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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Libraries as Learning Spaces

Stacy Cameron, Coordinator of Library and Media Services, Frisco ISD Nancy Jo Lambert, Librarian - Reedy High School, Frisco ISD


Introduction
When we were approached to write this post we immediately said, “of course!” but that was much easier said than done.  How do you effectively write a first person article with two people?  For those of you who are former English teachers you probably have a quick answer to that, but we didn’t!  So we came up with the idea to go back and forth from one to the next much like you would see in a script.  That’s what you’ll see here.  We hope this format provides you greater insight into our own personal thinking and that you are able to take away some ideas and start implementing today.  Enjoy!

Stacy:  If you’ve been around libraries long enough, you have undoubtedly heard the library labeled a variety of terms.  In my eleven years as a school librarian I’ve heard it referred to as a kitchen, learning commons, and media center, just to name a few.  However, the term that resonates with me the most is “learning space.”  In the summer of 2015, I had the joy of presenting with rockstar librarian, Nancy Jo Lambert, at the ALA conference in San Francisco, where we presenting on the library as learning space.  We went on to present at the 2016 TCEA and TLA conferences on the same topic.  What follows is what we shared about learning spaces and redefining your library.

What is a Learning Space?
Stacy:  Before we begin, it’s helpful to define what a learning space is.  A learning space “should be able to motivate learners and promote learning as an activity, support collaborative as well as formal practice, provide a personalised and inclusive environment, and be flexible in the face of changing needs” (JISC).  When you look at your library space does it do all of these things?  If not, what areas can you change to make this a reality?

The Physical Space
Nancy Jo: As librarians we tend to be people that want things in their exact right spot. What I have found from being in libraries with children and teenagers is that they are more likely to return and feel comfortable if you allow them some freedom with the space. I try and put as few of restrictions as possible on the physical space. For example, I have signs posted to “eat and drink responsibly.” I allow the students to move the chairs and furniture around and I don’t ask them to put it back before they leave. I do ask them to treat the space with respect, but I don’t hound them to put a chair back to its original spot. I know that the next group of students is going to come in and move things around again anyway. The point of having flexible seating and flexible spaces is for moving that furniture around to fit the needs of students. It’s ok to let the students determine how they want the furniture arranged. When you are looking at the physical space, look at even the smallest changes you can make to help your students feel like the space is theirs. Comfortable students are students who can learn!

Stacy:  Take a look at the physical layout of your library - the floor plan.  Chances are there are furniture pieces and walls you cannot move.  But what can you move to create more open, flexible spaces?  Marnie Cushing, formerly of Poteet High School in Mesquite ISD, took her 20+ year old library and completely transformed the space with almost no budget.  You can see the before and after layouts on the presentation linked at the bottom of this post.  In our district, the big push at the secondary level is to weed, weed, weed.  We have found that most of the non-fiction does not circulate so there’s no reason in having it on the shelves.  The result has been that the librarians have been able to remove some of the extra shelves from their libraries which frees up floor space to make room for more flexible seating and different configuration options.     

Genrefying
Nancy Jo: For some time now, librarians have been discussing genrefication. It has been debated and implemented for years in many libraries. One of the biggest hurdles for me, and why I had not seriously considered doing it before, was the time it would take. I couldn’t justify the time away from curriculum collaborations, teachers and students to genrefy. Vendors like Mackin and Follett are now both offering services for this type of project that greatly reduce the time intensive work of genrefying. I have seen the impact of this change on my students and I believe this is a worthwhile endeavor. When we’re talking about the physical space of our libraries, we should do everything we can to make books more accessible to our readers. Whether it’s changing call numbers to group books in a way that makes more sense or genrefying an entire collection, we can make those choices to better serve our students. If you are interested in the process I went through to generify you can read about it here.

Beyond the Space/Programming
Nancy Jo: When it comes to redefining your library, library programming is one of the key places for transformation to take place. In designing some of the different programs I have put in place at various campuses PreK-12, I always look to the stakeholders first. Usually the students are the first group, but often teachers and administrators or even parents play a key role in a successful library program. Find out what the kids are interested in and what they want. There is no sense in creating a program that no one is interested in. I also look at campus initiatives. What are the curricular goals of the campus? How can the library tie in and create programs that work toward those goals?

Here are some of the key areas related to programming that I think librarians should be looking at consistently and some of the things I have done in each of the key areas:

Scheduling
Nancy Jo: The school library at every level has to be about more than checking out books. We have to be instructionally relevant and contributing to student achievement. Allowing for flexible scheduling is paramount to achieve these goals. Real readers return their books because they are done with them, not because it’s library day. Having a fixed schedule based solely around checking in and checking out books does very little to nurture and grow genuine readers, and it usually tends to serve as the biggest barrier keeping teachers from collaborating on the curriculum with school librarians. I know a flexible schedule is not always easy, but even in schools entrenched in this system can change. You can read my full blog post on making a flexible schedule work here.

Final Thoughts
Stacy:  “Students are drawn to spaces that are open, inviting, and stimulating; spaces where they become fully engaged in the conversation and in the excitement of sharing new ideas” (JISC).  Ask yourself again if your library, be it the physical space or the programming you provide, is this type of space.  If not, what can you do today to begin the transformation from library to learning space?  

Nancy Jo:  It was my pleasure getting to present three times with Stacy Cameron, who has been a mentor, colleague, and friend to me. Her expertise as a librarian, her knowledge, and her leadership have been inspirational to me. As our presentation evolved over time, one thing that became obvious to me is that libraries are transforming. I truly believe change is the only constant, and this statement is certainly applicable to school libraries. School libraries have to be open to changing, and to changing in the ways that our students need.  If you are interested in joining a group of librarians who are seeking ways and sharing ways to transform their school library, you can read my blog post about the TYSL (Transform Your School Library) movement here and join the movement!

For our full presentation from TLA Annual conference, click here:  https://goo.gl/dH7JJC   

Friday, September 23, 2016

Banned Books Week is NOW! (and WEBSITES)

by Dorcas Hand

Ok – quick one today, the first day of Banned Books Week. It is always time to celebrate our freedom to read what we choose and choose what we read. But this week we especially pay attention to the vast variety of books challenged for just as wide a set of reasons, some more obvious than others. Libraries, including school libraries, serve the needs of our students – students with interests and needs that cover the range of possible reasons to challenge.

At ALA in Orlando in June, I did what I have meant to do every year. I stood in line to read from a banned book on video. Here I am. 

Hundreds of other librarians did the same. Here’s the ALA Banned Books YouTube channel.

And here is an overview video you could use with students Middle School and above - 
it’s by the Independent Student News.


So, find a way to honor this weeklong celebration in your library with your students. Support intellectual freedom.

Banned Websites Awareness Day is September 28 - see Judi Moreillon's blog post for details.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

PTA Library Support Recognized by TASL/TPTA Shirley Igo Award

Written from the Shirley Igo Collaboration Award application originally written by Susan Harmon (Librarian at Barbara Fasken Elementary School, Midland ISD), Lina Baiza (Principal Barbara Fasken Elementary), Kaci McDaniel (President, Barbara Fasken Elementary School PTA). 


Sara Stilwell (PTA), Kaci McDaniel (PTA President),
Lina Baiza (Principal), Susan Harmon (Librarian)

The Shirley Igo Award is sponsored jointly by the Texas PTA and the Texas Library Association; the award recognizes an outstanding collaboration between a PTA organization and school library media center during the school year. Projects and efforts at both the local campus and district levels are eligible. The award honors the memory of Shirley Igo of Plainview, a past president of the Texas and National PTA and a longtime champion of libraries, education, and literacy. Further details here: http://txla.org/groups/TASL-awards

Many libraries benefit from the support of their PTA at activities like Book Fairs. If your PTA goes above and beyond for your library or you have a unique PTA/School Library Collaboration, start gathering information now to apply for this award. What better way to thank your PTA for all they do for your library than nominating them for statewide recognition?

2016 Award Winning School Library/PTA Collaboration
PTA’s are traditionally known for providing tools or making programs and activities possible that may otherwise not be feasible.  What makes the Barbara Fasken Elementary PTA so special is their commitment to ensuring the best opportunities for learning were provided and recognizing how much a school library can make a difference.  
Barbara Fasken Elementary School in Midland ISD is fortunate to be on land donated by the deceased namesake’s oil company, Fasken Oil and Ranch Ltd. The school is in sight of current company facilities, making it easy for company employees to remain interested and invested in the school’s successes. Many of their employees joined the PTA and began advocating on the school’s behalf.

The PTA met with the oil company early on to decide the most pressing needs for the new school.  While many things would have been beneficial, they decided to ask for funding to fill the library after they realized the gap between the only 1800 books Midland ISD could provide to open the library and the Texas state standards recommending 12,000 books. The community knew how important having sufficient books in the library would be to strengthening the literacy program.

Because of the hard work of the PTA and PTA President who collaborated with their Partner in Education, Fasken Oil & Ranch, the library was able to purchase an additional 8,000 books this year! The company raised funds through many avenues-asking for donations, having drawings for various items, having a silent auction at their Christmas party-to raise $110,000.  The PTA was with them every step of the way by depositing this money and thanking the oil company through many acts of kindness.  They then paid all the bills for books ordered for the library and kept in constant contact with librarian Susan Harmon. 

Volunteers from the PTA also helped with book processing.   A job that could have taken more than a decade to achieve has been accomplished in one. The PTA has built the library to almost 10,000 books in one remarkable year.   And they participate in the school’s ongoing “Partners in Reading” program where they work one-on-one with reluctant readers at least once a week.  

Additionally, Barbara Fasken Elementary PTA has two active committees that are directly involved in the library.  The first committee is the Library Committee.  This committee is responsible for staffing the library one morning a week as the librarian works on other campuses.  Currently, Midland ISD has four campuses without librarians so Susan Harmon, the only certified librarian has to close her Fasken Library each week to travel to two other campuses. The second committee is the Book Fair Committee.  This committee organizes, sets up and runs the book fairs, two each year.  100% of the proceeds from the book fair are given back to the library to purchase additional books and resources for students. 

The Barbara Fasken Elementary PTA has been an invaluable partner with the school to promote improved literacy development and create opportunities for learning.   The PTA, in concert with the librarian continue to foster a community committed to literacy through the development and use of Fasken’s library and students have truly benefitted from their hard work. The PTA has provided over 400 hours of volunteer work related to the library.  In addition to volunteer hours, the PTA was also able to provide over $135,000 to date, in order to purchase books and resources for the library.  The school is thankful for librarian Susan Harmon for her dedication to making sure that every child at our school develops a love of reading!  They are also thankful to the many library volunteers, teachers, staff and most importantly their friends at Fasken Oil and Ranch.  Fasken students have an amazing library, because of the teamwork of so many people!  

TASL President Becky Calzada with Fasken PTA officers.



Saturday, September 17, 2016

Growing Library Leaders: Become a Certified Google Education Trainer

By Christina Taylor, Round Rock HS, Round Rock ISD

Librarians have always been at the forefront of information technology, even if we haven’t always had that reputation. Be it in tablets, scrolls, codices, microforms, or databases, we’ve always gone where the information is in order to find answers. Unfortunately, as mere access to information has taken center stage, school libraries run the risk of becoming a Starbucks-without-the-coffee. However, access is not learning. There’s a profound difference between simply finding information and building transferable skills that can be applied to an unfamiliar problem in a foreign context.

To cultivate life-long learners in this dynamic world, students’ skills must be honed, maintained, and broadened continually. The Google Education Trainer (GET) certification aids in this pursuit, and I have found it a worthwhile endorsement of technology leadership and a natural accompaniment to the library’s role in information technology.



As a GET, I function as teacher, collaborator, presenter, and community liaison on my campus, in my school district, and beyond.

On my home campus, my GET certification makes it possible for me to share expertise on many levels, ranging from the individual student to the faculty at large. It has opened the door to allow me to teach lessons that impart important content to students while modeling to their teacher a student-driven, technology-enhanced lesson that allows for differentiation. Also, one step removed from the front of the class, I collaborate behind the scenes with teachers, suggesting ideas and assisting them with their own projects to integrate technology into lessons. And, I’m called on to conduct campus professional development from time to time, sharing ideas and expertise to whole departments or more at a time.

My district is growing by leaps and bounds, creating more and more opportunities to influence thought about the role of the school library and how it can support students and fellow educators. I’ve used skills sharpened and sustained by my GET certification in presenting at the secondary librarians’ monthly workshops, serving as a lead learner at trainings for one of the district’s technology initiatives, and conducting sessions at the summer professional development conference as well as at the district’s Google Summit. Furthermore, as the district strives to prepare students for future careers, being a GET has paired well with opportunities for extending the influence of modern school librarianship. This summer, I had an externship with Roy H. Williams Marketing where I job shadowed the Operations Manager to gain a better understanding of how the firm runs its day-to-day operations. With an eye toward increasing the company’s productivity and streamlining its workflow with free web-based tools, I developed a lesson that integrates my learning into teaching and hope to collaborate with a marketing teacher to implement it.

Even beyond the structure of a district, being a GET opens up platforms for spreading a new way of thinking about the practice of a school librarian’s art and science. I’ve presented at TLA, TASLA & TCEA about new and useful tools and workshopped with attendees in the Google Teaching Theater about how to use and apply them. When Google’s Texas Roadshows pulled into town, I was invited to that as well. I was even asked by JoeZoo to present local professional development, if anyone is interested.

As one of the heads of my library, taking a leadership role in technology in the broader campus community has served to enhance instruction directly and indirectly, as well as raise the profile of the library’s other programs. Across the district at large, my ability to contribute to professional development of others and to take a more active role in collaboration with my peers has come in no small part due to the skills and insight that the granting of this certification have nurtured. And in representing the excellence of my school district on the broader educational stage, my focus more often than not is on sharing the results and best practices I’ve developed while working with these technologies.

Christina Taylor is one of the librarians at Round Rock High School.  She demonstrates library leadership by being a Certified Google Education Trainer who 1) delivers professional development to fellow educators both inside and outside of her district, 2) collaborates with members of her campus faculty to present lessons that effectively incorporate technology while supporting the curriculum, and 3) partners with her co-libra​​rian to be the administrators of the campus' web site and Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Who (Hu) Wins First in 2016 Letters About Literature Contest

By Rebekah Manley, Texas Center for the Book

The Library of Congress delegates this writing contest to the state Centers for the Book. As Director of The Texas Center, part of the Texas State Library and Archive Commission, I invite you to encourage your students to share their personal experience with books. We want to know: how has a book brought you to laughter, tears or changed your life?

Dear Lemony Snicket,
Only when a clamshell opens up can you tell if there is a pearl inside. Like a clamshell, I opened up and found a valuable pearl within me after reading The Bad Beginning. This book transformed how I communicate with the world. Before, I was like a boarded up building and no one was able to get in. I was closed off from people around me and felt distant from everyone. Communication with the world was once something I felt was unnecessary, but after I read about the Baudelaires, I realized that my happiness was heavily influenced by my relationships with others, specifically my older brother. [excerpted with permission.]
This is the opening of the 2016 winning letter for grades 4-6. Winner Benjamin Hu read his letter to attendees at the TASL Business meeting in Houston in April 2016.

What is the contest? Letters About Literature is a forum for kids to share their reading stories. All 4-12 grade students are asked to write to an author (living or deceased) about how his or her book affected their lives. State winners earn a small cash prize; national winners a larger prize. You notice that Benjamin’s letter is about a popular title rather than one considered a Classic or one commonly taught in classrooms; students can choose any book that has touched their heart.

The Letters About Literature webpage offers dedicated resources to encourage participation and share with teachers at your school. Information on submission information and deadlines are detailed. Resource materials include:

“It is wonderful to see students articulate their passion for reading, said Texas State Library and Archives Director and Librarian Mark Smith. “The Letters About Literature contest makes a lasting literary connection between an author’s work and the lives of young readers.” Letters About Literature offers a creative and personal expression that students can share with parents, librarians, and educators as they begin their journey of life-long reading.

Last year more than 50,000 young readers from across the country participated in the Letters About Literature initiative funded by a grant from the LoC’s James Madison Council with additional support from the LoC Center for the Book.

For more information on the Letters About Literature Contest, including printable entry forms, educator resources and more visit tsl.texas.gov/lettersaboutliterature. You can also connect with us on our Facebook page.

We appreciate the special relationship school librarians have with their students and the pivotal role you play in fostering the love of reading. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Texas librarians to share this program. You librarians will already know how important this level of connection between readers and books is to literacy and learning in general; students who begin letters are beginning a journey to a love of reading and learning not fostered by standardized testing.

The Texas Center for the Book was established in 1987 and seeks to stimulate public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries. The Center builds partnerships with library professionals, educators, authors, publishers and booksellers who provide support to our shared mission of promoting a love of literature throughout the Lone Star State. One of 50 state centers affiliated with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Texas Center for the Book is under the direction of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission at the Lorenzo De Zavala State Archives and Library Building in Austin, Texas.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Growing Library Leaders: Become a Certified Google Education Trainer

By Christina Taylor, Round Rock HS, Round Rock ISD

Librarians have always been at the forefront of information technology, even if we haven’t always had that reputation. Be it in tablets, scrolls, codices, microforms, or databases, we’ve always gone where the information is in order to find answers. Unfortunately, as mere access to information has taken center stage, school libraries run the risk of becoming a Starbucks-without-the-coffee. However, access is not learning. There’s a profound difference between simply finding information and building transferable skills that can be applied to an unfamiliar problem in a foreign context.

To cultivate life-long learners in this dynamic world, students’ skills must be honed, maintained, and broadened continually. The Google Education Trainer (GET) certification aids in this pursuit, and I have found it a worthwhile endorsement of technology leadership and a natural accompaniment to the library’s role in information technology.

As a GET, I function as teacher, collaborator, presenter, and community liaison on my campus, in my school district, and beyond.

On my home campus, my GET certification makes it possible for me to share expertise on many levels, ranging from the individual student to the faculty at large. It has opened the door to allow me to teach lessons that impart important content to students while modeling to their teacher a student-driven, technology-enhanced lesson that allows for differentiation. Also, one step removed from the front of the class, I collaborate behind the scenes with teachers, suggesting ideas and assisting them with their own projects to integrate technology into lessons. And, I’m called on to conduct campus professional development from time to time, sharing ideas and expertise to whole departments or more at a time.

My district is growing by leaps and bounds, creating more and more opportunities to influence thought about the role of the school library and how it can support students and fellow educators. I’ve used skills sharpened and sustained by my GET certification in presenting at the secondary librarians’ monthly workshops, serving as a lead learner at trainings for one of the district’s technology initiatives, and conducting sessions at the summer professional development conference as well as at the district’s Google Summit. Furthermore, as the district strives to prepare students for future careers, being a GET has paired well with opportunities for extending the influence of modern school librarianship. This summer, I had an externship with Roy H. Williams Marketing where I job shadowed the Operations Manager to gain a better understanding of how the firm runs its day-to-day operations. With an eye toward increasing the company’s productivity and streamlining its workflow with free web-based tools, I developed a lesson that integrates my learning into teaching and hope to collaborate with a marketing teacher to implement it.

Even beyond the structure of a district, being a GET opens up platforms for spreading a new way of thinking about the practice of a school librarian’s art and science. I’ve presented at TLA, TASLA & TCEA about new and useful tools and workshopped with attendees in the Google Teaching Theater about how to use and apply them. When Google’s Texas Roadshows pulled into town, I was invited to that as well. I was even asked by JoeZoo to present local professional development, if anyone is interested.

As one of the heads of my library, taking a leadership role in technology in the broader campus community has served to enhance instruction directly and indirectly, as well as raise the profile of the library’s other programs. Across the district at large, my ability to contribute to professional development of others and to take a more active role in collaboration with my peers has come in no small part due to the skills and insight that the granting of this certification have nurtured. And in representing the excellence of my school district on the broader educational stage, my focus more often than not is on sharing the results and best practices I’ve developed while working with these technologies.

Christina Taylor is one of the librarians at Round Rock High School.  She demonstrates library leadership by being a Certified Google Education Trainer who 1) delivers professional development to fellow educators both inside and outside of her district, 2) collaborates with members of her campus faculty to present lessons that effectively incorporate technology while supporting the curriculum, and 3) partners with her co-libra​​rian to be the administrators of the campus' web site and Facebook page.