Are you TALL?

By Jacqueline Higginbotham, Lead Media Specialist, White Oak Middle School, New Caney ISD

Walk into any school during the month of December and you are bound to find circles under the eyes of the educators, extra cups of coffee, and kids hanging from the ceiling (well, maybe not literally, but it might feel that way). I have 2 daughters in elementary school and I work in a middle school so the holiday chaos in elementary school looks a little different than it does in secondary school, but there is one thing in common -- we are counting down to the winter break! Ahhh. Quiet mornings, sleeping in, and checking some things off of our list. If applying for the TALL Texans Leadership Development Institute isn't on your to-do list, I would encourage you to add it! TALL Texans is not a secret society (nor is a group of librarians over 5'10"), but it is an opportunity for professional and personal growth as you reflect on your career and set goals for the future.

Every summer, the Texas Library Association spends four fabulous days with Texas  librarians as part of their TALL Texans Leadership Development Institute. 25 librarians from across the state and different library types are selected to participate in the institute each year. Led by Jack Siggins & Maureen Sullivan, these librarians learn about themselves and how to make a greater impact on their community through their jobs as librarians. They work with mentors, reflect on how they can be better, and set goals that they want to complete over the next year. During these 4 days all of the participants and leaders form long-lasting bonds that will help them to continue to grow over the coming years.

So, are you ready to apply? The application WILL take some time and thought so don't wait until the last minute. Applications are due January 25th, 2019. On the TLA website, you will find a link to a webinar that will give you some great tips for your application. If you want more information, please feel free to reach out to me at

It is a true honor to be selected to participate in the TALL Texan Leadership Development Institute. And most graduates are proud to call themselves a TALL Texan! It is a badge of honor! Many of the TLA movers and shakers got started in TALL!

Collaborating with Code

by Linsey Taylor, Librarian at Carpenter Elementary in Nacogdoches, Texas

In the winter of 2017, there was an article in the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel newspaper about the (Half) Hour of Code club I do in my library.  I was super excited to have my school in the paper for something positive.  Having it be about something I was doing was in the library was an added bonus.  After reading the article, Dr. Lauren Burrow an Assistant Professor in the Elementary Education department at Stephen F. Austin State University emailed me asking if I'd be willing to demo my Code Club to her future teachers.

I didn't really know what to expect during our time together. So, as any good teacher does, I wrote down some things I wanted to highlight about our club and planned to be flexible.  During this brainstorming, I decided to ask six of my Code Club students to join us.  I wanted the kids there to help teach the college students.

I chose six students who had never missed a club meeting. I also selected a range of students from GT to high functioning Special Education.  I wanted my students to experience being the ones who know the most in a situation.  I also wanted the college students to see what a student with an IEP could do if given the chance.

My initial plan was to highlight a few points about my Code Club and how I knew nothing about code when I started.  I wanted to show the college students, have them create an account, have my students walk around and help and show the college students where they were at on their own courses.  Everything went as planned until I turned my students loose. 

My Special Education student immediately broke the college students into groups and picked the college students that she was going to work with based on the color of their shirts.  She took control, showed them the website, helped the college students create an account then started walking them through the courses.

I was shocked!  She took control and became the teacher.  She did not hesitate.  She used her manners and her polite words.  She was a different student than I had ever seen.  She was in her element.  This was exactly what I wanted the college student teachers to see!

When Dr. Burrow and I did an informal sit-down evaluation after our two sessions we were both thrilled with the way the demonstration went.  In the past when Dr. Burrow taught a lesson in a college classroom setting on code her students left evaluations saying they didn’t think coding had a place in their future classrooms.  They were frustrated and their confidence was low.  After our time together the college students wrote evaluations that stated they thought about integrating coding into their classroom now but were still a little uncertain about how to go about doing that.  Their frustration level was lower and their confidence increased.

My students learned they could be leaders, they had the knowledge to share with others, and they wanted to continue to teach others.  They realized they were a part of something to be proud of.  Some of them also learned that they could shine in different educational settings even if learning was hard for them.

My advice: Collaborating can be hard. So if someone contacts you say “Yes!”  Have your students lead as much as possible.  This isn’t my club, it’s their club.  I wanted them to shine.  Which leads me to this--- expect the unexpected.  I did not expect my students to take over the way they did.  They were awesome!  Also, reach out to others, don’t wait for them to reach out to you.

Dr. Burrow’s advice: Always be looking and listening. If she hadn’t read the newspaper that day we would have missed this awesome opportunity. Leave time to actually talk with your community partner and acknowledge their contributions.  Share the partnership success with your students so they have an incentive/a model to partner with community members when they are teachers. 

This started out as a Service-Learning Project for the college students but it turned out to be a reversal of Service-Learning.  Typically, the college goes out into the community and shares their knowledge.  This time the community taught the college students.  This collaboration model could be used with any topic that students know more about than college students.  The sky’s the limit!

Because of this collaboration, Dr. Burrow submitted a proposal to the International Association for Research On Service-Learning and Community Engagement Conference.  It was accepted and in September 2017 Dr. Burrow and I presented a lighting presentation at IARSLCE in Galway, Ireland.  All because I said “Yes!”

Linsey Taylor has been an elementary teacher librarian since 2013.  She graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Master of Library Science in 2002.  She also graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a Bachelor of Hearing Impaired Education.  She has been a member of Texas Library Association since 2013.  Taylor has presented at various conferences and trainings as well as has an article published in Teachers Net Gazette.  She started a LEGO club, a book club and a code club at her current school.  The code club took her to Ireland to co-present at the International Association for Research on Service-Learning Engagement conference. Linsey Taylor lives in Nacogdoches with her husband, their daughter and their lovable black lab.

Why I'm Thankful

By Kristi Starr, Librarian at Coronado High School in Lubbock ISD

In between the stresses of a year that always brings the unexpected and leaves too much still to do at the end, we find ourselves in a season when it's common to pause for reflection. What is it that makes you most grateful when you contemplate your professional life? If nothing is coming to mind, consider these.
  • I don't know about you, but I have the most amazing PLN. I work in a district with fabulous librarians and friends, and I network across the state - and even beyond - with remarkable women and men. If you haven't begun taking advantage of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook groups to expand your learning, it's time to give them a try! While it can seem overwhelming at first, you might be missing out on a professional game-changer. We are truly better together.
  • As part of my PLN, I look forward each week to #txlchat and the opportunity to learn from and share with librarians at all grade levels and from different regions. Whether you join the Twitter-based chat on Tuesdays at 8:00 PM or check out the archives, you're in for a treat.
  • We are part of a remarkable organization. I'm thankful for the leadership at TLA, for the advocacy conducted on our behalf, and for the folks who step up to lead and serve in divisions, on round tables, and with committees. It takes a huge number of volunteers to fill all the roles in TLA, and I appreciate everyone who sacrifices their time.
  • There are so many opportunities to learn and grow! I can't imagine missing the annual conference. Annual Assembly is a time to connect and plan. Fall district meetings allow us to deepen the connections we have in our regions, both within our divisions and with librarians who work in other settings. The TALL Texans Institute provides in-depth leadership training, allows for relationship building, and opens doors to new avenues of service. And then there are the ESC-based sessions and conferences as well as a growing number of Edcamp Library events. It's enough to make any Muggle wish for a time turner and apparition abilities.
  • I love working in a dynamic profession. So much is changing that we should never complain of boredom or stagnation. There are always new tech tools to learn, new students to teach, new teachers to work with, and new books to read. And each day, each week, is often different than the one before.
  • We have the opportunity to work with everyone on our campuses. How many others can say that? Whether on-level or advances, special needs or gifted, students or teachers or administrators or parents, we have times when we can interact with any- and everyone.
  • We are teachers first. Librarians don't leave the classroom, rather we move into bigger, different classrooms. We still teach. We help students engage and explore. Being a teacher isn't something we do, it's who we are. We love our students and we want what is best for them. We help provide physical spaces, resources, instruction, and support to help them succeed. We specialize in information literacy, inquiry, reading and digital learning - it's a one-stop shop! And even better, we love to collaborate.
So yes, I'm thankful for my job. I'm grateful to work alongside some amazing educators. I appreciate the support I get from my campus community, my PLN, and my professional organizations - especially TLA and TASL.

If you want to be the best advocate possible for your program, love what you do. Do what you can to the best of your ability. Others will take notice. Yes, there might still be a lot left on your to-do list, things you hoped to accomplish in 2018. The year isn't over and you still have time, but don't stress. Remember, you have the best job ever!

Teacher Day @ TLA - Take your collaboration to the next level!

By Jennifer Eckert, Library Specialist in Northside ISD, San Antonio

Collaboration with teachers is a large part of any school librarian’s job. We are always looking for ways to inspire our teachers to collaborate with us and utilize the library. Let that inspiration come from facilitating an experience at this year’s TLA Annual Conference!

Our annual conference – made up of books, authors, technology integration, makerspaces, curriculum connections, and supportive librarians – is the stuff of teachers’ dreams. Connect with your teachers, encourage their innovation, inspire them to greater collaboration, and impact their instruction by inviting your teachers to join you at this years’ Teacher Day @ TLA!

Teacher Day @ TLA, which will take place on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, provides classroom teachers with the opportunity to experience a special one-day event during the TLA conference, comprised of speakers, activities, and pricing designed just for them.

This is your chance to inspire your teachers! You, as a sponsoring school librarian, will play a crucial role by identifying interested teachers, helping them secure permission and funding for their attendance, guiding them through the registration process, and ensuring our guest teachers have a positive experience.

The planning has begun for a fun, interactive day for the teachers who attend, as well as the librarians who sponsor them. Participants are welcome to stay for the full conference. Now is the time for interested librarians to:

a) identify motivated classroom teachers and

b) start to lay the groundwork for conference attendance and travel funding.

The focus of this program is for classroom teachers who experience a TLA conference to return to their districts as library advocates and collaborators - or perhaps become librarians themselves. Details and application information about Teacher Day @ TLA, an event that has become an annual highlight, can be found at Don’t miss this opportunity to increase collaboration on your campus!

Sound the bells! Light the lanterns! The Politicians are coming!

by Jennifer Rike, Timberview High School Librarian, Mansfield ISD, TASL Legislative & Advocacy Chair

Every two years our state Legislators meet. On January 19, 2019, the Texas State Legislature will reconvene. Each year there always seems to be legislation that affects libraries. Our own Texas State Library and Archives just went through the Sunset Review Process as required by the legislature every 12 years.

So what does that actually mean to us? Well, we need to keep informed. Wendy Woodland does an awesome job doing that for us. She keeps up with proposed legislation that affects libraries. From broadband to funding and everything in-between, Wendy follows the proposed bills.

Wendy can follow the legislation but she cannot protect our libraries without our support. When the legislature comes into session in January, we will begin receiving email updates. There will be times you will be asked to contact your representative and ask them to support or veto certain bills. Most of the time this will need to be done quickly. Please heed the call.

So how can you be prepared to respond quickly?

  • Add them to your contacts list in your phone 
  • If you are not a member of the Texas Library Connection distribution list, please join (this is how Wendy keeps us informed). 
  • When you read the request to contact your legislator, if at all possible do so immediately. I have all too often thought “I’ll get to that……” There are many roads paved with my good intentions. 

We can also be proactive.

  • Invite your representative to visit your campus. If you have the opportunity meet them and start building a relationship. It is harder to say no to someone you know. 
  • TWEET on the 17th of every month. We are trying to build a positive perception of school libraries. Brooke King created a wonderful infographic with the monthly tweet topics. I will work to remind you a few days before the 17th. Include photos (keeping in mind student privacy), if you can.
  • Share your library story with your stakeholders. We cannot advocate in a bubble talking only to ourselves. 
I hope that this will be an uneventful year in the legislature for libraries. However, we are dealing with politicians, and as we know all too well anything can happen. So let’s be prepared to support libraries in Texas. Together we are a powerful voice.

Teen Read Week 2018: It’s Written In The Stars...Read!

By Lucy Podmore, Librarian at Tom C. Clark High School in Northside ISD
Next week we celebrate TEEN READ WEEK (TRW), and you might be thinking, “I celebrate teen reading everyday!” and, of course, you should, but TRW offers us a special opportunity to celebrate our reading lives in a unique way.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “It’s Written In The Stars...Read!” The Young Adult Library
Services Association, the group who promotes Teen Read Week, is encouraging everyone who works
with teens to inspire them to “think and read outside of the box, as well as seek out fantasy,
science fiction and other out-of- this-world reads.” (
What a great message to share with our young people - step out of your comfort zone and read
something different. Hear a different viewpoint, challenge your own thinking, escape to new worlds
created by the outstanding fantasy and science fiction authors who are writing for young people today.
I believe this call to “think and read outside of the box” also applies to librarians and the way we
promote reading to our students.  Change up your tactics and try new ways to reach your students this
week: use Bitmoji reviews, ask your regular readers to write shelf talkers for their favorite book, hop on
your school’s social media accounts and promote books there.  Ask your teachers, community members,
parents of students, PTA members if they would like to submit reviews for their favorite “out of this world”
reads, then publish those reviews so your whole school can see them. When our students see a
community of readers, they know that reading is something that is valued.  We know our best promotion
is modeling the behavior we expect, so consider new or different ways to have your community model
The Teen Read Week website has a great list of suggested activities to help you celebrate this year’s
event. It’s not too late to put together an “out of this world” celebration. Share your promotions online
using the hashtag #TRW18. I can’t wait to see everyone’s posts!

Good luck and happy reading!
Promotion cards we'll be using next week for #TRW18

WHAT?! I am not allowed to read that?

By Jacqueline Higginbotham, Lead Media Specialist, White Oak Middle School, New Caney ISD

Artwork courtesy of the
American Library Association,

At the TxLA Annual Conference in 2017, I may have stalked Alan Gratz and attended every session where he was a panelist. Pretty sure after day two of seeing my face several times, he started avoiding me (just kidding, maybe). I had just recently read Refugee and had been telling anyone who would listen how much I loved it. He was happy to talk about Refugee (and his other books), but he was promoting Ban This Book, which I had not read. So, I promptly I ordered it and read it within a week of getting home from TLA.

It was such a great read, and it is a great introduction to talking to students about banning books. I love how Amy Anne starts her own banned book library out of her locker and it grabs the interest of many students that are secretly reading her books. As a middle school librarian, I would venture to say that most of my students don’t know that there are books that get banned (and/or challenged) until I tell them about it. And, of course, some are surprised and appalled at the books that make the list. There’s no better way to promote a book than to tell them that some libraries don’t have that book because it was banned! 

The American Library Association Banned Books Week website has some great resources as you gear up for Banned Books Week September 23-26, 2018. I always try to pull books from the lists (and/or print the covers of the books) and create a display that stays up for several weeks. Those books definitely circulate more when students know that there is someone out there that might not want them to read it. Whether you are creating a display or teaching a lesson or finding other ways to generate conversations about censorship and banned books, I hope you will celebrate literature with your students and take advantage of some of the resources that ALA has to offer.

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association,

This is also a great time to check and make sure your school district has a policy in place to review books that are challenged. If not, you may want to start some conversations about how to get that policy in place. And, if you do have a policy, make sure you know where your Request for Reconsideration forms are -- and have them ready if someone questions the books sitting on your shelves.

If you want to know what books are being challenged, check out the 2017 Most Challenged Books List.

This is Us

by Nancy Jo Lambert, High School Librarian in Frisco ISD, TASL Chair

Do you watch the show This Is Us? I love this show. The Pearson family is amazing! I feel like I am a part of their loving, often dysfunctional, but beautiful family. (If you aren’t watching this show, I would highly recommend it!) This summer I had the pleasure of hearing Joyce Valenza keynote the ISTE Librarians Network Breakfast in Chicago. She chose This is Us as the theme for her talk. As she weaved her presentation in and out of the show, she chronicled her journey as a librarian in a humorous, touching, and poignant keynote (linked here). She emphasized that our librarian groups are like a family. They change and grow over time; we have moments of triumph and setbacks, but ultimately we are here to support one another and share in this journey of librarianship together.

Her message inspired me to reflect on my own journey thus far in school librarianship and the impact that professional library organizations have had on me. As an active member of several organizations (ALA, AASL, ISTE, TCEA, TLA, & TASL) I can say without a doubt that the educator and librarian I am today is a direct result of my participation and service to these groups.

The Texas Association of School Librarians (TASL) is an organization that I passionately serve. The purpose of TASL is to promote library services and librarianship in school libraries in Texas and to cooperate in the promotion of general and joint enterprises with the Texas Library Association. With more than 4500 members, TASL strives to meet the unique needs of school librarians forming ties with librarians throughout the state.

TASL and TLA feel like a family to me. Being part of this family has brought so much to my librarian life. I want to encourage all Texas School Librarians to join TLA and TASL and become part of our family. If you are already a member of TASL, but your membership doesn’t feel like a This Is Us experience, I want to encourage you to get involved! We have tons of opportunities for you to get involved and serve.

TASL Website:

TASL Advocacy:

TASL Volunteer form:

TASL Committees

TASL Committee Appointments

TASL Google+ Community

TASL Advocates for you! Did you know...

TASL advocates for librarians as teachers who are essential components of a robust educational system. We actively share emerging information and technology with the legislative, administrative, and learning communities.

TASL advocates to the state legislature and other decision-makers on behalf of school libraries.

TASL uses the division's awards to increase understanding beyond the library community of the integral role school libraries play in the successful education of the state's children.

Let's Promote Libraries (Again)!

by Brooke King, Middle School Librarian in Humble ISD, TxASLTalks Editorial Board Chair

Last school year, the TxASL Legislative & Advocacy Committee began a social media campaign, Let’s Promote Libraries!, with the hopes of encouraging school librarians to promote themselves, their programs, and their instruction. The campaign is back for the 2018-2019 year, and it has been tweaked and improved to help showcase all the fabulous happenings in school libraries.

It is organized around the revised Texas Library Standards, and each month’s topic is framed as a question. Each question begins with, “Did you know that school libraries…,” followed by one of the standards.

On the 17th of each month, we’re asking school librarians to send a social media message about what we do. You can post on any social media outlet or even send an email to a stakeholder. We want to focus on local stakeholders first, and then at the state and national levels.

It’s easy to participate!

Step 1: Look at the current month’s question.

Step 2: Snap a photo and write your message showing how your library shows that standard.

Step 3: Post your message and photo on any/all platforms of social media.

Step 4: Be sure to use the hashtag #txaslleg along with other key hashtags.

Step 5: Repost/retweet/share

There are two infographics to guide you. One explains the full campaign. The other only shows the monthly topics.

So gear up and get ready to showcase those great programs, instruction, and collaboration that contributes to the success of students and your school!

Fired Up about Censorship

by Courtney Kincaid, assistant library director at North Richland Hills Library and chair of the TLA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and Brooke King, Middle School Librarian in Humble ISD, TxASLTalks Editorial Board

After facing a book and policy challenge in the summer of 2015 which lasted 21 weeks, Courtney Kincaid became involved in the Texas Library Association’s (TLA) Intellectual Freedom Committee. She now serves as chair of the committee and together with incoming vice-chair Brooke King, shares how to prepare for and survive a censorship challenge in a public or school library.

Censorship is removing books, relocating books, and restricting access to books. When individuals or groups attempt to have materials removed from a library based on obscenity, blasphemy, political concerns, etc., the TLA Intellectual Freedom Committee recommends following these procedures. 

Know Your Policies 
Have clear collection development, selection, deselection, and reconsideration policies and procedures in place which have been approved by the library’s governing authorities. Be sure all library employees are familiar with the policies; know where to find them, and how to talk with users who are upset about an item. Educate stakeholders such as friends groups, boards, administrators, teachers, parents of students, etc. to make sure they are aware of the policies. Review the policies often and make sure you are familiar with any updates. In schools, be aware of any possible technicalities or other policies that may override the district’s such as State Board of Education policy. 

Listen calmly and courteously to the complainant. Remember, the person has a right to express a concern and they want to know that they have been heard and taken seriously. Communicate the need for diversity in a library’s collection and resources, and review the collection development policy. The individual may be reacting to just a small portion of the item, so ask if they have read the entire book, or viewed the entire video or DVD. Remind parents that they have the right to monitor what their child reads. Suggest that they use this as an opportunity to reinforce what types of materials they find offensive with their child so that they won’t check out such material in the future. If the person is not satisfied, provide a Request for Reconsideration form and a copy of the library’s collection development policy. Once the individual completes and submits the form, make certain to send an initial reply promptly. Keep clear and detailed notes of any conversations or correspondence. 

It is essential to notify the library’s advisory and governing authorities of the complaint as soon as possible. Assure them that the library’s policies and procedures are being followed. Present full, written information giving the nature of the complaint and provide the material(s) being challenged. 

Read, watch, and research the items in question, and ask other employees to as well. Let your advisory and governing boards review the items. Prepare all necessary documentation (how long have the items been in the collection, publisher reviews, how the items fit in your collection development policy, how many times the item has been checked out, etc.). Be prepared to justify your book selection based on your collection policy, professional reviews, etc. If a committee is used to evaluate the challenged material, be informed about your state’s open meeting and public record laws. Finally, have the committee provide a decision letter to the complainant. If the decision is appealed past the library board or committee, it could possibly go to a court system. Laws governing obscenity, subversive material, and other questionable matter are subject to interpretation by courts. The 1982 case, Board of Education v. Pico, is referenced throughout many censorship situations and has mostly prevented school and library book censorship by public schools. 

Library Bill of Rights 
Your strongest arguments against censorship are found in the principles of the Library Bill of Rights, adopted June 19, 1939, by the American Library Association (ALA) Council. The Library Bill of Rights should guide our profession, and our policies and procedures to support intellectual freedom. The Library Bill of Rights is not legally enforceable, it is a statement of professional principles, TLA 2018 Exhibitor Directory Edition 13 but it is based on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Prepare for any challenges by adopting the Library Bill of Rights in your library’s policies. Libraries must abide by their approved policies and procedures when dealing with censorship. Not following adopted policies during a challenge further complicates the situation for everyone involved. 

TLA Intellectual Freedom Committee and ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom 
TLA, TLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, and the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom have resources and information to support you throughout the challenge process. Notify them of the complaint, and enlist their advice and support along with help and guidance from other organizations (see sidebar contacts). Report any censorship to report. All personal and institutional information submitted via the form is kept confidential. 

Community Support 
When appropriate, inform local and civic organizations, parent groups, and other stakeholders to enlist their support for the library. Meet negative pressure with positivity. This is your chance to talk about the diverse collection for your diverse community. Anticipate difficult questions, stay calm and friendly, and be truthful. A library’s collection should represent its entire community. We promise you have a more diverse community than you think! As a leader in the community, communicate the positive qualities and resources your library provides for everyone. Rely on supportive organizations to help tout the importance of the library. 

Freedom to read and freedom of the press go hand in hand, so your local media will most likely be a source of support. Be sure to provide accurate information regarding the issue as you will most likely be asked for a statement. Always stick to the truth and your policies. 

Libraries serve communities with a diverse range of ages, interests, and cultures. The books and items you select may be just right for one subgroup, but not others. Be proactive with sharing information about intellectual freedom, post the Freedom to Choose/Freedom to Read poster in the library and on your website, and celebrate Banned Books Week. Teach staff, users, and students how to select materials that are appropriate for their individual needs. As an example of interacting and guiding younger users, if a student brings a more mature book to the circulation desk, conference with her/him and explain that the book briefly (or heavily) focuses on X subject. Then let the student make the decision if the book is appropriate or not. Remind them they can return any book at any time and check out something new. You may or may not ever experience a book challenge, but you play an important role in the right to information and educating others of this right. Please consult ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual (9th edition) for more information. 

Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight. – Stephen Chbosky

Article first published in Texas Library Journal, vol. 94, no. 1, Spring 2018. Used with permission.

Packed with Poetry

I love the month of April!  In Texas it means the beautiful wildflowers are in full bloom, in San Antonio Fiesta is colorful celebration of everything SA,  nationally it's School Library Month, and  Poetry Month!  So many wonderful celebrations, but today I'd like to share with you the various ways our library will be celebrating Poetry Month to perhaps generate ideas for your own celebration.

To kick-off our celebration I am partnering with a fantastic arts organization in San Antonio known as Urban15. On April 2, 2018 the Mega Corazon division of Urban15 will live-stream performance poetry from 1pm-9pm, with a special youth focus from 1:00-4:00pm.  The poets featured include Carmen Tafolla, Naomi Shahib Nye, John Phillip Santos, and many talented performance poets from the San Antonio area.  This event is available FREE to anyone who would like to view these performances.  Bookmark this link, so you can watch the performances live:  Last year, I had this stream running the entire afternoon in our library and was impressed with how many students stopped to listen.  It truly is the easiest way to introduce performance poetry to students and the talent featured is amazing!

Another feature of the Mega Corazon poetry celebration is the free poetry writing workshops. These 90 minute workshops features Anthony "The Poet" Flores, a three time Grand Slam Poetry Champion.  If you are in or near the San Antonio area, please consider making room for this event. I am asking our English teachers to nominate 3-5 students who are interested in writing poetry to attend the workshop and the students are thrilled! If you are interested in these workshops, please contact Marisol Cortez at to arrange one on your campus.

I am lucky enough to be a mentor to two teachers working on the MLIS this year and they have partnered with me to create some great no-tech maker spaces to play with poetry.  Here's some of what we have planned:

  • Wall of Poetry  We are writing out a poem on colorful butcher paper that will enclose the library. Last year we had it on the outside of our library so anyone walking by could read "One day" by Richard Blanco.  Due to construction, this year the poem will surround the interior walls of the library. This was a favorite feature last year.
  • Blackout Poetry bookmarks - using pages from weeded books, we will feature a bookmark making station.  Hoping they will turn out as cute as these.
  • Poetry Vitamins - this is a small take on Poem in Your Pocket day.  We will feature short verses on colorful paper, curl up the paper and place them in bowls around the library, so everyone can have their daily dose of poetry.
Poetry Vitamins
  • MadLib Poetry - for this station we will create a mad-lib style poem based off  a selection of poems from I Could Chew On This by Francesco Marciuliano.  This book will be featured near our station so students can read these wonderful poems. Based on the test group, this is going to bring lots of laughs!
  • Magnetic Poetry - similar to the refrigerator magnets, we create our own magnetic words to be put together in creative ways to form quick poems on our two magnetic white boards.  I always see some creative work in this station!
  • LibraryLounge - at the conclusion of the month we are hosting an open mic night in the library, featuring the students who attended the poetry writing workshop AND Anthony Flores will again join us to see the students read/perform the pieces they started during the workshop.  Can't wait for this event!
A few other activities are in the works, but I can't wait to begin this month-long celebration and share it with our staff and students. What about you?  I'd love to hear your ideas for Poetry Month!

Because Libraries Make Leaders

By Dorcas Hand, School Library Advocate, www.studentsneedlibrariesinHISD ; ALA Councilor-at-Large; Editor, TASLTalks with inspiration from Jim Neal

ALA President Jim Neal posted an article on the Libraries Transform site a few months back, a piece I noted because of the title. Recently, I have told you in this blog about why I think the Libraries Transform advocacy platform is so useful to school librarians in Texas, but rediscovering Neal’s piece reminded me of yet another reason: libraries are the place and their certified librarians the human catalysts to inspire students to follow their curiosity into new fields of interest, and then to build that learning into a comprehensive body of knowledge that allows these children to become engaged adults ready to lead their communities. 

In my TASLTalks blog of Feb. 14, Libraries Transform – Especially when Speaking with One Voice, I noted the usefulness of the four basic messages – but in today’s post, the key is “Libraries Transform Lives.” It is through the students we impact that we can transform communities, support lifelong learning and be that smart investment of the other three messages. And that “we” is the certified school librarians who work with Texas students in school libraries state-wide every day. I cannot say it enough: we who are school librarians matter deeply to the success of our students, our schools and cumulatively our state.

As spring begins here in Texas, I want to remind you all to take full advantage of all the tools you have at a click of your computer:

Libraries make Leaders. And we Librarians must be leaders. We need to demonstrate to our campus leadership how libraries are essential to student achievement. We need to demonstrate to our teachers how collaboration can strengthen their classroom projects and topics. And we need to show our students the infectious excitement of following curiosity where it leads (there’s that word again!), to learn more and more about our world, their world for many years to come.

I hope to see many of you at conference, but watch here in TASLTalks to find articles about programs and award winners you might have missed. Leaders are always learning. Libraries make leaders by supporting lifelong learning.

Walking the Talk: Leadership Lessons as a Lilead Fellow

by Carolyn Foote, District Librarian at Eanes ISD and High School librarian at Westlake High School. She is a member of the current cohort of the Lilead Fellows, and an advocate for student voice, leading with technology, and flexible learning spaces. Her blogs can be found at and

What does leadership mean? For me, it means being willing to grow and learn new things and to leverage the experience I have. Part of being a leader is also recognizing when you need to tend to your own garden as well as supporting the growth of others. 

When I found the Lilead Fellows program, I was seeking something. After years of leading in a small district, I was both looking for growth for myself, and for fellowship of other leaders. Beyond that, I wanted to add more structure and background knowledge to my ad hoc leadership skills learned “on the job” and from local mentors. 

The Lilead Fellows (and other programs like it, like Texas’ wonderful Tall Texan program and the new TLA Executive Leadership Immersion Program) allows me to connected with other district lead librarians across the country and with mentors who were there to support my job embedded projects. And it was also an opportunity to formalize some of my knowledge about leading and put some language to some of it, to learn new strategies, and ultimately o become braver as a leader.

Doing a program like Lilead is different than attending conferences — it’s more akin to going back to school, but going with a team of colleagues through the entire program. And any program which lets you step back mid career or later in your career and lets you assess and learn new skills is a worthwhile endeavor. Participating in Lilead was meant as a rare gift to myself as a learner, I have to admit. So, whether or not this particular path interests you—find one that does—find a support group—an institute, a workshop—something that can help you reach new levels of your abilities and offers you support.

We’ve had some valuable experiences this year in the program. One of the most helpful things for me has been reading the book Strengths Finder (Rath, Gallup Press, 2007)  and assessing my own strengths. Strengths Finder was such a positive experience and doing it with other library leaders nationwide allowed us all to see the diversity of talents that different individuals bring to their library programs. How much better is it to build a learning network around you that complements your own strengths!. It’s also a great tool to bring to your own library team in your district or to do across teams that work together like librarians and instructional technology.

Another book that was impactful was Simon Sinek’s Start With Why (Portfolio/Penguin, 2013). We’ve spent a lot of time in Lilead Fellows talking about our “why” and honing our ability to state our why. Why are we librarians at all? What is the “why” behind our projects in our districts? Being able to articulate that is an effective part of being a campus leader. I should add that the benefits haven’t just from reading the book—the benefits are from spending time reflecting on your goals in an intentional way. Find a small book group, if you aren’t part of any other group, to read the book with and then share your “why” with as a way to hold yourself accountable to taking that reflective step.

As part of Lilead, we have also generated lists of our most important priorities so we could gauge if that’s where we were spending our time, have learned about things that hinder or help a change effort, have learned about how to design our messages effectively, and discussed how to communicate with our administrators more effectively.

The last book that has been very influential for me is one I discovered via an article we read. It’s John Kotter’s Leading Change (Harvard Business School Press, 2012). Kotter has written a lot about what prevents change from being successful and how to navigate a change effort that works. It’s been hugely helpful for me. There are things that trip up many librarians when trying to change things in a new school or to try something new, and his articles and books were really helpful guides in how to avoid those pitfalls.

While I’m thrilled that Texas has three members in the Lilead Fellows, there are many other leadership opportunities too. Whether you are a district leader or a librarian at an individual campus, take the time to grow your own leadership skills. Every moment we spend showing our staff that we are willing to step up as educational leaders, not just library leaders, are moments that we demonstrate the power of a librarian to our administrators.

Kotter, John P. Leading Change. Harvard Business School Press, 2012.

Rath, Tom. Strengthsfinder 2.0. Gallup Press, 2007.

Sinek, Simon. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Portfolio/Penguin, 2013.

Libraries Transform - Especially when Speaking with One Voice

by Dorcas Hand, School Library Advocate,, ALA Councilor-at-Large, and TASLTalks Editor

(All images used with the permission of the ALA Office for Library Advocacy)

At ALA MidWinter 2018, I attended two preconferences and another hour session about the Libraries Transform advocacy platform – and I need to share my enthusiasm with Texas.

Libraries Transform offers us a chance to offer a single set of messages that support all libraries, with specific details about our individual situations. The LibrariesTransform Two Year Report offers a few case studies from different places and types of libraries – more stories appear on the website. Once you are trained in using the resources, you’ll have some other specific examples. And there is no charge for these tools. To anyone.

And the collected Because statements are really clever as posters or bookmarks or digital badges – like Let Students Discover Their Passions as they think, create, share and grow.
This also refers to the new AASL National School Library Standards.
Or this reference to how school libraries work with public libraries to keep our students moving forward - not to mention some districts that send bookmobiles around in the summer.

The Friday Bootcamps were inspirational – and I am now an official trainer, able to spread this word to any of you who would like to learn. Bootcamp is a 2-3 hour session about taking your message to your community easily, with stories to illustrate your points. Maybe you have stories, but the Office of Library Advocacy has compiled some you might use/adapt as well. More stories are here, too.

There are four key messages that work for all libraries.

 So, Libraries Transform Lives might refer to that student you have worked to connect to the perfect book and now is an avid reader. That translates to improved literacy scores.

Libraries Transform Communities might refer to the district bookmobile that shows up through the summer in areas where there are no libraries, working against summer slide and again supporting stronger literacy skills and scores.

Librarians are passionate supporters of lifelong learning could focus on the materials available to support the personal enthusiasms of students and even staff, the ones that inspire them to learn on their own. Students who learn to do that are better prepared for life and citizenship.

Libraries are a smart Investment. Yes, we are the only teacher in the school who is trained to work with every student and every teacher, providing both literacy skill support and broader academic resources.

But those examples are intentionally vague – because YOU, the boots on the ground, have the specifics that will gain best traction in your community. PLEASE take advantage of this resource.

I understand that ALA feels a long way off for many Texas school librarians, but programs like this are available regardless of membership. Libraries Transform also demonstrates the breadth of work ALA accomplishes in behalf of all kinds of libraries across the US. I saw many TASL leaders here in Denver, also learning about better ways to help TASL membership progress.

I went. I learned. I'm ready to help you use this advocacy resource. I even have the tshirt. You can too! Access does mean opportunity - to students who need libraries, and to librarians who need advocacy resources.

A Spectrum to Explain Staffing Choices for School Libraries

By Dorcas Hand, School Library Advocate; Co-Chair Students Need Libraries in HISD; Editor, TASLTalks blog

Three years ago, Terry Roper of Region 10 presented to the annual TASLA (TX Association of School Library Administrators) the idea of a Hiring Toolkit designed by us to offer school administrators in Texas guidance as they hire librarians. We at the meeting loved the idea – and the School Administrator Toolkit: A Guide to Hiring School Librarians was born. A year or so later at TLA annual conference, Terry offered a session to publicize the website; the presentation included brainstorming about what might be added to make it better. One idea that has sat in my brain ever since was an illustrated spectrum of the skills that librarians offer that others cannot. This idea is easier described than accomplished, as is demonstrated by the years of simmering in the back of my mind it took to get started. And then the need for other eyes and ideas to strengthen it. Thank you to Brooke King for stepping up last summer to flesh out the list of skills and sort them into Areas of Expertise, and then to offer further edits as we worked along to now. Thank you to Debbie Hall and Suzanne Lyons for insights as I’ve massaged and massaged over the fall. And to Donna Kearley who had barely come up for air from the state Standards writing effort before I asked for her thoughts – which brought me some great improvements in language. We struggled with whether green should be on the left as the starting point – or the right as the ending point. And what to do about the places where a non-librarian might be able to do the job. Today, I am pleased to offer to everyone the results of these labors.

First, there are two formats: the full-page form looks better on screen where the live links can jump a reader to the right section. The booklet is better in print, half-page size ready for a building principal to thumb through. These are posted in PDF for public access together in a Google folder. Listing the many skills of school librarians is not easy! This effort may well take other forms in the future – Mary Woodard suggested a Venn diagram, so we’ll see how that might work as further support for our case. And I plan to do a crosswalk to the new TX Standards for School Libraries as well as the 2017 AASL National Standards for School Libraries. But first, just this basic document. If you have further suggestions of how to improve the work toward a second edition, please be in touch.

Meanwhile, everyone should make heavy use of this project with your own principal, your district leadership, and anyone else who is interested.