School Librarians as Artists

By Erica Leu, Pflugerville Elementary Librarian/Pflex Teacher, Pflugerville ISD
[A Pflex (Pflugerville Learning Extension) Teacher provides enrichment instruction for the Gifted/Talented students.  In Pflugerville, librarians are GT teachers as well.]

When I walk around my library, I see many physical objects such as shelving, tables, chairs, computers, and books.  I imagine that this is also what other people notice as they walk around the space.  However, every day as I setup for my first class in the morning or tidy up before going home, I imagine the possibilities that this space has for my students, colleagues, and school community.  This place is more than a physical location; it is a place for learning, connecting, and exploration.  I see my library as a blank canvas just waiting to be painted with programs and services for my school community.   Two years ago, I imagined creating a miniature golf course inside my library and this is how I did it.

During my first three years as a librarian, I had established a good understanding of the basic management practices I needed to run a school library. I wanted a new challenge just as I imagine an artist often feels the need for inspiration.   I decided to find some programming that would make people say “wow.” The traditional stereotype associated with libraries as a quiet place where you go to study is boring.  How could I offer opposite of this image: a collaborative, place where you can have fun and make a little noise? On Pinterest, I saw that another librarian had created a mini-golf course in their library. Immediately, I had my answer.  My students would love the unconventional nature of playing in the library and that this idea could be used to promote reading achievement. 

I spent a whole school year planning for the program.  I had noticed that many students struggled to maintain motivation towards their reading goals for a whole year as is typical for many children, but I really felt that my programming could support their achievement goals. This mini-golf program could be a way to celebrate student commitment to personal reading growth.  I scheduled the program for three days in the middle of May so students would have the whole year to meet their goal.  I wanted this to be a small group program so I scheduled 8-10 students for each 30 minute block throughout the three day period.

All Kindergarten through 5th grade students were eligible for this celebration.  Kindergarten students had to know their first 100 sight words.  Students in grades 1-5 had to achieve their individualized reading goal for the year.  Students in Special Education Programs who met their goals were also invited to participate. Our school already used Accelerated Reader, so I used that to manage the program. 

Community and school partners supported the event.  My first year I borrowed golf clubs from a local miniature golf establishment and golf balls from the school’s PE teacher.  Did you know that soft golf balls are a great way to minimize noise? Or that a set of reference books can make a fabulous tunnel?   I set up generic holes based on popular books such as Junie B. Jones and Harry Potter.  Students recorded their score on a simple golf scorecard.
During my second year, I purchased a set of clubs, balls, and holes so I could set up a more challenging course with loops, bridges, and swirls.  Our Student Council helped decorate.  In search of a theme to grab student’s attention, I turned to Jurassic World for inspiration, Dinosaurs from literature and pop-culture were perfect: Dino, Godzilla, Yoshi, Barney, Rex, & Little Foot.  I dressed up like an archaeologist and played dinosaur music for three days.  Only problem: the Jurassic Park theme song was echoing in my head for days.

During those three days in May, students were laughing, reminiscing about books and popular culture, and discovering the basics of golf.  I even caught teachers coming to play a few holes.  Staff, parents, and community stakeholders walking by could see evidence of the library as a dynamic canvas used to promote academic goals and enjoyment for kids. 
After two years, we observe more and more students participating; the excitement is still building.  I enjoy the challenge and creativity that innovative library programming requires. Here’s my challenge to other school librarians: look at your own library canvas in search of other great ideas and activities to make your space come to life.  You may be a great storyteller, book talker, musician, etc…  Every artist has skills and passion; when you find yours jump on it! Let’s show everyone the work of art that is our school library programming and services. Go ahead. Paint your canvas with great ideas.

The Traveling Librarian

by Carolina Castillo
Ballew Early College High School, Buell Central Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, Sonia Sotomayor Early College High School in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD

I am a teacher librarian. I taught 5th grade for 8 years and then pk-5th grade for six years, I quickly learned how important a librarian can be in the eyes of our students. Even though they didn’t remember my name and called me ‘Ms. Librarian,’ they knew that I was the person who connected them to that one book they had always being looking for. Then I challenged myself to a traveling librarian position. I moved among three alternative high school campuses; Ballew ECHS, Buell Central DAEP, Sonia Sotomayor ECHS as the librarian for each of these high schools. I dared myself to make a difference.

I could visit each campus for only a day and a half each week. I wanted to require every student to read for at least 15 minutes. I didn’t get a positive response from any of my students, aside from the few who said, “Are you crazy? I don’t think so. I haven’t read since elementary…” and other similar excuses. I thought, “O.K. then I will read to you!” I started looking for books that are at about a 3rd -4th grade reading level and worked alongside ELA teachers, using their lesson planning and plans as guides. Students would work on a lesson; I would come in to reinforce the lecture using a short story. I read to the students, asked them questions related to the lesson, then had them write a response – I was bringing them back to reading. I also showed a couple of book trailers to the students in hopes that someone would eventually pick up those great novels. The students got more reading than they had in quite a while.

Now in my 2nd year at these three alternative campuses, it is amazing to see these students coming in to my libraries to ask for a particular book or e book, or help with homework and resumes, or… I also love to see students walking around with a book hidden in the side pocket of their (dress code) camouflage pants or coming in to ask for a book just before a school break. Reading is something that they had not done in a while and thought they would never do again– now it is something they are proud of, that they have set goals for, and that they enjoy and see value in.

A win for this Traveling Librarian.

Annual Speak Up Survey for Librarians and Media Specialists

By Jenny Hostert, Speak Up Operations Manager, with Dorcas Hand

TASL leadership, Renee Dyer and Becky Calzada, and TLA management, Pat Smith and Gloria Meraz, would like as many Texas librarians as possible to contribute to the 2015 Speak Up survey. Pat Smith is especially excited about the “fabulous information we’ll receive!”

Please note: the survey closes on Dec. 18 – please take a few minutes to contribute your data. (Dorcas spent about 10 minutes just now – not very hard. And I got a badge for my email signature!)

Texas Association of School Librarians: 
My name is Jenny Hostert. I am the Speak Up Operations Manager for Project Tomorrow. As an AASL affiliate –I wanted to reach out to you to see if you would be willing to promote out the Speak Up surveys to your members. If you are unfamiliar with the project, Speak Up is a free survey tool for schools and districts that annually polls K–12 students, parents and educators on digital learning and the use of technology to support future ready schools.  Since 2003, more than 4 million have participated with over 120,000 surveys already taken this year. All participating schools and districts will receive free online access to their participant results with national comparisons in February 2016.

This year Speak Up will once again offer a special survey just for Librarians and Media Specialists! As a companion to our other Speak Up surveys, you and your member’s input will help complete the picture of what’s required to effectively support the use of technology for learning. Last year 2,500 librarians participated in Speak Up and we would love to double that number this year. As part of our outreach efforts we work closely with educational technology associations on increasing participation at the state level. We would love the opportunity to reach more librarians in Texas to ensure their voice is represented in the Speak Up data findings which is used to inform policies, programs, initiatives not only for AASL but many educational organizations and is presented annually at 2 separate congressional briefings in DC. In fact, our CEO Julie Evans, is actually presenting 2 sessions at AASL this weekend on last year’s librarian findings.

As a participating association we also provide you with your state data results with national comparisons to use for your own planning. If you would like to take a look at last year’s librarian findings please just let me know! The surveys are open through Dec. 18th so there is still plenty of time to get your members and their schools involved. I’ve attached some sample promotional text and tweets about the surveys, we would be extremely appreciative if you would be willing to share with your members, via social media, newsletter, email, or blog.

And of course we are happy to promote out any type of events, announcements, or releases that you may have via our blog any time of the year. Please do not hesitate to send our way, we are happy to share out to our network!

Lastly, as a librarian we would love for you to participate in the surveys to be included in our national dataset, to take the survey please visit:

Thank you again,

Jenny Hostert
Speak Up Operations Manager|949-609-4660 Ext. 17|
15707 Rockfield Blvd. Suite 250| Irvine, CA 92618
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Project Tomorrow is the nation's leading education nonprofit organization focused on empowering students to have a greater voice in their education.

Letters About Literature - Making the Reading/Writing Connection

by Kate DiPronio, Librarian, Cedar Valley Middle School (RRISD); chair Tall Texans Round Table; Spirit of Texas Middle School Committee; TASL Alt. Councilor.

“Nobody but a reader ever became a writer. “—Richard Peck.  Type into your search bar ‘reading writing connection’ and you will get thousands of hits.  I can’t think of one author who claims to be a non-reader.   As a teacher librarian I am always looking for ways to connect reading and writing and make it meaningful in my students’ lives while also meeting curricular requirements as outlined in our TEKS.

The Letters About Literature writing contest hosted by the Texas Center for the Book, in affiliation with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress,  is an excellent way to link reading and writing.  Students read a book, poem, or speech and write a letter to the author, living or dead, that expresses how that author’s work has influenced or changed their lives in a meaningful way.  Was their perspective of the world changed?  Or, perhaps did students develop a more personal understanding of themselves?

Whatever the impact of the work, when students write to authors, a shared bond is formed. There has been an exchange of ideas through creative expression, even if the author does not or cannot, respond.  The work of the author has already spoken to the student and elicited a response.   Writing to the author is a manifestation of that response and gives it life.  Isn’t this exactly how we hope our students will learn to write - persuasively, with emotion, logically, and for a purpose? 

If you need to convince yourself that Letters About Literature is worth promoting on your campus just take a look at the TEKS.  I have included examples from the elementary, middle school, and high school TEKS below:

(19)  Writing/Expository and Procedural Texts. Students write expository and procedural or work-related texts to communicate ideas and information to specific audiences for specific purposes. Students are expected to:  (B)  write short letters that put ideas in a chronological or logical sequence and use appropriate conventions (e.g., date, salutation, closing)

(17)  Writing/Expository and Procedural Texts. Students write expository and procedural or work-related texts to communicate ideas and information to specific audiences for specific purposes. Students are expected to: (B)  write a letter that reflects an opinion, registers a complaint, or requests information in a business or friendly context;

High School 
(16)  Writing. Students write about their own experiences. Students are expected to write a personal narrative that has a clearly defined focus and includes reflections on decisions, actions, and/or consequences.

The contest makes letter writing interesting to students; however, you will need to tie it to your curriculum.  Included on the website is a Teaching Guide with lessons and activities for all three levels of the contest to help students write their letters.  Deadlines are approaching.  
  • Level 3 (grades 9-12) is due by December 4th.  
  • Level 1 (grades 4-6) and Level 2 (grades 7-8) are due by Jan. 11, 2016.  

Don’t delay.  Start a writing group in your library or co-teach with your classroom teachers.  You can’t go wrong when promoting the reading writing connection.

State winners at each level are recognized with their librarian at the TASL Business Meeting during Annual Conference - that's in Houston this year!

O.S.C.A.R.: Our School cares About Reading - and what a difference it makes!

by Bradley Noble, Wunderlich Intermediate Librarian (Klein ISD)

Wunderlich Intermediate was ready for a change…A BIG CHANGE: one that would impact everyone within our 4 walls; one that would create a CULTURE of READERS among the entire school (students and staff alike); one that would instill a LOVE of reading while increasing our STAAR scores in the process! And so, on one hot August afternoon, at a library conference table with one principal, one librarian, one ELA Specialist, one department chair and data manager, the journey began and OSCAR (Our Students Care About Reading) was born!

We presented a proposal to the Klein Education Foundation and were thrilled to receive a $25,000 Lead the Spark Grant; $20,000 was used to purchase books and the other $5,000 would be used for the OSCAR ceremony. We also received an additional $50, 000 in Title 1 funds to help supplement the variety and number of books in both classrooms and library. Watch this overview.

An O.S.C.A.R. favorite
In choosing the OSCAR books we wanted titles that would foster a lifelong love of reading and improve their critical thinking skills. We decided the best books to start with were the Texas Lone Star books. We chose from all genres and made sure we had plenty of interesting choices for our students, particularly for our struggling readers. We added several more titles over the last three years with Title 1 funds, including a set for our ESL and our NAC (New Arrival Center) students.

We purchased separate titles for each grade level and placed 4 copies of each in every ELA and Math class, which are blocked classes. Students choose a book they like and are then given 15 minutes of independent reading. Upon completing their books, they fill out a summary sheet and if interested, sign up for an O.S.C.A.R. club. In these clubs they may create book trailers, digital or hand drawn art, costumes, or create music or songs to go with a book. Their purpose with these projects is to persuade others to read the book as well.

With the $5000 from the grant, donations and sponsorships from community members, we have a spectacular celebration in May. We give awards for the best book trailer (EX: Best SciFi trailer) in each genre, best script, best costume, etc. Since teachers are also encouraged to read the books as well, we also have a category for best teacher book trailer. We have had over 400 book trailers submitted over the past three years. Winners receive an OSCAR statue and the Best Overall Student and Best Teacher winners also receive an iPad. Some student’s try out for the talent portion of the show and get to do a performance that is related to one of the books. This is a favorite part of the program for all of us.

The results of this program have been amazing!! To begin with, we have students and teachers clamoring for OSCAR books!  They are now discussing books they have both read and enjoyed; this interaction has literally opened up the doors of communication between students and staff. And yes, our STAAR scores did go up…each year!

As a librarian I am thrilled that so many students and teachers are actively reading quality literature. I love talking to both of them about books they have read and encourage them to give me suggestions on books to purchase for the library. I feel very fortunate that I was given an opportunity to be part of such a wonderful program at Wunderlich.


Creating a Transformative Library Vision: TASL Winner Talks to Us

by Renee Smith-Faulkner, Asst. Superintendent of Technology Services, Castleberry ISD; 2015 Winner, TASL Distinguished Library Service Award for School Administrators

Please share this post with any and all administrators and librarian colleagues who may not read this blog. Ms Smith Faulkner is truly our advocate. Use the tools she recommends. D.Hand, Editor 

I would like to begin the blog post by thanking all of the librarians, teacher-librarians, hybrarians, and Twitterbrarians across the state for the leadership and support you offer your campuses, teachers, students, and the community each day. Districts and administrators that employ you as a vital resource and recognize the potential return on their investment have the best opportunities for transforming student learning on their campuses. 

Since receiving the Distinguished Administrator of the Year Award at TLA last year, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most dedicated librarians in the state via face-to-face, email, and through participation in the #txlchat. However, when I speak with them, I hear a common theme amongst them. Can you help change school administrators’ perceptions of the library program and educate them on the evolving role of the librarian as a 21st century campus leader? How do you begin the re-branding of a library program and implementing a transformative vision?

First, I assure librarians that although Castleberry ISD has some great things happening in their libraries, this can be the story of every school library. Administrators can develop a Transformative Library Vision and turn it into a reality by starting with these 10 strategies we implemented in our district.
  • Create a Shared Vision for the Library.
    • Create a Library Improvement Plan. Present the plan to the school board and report progress on goals and objectives. Without a district-wide plan, internal and external stakeholders might not recognize the library as an integral component of the school community.
  • Staff Your Library with a Full-Time Librarian.
    • Value their expert knowledge. With the exponential growth in digital information, it is more important now to have an expert that can assist students in deciphering the validity of digital information. 
  • Ensure Librarians are a Member of the Campus Leadership Team.
    • Librarians provide insight on the campus culture.
  • Involve Librarians in Planning and Facilitating District-Wide Professional Development.
    • Librarians can help others create a strong Personal Learning Network which provides individualized professional development based on campus and teacher needs.
  • Provide a Budget to Equip Your Library with Digital Resources and Technology Equipment.
    • Be careful, librarians are instructional experts and not meant to spend their day on technical support. Use them to transform the learning culture that encourages collaboration, communication, and supports innovation.
  • Schedule Meetings with Your Library Staff Regularly
    • Do your librarians have a scheduled time to meet collaboratively, plan, and create a common vision to bring about purposeful change and establish one clear voice?
    • Meeting regularly with the campus administrator helps build a positive relationship between the library and campus administration. These meetings can change how the library program is perceived.
  • Transform the Library Space to Accommodate Collaboration and Personal Learning Networks
    • Allow librarians to have conversations about what these spaces should look like and what tools should be available to support these learning spaces. Yes, coding, makerspaces, and gaming should be funded and implemented in the library.
  • Share Library Success Stories through a Hashtag Embedded on the District Website
    • Promote your library programs through the power of technology, and this can make all of the difference in your library program. If you don’t have a district, campus, or library hashtag, create one now.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Risk
    • Don’t roll the dice and bet the farm, but instead be willing to put transformative ideas “out there” and don’t be afraid to present ideas that are outside of the box.
  • And Did I Say, Staff Your Library with a Full-Time Librarian
    • Librarians make a difference and impact student learning.

Personally, I can’t imagine what our district would be like without the leadership of our teacher-librarians. We meet monthly as a group to assess the progress of our District Library Improvement Plan, so necessary adjustments can be made to ensure goals and objectives are reached. In addition, technology coaches are often invited and planning for campus professional development and teacher support networks are established. Then, the teacher-librarian for each campus reports progress on library initiatives during campus improvement monitoring meetings held each six weeks with the campus principal, assistant principal, technology coaches, and myself.  During this time, standardized student resources are shared so all stakeholders can support key collaborative initiatives for the year such as the creation of student digital portfolios, student blogs, teacher Canvas classes, and flipped lesson resources.

In our district, it has become second nature for our administrators to view teacher-librarians as a vital member of the campus leadership team.  Our administrators embrace and advocate for creating and supporting libraries designed to accommodate a “collaborative” and “connected” learning pedagogy that elicits 21st century learning.

The transformation did not come easy or without a few bumps in the road. However, my experience has confirmed that an investment in your library program is well worth the return!

Administrators, for more information, I encourage you to contact me using any of the following methods:
       Twitter: @faulknerr
       Office: 817-252-2087

Win-Win: Teacher-Librarians Bridge the Library to the Classroom for Success

by Donna Kistner (Baxter Junior High Librarian, Everman I.S.D)

I am a teacher-librarian: a teacher in the library and a librarian in the classroom. When I was in the classroom, I constantly gave books to students generally about a skill students were learning at the time.  So when I became a full time librarian, I noticed a gap, between my goals as a teacher; wanting students to learn skills, and wanting students to just read as a librarian. So I developed a way to link the two, read for your TEKS and hook your readers.  Now, as a librarian, I help teachers achieve their goals, while I achieve my goals as well. However, the students are the real winners!

Using the knowledge I gained of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills as a teacher in the classroom and combining that knowledge with the skills necessary for students to learn in the library, I developed a technique to link the two together so students will achieve success in classroom.  As I read a novel, I look for snippets of text teachers can use to teach the TEKS.  I note those books and the snippets to share with teachers. I tag the books to help students connect with a TEK as they read the snippet, then they become more interested in reading the book. This helps me become more successful linking reading to the classroom.  I make assignment cards called Trade for a Grade cards.  These are cards posted in the library with skills that students are using in their classrooms but require students to read snippets of books to complete the assignments. The assignment is completed in the library but turned into teachers in the classrooms to take the place of missing assignments or grades.

 The more students read, the more they are prepared for the TEK when it is taught in class. “Remember that good teaching is not about covering a new list of standards; good teaching is  grounded in practices proven to sharpen our students’ literacy skills” (Gallagher, In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in the ELA Classroom, 2015). To me this means  good teaching is about reading, encouraging students to read, helping students find great books to read, and achieving teacher’s and student’s goals.  So I continue to add the snippets to my file so that I am prepared when teachers are looking for just the right piece to read to help students understand a TEK. 

For example, the text in Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) helps students recognize many reading skills, especially in drawing conclusions since characters are on the “Isle of Conclusions” (which they jumped to). Drawing conclusions is a difficult skill to teach without reading a long text.  Many students get lost in the wording and can’t see it. However; using short pieces will allow students to easily see the pun in the first two pages. Juster is a master at using word play and vocabulary.  This book is great for teaching figurative language because you can turn to any page and find great use of metaphors, hyperboles and more. Students who like funny stories will immediately see the humor in Juster’s writing.  I use this appeal to bridge the library into the classroom.

The teachers and I collaborate about skills they are using in class. When teachers add TEKS to their lesson plans, I find snippets to help teach and support those skills with the books in the library. Blue Lipstick by John Grandits is an example of concrete poetry which correlates to skills 8.3 and 7.3 TEKS, asking students to identify different types of poetry.  My Trade for a Grade card asks students to explain the differences between a Blue Lipstick poem, and any poem from the Extraordinary Poetry Writing by Margaret Ryan.  Using the two books, students make their own Venn diagram to explain the differences in the stanzas, shapes, and rhyme schemes.  To extend the lesson, I ask the question, “How do these two types of poems differ from a novel in verse like The Crossover by Kwame Alexander or Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder.  After reading just one page of each book, students can note the differences and similarities.  In addition, The Crossover intrigues the boys and Chasing Brooklyn entices the girls.  Students quickly check out the book, and I need to make another Trade for Grade card. This is a win-win; more students find books they enjoy and learn skills while reading high interest pieces. 

Trade for a Grade cards also help students who need to make up missing assignments: they achieve classroom goals while they make up missing projects.  If a teacher will accept the Venn diagram as an alternative assignment, she/he signs the back of the card. Then students may turn in their Venn diagram to take the place of their missing assignment in class. This is one of the hardest skills for students to do on their own, but it is one of Robert Marzano’s nine high yield strategies.

Many students come to school with no literacy skills. They do not have homes full of books. Few in my district have a library card and most are very poor.  So the only opportunity to interact with books is through the school library. I want to maximize their time in the library to help them be successful students.  In my classroom, I wanted to surround the students with literacy options such as newspapers, comics, books, magazines and more.  I believe if you find what a student likes, they will read about it. What a better place to do that than in the library where you have every subject possible almost.

I read Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead and found snippets to use with a TEK for teachers to use in class, or that I can use in the library as they read. I ask the students how the setting influences the story. This story begins with the main character in the hospital and a nurse saying, “There must be a reason you survived?” I encourage 7th and 8th grade students to use the short prologue in this book to make inferences as to what may happen in the story by predicting from that point. This skill will be discussed in the classroom, and students will remember what we discussed in the library. Asking students to show me, using text evidence, gives me an opportunity to teach citations skills and quoting. 

I am working toward creating a Trade for a Grade Card for every subject area and grade level using the library to meet goals. My major goal is to help struggling readers apply skills from class to their reading.  This increases learning because students are more likely to read books they select.  Finding ways to help students use skills in a variety of reading environments enhances students’ ability to read with understanding. Win-Win yet again.

Cloning vs. swimming: a librarian’s thoughts…

The Fall issue of Texas Library Journal included an article, “At the Frontlines: Making Library magic” (pp.-87) In response to Gloria Meraz’ email request to complete this sentence, “Libraries are exciting places because…, Karen had responded that they are exciting because … libraries entice our brains to learn more, expanding our possibilities!” I asked several of the school folks if they would write a blog post for TASLTalks. Here is the first one – thank you, Karen. Editor Dorcas Hand

By Karen Kreuger, Hamilton ISD District Librarian

When I accepted my current position as a rural district librarian which has one librarian managing three campus libraries within the district, I took the job knowing full well that the technology to clone myself did not exist. I had served as the librarian for two large elementary schools for several years in the previous district that I worked in. The number of students in those two large elementary schools had been close to three times as many students as I would serve in this smaller pre-K through 12th grade district, so I thought that I surely could handle the challenge of three campus libraries. I was prepared for this position in many ways, but I have also wished many times in my 15 years of service to this rural district that the cloning technology was available to help me do all that needs to be done to serve the wide array of library patrons in this district.

Being knowledgeable about authors across the wide expanse of early childhood through young adult literature and doing efficient and thoughtful ordering for pre-K through 12th grade readers is a full-time job all its own. I found myself streamlining the ordering process throughout the first few years in this position to allow for more time away from a computer screen and greater time interacting with the patrons, both students and teachers. Email and texting became my best and dearest friends. Teachers can email or text questions day or night and I can provide feedback for them from wherever I am. I got a text last week at eight o-clock in the evening letting me know that one of our online databases was not responding. The teachers I work with know that I want that feedback from them as soon as possible so that I can begin to troubleshoot and find a solution before many more patrons are inconvenienced by the problem. These teachers may not be my clones, but they are my team, and we work together to maximize our assets.

One thing I had not realized when I came on board in this district was how difficult it is to train and have libraries work optimally when the librarian never gets to be in the same location with the library assistants. I haven’t mentioned that staffing for three campus libraries has mostly been one librarian and two full-time library assistants. During one reduction in force a few years back, our district took our library staffing down to one librarian and one library assistant for a period of four years. I fought unsuccessfully against the reduction in staff, and I was sickened to see our secondary campuses dark much of the day during those years of reduction to our library staff. Again, I knew cloning was the answer, but still not an available option. In both staffing situations, I had to try to jump this training hurdle in other ways. I began booking my own library substitutes so that we could have trained substitute teachers in our positions while the library staff met to learn. Staff training still sometimes takes place over the phone, and sometimes an email has to be the method for transferring important information and updates to library staff.

In truth, since cloning may never be a real alternative for librarians, I have taken on the philosophy of a wise character named Dory, from the movie Finding Nemo, whose motto is, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!” I swim upstream many days in my position. I know that by providing the best ordering possible for each campus that I am providing each student that constant opportunity to find great literature and materials to stimulate their brain and motivate them to learn and do more with their lives. I may not be on all campuses to book talk every day, but when I am there, I do. I book talk anywhere, in fact. I have talked up books and libraries at the courthouse, grocery stores, pharmacies, or any other place that anyone wants to broach the subject. I use internet sites like Goodreads and our school book blog to book talk online. Swimming upstream is always better than not swimming at all. A student’s ability to read, comprehend and analyze is like fins are to fish. A fish won’t last long in the pond or the sea without the necessary equipment. As most of us know, Nemo’s fins weren’t perfect, but he did have fins and he learned how to make the most out of what he had. A student’s reading ability is the fundamental component of success in their life’s swim. Life is a journey, a swim, if you will, that is much easier traversed if you have a well-developed love of reading. Until cloning becomes the “norm,” I will continue to swim swiftly and positively along a path that leads others to the knowledge and information skills needed to survive and thrive in our world. I encourage librarians everywhere to just keep swimming…

October is Library Snapshot Month: Zooming In on US!

by Dorcas Hand
Take advantage of the opportunity to contribute pictures of the great things you do in your library. TLA has a Flickr group ( for just this purpose – easy to join. Let’s see if we can’t make SCHOOL LIBRARIES a major force in Snapshot Month 2015.

Which leads me to an apology – the month started a couple of weeks ago, and I’m very late with this post. Sorry. However, many of us do better with DEADLINES so here is yours: get some photos posted ASAP. You have 2 more weeks in October to make it happen.

To quote the website ( What happens in a single day in your library? Snapshot Day proves that TEXANS LOVE LIBRARIES.

I also note that the official DAY is Oct. 31, but you can use any single day in October. Choose the most exciting day in your month.

The TLA Snapshot Day website ( ) has all the tips you could need. It also has a QUICK SURVEY ( that will help TLA/TASL compile some data about us all – please take the few minutes to fill it out. Compiled information is stronger when it includes more of us – and it will help both TLA and TASL, even the Texas State Library – help us plan advocacy campaigns. So, collect data and photos. Upload them. Brag on your library.

BONUS: Use the same photos to send emails to your campus & district admins as well as your school board and even your state legislators. Another 30 minutes spreading your good news will be well worth it. This is how you build a relationship with all those folks to remember when they need to decide on funding or staffing for your campus library. Have fun! Show how your students are having fun!

School Libraries and House Bill 5

By Maya McElroy, J. Walter Elementary, Austin ISD
As the new school year gets underway and new routines are being established, campuses across Texas are keeping track of their House Bill 5 initiatives.  The HB5 statute provides nine factors which must be reported to TEA annually and made public. Campuses receive a rating of exemplary, recognized, acceptable, or unacceptable based upon criteria set by a local committee.  The nine factors are:
1. fine arts
2. wellness and physical education
3. community and parental involvement
4. 21st century workforce development program
5. 2nd language acquisition program
6. digital learning environment
7 dropout prevention strategies
8. educational programs for GT students
9. compliance with statutory reporting and policy requirements

Administrators, teachers, parents, and other community members all have important roles in attaining school-wide success within these nine factors, but I think campus librarians are in a unique position of being essential to campus success. With the exception of factor 9, compliance – which is policy-based, campus librarians already have a hand either in initiating, facilitating, or being of assistance with factors 1-8.  For example, do you
  • host a student book group?
  • create research projects for your GT students?
  • teach digital citizenship?
  • stay open after hours for tutoring or ESL classes? 
  • host book fairs, coffee with the principal?
  • help with the garden?
  • run the chess club?
  • keep a maker space? 
  • stay open late after school for checkout for students whose parents pick them up from after-care? 
  • help publish the school paper, literary magazine, or run the student broadcast?
  • host storytellers, authors, illustrators, and guest speakers for students?
  • Skype with authors or other educators or participate in distance learning opportunities with your students?
  • organize educational field trips, literacy or vertical team events?
  • take students to conferences?
  • work with assistance groups or mentors who serve your students?  
  • work with donors for books or equipment purchases?
  • apply for grants or community engagement endeavors?

If you do any of these within the year, you are essential to your campus HB5 compliance.  Document your involvement and share it with your administration, reminding them that what you do supports their HB5 documentation.  Maybe the PE teacher uses the library printer to print fitness grams or CATCH materials, or the music teacher wants to print the program for the choral concert – document them, too.  Even if you aren’t directly involved with a program or event, chances are you know about it or helped the organizer, and that program or event might fit within the scope factors 1-8.  At the end of the year, when it comes time for your administration to begin checking the boxes and documenting all of the wonderful things happening on your campus, you will be ready to share your long list to remind your principal just how essential  -- and on top of it all – you are.  

Learning about History, Hate and Hope

by Angela Hartman, Hutto High School, Hutto ISD

Didn’t we all fall in love with Roald Dahl’s character, Matilda Wormword? We were thrilled when her librarian, Mrs. Phelps and her teacher, Miss Honey, took her under their wings and we rooted for her against the awful Miss Trunchbull. Roald Dahl is known for his use of naughty characters, but he is also known for fighting for the underdog. The American Association of School Librarians and Penguin Random House annually present the Roald Dahl Miss Honey Social Justice Award. The award “recognizes and encourages collaboration between school librarians and teachers in teaching social justice using school library resources.” In June of 2015, I accepted that award at the ALA Conference in San Francisco.

English III teachers at Hutto High School and I collaborated to teach the research process, the history of World War II and the Holocaust. Each student chose a topic. Students from all classes worked in the library every day for several weeks in class and beyond.
During the first class periods in the library, I talked with students about what I learned at an intensive conference at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I told them honestly that I was just learning about the Holocaust too. Students were extremely attentive as I spoke about this heartbreaking history. We discussed forced labor camps and death camps. I told them about mass deportations in train cars in which people did not know where they were going, the separation of families upon arrival by those who were physically able to work and those who were not. I showed images of a train car and the “beds” used in camps. We talked about the lack of food, lack of sanitation, lack of medical care, lack of humanity and so often, the lack of hope. We examined the meaning of genocide.

Thanks to a grant from the Hutto Education Foundation, I was able to bring in speakers to talk about the Holocaust and genocide. Gilbert Tuhabonye, a survivor of the genocide in Burundi and Max Glauben, survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, five forced labor camps and a death march gave personal stories. Gregg Philipson from the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, spent several days speaking in the HHS Library to English and History classes about the history of the Holocaust. He brought artifacts to share including a piece of lost luggage, maps and historic newspaper articles. Our art teachers got involved by having students create dioramas that illustrated scenes from Auschwitz. On the evening of January 27, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we hosted an International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony. Student art was displayed that evening. Over 700 people attended, including hundreds of students who came to hear Max Glauben, Holocaust survivor, speak.

When we began the research project, thirty new Chromebooks had just arrived at the library. We taught students how to use the Chromebooks and reminded them how to access information and primary sources using the library's digital resources. We used the library book collection relating to World War II, the Holocaust and genocide. We watched students choose a book on a topic, start browsing the book and then get engrossed in it. Several students changed topics when they found one they had not previously known about. The teachers and I spent time with students individually, helping narrow broad topics and checking for understanding. Although the Chromebooks were new and exciting, the books from the collection were used just as much as the technology.

Remembering how this project inspired enthusiasm and strong effort while motivating concern for social justice – this kind of project could have strong effect on any campus. Many teens are easily interested in making the world a better place – offer them the knowledge and tools to do exactly that.

This award confirms that librarians are teachers. We always have been; we always will be. I enjoy the collaboration, the exchanging of ideas and resources with teachers and the chance to get to work with students on topics that are so big and so important. The extended time in the library with these students allowed me to get to know them better and to build relationships. I am very grateful to AASL and Penguin Random House for this honor and for the $5000.00 of books for the Hutto High School Library.

Although the grant from the Hutto Education Foundation funded the Holocaust education program for only the previous school year, I will continue to teach and to collaborate with other teachers to deepen understanding about this significant event and to keep the history of the Holocaust alive. I will also continue to make connections to events in the world today and to encourage students to stand up for those who are not able to stand up for themselves. Miss Honey stood for Social Justice, as do school librarians everywhere. I’m honored to carry this AASL torch forward in my school, district and state – as a teacher and as a librarian.

TASL Voices for Conference 2016 (You are coming to Houston, right?)

By Renee Dyer, TASL Chair 2015-16 and Librarian at Weslaco East High School (WISD)

As the Chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians, and as a librarian in the Rio Grande Valley, it is very important to me to ensure that talented, school librarians from around our great state have a chance to share their knowledge and expertise at the 2016 Texas Library Association Conference.   With the help of Dr. Laura Sheneman, Coordinator of Library Services and Information Resources for Region One Education Service (McAllen area) and Mrs. Nora Galvan, PSJA’s (Pharr-San Juan-Alamo) District Library Coordinator, I contacted all of the School District Library Coordinators throughout Texas.  I asked them each to email me the names of librarians in their districts who were doing great things in their libraries and districts.   With their help, and the talent of the school librarians throughout Texas, our 2016 conference is gearing up to be one of the best ever.   Below you can see the most current list of sessions TASL has in the works for our 2016 Conference.  I hope you will all make plans to attend.  Stay tuned for some new blog voices from among these new presenters! TASLTalks would love to also hear from folks in the western half of the state – just email the editor.

The above map shows where all the TASL presenters for the 2016 TLA Conference hail from.

These programs are listed with emphasis on the school district so readers can look for their friends, and make plans to attend conference to see their programs. Not included here are additional programs by well-known Texas librarians – you’ll recognize those names when time gets closer. Look for these new folks with great new ideas and approaches!
  • Choosing Great Read Alouds and Creating Curriculum Connections for PK-2 Elem Students -- Angie Arnett, Megan Casas, Betty McGinness, Cy-Fair ISD
  • Clubbing in the Library: Inspiring Students through Library Innovation -- Terri Harknet, Joy Prather, Diana Weber Prosper ISD
  • Disruptive Innovation: Dismantle the Structure and Open the Environment -- Stephanie Green, Dayan Hernandez, Klein ISD; Ian Powell, PBK Architects
  • Global Read Aloud: Connecting Classrooms Around the World with Author, Jenny Holms -- Seantele Foreman, Michelle Leggett, Pearland ISD
  • Library Cafes- have your school cafeteria build one for your library: Harlingen CISD did it-so can you! -- Dina Cano, Ana Cavasos, Mireya Galvan, Harlingen CISD
  • Museum or Circus?: Finding Balance in Your Library -- Amianne Bailey, Marnie Cushing, Colleen Duke, Sharon Harmon, Alison Reyes ~~ Mesquite ISD
  • Resource Re-Defined: School Libraries as Learning Spaces -- Stacey Cameron, Nancy Jo Lambert ~~ Frisco ISD
  • Roll Out the Red Carpet!: The 2015 Branding Iron Award Winning Program --Kristi Cook, Bradley Noble ~~ Klein ISD
  • S.O.L.E.: Self Organized Learning Environment a new way to teach the research process -- Tracy Hayes, Leslie Reynolds, Brittney Tubb ~~Mesquite ISD
  • School Librarians as Instructional Leaders: Be a Super Hero to your campus staff! -- Laura Sheneman~~Region One ESC
  • Summer Reading Reinvented -- Thomas Simiele, Pasadena Public Library; Melissa Rippy, Dr. Christine Van Hammersveld, Pasadena ISD
  • Transform Your Teaching using ng Technology Application TEKS -- Cassie Janda, Pam Krueger  ~ Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD
  • Using Backward Design to Reinvigorate Your Library's Curriculum -- Francine Rader, Regents School of Austin
  • The War Against Boys: How libraries are a great starting place for helping boys achieve their highest potential -- Elizabeth Friend ~~ Frisco ISD
  • What's On The Menu? Collaborative Lessons with Classroom Teachers and Librarians -- Angela Steagall ~~Tuloso-Midway ISD
  • Windows to Reading: Opportunities for Improving Literacy Outcomes for Students -- Linda Erwin, Kathryn Stephenson ~~ Aransas County ISD

What am I?

By Irene Kistler, Northeast ISD, San Antonio

Last year, I had the honor of being named one of six finalists for Texas Teacher of the Year. It was an amazing ride, and I loved representing Texas school librarians in the Teacher of the Year program. It was validating to be recognized by other teachers, beginning with my campus and then beyond.
On both a personal and professional level, I am solid in my understanding of who I am – I am a teacher. I am teaching every day in my classroom. My classroom just happens to be the library, much like a science teacher’s classroom setting is a lab or a drama teacher’s classroom is a black box theater. The location does not define the role, I do. I am a teacher. My class list? Every single student in the building. Every. One. 
But a funny thing happened on the way to Austin…educators had an identity crisis on my behalf. There is a cognitive dissonance running amok, both within the field of school librarianship and among the educator communities we serve. And interestingly enough, many of the conversations were sparked by my e-mail signature. Who knew people really paid attention to an e-mail signature? I can verify for the world that they very much do. 
The Teacher of the Year program advocates for educators everywhere. One way they promote the program is to kindly ask the participants to indicate their participation via an e-mail signature. Here is my current signature:
Irene Kistler
2015 Finalist, TX Teacher of the Year
School Librarian
Alamo Heights High School
iLearning Commons

In the signature, it indicates both the Teacher of the Year role and the school librarian role, which to me are one and the same. But during e-mail correspondence with school librarians, I would occasionally be queried about the Teacher of the Year add-on. Colleagues were always very positive, but definitely were experiencing a conflicted understanding. Here are some of the questions I fielded via e-mail or in person, all because of the signature:
·         So are you in a classroom, and then you do the school library job on your conference time? (no)
·         Where are you during the day? (school library)
·         How did your teachers find out you were a teacher? (I told them.) 
           Admittedly, I entered the field of school librarianship late in my career. It was actually my 20th year with students. I first served 19 years as a 3rd, 4th and 5th grade elementary teacher. Upon fielding these and other questions, I realized that I had been incredibly lucky to work with school librarians who clearly defined themselves as teachers. They planned lessons, collaborated with other teachers and implemented both direct and indirect instruction with students. My school librarians loved the books on the shelves, and definitely engaged in Reader’s Advisory for students and staff, but they were also so much more…they were teachers. 
Walking into my own school library for the first time, I carried the echoes of Kim Green, my school librarian when I worked at Northern Hills Elementary in San Antonio. She referred to the library as her classroom and herself as a teacher, so that’s what I did. It didn’t occur to me, until I experienced the Teacher of the Year journey, that school librarians could sometimes hesitate to name their role, but it’s important that we do. Naming ourselves as teachers, and our space as a classroom, protects our profession. We matter. You matter. 
As the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act makes its way into law, with effective school library programs included for the very first time, let’s spread the news. Let the 2015-2016 school year be the year we state boldly that we are teachers. And if you’re not certain what to say, say what Kim said: “I am a teacher and the library is my classroom.” It worked for me.