Thoughts on ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference

ALA’s annual conference offers an opportunity for librarians to hear about the latest initiatives, ideas, award-winning books, authors, illustrators, websites, apps, tech tools…and so much more. But perhaps most importantly of all, it presents a chance to simply meet with fellow librarians, to reminisce with old friends, meet new ones, to share ideas and concerns. And, at the end of the day — after attending panels and checking out the exhibitors including, of course, stopping by to hobnob with our own Becky Snyder  (and Keith Chasse, Sharon Coatney, Jessica Gribble, Kevin Hillstrom, Barbara Ittner, David Paige, Cleta Walker, and Blanche Woolls) — it’s your time to let your hair down, enjoy the company of your colleagues, and to eat, drink, dance, and be merry. Oh, yes, and to advocate, always with the advocating!

We’re sure you learned many things that furthered your professional development and that you can use in your own library, and had lots of experiences that will make for some warm and fuzzy memories. In that spirit of learning and sharing, we asked some of our editors to share a few of their takeaways on the conference. And please, if you’d like to share any of your thoughts, leave a comment or give us a tweet; we’d love to hear from you!


Liz Deskins, our curriculum editor for reVIEWS+, jumped in with what might be everyone’s first thought as they gather at the conference:

“There are so many librarians! All different kinds, with a variety of interests and specialties; but all are happy to talk with you. We are family!”

Liz also felt it worthwhile to point out that “AASL is a democratic microcosm; it is wonderful to watch it in action.” And let’s not forget the books: “Books, in many formats, are still exciting and worth standing in line for.”

Here’s Liz taking advantage of the chance to meet with fellow librarians Jeffrey DiScala, Deb Logan, and Susan Yutzey. And who’s that sitting beside her, can that be David Paige?

Continue reading “Thoughts on ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference”

Serving Black Youth — Part One

One of the new books from Libraries Unlimited that we’re particularly excited about is Libraries, Literacy, and African American Youth, edited by Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Pauletta Brown-Bracy, and Casey H. Rawson. This book tackles the issue of making libraries welcoming to Black youth and addressing the needs and desires of this population in the interests of promoting equity and social justice. The text covers key research concepts and provides illustrations of best practices by offering profiles of school (and public) libraries that are working to effect change.

In their introduction, the authors say that rather than a how-to guide, they want their book to “spur dialogue and reflection about how libraries must change” in order to better serve African American youth. In the interests of building on this dialogue, Dr. Hughes-Hassell and Dr. Rawson were gracious enough to answer  some questions for us about their work.

And, stay tuned! Sandra and Casey also created a professional development workshop for SLC on these same issues. Tomorrow we’ll post a sneak peek of the video.

Continue reading “Serving Black Youth — Part One”

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”

You and Your Library in One Word

 

Balance. Simplify. Volunteer. Energy. Gratitude. Grace. Adapt.

MorrisHave you been following the #OneWord2017 hashtag? I love this trend—people on Twitter, even teachers and their students, are proclaiming in just one word their goals, ideals, and hopes for the new year. The idea is simple, yet it isn’t—like that famous saying about wanting to write a shorter letter but not having the time or those January home magazines suggesting how easy it is to organize household mail if you only touch each piece once.

It’s harder than it might seem to be efficient when completing certain tasks or collecting certain thoughts. And distilling a year’s worth of ambition into a single word is no different. But I like the spirit of this exercise in nudging what might be a jumble of ideas toward a more focused lens. Too often with resolutions and to-do lists, we get excited and ambitious, and well-meaning plans end up diluted. Choosing one stream feels practical and attainable.

I like the one-word resolutions that could apply to many aspects of living and working—like “adapt.” Vow to adapt to the unexpected snowfall, request, or detour. Adapt when a website goes down, a student question brings surprise, or a new resource falls in your lap right before teaching. Continue reading “You and Your Library in One Word”

“Locked in the Library”
Inspiration for Your Library Escape Room

We’ve all the seen the photos of groups of our friends who worked together to try and get out of an escape room—some successfully and some not so successfully.  Librarian Maddie Powell decided to see what the idea might look like in the school library in Frisco, Texas. Her goal with the escape room was to engage non-readers and bring them into the library. Students had 10 minutes to figure out whether a character in the story had jumped or was pushed out of a window. A series of clues and riddles led students to find a black light in the sock of the dummy on the floor, which was used to uncover the answer on the walls. There was a high rate of participation and excitement that got many non-readers into the library space. Demand was so high that teachers began bringing whole classes in together. School Library Connection’s own Carl Harvey talked to Maddie about the experience and her tips for others hoping to try their own escape room.escape-now

Carl Harvey: What was your motivation or inspiration to do something like this?

Maddie Powell: Escape rooms seem to be popping up everywhere! I’m always looking for some sort of programming that my students might like. It’s hit or miss and you never know what will catch on. When the escape room idea hit me, I knew I had to try it. Continue reading ““Locked in the Library”
Inspiration for Your Library Escape Room”

‘Tis the Season?

via flick https://www.flickr.com/photos/43089317@N04/8239376115/in/photolist-dy5XsT-qc8DpX-9eoN3Y-7oJC9Z-pEx4vg-puDANL-dJPoiC-aX4v9i-qeHUD-5MFdMa-4dEjTW-5Kdy93-bWiDEZ-5LkDKj-4zrYnA-bsQWGP-iBcPXb-dNadaE-vdEdsG-dybxDc-4wRe18-dxCmZZ-6Gz6jq-jr5CLZ-dD5QrL-9W586C-dog7nD-7prbXw-7EePs-4cisDD-pG8pee-aXabFR-7oW5NL-dCZry2-9Df3TD-Nz6tF-5KAysh-8YQdSQ-7bX7yM-jr7ym1-86mdJs-6XqgBt-du8LbC-9KxTHB-92NZHC-5KEAZs-8Rwdw2-4cDnWL-dJ2DxA-cDmR
“Humbug” by SK via Flickr Creative Commons license

I love Christmas. I love Hanukah. I love giving gifts, the cookies, caroling and all the other festivities that go along with this December season. But…every time that Amazon ECHO commercial comes on television I turn into Scroogette incarnate. That’s right. The hairs on the back of my cybrarian neck just stand on end, and I begin to pontificate on how tomorrow’s leaders are going to be intellectually impaired. The same reaction ensues from the Google Home equivalent. Why in the world would we want to insert in our homes a thinking device, a data-miner, and a microphone that listens to every word we say…just awaiting her name to be called (i.e., the “wake up” word)?

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Almost eighty years ago, Aldous Huxley wrote A Brave New World, in which he espoused that humans will come to love technologies that undo our capacity to think. Fast-forward 80 years and here we are embodying his theory. So here we are. We now have devices that can and do think for us. In the 1940s, what technologies did they have?  The typewriter? Morse code?

Today, impoverished children have strikes against them. They are likely arriving into kindergarten having heard merely half the vocabulary as their peers entering school from an educated home, but dare we claim that in the future their brains might be a bit better off? Will they demonstrate resourcefulness? Will they have more experience problem solving? Once they catch up with language and other skills, will they exceed children from privileged homes where they don’t need to think and where the kids have spent the mornings on their iPad swiping away or asking Alexa how to spell or what the meaning of life is? Only time will tell. Continue reading “‘Tis the Season?”

Library Friends

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By Carl A. Harvey II

I just ended a few days back home in Indiana attending the Indiana Library Federation. It was a great conference—good sessions, great keynotes, a full exhibit floor, and a well-organized and fun conference. But, I have to tell you my favorite part was networking with my friends. Sure, now that I’m living in Virginia, it is even more special to get together with my Indiana school library friends because it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but it’s more than that. These are the librarians I “grew up” with in the field, and for that I’ll be ever grateful.

Over the last almost 20 years (good grief….where has the time gone?), these are the folks with whom I’ve shared my successes, commiserated when things didn’t work out well, and brainstormed the next great adventures. We’ve done that for each other countless times. They have been (and I’m certain will continue to be) invaluable to me.

School librarians are often the only ones in their building who do what they do. These types of networks and friendships are so important to the success of the school librarian and the library program. You need that support network to build and grow. Nowadays, we can have our PLN online with Twitter, Facebook, etc. These are wonderful ways to connect, but I have to admit my favorite is a table of friends, some good food, and wonderful conversation.

Continue reading “Library Friends”

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?)”

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”