Shaping a Collection: Graphic Novels and the Needs of English Language Learners

Is your school a “melting pot” of diversity? Does your collection reflect the make-up of your student body? In this article from our April online issue,  Alicia Abdul and Kristen Majkut discuss the importance of having a diverse collection and why you should include graphic novels.

Subscribers can check out our May issue to find more articles about diversity in your library.

Librarians should focus on building collections that reflect their communities. For our school in Albany, New York, that community is a hub for incoming refugees from all over the world, chiefly because of the presence of an U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) field office. USCRI helps displaced families make the transition to the United States by providing a wide range of services, including language classes, housing assistance, employment opportunities, and immigration services. As librarians, we can support students’ English language acquisition and literacy development through purposeful collection development and library services, including, as we have found, providing and sharing graphic novels.

Needs of ENL Students

English as a New Language (ENL) students have unique circumstances physically, emotionally, and academically. Our students from warmer climates arrive wearing sandals and without winter coats, unprepared for Northeast winters. In addition to language barriers, there are cultural differences regarding eye contact, shaking hands, greetings, clothing, gestures, religion, and even food traditions. This makes it crucial for educators to provide opportunities for personal engagement.

Academically, some incoming students have not learned to read in their native languages and are now encountering a new alphabet with new letters, words, and sounds for the first time. Some students read their native language from right to left. Some are coming from areas of conflict and their education has been interrupted for several years. Some school-age children have never attended any type of formal schooling. This influx of students has required that our district consider different measures to support these students and their families as they transition to life in the United States. Continue reading “Shaping a Collection: Graphic Novels and the Needs of English Language Learners”

Thank You, Carol Simpson

We all love Carol Simpson. Below, Carl Harvey reflects on the many things she has done for the profession. Carl speaks for all of us when he says “Thank you, Carol Simpson!”

Carol Ann Simpson

I hope you will all indulge me a little bit, as I’d like to take a few moments to say thank you to Carol Simpson. I’m not really sure 600 words will be quite enough, but I’m going to do my best.

The May 2017 copyright column will be Carol’s last regular contribution to School Library Connection. For over twenty years in SLC and Library Media Connection magazines, her column has been the gold standard for copyright advice for school librarians all over this country. I know I personally have relied on her column for advice and counsel as I worked with the students and teachers in my building.

Carol has taken a very complex topic of copyright and translated it for school librarians. Her Copyright for Schools book—now in its 5th edition—and her many other copyright titles are classics that should be (if they aren’t already) on every school librarian’s professional shelf. Her work in copyright took her to the law profession where she has continued to be a voice about education and copyright.

But, beyond her copyright work, her many years working with Linworth Publishing and Library Media Connection led to many voices being published, many for the first time, sharing the successes and stories from school libraries. As editor of LMC (and its predecessors), Carol provided a forum for sharing and learning from each other. Marlene Woo-Lun, publisher of LMC said, “Throughout those critical years of change when libraries and schools were first struggling with how technology fit into education, Carol made profound contributions to the school library profession.” Continue reading “Thank You, Carol Simpson”

Lessons from My Father

When did you learn to value data?

In this editorial from our April online issue, Leslie Preddy shares her story. She blames her dad.

For more about using data, the importance of data, and what it can do for your practice, be sure to read our April online issue. Subscribers can access it hereNot yet a subscriber? Click here  for more information.


Ronald Carl “Pops” Burton

It’s all my father’s fault. His PhD is in analytical chemistry. He’s brilliant. I can remember when I was little and being awed when allowed to visit him at work, looking at all the scientific tools, equipment, and supplies he could use every day. I vividly recall sitting on his lap while he let me look through one of his scientific journals while he explained to me, as best he could to a small child, how important it was to keep comprehensive notes, charts, drawings, research for his projects. He showed me his bookshelf full of these journals and shared the value of retaining his old journals so he could refer to them and use past experiences to build upon when solving a new technical problem in order to improve efficiency, address environmental concerns, avoid contamination, or any problems in the factories that involved chemical analysis issues. Pops, as I affectionately call my father, was very patient with a very curious child. Who knew that would be a foundation for processing information that would serve me well as an adult? Continue reading “Lessons from My Father”

We Read Diverse Books: Connecting Our Diverse Collections to Our Instruction (May 2017 Issue)

Subscribers: Do you love diverse books? Check out our May issue in which we look at connecting these books with your instruction and practice. Find tips and advice for getting these books into the hands of your students.

Subscribers can click on the article titles below to read more.

Not yet a subscriber? What are you waiting for? Click here for more information and to sign up for a free trial.

Serving Rainbow Families in School Libraries by Jamie Campbell Naidoo

Let the Dodo Bird Speak!: A Rejoinder on Diversity in Children’s Books by Kafi Kumasi

Whose History Is It?: Diversity in Historical Fiction for Young Adults by April M. Dawkins

One-Question Survey. Connecting Diverse Students with Diverse Collections by Maria Cahill

Continue reading “We Read Diverse Books: Connecting Our Diverse Collections to Our Instruction (May 2017 Issue)”

On Spring Cleaning & Evidence of Learning

“Perfectionism means that you try not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived.” —Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

As the mother of a toddler, I deeply appreciate these words. In our house, a fresh array of sippy cups, cereal, books, socks, cars, and blankies adorns the living room before 7 AM.

In the spirit of developmentally appropriate exploration, and to preserve my sanity, I tend not to pick up the mess as it happens. Instead, I try to delight in my daughter’s energy and curiosity, and do my best to avoid panic if she finds and eats a forgotten Cheerio. I straighten and clean when possible, and often, it’s not perfect before bedtime. If Anne Lamott says there is proof of a rich and full life in this pleasant chaos, then so it shall be. Some might call this patience, others sloppiness. Either way, I’ve found this approach to be a critical skill for getting through the day. I didn’t learn this secret as a new mom, though. I learned it as a school librarian. Continue reading “On Spring Cleaning & Evidence of Learning”

What is the most important data you collect and analyze?

The theme for our April online issue is “Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction.” To that end, Maria Cahill asked school librarians, “What is the most important data you collect and analyze?” This turned out to be a challenging question! Keep reading to see Dr. Cahill’s analysis of the results.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices.  Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here or check out the complete April issue here.

First, we apologize for putting our school librarians through such a difficult task: we asked them to choose the most important type of data they collect and analyze. As one of our respondents replied, “This question feels a little like ‘which is your favorite child?’ They are important for different reasons.” We recognize that different data are used for different purposes and all of the options we listed have value.

In truth, we fretted a little bit over how to ask the question, as well as how to collect responses. In the end, we decided it was important for librarians to “have” to choose. In case you wonder, we too ground our work in evidence-based librarianship. The option choices were guided by findings from empirical research of school librarians’ evidence-based practices (Richey and Cahill 2014). Continue reading “What is the most important data you collect and analyze?”

Hot off the Presses: The Many Faces of School Library Leadership

Here at School Library Connection, we’re excited to share that the new edition of The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, edited by Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, is hot off the presses. Completely revised and updated with new contributions, this book examines the responsibility to lead in many areas and identifies the real-world, day-to-day application of established theory and best practices.

We at SLC are fortunate that the book’s editors have asked us to host a continuing discussion around its important topics here on the blog, so please use the comments section below to start a conversation, ask a question, engage in dialog, or just follow along! Sharon, Vi, and all of us at SLC are looking forward to a great conversation.

(Faculty interested in course adoption can request a digital exam copy of The Many Faces here.)

Continue reading “Hot off the Presses: The Many Faces of School Library Leadership

April Author of the Month David Elliott

Fractured fairy tales? How about fractured mythology? Just in time for National Poetry Month, David Elliott gives us a modern take on Theseus and the Minotaur. Contemporary mythology in verse, you ask? Trust me when I say your high school students will love it, just as you’ll love its cucumber-washing, popsicle stick-making author.


This graphic pretty much sums up David Elliott’s latest novel, Bull. Perhaps it’s his love of opera that’s behind his ability to successfully combine verse and drama or maybe that has nothing to do with it and he’s just channeling his inner child’s love of Scrooge McDuck’s “The Golden Fleecing.” Whatever his inspiration, this unique retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur made us want to learn more about the author and we know you do too, so keep reading. Continue reading “April Author of the Month David Elliott”

“Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction.” A Supplement for LIS Faculty

Dr. Audrey Church

We are pleased to continue our series of learning experiences built around our latest issue and designed for use with school library candidates in graduate/professional programs, including pre-service school librarians and practitioners working as educators while earning their credentials. Dr. Audrey Church has provided suggested discussions, writing exercises, and other activities, written “to the graduate students,” so that faculty might borrow or adapt sections of the text directly into assignment instructions or online course modules.

Current subscribers can access the referenced articles via the hyperlinks below. (Magazine subscribers who still need to register for their login credentials at no extra cost may do so here.) As always, new subscribers are warmly welcomed into the SLC community, or we invite you to sign up for a free preview of our online platform.

Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction

This April issue of School Library Connection focuses on gathering and using data and rightly so. In today’s educational environment, data drive instruction, school improvement, teacher evaluation, and more. If school librarians are to be full participants in the educational process, they must be able to collect, analyze, utilize, and communicate with data. In fact, in my book, Tapping into the Skills of 21st Century School Librarians: A Concise Handbook for Administrators (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), in chapter 5, “Librarian as Program Administrator,” I have an entire section on Attention to Data: “Librarians pay close attention to data. Collection statistics are important: as program administrator, the librarian monitors the age of the collection, weeding outdated and inaccurate resources… Circulation statistics are important. The librarian monitors them to see which areas of the collection should be enhanced…The librarian also monitors usage statistics…Which teachers collaborate most often? She will use this data, not only to include in the library end-of-the-year report but also to target future collaborative efforts. Student data are critically important. The librarian will document how she makes a difference in student learning” (p. 70).

Continue reading ““Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction.” A Supplement for LIS Faculty”

Program Assessment: Enjoy the Journey and Results!

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 10: School Improvement

“Program Assessment: Enjoy the Journey and Results!” by Ann M. Martin. School Library Connection, March 2016.

As I decluttered the other day, I was astounded by the number of maps I had accumulated and stored in a cabinet. With navigation systems available on numerous devices, I certainly don’t need all those paper maps anymore! Seeing all those maps, though, made me begin thinking about the importance of mapping your way to a destination, particularly when managing a library program. In our culture of high-stakes testing, assessment of the library program verifies the library-classroom connection (Martin 2012, 63), but just as importantly, assessment is a navigation tool designed to move goals and objectives—and consequently the library program—forward.

Hitting the Road

No matter what navigation choice is made when charting your course, in order to begin, you have to know the point from which you are starting. One place to begin is to identify obstacles impacting library program success using assessment instruments. Ever since the 1950s, when Dr. W. Edwards Deming emerged with the concept of continuous improvement, assessment has stressed the importance of eliminating root causes of problems. Deming changed the focus from “Who is causing my problems?” to “What processes are hampering change?” (Turner and Inman). Examples of processes impacting library programs are new policies mandated by legislatures, strategic plans targeting specific instructional strategies, and emerging technologies. Today, our navigation devices assess road obstacles and provide alternative routes as needed. Similarly, librarians can “correct course” and make measureable improvements to their program by analyzing it to identify the root causes of its strengths and weaknesses. By understanding these core causes, librarians can brainstorm solutions and create action plans to address each area of need (Martin 2012, 47).

Continue reading “Program Assessment: Enjoy the Journey and Results!”