Wanderings or Blatherings

I am doing some new librarian mentoring. The latest is an interview for a foundations course. So – if my blathering wanderings are of any use to anyone – here they are. Some very interesting questions to ponder on the changing roles of Library Media Specialists.

Gananda’s superintendent recently referred to me as a Library Technology Specialist. Interesting choice of title. Does it conflict with our role as “bookies”? Maybe. Which is more important?  Promoting our roles as the school’s “Technology Whisperer” or retaining our proud tradition as “book people”? Will the title of Library Technology Specialist open people’s eyes to the fact that we are technology experts? Or do we risk confusing people? I used to say “Be a LIBRARIAN and be proud.” Now I lean more to educating the public about our expanded roles. They are just not getting it.

Collaboration – The Holy Grail!

I have recently been contacted by an LMS student to answer some questions for a class assignment.  Here is my reponse:


This interview is for my Curriculum class and deals with collaboration with fellow teachers with a focus on lesson plan development.
What are the elements that go into a successful collaborative lesson plan?

My Response:

1. Defining responsibilities for instructional elements
2. Flexibility for teacher and librarian to assess how lessons are going and adjust as needed.
3. Good report between teacher and librarian so when one realizes students are confused, they can each go in to clear up misunderstandings. In general, teachers know their students better than the librarian, so the librarian needs to depend on the teacher to help direct the type of learning experiences individual students need.

1. Defining responsibilities for instructional elements

2. Flexibility for teacher and librarian to assess how lessons are going and adjust as needed.

3. Good rapport between teacher and librarian so when one realizes students are confused, they can each go in to clear up misunderstandings. In general, teachers know their students better than the librarian, so the librarian needs to depend on the teacher to help direct the type of learning experiences individual students need.


How do you feel it is best to engage in collaborative lesson planning with a colleague?

My Response:

I think it is best done after the librarian has formed a relationship with the teacher. For instance, you might have a teacher you have never worked with before sign up to work on a project they have done for quite awhile. The librarian should pretty much go with the project “as is” the first time around. He/she should support that project as much as possible. At the end, the librarian and the teacher could have a discussion about how the project went, and how it could possibly be improved. If the librarian has an idea that would improve the level of thinking, they can offer to work on it for next year. Maybe suggest adding a technology element to the final research project. For instance, suggest glogster and then offer to teach the students how to use it.  The librarian should definitely offer to do a great deal of the “heavy lifting” involved in revamping a project, and should make changes cautiously, depending on the enthusiasm level of the teacher.


What subjects or grades use the library most often?

My Response:

In our school, grades 9,10,12. 11th graders do not do as much research as a whole class. The AP history students do a lot however. In 9th and 10th, the research is primarily through English and Science, with some from Social Studies. For 12th grade the research is primarily through English and Social Studies. Very heavy with Social Studies which is the Participation in Government/Economics class. We also have a lot of Health research projects. There are a few math projects.  Recently, band and chorus have been doing more research.  Various electives put a lot of emphasis on research projects as well.


Why do you think that is?

My Response:

The english department and I work very closely to make sure that the students learn the fundamentals of the research process.  We emphasize using a variety of sources and developing citation skills and information evaluation skills.

Social Studies has such a vast curriculum to cover.  It can be overwhelming and sort of like the Billy Joel We didn’t light the fire version of history.  A research project forces a slower pace and more concentration on learning about a slice of time in more depth.

The health teacher wants students to study health issues in depth and make personal decisions.  Research is perfect for that.

The electives are more focused on student interests, so again a research projects is a great way to allow exploration.

Science  is based on research, and projects give kids a chance to explore, and formulate and express opinions


How do classes manage their time inside the library?

My Response:

It often depends on the teacher expectations. Most teachers here have excellent classroom management and the kids (mostly) stay on task. Some teachers are much looser with their expectations and some of the students are not particularly on task. We do what we can to get them on task, but if the teacher doesn’t care, neither do the students.


What resources are most frequently used?

My Response:

For research projects, Web research is the most common. It takes more convincing to get students to use databases. It helps tremendously if the teacher requires database use. I have just added ebooks to the collection and those are catching on. Getting them to use actual print books is like asking them to trade in their cell phones for papyrus and postage stamps.

For fun reading, we have lots of avid readers and our fiction section is getting bigger and better every year. Our non-fiction section is shrinking. As the collection ages, I am replacing it with ebooks and only purchasing the kind of non-fiction that kids enjoy reading for their own interest.


What barriers are there for collaboration?

My Response:

Time can be a barrier. But I find that if the librarian takes on a big part of planning something new, the teacher will buy in. If the results are really good, it energizes them to try new things in the future.  They also talk about their successes in the faculty room which encourages other teachers to give it a try.


What do you consider to be best practices?

My Response:

Not sure what would be considered to be best practice. I guess I would say that the most important thing is to know the teachers and know what they worry about. If a teacher knows that you are willing to do much of the leg work to improve a project, they will be very open to collaborating with you. I think librarians need to start small when building collaborative lessons. Success will breed confidence and increases the likelihood that the teacher will be brave enough to do more the next time. Classroom time is precious. The librarian must always seek to be the “value added” to a project that will take a ho-hum learning experience and transform it into an engaging and memorable experience for the students.

Questions Part 1:Discipline

My mentoring posts generate comments now and again.  They also are convenient when I get questions from interns when they get their own libraries.  Here is a recent question (actually one of several ) from TeacherNinja:


I have a million questions. Discipline for one (because now I have two hour long classes, sigh, and they are squirrelly!)


This post might help some…but you have to remember that my experience is mostly with secondary school.  I haven’t taught an elementary student since 1988!

Rowdy or Restrictive

One of the biggest differences with discipline in an elementary and a secondary library is that as a high school librarian, I have the ability to give kids a little “vacation” from the library. Some new librarians cringe at this idea because of their desire for the library to be all things to all people.  I can understand that desire.  But trust me – that way lies insanity.  For you and ultimately for the kids.

However, when you provide the planning time for teachers, sending kids out of the library is not an option.  If you have a full time assistant, he/she can provide an isolation area where the student can be given a supervised “time-out” period of whatever duration you feel is age appropriate.  You should figure out an easy way to document these “time-outs” so that you can see patterns that might need to be discussed with the principal or guidance counselors.  Here is the form that works for me:  Discipline Record

If the student receives an “time-out” of a few days or more, you will need to keep the teacher(s) informed:  Teacher Notification Form

If the behavior patterns do not improve, you might need to use your school’s discipline referral form to ratchet up the consequences.

Along the way, you will need to keep the parents in the loop.  Here is my parent letter.  There is a typo or two in the letter.  I haven’t uploaded the corrected copy yet. This form actually outlines my whole process.  The full text of the letter is included in the “Rowdy or Restrictive” post I linked to above.  Parent Notification

I would definitely recommend talking to the teacher about the situation. They might have tried and true methods that work with many students and might have some ideas for particular students as well.  I know some librarians have luck with putting a child’s name on the board the first time they have to speak to them.  You tell all the kids that you plan to do this.  The name is up there as a silent reminder to them.  If the problem persists, then they get a check mark, which means an automatic “time-out”.

That’s the end of my limited store of wisdom I am afraid.  I wish I could remember more about my elementary days…. This district used to be K-12 in one building and I did it all … with an assistant thank God, or I wouldn’t be here to tell the story. 🙂  I enjoyed all the levels, but I must say that high school is where I was meant to be.  It was great when we opened an elementary school and I became 6-12, but it was even better when we opened the high school.  I absolutely LOVE this age.  I can make jokes and they (mostly) understand them.  I will miss the kids every day when I retire.

More questions and more “answers” to come.  Stay tuned….

Mentoring – Statistics

I haven’t added much to this category this year … mainly because my favorite mentoree from last year has fewer questions this year 🙂

Here is the latest one:


I met with [admin] last spring to talk about how to report statistical and non-statistical data  every month.  I’m starting to attempt to do this on my own since several of the workshops I have been to have stressed the importance of showing the # of students and staff using the library and the correlation between these statistics and performance.  Aside from the several Mandarin reports about the number of books that circulate each day I’m looking for a way to keep track of the number of classes, students & staff I see on a daily basis (mainly how to keep track of students since they don’t always come with passes).

I was wondering if you kept this kind of data or submitted a monthly report to your administrators with this information.  If so, do you have any electronic forms you could send me that I could adapt?


This is  one of my many weaknesses.  I have never been asked for such a report, and have never offered to do one.  However, I DO provide information at the end of the year to my building principal as part of our “summative” evaluation.

I keep a portfolio folder for each year.  Into it I toss various paperwork having to do with projects accomplished, workshops attended, research projects added or modified etc.  At summative time, I prepare a very simple report which includes these statistics:

1.  A list of new projects or majorly modified projects

2.  A list of workshops attended, with a brief explanation of what I have done, or plan to do with the information.

3.  A report on how many research classes and how many students have used the library – the raw data and a daily average (more on that later)

4.  A list of my goals for the year with progress statements

5. Here are the categories that I report on: Content Knowledge; Instruction; Curriculum; Learning Theory; Learning Environment; Student Assessment; Technology;  Leadership/ Instructional Collaboration, Consultation & Support; Collection Development & Management; Library Management (the first 6 categories are required of all teachers.  I have added the last three to report on the areas that are unique to our job)

6.  A copy of the BEDS report

NOTE: I have never reported on circulation.  I’ve always been concerned about the accuracy of such reports.  Yes – it will show what has been signed out, but it does not show what is used in-house.  There ARE ways of assessing in-house use.  It is a matter of getting kids to leave all the books they use on the tables for you to count at the end of the period.  You do this for a span of time to determine the average in-house weekly use.  I have never had the intestinal fortitude to do that.  So, I followed the Scarlett O’Hara School of Library Science method instead.  You know what I am talking about … “I won’t think about that today.  Tomorrow is another day.”

I will send you a copy of one of my summative reports to see what it looks like.  It really is more of a narrative than anything else.

Collecting data on class and student useage:

I have developed a format that works well for me.  I have spaces at the bottom of our daily schedule to count up the number of classes.  I multiply that by 25 to get an approximate attendance via classes.  I also use it to keep track of the number of kids who come in from advisement.  I do this by counting the number of names on the library sign-out sheets that our advisement teachers use as library passes to send the crew with.  Other than that, we keep hatch marks of those who come in with individual passes…drop in for lunch etc.  We have a sign-in list for everyone that attends after school.  Once a week, Kathy puts the raw data into an excel file and runs it at year’s end.

So … here is a link to one of our blank schedules so you can see the data collection section at the bottom.

Blank Schedule Template with Easy Attendance Stat Collection

Also, here is a link to the excel file Kathy uses to accumulate the stats.  It doesn’t really do exactly what we would like it to do – but neither Kathy nor I really know how to work with excel.  It is too “mathy” for me.  But it works moderately well, and I am sure you can fix it.  If you do – please share it with us.  Thanks!

Library spreadsheet07

The Holy Grail of Annual Library Reports

Joyce Valenza publishes her annual report on her website and/or her wiki.  The most current one is blocked by our lovely filter.

Annual Report 2010

Here is one from 2008 that you should be able to open at school.

Annual Report 2008

Do you know what folks don’t know?

You go along doing your job.  Mostly people seem to know what you do.  Some are down-right complimentary about the services provided.  Complaints are few and far between.  And then … surprise!!

Our Superintendent recently met with our district library team to discuss possible changes to our department’s roles and responsibilities.  We were a little nervous about the meeting.  I found myself reciting to myself  “I’m retired.  After this year, I don’t have to worry anymore.  But please…..don’t let it be job cuts.”

Well, surprise.  Our superintendent has been quite intent since he started to pin down roles and responsibilities, chain of command, procedures etc. throughout the district.  This meeting came as part of that effort.  He  had a list of technology related tasks …. projector & printer trouble-shooting, password management, some software management duties, future responsibilities for ebook readers etc. etc.  With the exception of ordering and distributing printer cartridges and our non-existent e-readers, we were already doing everything on the list.  And had been doing them for a number of years.

The most interesting discussion had to do with e-readers.  It never in a million years would have occurred to me that there would be ANY other possible choice other than the libraries to take over responsibilities connected with them.  Fortunately I had attended a workshop recently about the options, so I felt that I could say a bit more than “DUH!”

Yet another reason to be sorry to retire.  I would LOVE to introduce a new technology service  into our district libraries.  But I am afraid that baton will have to be passed to whoever comes after me.  Unless some money magically descends upon us this year.

Another eye-opener of the meeting….  In the context of software management, and aging computers, I mentioned  that our kids are getting the message that libraries are inferior to the labs because we don’t have the same software packages  …. not to mention the age of the elementary & middle school library computers.  The Superintendent was a bit taken back by that.  He acknowledged that even the high school’s new library computers were inferior to the lab computers because they were deemed as needed for only basic computing needs and web research.  He did not realize that although students often start their graphic and video projects in the labs, they almost always show up in the libraries to finish them.  They discover that the library computers are not up to the job, and they have to go into the labs to finish the projects.  Since the labs are often unsupervised during student free time, a certain amount of vandalizing occurs.   Not to mention that students make it  clear they don’t want to get “stuck” with the library computers because the labs are better.  Bad message for future use of libraries.  We should always have to best there is to offer.  We are learning labs and need to have EVERY possible tool available.  This meeting was a great opportunity to bring out that concept.

The point of all this rambling…… Don’t assume that because you have been doing something “forever’ that everyone knows.  Advocacy is absolutely my biggest weakness.  Kudos to our superintendent!  Not all superintendents would take the time to seek out our input.  Technology trouble shooting is an everyday part of our job.  Librarians are generally working closest to the “point of need” of their patrons – teachers as well as students.  Technology assistance and reference assistance are more closely bound than ever.  WE know that.  But do our tech people know?  Do our principal’s know?  Does the superintendent know?  Do all our teachers know?  Do all our students know?  And what about the parents and school board who fund our jobs?  We really need to get the word out there.

Easy for me to say.  I’m retired!!!