicating that he actually graduated from our school, though we do know he attended for a brief time. It is fascinating to read about his story, see a picture of a fifteen year old boy, and know the sacrifices that he made. 

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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Miscellaneous


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.


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.


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