Down Dog in the Library


by April Sicola Stone, Librarian at Four Points Middle School in Leander ISD, TxASL Talks member

Librarians serve in an expansive capacity within schools because not only are they focused on their school-aged patrons, but they also support the adults in their building. This support may include collaborating with teachers to provide quality resources, co-teaching opportunities, and implementing innovative learning experiences for students that may or may not include a heavy dose of technology. During the past 2 months, it has become apparent that librarians do not need the walls and shelves of the physical space of the library to continue their duties. These experts are utilizing a virtual library space to reenact similar learning experiences from the traditional school day while maintaining student privacy, offering easy access to reliable sources, and demonstrating digital tools for teachers to incorporate for their new role as a distance educator.

As I conclude my 13th year as a Texas librarian, the instructional support component of my career has been a strength that I have had the opportunity to build upon consistently. With that said, I have had a concern slowly bubble up from the pit of my stomach as I witness the overwhelming aspects of education. The mental health of teachers is an issue that has been circulating on various blogs, journal articles, and social media groups more and more often. Teachers are stressed, work long hours, and often place their needs very low on their perpetual daily task list. I began to question what my options are as a librarian to assist my adult coworkers in managing their mental health. 

Because of one of my personal hobbies, an idea slowly blossomed that entailed no expense and little preparation. My thinking was that if I could carve out one hour a week to host an after-school yoga class, then teachers could gather to socialize, exercise, and de-stress. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an instructor. Austin, Texas has a famous YouTube yoga teacher who offers the perfect videos for our purpose. After I polled interested staff in regard to the best day of the week, we agreed to meet in the library with our mats every Wednesday after most of the students had hopped on their buses. The rules were that all levels were welcome; participants could come late or leave early, and judgments of right and wrong were not part of the vibe.

The first Wednesday was interesting. One teacher showed up, and we quickly realized that we needed to postpone the start time for a few minutes. (Encouraging students to leave the building, changing clothes, and answering the call of nature took more than 5 minutes.) The following week, more teachers joined us, and I learned that the myriad of light fixtures in the library offered the perfect soft glow for our time. The large media screen projected our videos at just the right angle for our mats on the ground. Throughout the year, we continued to honor our spirits with deep breaths in and out. Spring Break was right around the corner. When we returned to school, we were going to finish the year strong. 

Clyde enjoys time on the mat.
Clyde enjoys time on the mat in front of the camera.
Y’all have probably figured out that things didn’t go as planned. Our yoga group was sad while simultaneously attempting to navigate the new waters of distance learning. Then, a teacher offered an idea. One of our school’s teachers was in fact a REAL yoga teacher. She graciously donated her time and energy to teach a weekly yoga session to teachers via a Zoom video call. We can make special requests that would help relieve tension caused by staring at a computer screen all day. My Pekingese pooch zoom bombed the class during our first experience, so we added a new rule: Dogs are welcome — especially down dogs. Mrs. Canino, the lone attendee at the very first session in September, shared, “Yoga was a way for me to bond with my coworkers in a setting that didn’t involve a PowerPoint slide or awkward ice breakers.” 

This practice is beneficial in so many ways. It brings a group into the library weekly to strengthen their mind/body connection; builds rapport among colleagues, and we collectively enjoy the calming space. My plans next year include inviting the neighboring high school teachers to join us, challenging our administration team to participate, and incorporating a consistent virtual class as an option (Just in case.)

Using the school library as an expansive part of ourselves is not a new concept. Teachers and staff participating in physical activities together isn’t a novel plan either. Observing a need, creating a space, and honoring others’ wholeheartedness in a way that serves your patrons at just the right moment in time is a valuable human experience that we can all appreciate… even in the time of COVID-19. 


The Power of Community

by Shirley Robinson, TLA Executive Director



The days leading up to March 11 were some of the most stress-filled I’ve ever experienced professionally in my 25-year nonprofit and association management career. Our incredible TLA staff were in full-on two weeks out from conference hustle-mode. Concerns over the threat of COVID-19 and what its impact could be to our conference were looming with dozens of calls and emails a day from members, exhibitors, and suppliers. When we ultimately made the decision with our Executive Board to cancel the conference that morning of the 11th, it was a relief that we had made the very painful but correct decision to protect the health and safety of our members and their communities. Ultimately, that same day the City of Houston banned all large events and the rest of the State and nation were all facing similar decisions. It was a time of uncertainty and shared commiseration of loss and mourning as we began the journey of the unknown.
Today, just a little more than four weeks later, the TLA Executive Board, membership, and staff are excited to be launching our first ever Virtual Conference. We’ll have more than 40 hours of pre-recorded content, live sessions and chat rooms for members to interact on April 21- 22, with even more fun surprises to come throughout the summer with an expanded learning series! A good quarter of the programs are targeted to our school library community with many more that may pique an interest you didn’t know you had. We’re thrilled that many registered attendees have chosen to convert their conference registration over to the Virtual meeting where they’ll receive many more hours of CE than they could have in a face-to-face conference. We’re also excited to see many members registering from far reaches of the state (and even some out of state) that haven’t previously been able to make the trip for time or budgetary reasons. If you know a school librarian who hasn’t attended TLA before please encourage them to register at https://txla.org/annual-conference/attend/schedule/.

Since joining TLA in early January I’ve already come to know and love the resiliency and spirit of collaboration of our library members. Even in my interview process I could see that the level of engagement and support of the association comes from an incredibly passionate and active base of members. This is a unique attribute that you don’t always find in associations, and it was exciting to see and has been even more exciting to experience. As we all navigate through the next few months, this resiliency will be a hallmark that not only helps the association to survive but we will thrive and grow through these lessons of innovation and creativity.



I can’t wait to meet more members from our school library community in the coming months. As a Mom, I thank you for the tremendous work you’re doing to support our educators and students, and as TLA’s Executive Director, I thank you for all you do to enrich this association. I am here for you – just a phone call or email away.

Shirley

Shirley Robinson, CAE
Executive Director
Texas Library Association

You Are Essential

by Kristi Starr, librarian at Coronado High School in Lubbock ISD, TASL chair

Only a few short weeks ago I was looking forward to April 1. It was to follow an amazing week of learning, connecting, and reconnecting at the Texas Library Association conference in Houston. It was a day when I anticipated commencing planning for 2021. The April 1 I woke up to, however, is one that no jokester would have ever predicted.

Friends, we are working in challenging times. The world to which we had grown accustomed has been turned upside down. You know it, your teachers know it, your students know it … everyone knows it. For many of us, it’s like working with one arm tied behind your back. You can do part of your job, but something critical is missing. Maybe it’s the people. It could be the books. Or the makerspaces. Even a reliable internet connection. Regardless, let me remind you of one thing.

You are essential.
  • Librarians are essential to providing stability for students through storytimes and booktalks. They’re simply online now rather than face to face.
  • Librarians are essential for curating resources for teachers and students. We aren’t throwing together lists and links, rather we are thoughtfully gathering and sharing a variety of resources and ideas. 
  • Librarians are essential for technology support. We are answering emails, conducting office hours, picking up the phone to assist our colleagues and students when they need a new tool or aren’t quite sure how to do a certain task on a device. 
  • Librarians are essential as collaborators. Whether it’s working with departments that we’ve never before worked with or collaborating on projects and websites with librarians across our districts, we are showing the value of teamwork and new perspectives. 
TASL and TLA are here to support you. We know times are crazy. We know it’s a challenge. But we’re here for you. And we all need to be there for each other. Session proposals and volunteer requests will come, and we’ll meet again in 2021 in San Antonio when we Celebrate Differences; Empower Voices.

Because today is April 1, it’s time to share our monthly advocacy statement. We have a slight departure from the planned statement, however. Thanks to Brooke King, TASL Talks editor, we have changed this month’s tweet to “Did you know that full-time certified librarians are supporting teachers and students virtually by ________?” Fill in the blank with what you’re doing. Be sure to tag #TxASLTalks #txlege and #TxASL You might mention @TxLA and your district and anyone else who needs to see this message. If you aren’t on Twitter, take it to Facebook or Instagram. Let’s get our stories out there. You are essential


One last thought. We owe a debt of gratitude to Nancy Jo Lambert who is rolling off the TASL executive board and to Richelle O’Neil as she assumes the role of past chair. I have officially taken on duties of TASL chair and welcome Jill Bellomy as chair-elect. Thank you, Nancy Jo and Richelle, for your leadership. Thanks also to Lisa Zinkie who has served the past two years as TASL secretary. We appreciate you, Lisa, and welcome Linda Kay into that office. We appreciate our councilors Nicole Cruz and Jenn Hampton who represent TASL both at the state and national levels. A heartfelt round of thanks goes to Brandi Dawson and all those others who served on ProCo for the 2020 conference, and to Dr. Leah Mann who co-chaired the programming committee. To all of you who spent time preparing presentations, serving on committees, planning events - we feel your disappointment, and while we were unable to enjoy the fruits of your efforts, we commend you on a job well done. Finally, to the TLA staff for all the hours and continued work on the virtual conference, we express deep gratitude.

With the past in mind, and with a foot in the present, we look to the future. And it’s bright, y’all. It’s bright.