Congrats Newbies!
You’ve Survived the Toughest Month of Your Career

JaegerIf you’re a new librarian, chances are you’ve just finished the hardest month of your working career.  Take a deep breath and read on…

Thus concludes a month of figuring things out, extensive meetings, wondering if you’ll remember any names, skipping lunch, and staying late.

Twenty years ago, I walked into my first elementary librarian position hoping to change the world.  Or, at least the school.  I was uber-excited, passionate, appreciative of the opportunity, and in love with the students.  I was wearing rose-colored glasses, and yet the year did not disappoint me.

Flash forward a couple of years:  I could say that, “everything I needed to know to be a good librarian did not come with the MLS degree.”  I was successful, but it was not without chastisement, faux pas, alienation, and blunders along the way.  Let me save you a few mistakes by sharing what I learned from my “finer moments.” Continue reading “Congrats Newbies!
You’ve Survived the Toughest Month of Your Career”

So, What Exactly Is Culture Anyway?
(And How Should We Teach It?)

cellist-playing-celloSLC is delighted to feature this guest post from author and school library luminary Randi Schmidt. Make sure to check out the links to free excerpts from her latest book on guided inquiry and the humanities research project at the end of the post!

Recently I saw the documentary film, The Music of Strangers, which explores how and why the renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, gathered together a large assortment of accomplished musicians from across the globe to form an ensemble and perform as The Silk Road Project for the past 15 years in various parts of the world.  The group first came together at the Tanglewood Music Center in western Massachusetts during the summer of 2000.  However, September 11, 2001, changed everything and transformed how people viewed the world and the interaction of different cultures.  Yo-Yo Ma saw this as an opportunity for the Silk Road Project to use culture and its diversity to create positive and trusting transformations.

Yo-Yo Ma discussed the nature of culture in the film and how culture essentially provides meaning to all human lives.  As the world experiences increasing intersections of different cultures through the proliferation of media, multicultural societies, conflict-driven movements of people across the globe, and other forms of globalization, humanity is provided with numerous opportunities to examine the essential nature of culture as it is differentiated across the globe. Continue reading “So, What Exactly Is Culture Anyway?
(And How Should We Teach It?)”

Speed Dating Remix

October 9-16 is Teen Read Week. Here’s an idea from Tish Carpinelli to help your 10th-12th graders find a book they can love.

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Image courtesy rich_f8 under Creative Commons license

A Reason to Remix
“My students are really enjoying the books they selected the other day. A few of them are already finished with them!” As media specialists, we certainly love to hear those words from our colleagues after classes come down for book selection. Often, however, traditional booktalks or just allowing classes to freely roam the stacks for books does not result in the majority of students finding a book with which they can really connect.

In “Speed Dating with Books” (LMC, October 2012), I described an activity that has been very successful with my students. After the first few years of these speed dating sessions, I wanted to change things up a bit. I did not want to repeat the same activity for sophomores, juniors, or seniors that I had used with them as freshmen. Also, when the assignment requires nonfiction books, my original setup would not work well. It is impossible to have enough topic variety on one table to satisfy every interest. For these reasons, I devised a “Speed Dating Remix” activity that can be used with either fiction or nonfiction books. The setup for each is slightly different, but the actual “dating” remains the same. And the objective continues to be for the students to leave with a book with which they feel they can have a “committed relationship.” Continue reading “Speed Dating Remix”

The Good Ones

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By Carl A. Harvey II

Flying home today from a visit with family and friends in Indiana, I’m sure the people around me were wondering why I was fighting back a few tears.  While home, I picked up a book at my favorite children’s independent bookstore called Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson.  I don’t want to give away the ending, but let’s just say it was a tearjerker.  This middle grades book focuses on the relationship of a teacher to the student and the power that one teacher has to make a difference. … sometimes without even realizing that is what they are doing.

Reading this book made me think about some of the teachers I had over the years.  I remember fondly my German class in high school, where I know our teacher was often much more concerned about us than whether we had learned to speak German fluently.  I think back to the computer coordinator who took me under her wing and eventually led me to the path that put me in the world of school librarianship—not that either of us really knew that was what was happening.  I think back to the class birthday party that we planned for my 3rd grade teacher as a surprise.  If only I hadn’t dropped the cupcakes as I walked out the front door that day!   (Cookies were an acceptable alternative, thank goodness!)  I think back to my Kindergarten teacher who showed up at my Grandma’s 88th birthday party…. some 25+ years since she had any of the Harvey kids in class because she always said our family was special.  These are just some of the teachers that pop to mind thinking back over the years, and it makes me feel pretty lucky that I had so many “Good Ones.” Continue reading “The Good Ones”

A Wise and Blithe Spirit

School Library Connection is proud to continue LMC‘s tradition in sponsoring an annual ALISE award to recognize outstanding research in library materials and services to young people. This year’s award submission deadline of September 22nd is fast approaching!—readers interested in submitting will find more information at ALISE’s website here.

As we eagerly look forward to reading the next winning paper, we’re excited to share this past winner by Sharon McQueen that was presented at the 2014 ALISE conference.

Mary Hill Arbuthnot with the third edition of Children and Books, photo 1969. The Cleveland Press Collection, Special Collections, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University.
May Hill Arbuthnot with the third edition of Children and Books, photo 1969. The Cleveland Press Collection, Special Collections, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University.

May Hill Arbuthnot is still with us in her books, a wise and blithe spirit.
— Zena Sutherland

The May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association. Each year, an Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee chooses “an individual of distinction who shall prepare and present a paper which shall be a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature” (ALSC 6). The location of the lectureship changes each year, as host institutions must apply and vie for the honor.

In 2006, I was a faculty member in the School of Library & Information Science, University of Kentucky (UK-SLIS) and served as Director of both The McConnell Center for the Study of Youth Literature and the annual McConnell Youth Literature Conference. Keven Henkes had been selected as the 2007 Arbuthnot lecturer, and I hoped The McConnell Center would be chosen to host the award.

In an effort to make the application as competitive as possible, I wanted to learn more about the Arbuthnot Lecture. As a sociocultural historian of children’s literature and biographer of individuals connected with the field, I was curious: Who the heck was May Hill Arbuthnot? At the time, I was not able to research Arbuthnot’s life and the history of the lectureship as deeply as I’d have liked. Much to the delight of everyone at UK-SLIS, The McConnell Center was chosen as the 2007 Arbuthnot Lecture site, and my attention was drawn back to the present.

After serving as an Arbuthnot Lecture Host Site Committee Chair, I supported several subsequent Host Site Chairs in an advisory capacity and was invited to serve on the ALSC Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee as well. Over the years, I eagerly spoke with ALSC members and others in the field of librarianship about May Hill Arbuthnot and the lectureship named in her honor. Though most had heard of the Arbuthnot Lecture, few knew who May Hill Arbuthnot was or why a lectureship had been named for her. Many knew she was considered to be one of the foremothers of our field but did not know why. Many were very much surprised to learn that Arbuthnot was not a children’s librarian. And yet, May Hill Arbuthnot made significant, lasting contributions that have shaped reading, children’s literature, and library youth services as we know them today. Continue reading “A Wise and Blithe Spirit”

Defend Students’ Intellectual Freedom

adams1This month at School Library Connection, we’ve been focusing on all the ways our school libraries serve as incubators for our democracy. But creating a space that nurtures our “citizens-in-training” is about more than just our instruction, it’s also about ensuring students’ free access to resources representing diverse points of view. Giving students the opportunities they need to practice civic skills goes hand in hand with defending students’ intellectual freedom as we train the future leaders of our world.

In this sneak peek from her Intellectual Freedom workshop, Helen Adams gives a basic overview of how and why you should be an advocate for intellectual freedom at your school. Subscribers can access the entire workshop here, where you’ll also find practical step-by-step guidance on selection policies, navigating through challenges to materials, and protecting students’ intellectual freedom online.


Helen R. Adams, MLS, is an online instructor for Antioch University-Seattle in the areas of intellectual freedom, privacy, and copyright. She formerly worked as a school librarian in Wisconsin, and served as president of AASL. She is a member of the ALA American Libraries Advisory Committee, the ALA Privacy Subcommittee, and the AASL Knowledge Quest Advisory Board, and she is the author of Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (Libraries Unlimited 2013).

Authentic Learning with a Simulated Campaign

olson-teaserLooking for ways to get students interested in how the political process works? In “A Campaign Simulation for Authentic Learning” David Olson describes a popular collaboration that helps his AP U.S. Government students practice what they’ve learned by working together on simulated U.S. Senate campaigns.

Subscribers to SLC can read more articles with great ideas like this by visiting School Library Connection.

The school library is, at its best, an incubator of democratic values and a haven for inquiry.  At James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wisconsin, where I teach social studies, our students utilize library resources, with the support of school librarians, in nearly all courses. Starting as first semester freshmen, our students approach the issues of immigration and migration by exploring their own families’ journeys. Through modeling, think-alouds, and mini-lessons from the librarians, students use Ancestry.com (purchased by our library) to find primary resources relating to their families, learn proper citation and database search techniques, and connect their personal stories to broader themes using the ABC-CLIO American History database and a curated collection of print materials. Eleventh grade students use Biography in Context and Gale Virtual Reference Library to create fictional universities centered on the social and political protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s. My upper-level students visit the library several times during the course of the semester to conduct research from books and databases, play iCivics games, explore webquests, and collaborate in small groups. All of these lessons are planned and instructed in collaboration with the school librarian.

A few years ago, when my department began offering AP U.S. Government and Politics, I was faced with a conundrum. In a second semester AP course in a state where school doesn’t end until June, what do I do with the last three weeks of class? I found my answer with my school librarian, Robin Amado, who helped me craft a campaign simulation using library resources. In each class, my students divided into campaign teams to run for a U.S. Senate seat. Campaigns featured a candidate, campaign manager, website team, advertising team, social media team, and policy wonks (specialists in policy details). The project allows students to simulate the election process and put into practice everything they’ve learned about the political world. Continue reading “Authentic Learning with a Simulated Campaign”

Are Your Seniors Ready for College, Career, and Civic Life?

The Presidential Citizens Medal
The Presidential Citizens Medal

School Library Connection’s own Paige Jaeger reminds us that in this political season of change, pontificating, bloviating, orating, and more…the truth gets buried deeper than normal.

Now more than ever we need to teach our students to make informed decisions— based upon evidence—and ensure that they see the link between history and real life.  Now may be the best time to ensure we understand the new College, Career, and Civic (C3) readiness.

new-picture-2Swept up in the tsunami of educational standards reform, the National Council for Social Studies completely overhauled their teaching framework so that social studies content is aligned with the Common Core (CCSS) reforms. Even if your state has not adopted the Common Core, it’s likely that they have been influenced by it. State education departments use the national standards to inform changes at the state level and it often takes a few years for the aftershocks to be felt by the students. Be ye hereby warned: The changes are massive.

It’s likely that your state will be, is currently, or has reviewed their state Social Studies Standards for alignment. Here are a few thoughts to ponder as you start the school year and begin to review possible social studies (SS) projects for alignment with new national standards.

The Arc of Inquiry

Storytelling may still be alive, but lecture is dead. There is no doubt about it—new standards want students to manipulate content, get down and dirty with the past, draw informed conclusions, and deeply uncover, discover, and understand the why behind our (hi)story.  In fact, the crafters of the C3 put it up front and center in the change.  If you are not familiar with inquiry-based learning, now is the time to embrace this learning model that fits the learning styles of the NextGen students who want to be in control. The inquiry model is defined in  “dimensions,” where students are asking questions, researching, deliberating, and making claims, all wrapped up in a knowledge product, thus making them more capable of taking informed action. Continue reading “Are Your Seniors Ready for College, Career, and Civic Life?”

August/September Author of the Month Donna Gephart

Those tween/teen years can be so difficult and scary—we can all remember feeling lost and alone and like we didn’t fit in. Donna Gephart remembers, and through her books that amuse, touch, and inspire, she helps to make those years just a little less scary.

When the team at School Library Connection and reVIEWS+ met her latest characters, Lily and Dunkin, we knew Gephart was someone we wanted to get to know.
Subscribers can view our complete archive of reviews at reVIEWS+.

gephartLike so many bibliophiles, Gephart’s love of books began at an early age. When her mother took her to the Northeast Regional Library, she “felt like the whole world had opened up for me. Throughout my childhood,” she tells us, “that library was a mecca to me.”

At age ten, Gephart decided to become a writer and, after “only thirty years of writing practice,” she sold her first children’s book to Random House.

When asked what inspires her to write, Gephart replied, “I write for the lonely girl I was, growing up in Philadelphia with my sister and single-parent mom. We didn’t have much money, and I didn’t have many friends back then. Books provided me companionship, wit and wisdom, and roadmaps for how I might navigate a rich, fulfilling, and creative life.” This inspiration is evident in her books. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly frivolous titles, these books deal with some weighty topics—tempered with humor and compassion. Tween/teen angst, broken families and friendships, death, financial difficulties, mental health, and sexual identity are just some of the subjects encountered within the pages where you will also find geeks, factoids (most toilets flush in the key of E-flat, a person must be at least thirty-five years old to become president of the United States, Mount Everest is on the border of Tibet and Nepal), trivia buffs, and a sweepstakes junkie. And no matter the emotional ups and downs throughout her books, you will always be left with hope when you’re done reading. Continue reading “August/September Author of the Month Donna Gephart”

Sneak Peek: Engaging the Learning Community

According to a national study on young people and volunteering, having friends that volunteer regularly is the primary factor influencing a young person’s own volunteering habits—in other words, more influential than the actual cause is the social context. Only 19% of those who volunteered came up with the idea to volunteer themselves. More than half, 57%, were invited by someone: a friend, family member, or other adult. So, what might be the roles for the school library here?

In her video series with School Library Connection, “Engaging the Learning Community,” Dr. Rebecca Morris explores the why and how of creating a social or collaborative context for learning, including involving adults from the school and from the broader community. In this sneak peek (below), Morris looks at how the school library can accomplish these goals through service learning and volunteering . The full workshop—with coverage including performing a needs assessment, engaging the learning community via makerspaces, and creating a community reading culture—is available to School Library Connection subscribers here.

SERVICE LEARNING & VOLUNTEERING