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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Coding in the Library?

Coding in the Library? was a blog post originally shared by Liliana Alonzo, the Steiner Ranch Elementary Librarian in Leander ISD in April 2017.

Three years ago I plunged into the profession of school librarianship. The experience was similar to my first year as a teacher. There was much for me to learn about librarianship today not taught in graduate school. One such fun surprise was that librarians are encouraged to promote learning computer science through their participation in the global Hour of Code event each year.

When I was in school the only computer instruction offered was how to use a computer to create documents such as memos, letters and resumes. No one ever encouraged me to become a computer programmer. It was a profession that I did not even consider. Computer science was not promoted at my schools growing up in the Texas border town of Laredo. My first meaningful experience with a computer occurred when I was in high school and my family bought our first computer. I started “surfing the net” regularly via the now obsolete dial-up modem. I did not have the foresight then to know how integral this technology or the devices which enabled access to it would become in our daily lives. The professional possibilities that learning computer science created were not yet known to me.

It has not been until recently, after participating in our 3rd annual Hour of Code, that I asked myself an important question. I have been telling my students they can learn computer science and have a well paying job in the future but can I show them that it is really learnable? Could I prove that someone like me with an art background, history of Bunsen burns in Chemistry and a B-average in Geometry can walk the walk and not just talk the talk?

So when an email promoting a scholarship opportunity offered by Birchbox and the Flatiron School in NYC popped up in my inbox I immediately applied. It must be a sign I thought. Lo and behold I received the scholarship and was now a student in a full-stack web developer program. When I shared my news with my students they were so happy and congratulatory.

Honestly, the program has been hard. When I say hard, I don’t mean just hard. I mean the-hardest-thing-mentally-I-have-ever-done-in-my-life hard. It can be frustrating and I will even admit that I cried once when I got stuck on an Object Orientation lab for 4 days. But, I felt better when one of the female experts told me she had to take a month off after completing the same lab because the level of difficulty and lack of progress was immensely discouraging.

The best advice I have received is that no matter how hard it gets, just stick with it and don’t give up. Anything worth learning can be challenging at times. If it was easy we’d have more skilled programmers and fewer vacant positions. I have to tell myself to keep pushing forward. It will get easier as I learn more and improve my problem solving skills.

Initially, I did not know exactly how to best use this newly acquired knowledge. Then an idea came to me. Why not try to teach some of this to my students? Blockly coding programs and activities, like the kind librarians use for Hour of Code, are great for teaching basic concepts to beginners, especially the very young, however, older students should have some exposure to real code. It’s less daunting if you have someone helping you that believes you are capable and genuinely wants you to be successful.

AASL standards and TEA Technology TEKS define learning goals for student use of technology as facilitating collaboration for the creation of meaningful products that have real-world applicability. It is imperative to provide students with these opportunities early on to build momentum to pursue STEAM careers.

This spring semester I started teaching Ruby code to my 3rd, 4th and 5th Grade students on repl.it during library class. We started simply by learning how to print out a string multiple times in Ruby. We moved on to arrays, indexes and if conditional statements which mimic some early computer games. We incorporated information from subscription research databases to create interactive conversations with historical figures. Our current lesson involves building a pseudo-database with a hash to organize the family trees of characters from Harry Potter. The students are charged with rewriting the story by writing unique code to modify the branches of the tree. Perhaps Fred survived or Harry married someone else?

Mind map Harry Potter family tree made using Google

Sample unfinished HP family tree Ruby hash

Sample code to modify hash

Additionally, I reviewed the progress of all students who participated or completed Course 1 on Code.org and sent out invitations to join our Coding Club. We are a school of 600+ students and our club currently has 40+ members. Last week parents of Coding Club members were invited to connect to their child’s Coding Club journal on Seesaw via a unique QR code. The Coding Club’s Seesaw account gives users access to my video tutorials, vocabulary, programming historical facts and provides a online forum to share, discuss, and get feedback from their peers about their code.

There has been phenomenal positive feedback from parents and teachers. This might be my most successful venture to date in the library. My next focus will be collaborating with teachers to devise cross-curricular lessons that utilize the coding knowledge students obtain in library class. Sure, the library is still a place to find, read and love books but it’s also becoming the tech learning center on our campus. When visitors enter our school one of the first things they see is the sign on our library doors that reads #READ WRITE CODE.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Looking Back: TASL MVP Awards 2017

The MVP (Media/Virtual Presence) Award is given to those school librarians who show excellence in their virtual presence through several different avenues, including but not limited to Twitter, professional websites, Facebook, school library websites, blogs, Pinterest, and other social media.

Sara Romine currently serves as the librarian at Woodstone Elementary in North East ISD.  Her online presence via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and her blog, “Lessons from a Laughing Librarian”, exemplify her innovative library programming and her commitment to the importance of sharing her library story through social media.  TASL is proud to recognize Sara with an MVP Honorary Award for Excellence for her exceptional online presence.
Cari Young currently serves as the librarian at Fox Run Elementary School in North East ISD.  Cari shares her creative library centers and twenty-first century learning practices through a variety of social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and her blog entitled “Library Learners”.  Cari is being recognized with a TASL MVP Honorary Award for Excellence for her exemplary work.

Each year, the TASL MVP Awards Committee selects a librarian who demonstrates excellence in his/her media virtual presence.  This year’s winner was selected by a committee of dedicated librarians, Sue Fitzgerald, Carolyn Foote, and Michelle Cooper, who evaluated all applicants’ medial presence for relevance, timeliness, social interaction, blog components, and appearance.  TASL is pleased to announce this year’s winner is devoted to sharing a love of libraries and children’s literature via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and her blog, “Librarian in Cute Shoes”.  Through her social media presence, Cynthia Alaniz champions and promotes engaging school library curriculum by sharing her expertise freely with all educators.  Cynthia currently serves as the librarian at Cottonwood Creek Elementary in Coppell ISD.  We are proud to award Cynthia the TASL MVP Award for 2017.

TASL would like to congratulation to all the recipients listed above and the MVP Committee for their service this past year. If you’d like additional information about the TASL MVP Award, please check the TASL Awards page and click on the MVP tab.  For a list of past winners, use this link.  Keep sharing your library stories and use the #txasl and #txlchat hashtags to connect with other librarians across the state.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The TLA Experience: A First-Time Attendee's Review of TLA

This was reprinted with permission from Wenndy Pray, Librarian
B. L. Gray Junior High – Sharyland ISD, Mission, Texas
Library Science Graduate Student – Sam Houston State University  

Anticipation. Expectation. Authors. Books.

These ideas and many others gurgled inside me as I concluded my four-hour drive to San Antonio.  My mentor, Nicole Cruz, accompanied me; we had both signed up for Battledecks on Wednesday and were worried we would be late.  I was definitely excited – Impromptu Speaking and I go way back.  (I also looked forward to seeing Becky Calzada, Martha Rossi, Jan Hodge, and many other awesome library administrators I had met as an intern during the Texas Association of School Library Administrators, or TASLA, conference last June.)

We picked up our badges and headed toward room 221CD. My nerves kicked in when I saw the room filled with librarians.  Here I was, a first time TLA-er and already participating in Battledecks. I was nervous and excited. Rules were explained, and names were drawn.  I was sixth in line. As I walked toward the front of the room and took the microphone in hand, I could feel the lump in my throat. There was the first slide. “What does is cost to own your profession?” was the theme of my presentation.  I connected every single one of those random slides and rocked that performance! I had the room laughing slide after slide, and although I didn’t place, it was the most fun.  Laughter is a huge part of how I teach in the library, and I would gladly participate again.

After Battledecks, my mentor was invited to the TALL Texan Social.  I was incredibly honored to accompany her and be among the “Who’s Who” of the TALL Texan Leadership Institute.  My mentor was class of 2005 and will serve as a TALL Texan mentor this summer. It fueled me with aspirations to one day be among them. It was also a treat to see Susi Grissom, another 2005 alumnus, be awarded the 2017 Standing TALL Texan Award. As a first-year librarian, I will be pursuing this prestigious honor in the years to come (four to be exact).

We made our way to the enormous exhibit hall. As I got past registration, I had the privilege to meet and take a picture with TLA President Walter Betts. That was excellent!
General Session I kicked off my Thursday. Being received by the mariachi gave me a flavorful welcome.  I also found the urgency in Cory Doctorow’s message encouraging.  A quote that struck a chord in me said something like, “Libraries are the clubhouse of the resistance.” His presentation made me think about the future of my profession and filled me with ideas on how to become indispensable in my library.
Another personal highlight for me was visiting with my Sam Houston State University professors.  I will be graduating in August and had a fabulous time visiting with Dr. Karin Perry, Dr. Teresa Lesesne, Dr. Holly Weimar, Dr. Robin Moore, and Dr. Rose Brock. These ladies have been instrumental in my librarian journey, and I was grateful to see them there.

Friday was filled with sessions, authors, and books. The exhibit hall was one of the attractions I was looking forward to as well.  To be quite frank, I wanted to be everywhere at once.  I discovered the “galley” and was incredibly happy to meet authors DJ MacHale, Janet Taylor Lisle, Ruth Behar, Margarita Engle, and Isabel Quintero. I was looking forward to seeing these authors and wanted to meet more.

I also attended sessions about volunteer programs, middle grade authors, and middle school reading programs. A high school administrator from our district was able to attend as well.  This was incredibly exciting because she was able to tap into how other administrators are supporting libraries, librarians, and advocating for literacy alongside them.
I highly anticipated attending the TASL Business meeting, where I would listen to student winners of the Letters About Literature competition.  One winner is from a neighboring district.  I was also recognized as one of five state-wide recipients of the Texas Association of School Librarians Scholarship. Being selected was an honor and a privilege. It felt quite awesome to take a picture with TASL Chair Becky Calzada, TASLA President Nicole Cruz, and fellow librarian and recipient Denisse Ochoa.

I missed some great events due to becoming ill in the afternoon, but read about them on Twitter.  I read that Carmen Agra Deedy’s presentation during General Session II was amazing! I was also able to listen to tidbits of the TLA band and the Spazmatics concert.  Thank God for social media! Although I was recovering in my hotel room, I was constantly plugged in.

Saturday’s grand finale for me was attending the Texas Youth Media Award ceremony at the Grand Hyatt with fellow librarians from Sharyland ISD. Our students won state recognitions in 8 of 10 categories and placed 1st in 5 out of 10 categories for grades 9-12.  It was refreshing and encouraging to see that librarians from across the state, especially in the Rio Grande Valley, are guiding students to create in areas of coding, photography, animation, video recordings, and music. I plan to encourage students in my middle school by partnering with teachers and promoting and facilitating project-based learning.

Although it was a bit overwhelming for a newcomer, I will definitely return to TLA.  The networking, professional development, and personal growth that I experienced is of great value.  It is an excellent place to recharge, interact, and reconnect with librarians from all over the state. I thank everyone who took part in making TLA a success this year and look forward to the greatness to come.

What were some of your favorite #txla17 hightlights?  Please share in the comments below!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hot Tech Tools for Classroom and Beyond - Some for testing, some for studying, some just for fun!

List by Pamela Thompson, LMS, Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, El Paso USD; @PThompson_EMS ; http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/

It’s a little different today – a list of new digital tools you might want to explore to keep your practice fresh for the rest of this busy year. Keep kids attention and WOW teachers with new ideas. Just a list – keeping it simple for you today. That leaves you time to try them out!

  • Flubaroo - Use with Google docs; self-grading tests, send reports, and best of all, email students their grades. Save time grading. Flubaroo does it for you!
  • EdShelf -  Get a free account; extensive collection of apps, web links, lessons that teachers can use and add content of their own. A great place for ideas!
  • InfoGram -  Create charts and infograms for free.
  • GameroomGames for kids from the CDC; interactive learning
  • GeoGuesserStudents can play in single or challenge mode; guess their location using blank world map and photo. Great fun!
  • Big Huge LabsFree site to make your photos into amazing things! Movie posters, puzzles, mosaics, special filters.
  • FotoBabble Create talking photos and slideshows. Add a message to photos.
  • Flashcard Machine  create flashcards to study for your next exam; share them with students, friends or study groups.
  • Funbrain  games to hone math and reading skills; fun!
  • ImageChef   Choose a photo/image and add your own words; share to Twitter or Facebook.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

National Poem in Your Pocket Day - April 27, 2017

by Pamela Thompson, LMS, Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, Socorro ISD (El Paso)@PThompson_EMS ; http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/

This year celebrating National Poem in Your Pocket Day #pocketpoem is being taken to new heights at Col. John O. Ensor Middle School and Horizon Heights Elementary in Horizon City, Texas.  Thousands of scrolls of poetry will be presented to residents, shoppers, parents, teachers, and students on Thursday, April 27.
Book clubs at Ensor are rolling thousands of scrolls and tied with pink and blue ribbons to share with the community. Students will share the love of poetry with parents as they drop off their students in the drop off zones before school on the 27th.

National Junior Honor Society students and Ensor book clubs will distribute poetry bags filled with scrolls to nearby merchants on April 25. Merchants will pass out the poetry scrolls to the shoppers/clients/customers on National Poem in Your Pocket Day.  Teachers will receive eight poems for each class period. They will share their poems with each of their classes.

It is the hope that the community will come together, share a smile and open their hearts to poetry, the written word and each other.

Students will encourage parents and the community to tweet about our event using the hashtags
#NPM17 #pocketpoem #PoemsRCoolEnsor #PoemsRCoolHHE #SISDreads #TeamSISD

To get started on your own celebration, find more details at www.poets.org
Be sure and watch this helpful video from Charlottesville, West Virginia. It is inspirational!
Poetry packets can be downloaded from the site. Poems that are public domain may be used for distribution. Student written poetry is a fun way to encourage students to write their own poetry and share it with others.

Elementary students can carry a short poem in their pocket. Everyone they meet on April 27 should hear their poem and share one of their own.  We also have a poetry slam for middle schools that will feature students’ own work. They will memorize and perform in front of an audience for prizes and the grand prize.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

TASL can Learn from ALSC: Advocacy for Youth Services

By Jenna Nemec-Loise (and Dorcas Hand, Editor, TASLTalks)

Jenna Nemec-Loise is one of my library rock stars. She is the Advocacy Queen for ALSC – I share her ideas often on TASLTalks. ALSC may be the Association for Library Service to Children which focuses on public libraries, but youth librarians are youth librarians no matter what kind of library. We work together because it best serves our students.

So today, I’m talking about her article in the Spring 2017 issue of Children and Libraries – yes, the one that just arrived in my mailbox. And folks who are not members of ALSC cannot just go read the article – so I will tell you about it while adding my TASL spin.

Jenna led a workshop in Lititz, PA entitled ”Why YS? Advocating for the Youth Services Profession.” She offered 6 take-aways for ALSC Everyday Advocates looking to up their game – and all of them apply to school librarians. We just add ESSA language and collaboration liberally to this already spicy stew for a show stopping entrée.

1.    Step outside your Comfort Zone.
School librarians – heck, all youth librarians – are not in fact wall flowers. We know how important our jobs are to student achievement in schools and to literacy rates in our communities. We know how to collaborate with teachers, how to reach the misfit kids who look to our library as a safe space, how to teach REAL news sources, and… We also know – even when we don’t want to admit – that if we don’t toot our own horn, we will not be nearly as successful because the adults outside our library space won’t know what we do. Step outside your comfort zone every day to tell someone on campus why you matter to campus mission, vision and goals. Every single day.

2.    Listen to understand, not to respond.
While your goal is to get those people outside the library to understand why you matter, your first goal has to be to UNDERSTAND what they need to hear. You only get that understanding if you slow down your brain to listen to what they are saying, rather than filling your brain with your retort so that you can’t absorb crucial information that will help you hone your message to be perfectly understood when you are able to voice it. It is really important that you tell people what they want to hear, with your library expertise as the topic – and no, that is not a contradiction. Use that fabulous journalistic term “spin” to translate your message to their vocabulary.

3.    Temper passion with reason.
Jenna must be a trained logician – I don’t know, but she talks about Aristotelian ethos (you and your credibility), logos (evidence presented through logic or reason), and pathos (an emotional appeal to your audience). And she talks about balance between too dry and logical or too wild and emotional. You need to offer your listeners the goldilocks formula that is just right, exactly what each of them needs to hear on this day – because you listened to them tell you what they needed you to know.

4.    Be the pebble.
A pebble thrown into a puddle or pond, ripples out farther than the thrower expects. Be the pebble by repeatedly offering your community ideas, information and data that demonstrates the impact of strong library programs on students in your specific campus or district. Don’t relax – keep it interesting. There are many ways to offer information, from letters and blog posts to infographics and events. Use them all to raise enthusiasm and awareness for your program so that administrators will hear from parents and teachers and even students if they threaten to cut your funding.

5.    Open doors wider.
Does your library entice EVERY student into your space, whether physical or virtual? Do you know what EVERY student needs? Reading level, research skills, personal interests, friends? There are not many librarians who could say “yes” – but that “maybe” or even “no” means that you have an opportunity to open your doors even wider, to find ways to welcome even more of your students, teachers and parents into your library collection and space. When every patron – or at least a growing number – are excited to learn how to locate what they need, then everyone will support your library program and begin to understand its impact on student achievement.

6.    Advocate, don’t justify.
Don’t get defensive – that leads to justifying. Listen to steps 1-5. Step outside your comfort zone, listen to understand, temper your passion with reason, and open the doors wider to welcome more and more students and teachers – and even administrators. Be the pebble. It isn’t as hard as you think. Lead with your passion – yes. But always leave room to hear what the community needs and to support your ideas with data and concrete methodologies that support the school’s mission and vision.

So, look for Jenna’s actual article (http://www.ala.org/alsc/publications-resources/cal ) thru your databases – her wording is better than mine. And implement as many of her ideas as you can manage – advocacy for youth services is essential in the current political climate. Use your enthusiasm and passion to lead your program forward wisely to a stronger footing on your campus. Persistence is power!

Thank you, Jenna – you are indeed my library advocacy rock star!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

TEDx & TEDED: A darn good idea

by Dr. Sara Duvall, Lead for Media & Technology, Skyline AAPS District Library Department Chair; Secondary Curator, TEDxYouth@AnnArbor

Hello Texas School Librarians! I’m up here in Michigan where the crocus started blooming in February. A chance meeting in an airport shuttle after an ALA Conference connected me with Dorcas Hand, TASLTalks Editor. And here I am to offer you some Big Ideas.

School Librarians consistently follow research on the impact of their work on student achievement and the learning environment (​i.e. School Libraries Work, etc.).  We teach a curriculum that supports 21st century fluencies and stretches students to think critically and problem-solve.  Our impact is statistically significant even in an organization where we see students only once a week for an hour or randomly throughout the week.  As the District Chair for Secondary Library Services, I seek out ideas...lots of ideas.  Big ideas. Small ideas.  Ideas for how school librarians can ​create opportunities ​for any and all students to practice self-motivated, responsible inquiry along with the 21st century fluencies (​Lee Crockett & Global Digital Citizens Foundation) - opportunities beyond the release time I am required to provide for my colleagues. Opportunity.  That’s my focus these days. 

Opportunity.​  How does a school librarian create broad impact on student opportunity in the school, in the community, in the world? To answer your immediate question - No, my friends, it’s not a question that’s too big for us.  We have to think like teachers of the future.  We have to BE teachers of the future, today.  I keep this short poem hanging at my desk. I read it every day.
What is a teacher?
What is a teacher? ​ A guide, not a guard.
What is learning?​ A journey, not a destination.
What is discovery? ​ Questioning the answers, not answering the questions.
What is the goal? ​ Open minds, not closed issues.
What is a test? ​ Being and becoming, not remembering and reviewing.
What is learning? ​ Not just doing things differently, but doing different things.
What is teaching? ​ Not showing them what to learn, but showing them how to learn.
What is school?​ Whatever we choose to make it. 
Allan Glatthorn from ​Literacy Is Not Enough by Lee Crockett, Ian Jukes, Andrew Churches

I am inspired by Allan’s precise spare poetry.  I aspire to fulfill that vision in the practice of my profession, in the evolution of my school. 

Action.​ So, today I want to talk to you about just one of the BIG ideas that I use to create opportunity in our school, the community and the world for all students. No kidding.  This BIG idea touches all the standards - ALA, ISTE, Common Core, state, etc. It moves students up to “Transform” on the SAMR model of technology integration.  It stimulates my natural role as “a guide.”  It insists upon student choice and promotes self-motivated inquiry.  It gives Youth Voice a global platform and stimulates community participation at many levels.  All of this is outside of the classroom. Whew!  That asks a lot of a single good idea. Here’s the story. 

The Activism Committee of our Student Action Senate (student government) wanted to reach out to kids from the dozen or so public and private high schools in our town to create a dialog among youth and figure out a way to amplify youth voice to impact the future of our city.  I don’t know about you, but on my ​Student Learning Network Resources  page I have always linked “TED Talks - Ideas worth spreading” in the Open Coursework/Experts category.  I watch TED Talks often and recommend them to teachers as appropriate for the curriculum.  I curated an independent TED event for teachers in my district to share good ideas and future forward practice. I had a pretty clear idea of what it would take to organize a TEDx event. So, I put the idea of an independent TED event for, by, and about ​youth on the table.  I didn’t give an “assignment” or defend the idea. I didn’t, in fact, say another word.  The kids in the committee pulled out their devices and began collecting information on how to get a license for TEDx (x = independently organized TED event).  One of the kids projected his favorite TED talk. They began a discussion of how they could attract kids from every high school to an organizers committee.  Without me saying another word - they took flight with an idea that intrigued them. This flurry of research and discussion became TEDxYouth@AnnArbor.

Now in its fourth year, organizers are recruited to represent every high school (public and private). They form into sub-committees (Speakers, Tech, Hospitality, Marketing and Design). They plan and carry out every aspect of a one-day event according to the TED Guidelines.  They audition potential speakers from all the high schools (this year including middle schools) - all twenty speakers are students.  They mentor the speakers to develop the talks. The organizers recruit students to volunteer.  They speak with businesses, museums and the public library to set up active spaces for inquiry and exploration between sets of youth speakers. They train with the local Community Television Network to operate the cameras, direct the stage and record and edit the video for upload to the TED sponsored ​TEDx YouTube Channel.  They recruit musicians, dancers, poets - all youth.  They design the advertising, the set and themes. They make an introductory video. They decorate the venue and sell tickets.  They set up a webcast of the event 
(​webcast.tedxya2.org April 22, 8am - 4pm). They plan and execute advertising in print, on radio and online. Then they invite the community, their City Council Members, the Mayor, business leaders, the School Board, University of Michigan students and professors and other city leaders to come and listen to what they care about and what they think is important. The Youth Curator, usually an experienced senior, proposes and tracks the budget, holds the credit card and oversees the bank account, motivates grant-writing and fundraising, runs the weekly meetings and meets with each committee to track and oversee progress. I am the curator of record with TED, but I encourage the organizers to solve the issues that arise and point them toward resources. My standard response is, “I don’t know.  What do you think?”  Of course, I won’t let them leap off a cliff, but I do let them try out solutions until they find what works.  They keep detailed records each year so they can learn from past experience.  I look to their safety and encourage creative solutions. I sign papers when they need a legal signature. Other than that, I sit and watch and stand in awe of the capabilities and scope of interest of today’s youth. 

The enthusiasm is spreading.  This year we are launching our first ​TEDED Club at the elementary level.  The club meets for 13 weeks with a TED-planned curriculum to identify an idea the students care about and create a persuasive talk to share out.  The club experience culminates in a mini-TEDx event at the school with other students and families as the audience and the kids as the speakers. 

Okay.  TED.  That’s one BIG idea.  In my own recently launched blog, ​Invent the Future (http://www.a2saraduvall.com), I intend to highlight more big and small ideas - ideas that I’ve successfully tried in my ​iCommons and ideas that other brilliant school librarians share with me. Inventing the future of public education and school libraries is my passion. Follow my blog if you want to join the exploration. Also, follow me on Twitter ​@a2duvall

I want to leave my Texas colleagues with one last thought.  No matter our political biases, the students we guide today are the leaders of our democracy tomorrow.  ​Our work matters today as it never has before!​ Our role is to invent ways to expand our students’ experience, so that they can flex their 21st century skills into becoming ubiquitous.  To open minds not close issues. To guide not guard. To do different things than our predecessors to change the paradigm of school library services and promote what students actually need from their education today. We, individually and together, CAN make that difference.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Questing for Knowledge: An Online PLN Opportunity with Region 6 AASL Board Candidate

Professional Development Opportunity for Region 6 
by Lauren Mabry, Candidate, Region 6 Director for AASL Board
     Co-Librarian, United World College-USA, Montezuma, NM

IF you are an AASL/ALA member, please vote in the election. Ballots are live now until April 5 - every vote counts!

As librarians, we juggle a rainbow of balls and wear hat upon hat to offer the very best library program possible to our students—so much so, that it can be difficult to find time for professional development with our colleagues.  I’d like to elaborate on an idea that I had for promoting professional development within Region 6 if I am elected as Region Directoran online professional journal reading group. 

This reading group would meet asynchronously and center on Knowledge Quest, the official journal of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).  While the online platform is yet to be determined, an asynchronous format would allow librarians to participate when it is most convenient for them rather than trying to find a common meeting time, a Herculean task when time zones and myriad busy schedules are considered.  We would center our discussions around Knowledge Quest because it focuses on issues pertinent to school librarians, and it is a direct communication line between AASL and school librarians.  I had initially thought to use professional books rather than a journal as group’s reading material, but revised my idea upon further reflection.  I am confident that each of us can find and read at least one personally relevant article per issue of Knowledge Quest and, as a result, be able to contribute to the group discussion.  Furthermore, journal publishers can rapidly respond to new developments to provide timely advice on hot topics such as ESSA and the new AASL standards that will be unveiled this summer. 

You can subscribe to the print edition of Knowledge Quest in two ways: by purchasing the subscription independently, or by joining AASL.  Why become a member of AASL?  As a member, you have access to a rich variety of professional development resources, opportunities, and supports: a suite of amazing advocacy materials, opportunities for national committee membership and professional service, eligibility for grants and awards for both you and your library, free professional development webinars and materials, and much more.  You have the opportunity to connect with librarians across the country, to develop your professional learning network, and to guide the profession by voting in AASL annual elections.  Member discounts are available at the ALA store and for national conference registration.  Capstone Publishing even offers members 10,000 rewards points redeemable for free books through the Capstone Rewards Program.  Most importantly, your membership fees support government lobbyists as they advocate for school libraries and the library profession to lawmakers, an especially important task as ESSA is implemented across the country.  Membership fees also support the Office for Intellectual Freedom, an essential voice and resource for protecting freedom of information access. There are tiered membership rates depending on your employment status and length of membership, and even bridge scholarships available to help with membership fees.  I have found membership to be personally and professional enriching, and highly recommend joining AASL to all school librarians. 

If you are interested in participating in a Region 6 online professional journal reading group, I invite you to show your support by voting for me in the 2017 AASL Region 6 Director election and/or by following me on Twitter at @Library_Lauren for reading group details and updates.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Your Vote Matters - TLA, ALA, Community

by Dorcas Hand, Editor, TASLTalks

The TLA Election is in process – ballots close on March 14. The ALA Election about to start. I’m here to remind everyone to VOTE! Actually, I want to remind you to vote at every opportunity. It matters – every time.

In ALA elections, the average participation in recent years is 20%. 80% of members don’t vote. And the percentage of voter participation is even slimmer for AASL members at 14%. That is crazy!

So, if 20% of total membership is about 10,000 votes, and there are 4 candidates pretty equally popular, every vote would matter MORE. Choosing not to vote because it doesn’t matter is counter productive – and could put a candidate with whom you disagree in an important position.
When Julie Todaro (Texas’ own! and one of those 4 candidates) was elected, 28.6% of 10,367 votes won. Her next challenger had 28.4%. The difference was 22 votes. Julie is doing a great job – but the 80% of ALA eligible voters who didn’t vote lost their chance to have a say.

If AASL total membership is about 6700, 14% is 938 people. That's how many voted in the 2016 AASL election. This year there are three candidates. If only 14% vote again this year, a person could win with only 314 votes – if the vote was the tightest possible. That is 33% plus one vote of that 938 people. Does it seem right to you that 4.7% of membership should be the final answer? In the year that I ran for AASL President, only 976 voters participated. Audrey church won 540 votes while I had 401. Audrey has been a great AASL President, but I wish more members had stepped up to confirm her.

In a recent Houston ISD School Board election runoff, the winner won by 29 votes of 6543 votes cast. There were 178,717 eligible voters. That is crazy – and I am thrilled that Anne pulled it out. But I am discouraged that so few thought the local school board not worth their voting time.

The PewResearch Center ranks the United States 27th in voting rate compared to voting countries around the world. And Follow My Vote reports that only 36.3% of American registered voters came out for the 2014 midterm elections.

Sometimes, the ballot seems daunting – in all elections. But if we want our library association – or our community – to have the best possible leadership and be accountable to ALL voters, then a bigger chunk of eligible voters need to step up. 

Please be one who exercises your membership right to vote 
in TLA, ALA, and community elections. 
It matters. 
When you don’t vote, YOU ALLOW someone else’s vote to MATTER MORE 
– is that really what you mean to do???