Book Knowledge Challenge: Accepted

Our 9th and 10th grade English teachers asked me to present books to their classes before the winter breaks and I decided to switch it up this year. In the past, I’ve organized faculty ideas and requests and laid out a few tables of books. Students descend and I have shortshort conversations with each about one good title. This has led to some serendipitous moments, a majority of happy-ish readers, and, always, a few student slipping through the cracks without books (or with books that are in the return bin at the end of the day).

This year, I’ve decided to challenge myself to push my own boundaries of Reader’s Advisory and book knowledge. Students have been asked to fill out a form detailing their preferences: recent books their enjoyed; genres; particular titles of interest; pop culture; and a book they feel they “should” read. From these, I am selecting 3 books per student from our collection. One teacher has asked that his student each receive a modern classic or Alex Award-style “adult book with appeal to teens”. So, here’s my progress so far on selecting 240 titles for 80 students from our collection.

I used a Google Form  to gather student data and then converted it into individual reader’s advisory.

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This was the hard part! The range of reading and book knowledge, particularly in 9th grade was all over the place. One student had recently read the Autobiography of Malcolm X while others listed only books they’d read for 8th grade English. I used NovelList a great deal in connecting their personal interests to titles in our collection. I also learned a lot about the television they like. My students and huge fans of Hemlock Grove, Criminal Minds and superhero shows.


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I selected three books for each student. If they specifically requested a title, they got it. I’m surprised by the number of students who requested non-fiction and memoirs, and it’s a good reminder that I need to develop these parts of the collection this year. I also learned that the majority of our paperback classics look like they’ve been living in a garage. I need to replace a lot of them this year.

On Monday, my first group of students will be presented with their books and my notes on why I picked them. The goal is for each student to leave for Thanksgiving break with ONE great book – hopefully one in their pile – and come back with feedback. If this goes well, I hope to do it again before Spring Break.


Another big takeaway is that I tend to rely on titles I’ve read – and I need to read more classics. It’s been a while since I read a Faulkner or Steinbeck and I have no idea how much they resonate with teens. I’m still not convinced of the necessity of reading “the great books” of the Western canon. It’s too old, white, male and upper class for me. I need to be careful my bias doesn’t negatively affect my readers. More to think on…


Goal Setting 2015-16

We have to do SMART goals this year. I dunno why, but I love SMART goals! I like being Specific and Measurable and Relevant. Here are mine.

Goal 1: Non-Fiction Collection Development

The non-fiction collection hasn’t been evaluated and weeded in a long time. Looking over, removing old and adding new books will bring freshness and relevancy to the collection. It will also provide a forum for collaboration with departments about changes in their curricula.

Fall: Assess and have department conversations

Winter: Weed and discard

Spring: Purchase new items

Goal 2: S4 Teacher Collaborations

I plan on collaborating with each member of S4 this year on projects which span 9-12 and history, economics and geography. The new faculty (and new 9/10 curriculum) bring fresh opportunities to embed information literacy skills from the ICT Outcomes document. This will be on-going throughout the year. Don and I have spoken extensively about the needs of the program and we are developing a plan to standardized IL classroom practices.

Goal 3: OverDrive/Ebook Promotion and Development

Now that we have OverDrive (yay!) I’ll be spending part of this year ensuring that every Tregaron student knows about it, has the app, and understands how it works. We’re investing boatloads of money so it’s important we get good usage. This work will be on-going with bigger pushes before and after school breaks (Thanksgiving, Winter, Spring, etc.) As part of this goal, I’ll work on developing our OverDrive Advantage collection to better suit our population.

Collections Policy Meets Hebdo


We met with our Head of School this afternoon after a copy of the most recent Charlie Hebdo arrived in our mailbox. Given the nature of our school and the attacks in Paris, I wasn’t surprised to learn the senior parents had decided to subscribe us to the magazine. Okay, I am totally surprised but I also see my reaction as being very American. Charlie Hebdo themselves asked readers to subscribe as part of the fight against censorship. I have a lot of conflicted feelings.

So, I am really glad that I wrote our Collection Development Policy a few years ago and was able to show it to our Head. It outlines what we do and do not collect, our challenge/reconsideration policy, and, most importantly right now, our donation policy. We talked about a few of the possible outcomes of having Charlie Hebdo available in the library and I feel satisfied the decision provides commonsense access to an important/controversial publication while also being sensitive to the potential for harm.

What we’re doing: Keeping the magazine in a container in the library, available for teacher and US student use. It will be weeded at the end of the year with the rest of the periodicals. We will not subscribe once this year runs out.



Digital Literacy + Digital Inclusion: teaching new internet users

I just read this article by Seeta Gangadharan and am having so many thoughts/ feelings.  I immediately want to email it to some friends at the public library but feel like it’s a chastisement to over-worked librarians who don’t get the necessary time or training to really teach these skills.  Please go tell a public librarian today that they are awesome and helpful – they are working their @sses off!

At the same time, this really hit me for my own environment.  Yes, I teach highly privileged students who enjoy constant access to technology, but they are still so _ignorant_ about online environments and how the web works.  This morning I was teaching 9th graders how to access a database on their iPads (yay privilege!) and we got slightly derailed while talking about the authority of databases versus searching on the open web.  The students had a really hard time distinguishing between different kinds of content on the web, ie, how Gale’s Opposing Viewpoints in Context (a paid service that is accessed through the web with different kinds of content) is different than the New York Times (a daily newspaper with some free content) and a Wikipedia entry (a crowd-sourced, free content manager) or someone’s Tumblr.  And I run into similar knowledge issued with the Extended Essay students about sourcing and verifying content they dig up through random googling.  

How and where are students learning where information comes from?  It should be from me and the library team but right now it isn’t.  How do I fix this?



Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 1.54.10 PMAs part of my attempt to get my workflow under control, I started using Toggl to track my tasks and my hours.  I’ve divided my work life into 5 categories that sort of emulate the AASL vision for the roles of school librarians and am updating my tasks every hour.  My current categories include Collection Maintenance, Instruction, Reference/Circulation, Professional Development, Information Literacy, and Program Manager.  Along with my Asana Tasks, I feel like I have a good sense of what I want to accomplish and how I’m using my time.

I definitely define most of my day as Ref/Circ because it’s when I do all the little essential things – circ, processing, responding to email, reading PD, researching new books, finding inspiration, following up with teachers & students, impromptu IL training, and meeting with my officemates. Rec/Circ is the simplest way to quantify how a dozen 5 minute conversations over the course of a week can create and develop an important policy but it’s definitely not a perfect category.

I’ve always been fascinated by the law firm concept of “billable hours” and have some friends how have to notate every 6 minutes of their time.  While I have been pretty lazy about adding things to Toggl, I’m hoping get into demarcating every 30 minutes through the day.  It’ll be fun to see what I’ve been up to and, maybe in December, develop some strategies to be more productive.  Big maybe.

Information Services Cross Divisional PD day

Need to keep track of this!


Sharing of Division Curriculum (10 minutes)


Structure/Planning Opportunities(How is the curriculum structured in the division? When/how do you engage in curriculum planning?) Subject areas don’t meet to plan.6-10 curr is undocumented. Accessed thru OCC and teacher Moodle papers.All planning is teacher-driven and dependent on collaboration. Occasional project meetings, mostly 1 on 1 planning. Supports subject-area goals, embedded in subject curriculum.
Resources(What are key resources you use in planning and in delivering the curriculum?) WIS Outcomes & Dispositionsaddresses Standards/Benchmarks in the subject areas (subject teachers altered them a bit). Populated into Atlas.Library resources

Content delivery mechanisms (Moodle, Google, software)

Personal PLNs

Learning Highlights(What are some of the essential skills and bodies of knowledge for this subject area at each grade level? What are key understandings students should have by the end of the course?) Richard: works also with administration and meeting their workflow goals and teachers’ practice documentations.6th – intro to Noodletools7th – Civil rights research/multimedia

9th – doctopus file mgt

9th – Bill of Rights project

10th – writing project

11th and 12th – Voicethread, podcasting storytelling

12th – extended essay
Benchmarks in reading, research, dig citizenship and technology by 6/7/8, 9/10, 11/12:

Overview of Assessment Practices(What are the kinds of assessments you use? How do you differentiate for learning differences? How do students and parents know how a child is doing?) Aren’t really doing this and want to.Need a two-prong approach: teach the teachers plus co-teach & monitor student work.
Challenges(What are some of the challenges faced in ensuring every child reaches expected mastery at a certain grade level?) Curriculum planning is not sustainable.No consistent approach across subjects.Lack of advance notice from teachers — not enough time to plan.

Equipment management time-consuming.

Some teachers reluctant to change their curriculum (lack of risk-taking and creativity), although Project Zero is helping improve this.