Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chicago Midwinter Meetings

Packing here for my last far away Midwinter meeting with MSLA.  Next year we'll be a subway ride away in Boston--so get ready to join us!
Midwinter is a working conference and we are all going with missions for MSLA--Most of us will be working as part of AASL Affiliate Assembly where school librarians from around the nation gather to address concerns and set standards for school libraries around the country.  Kathy Lowe is co-chair of the committee planning the next annual AASL National Conference and I'm working with her as co-chair of programs.  It is exciting to plan a conference on this scale with a team of librarians from all over the U.S.   We also plan to go through the exhibitor hall to gather freebies to give away at our Unconference Day in Amherst in March, and of course, we'll be checking out great authors and speakers with an eye toward sharing the best of the current library world with our members.
Keep checking in for updates throughout the weekend!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Your Vegas is showing!

ALA Vegas was my first ALA national conference. Before even getting to the conference, there were plenty of jokes and pokes of fun about the location for a librarian conference from colleagues, friends and family members. As it turns out, it was an interesting place to attend professional development.   The infographic: the 7 reasons nothing leaves Vegas gives a true sense of Vegas.

A lot of my time was spent shadowing Judi Paradis, our current president of MSLA.  As the president elect, this time was invaluable for gaining an understanding of the current menu of items for the upcoming year. Because it was concentrated, it was like attending an accelerated class!  I am grateful to Judi for her wisdom and her ability to speak about the organization for upwards of 8 hours a day!

In between our marathon conversations, we were attending meetings (Affiliate Assemblies, AASL Presidents meeting, ASCLA ebook Consortia), sessions, the vendor hall, and awards ceremonies! It was a full schedule. I Tweeted and posted to Facebook throughout and I found a cool compilation of the conference from SEEN.

Here are some of my takeaways, impressions and notes:

1. Librarians across the country are dealing with many of the same issues that we are dealing with in Massachusetts. It's time to join efforts with as many education/library organizations as possible to maximize our energies.

2. Award ceremonies make me (and everyone around me) cry! Library stories are heartfelt and deep.  It's what draws many of us to the profession - either a story of our own or one that we learn about. I am really glad that I was able to attend a part of the American Indian Youth Literature Award Ceremony.  The group was small and incredibly grateful to have us attend.

3. Gamers experience 10 Positive Emotions while playing video games - regardless of what is happening in their lives. Research shows that you will have more emotional resilience if you feel positive emotions on a daily basis.  Game play is neurologically opposite of depression.  Jane McGonigal was an interesting speaker and I plan to read her book.  If you have a minute, check out her TED talks.  Here are a few games that she suggested:  Fold It, Eyewire, Ora save the forest, Whale Song project.

4. The Best Websites for teaching and learning session was packed - standing room only! I'm looking forward to playing with these as well as the Best Apps for teaching and learning over the summer. Lots of potential and great names that students will get a kick out of.

5. Highlight: The Presidents Program featuring Lois Lowry and Jeff Bridges!!  I ended up in the overflow room and watched the interview on the large screen - but it was still so exciting to know that they were in the same building!    Barbara Stripling asked compelling questions and Lowry and Bridges seemed to have a comfortable rapport.   My favorite quotes from the interview:
"Do you know why hunger persists? Lack of community. The whole world is a community." - 
Jeff Bridges
"All my books are optimistic because kids need to know that they can change the world. They're all we have." - Lois Lowry 

6. Remember to check out all of the hashtags from the conference! A couple of favorites:
   #alaac14, #msla,  and here is a fun one:  #alaleftbehind 

Welcome to Vegas: Emergency Exit Only 

10 Positive Emotions of Gamers:  Jane McGonigal 

Youth Dancers - American Indian Literature Awards 

Gale Booth 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Learning for Life (L4L)

AASL has a group of representatives from each of its affiliated state school library organizations who are responsible for helping their members implement Standards for the 21st Century Learner and Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs.  This initiative is called Learning for Life, or L4L. The group meets at each ALA Annual Conference and Midwinter Meeting to share the work they are doing in their states, along with achievements and challenges to their school library programs. MSLA's L4L Coordinator is Amy Short, Director of Library Media for the Boston Public Schools and also our Boston Area Co-Director on the MSLA Executive Board.

At the meeting at ALA Annual this year, we learned that we are not alone in our struggles to find qualified candidates for open positions and maintain school library programs, and that terrific work is being done in many states to promote the AASL Standards and Guidelines among affiliate members. L4L Coordinators have their own area on ALA Connect, an virtual meeting place where those involved in ALA and AASL initiatives, task forces and committees can collect and share information and support. L4L Coordinators use Connect to share the resources they have developed with their colleagues across the country.

Here is the report Amy submitted for today's meeting:
Successes in our state: We held the following L4L session at our Annual Conference. There were approximately 60 attendees at the session:  Learning4Life: Think, Create, Share, and Grow! What is ALA's "School Libraries @ the Core of Education"? Learn about this new initiative as well as how to navigate the American Association of School Librarians free tools, including the Learning 4 Life (L4L) Lesson Plan Database and the Common Core Crosswalk. Find out how you can use these tools to align your library program with the Common Core standards, collaborate for teacher and student success, and develop/implement SMART goals. Think, create, share, andgrow with L4L!

Bill S.1906 has been introduced on MSLA’s behalf by state legislators. Bill S.1906 establishes a commission to evaluate the status of school library programs in each school district in the Commonwealth in terms of staffing, materials, and program requirements or guidelines. The bill has been passed as an amendment to the MA House budget and prior to that, the MA Senate also passed it as a separate bill, so as soon as the Governor signs the budget, it will become official. Once that happens, the Guidelines will be referenced in developing long range goals for school library programs. 
MSLA has been working the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to develop a school librarian-specific performance evaluation tool. The committee working on this is creating an overlay document that adapts the teacher evaluation tool to make it more effective and specific and aligned with the Guidelines.

District-determined Measures (DDM’s) to be used for performance evaluationsare a hot topic in Massachusetts. The Tool for Real-time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills (TRAILS) ( is a MA DESE-approved DDM. MSLA holds monthly Twitter chats (#MSLA). One of our recent chats was about DDM’sIt was evident that from the number of chat participants and the even larger number of people who accessed the Twitter chat archive afterwards that our MSLA members are very interested in learning more aboutDDM’s. Therefore, we are planning a day-long professional development session around DDM’s for late summer/early fall, in time for school librarians to plan their SMART goals and measures for evaluation.

L4L Resources: Resources can be found on the MSLA website

Major problems facing our state: We are facing a major shortage of licensed school librarians to fill openings in Massachusetts; we have many openings and a very small pool of qualified applicants.

Next steps: One thing we might want to consider for the future is to recommend that librarians have one SMART Goal related to implementing the Standards or using the Guidelines. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

AASL Awards

AASL presented national awards Saturday morning and it was both a proud morning for Massachusetts and an inspiring morning for all attending.   MSLA members went early to cheer on Cathy Collins, librarian from Sharon HS, who was awarded AASL's Intellectual Freedom award.  However, we were stunned to hear about a second Massachusetts recipient from our state.  Rowe elementary school received a $50,000 grant from the More Than Words fund to rebuild its school library, which was destroyed by fire in 2012.

There were several other awards that were truly inspirational.
The Superintendent of Schools of Harlington County TX won administrator of the year for his remarkable support of libraries in his district where more than 90% of students live in poverty.  He told us that his mom was a library aide, and her commitment to seeing that her 6 kids were library users led to 3 of them receiving PhDs and becoming school superintendents in Texas.

The first Roald Dahl "Miss Honey" award for social justice award went to a remarkable librarian from Kansas who used "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" as a jumping off point to discuss child poverty with her elementary students.   Their culminating project was to sew blankets for babies born to female prisoners in Ecuador.  Kleenex were passed.

To read more about these people, as well as the bike mobile librarian, the school library program of the year and the amazing collaborators of Kutztown PA, look here: "AASL announces 2014 award recipients", American Library Association, April 22, 2014. (Accessed June 29, 2014)
And....figure out what awards you ( or your library hero) is eligible for!  There IS fame and fortune for great school libraries.

Friday, June 27, 2014

what happens in Vegas

Today is the opening day of ALA Annual meeting.  Our first day was a busy one.

This afternoon, Anita Cellucci and I attended a meeting of library consortia group discussing the various national projects, including the Massachusetts e-book pilot project.  It was clear from listening to Greg Pronevitz of MLS that Massachusetts is a leader in this area.  Greg provided an update on the pilot project, describing how Massachusetts used a hybrid model including public, school and academic libraries to provide a statewide e-book collection, including materials from Baker & Taylor purchased with a perpetual license, Biblioboard for Open Source and locally created materials, and EBL for short-term loans.   Greg mentioned that that state budget support will be required for successful statewide rollout of the e-book collection.  He is waiting to hear shortly about funding from the state legislature.

The opening keynote speech is now being presented by Jane McGonigle, who is talking about the benefits of online gaming to engage students, solve world problems, and building collaborative communities.   She talked about the many positive attributes of gamers.

Games are now being used to solve real problems

Whale FM helps scientists translate whale noises into

Fold it is a game that helps scientists figure out how proteins can be folded to cure diseases and create medications

Block by block uses mine raft to design real public spaces, such as a playground in Nigeria

Tonight...our first AASL meeting to discuss national concerns of school librarians

Monday, March 10, 2014

Connecting struggling readers with accessible resources

One in 10 students has a recognized disability under Americans with Disabilities Act--physical, emotional, reading,etc.  This is 2 kids per class in most schools.

How do you keep these kids up to grade level with reading.

Resources available for struggling readers

  • large print books are very useful (also can be great for struggling readers as they look easier)
  • not as many for teens because they are not published in quantity
  • e-readers can blow up fonts --make these available for kids to read; ipods and phones can also be made available
  • audios with books
  • databases--blow up page using CTRL+  many of the state databases have a text to speech icon and you can click that to have article read to you
Perkins focuses on general reading; Learning Ally focuses mostly on textbooks, but also has a collection of novels need to log in as a teacher and you can set up pages for your students--
Librarians can set up accounts for teachers and they can add students, indicate their students' disabilities and then see what is available for students

Kids with print disabilities can get accounts to download books

In Learning Ally:
  • Classic audio is what you'd think
  • audio with H shows text with audio
  • can work in ios and droid devices or you can download software on to a PC or mac; there is a free app in the itunes store; NOT compatible with kindle, nook or chrome books
Perkins School for Blind--you don't have to be legally blind to use their materials and services--just people who have any issues with seeing print (even if they can see) and people with learning disabilities, and people who have trouble physically holding a book
You can download applications for your organization
You receive books with an audioplayer in the mail
NO cost--including no postage
They have a ton of books, magazines, 

Perkins Newsline--accesses today's newspaper by telephone or computer; there are over 300 newspapers and 25 magazines.  To get into this 888-882-1629  you need an access code that you get through the Perkins Library

Lots of books for children and teens can be downloaded from a website--there is an app for this BARD mobile

Reading device from Perkins will allow you to change speed and tone of the reader (and app replicates this)

On a school account you can have up to 5 devices linked to Perkins that you can use to download

SMART Goals and Elementary Students

Elementary school librarians in the elementary Newton Public Schools presented on how they crafted and rolled out a group goal to set a uniform standard for their students and program.

Newton Director Chris Swerling said that power in SMART goals comes from collaboration with other teachers, using observable evidence and data to show that you are focused on something that matters, and it can help to align your goal with the school improvement plan or the Common Core Standards.

Librarians Rachel Lundquist, Patti Karem and Heather Leoleis described how the group goal was developed. The librarians had developed a 50 question survey for their grade 5 students to assess if they had mastered the skills that the librarians believed students should know before heading to middle school.  The survey was delivered to students in a google doc and the information was collected in a way to see if there were areas that needed attention.

The librarians reviewed the data from this survey and discovered that having students locate materials in the library after finding a call number in the computer catalog was a weakness in their district.  Based on this evidence, they decided that this was a skill they wanted to work on through their SMART goal.  The librarians decided to target grade 4 and decided to set it as a two-year goal, and developed 4 pre-assessments.  Their pre-assessment indicated that students did understand how to read the library records (students knew what the call number meant), but they could not located the book in the library once they had the record.

What surprised you about the data
What are the next steps

The librarians then developed a number of action steps--some were common among all the librarians, others were used used by specific librarians tweaked to meet the needs of specific schools and collections.  Students were asked for input in how to solve the problem--for example, they asked to have some of the signage changed to help them find books more easily.

The data informed instruction, and this process with preassessing students and seeing the results at the end really does help to ensure that you are making progress with your students.  Some real benefits of this process helps to show your administrators the teaching and learning happening in the school learning.

All teachers were required to do the work for the goal--but librarians were given leeway to accomplish the goal in different ways.  For instance, meetings were held for those librarians who wanted to discuss action steps in detail after school, but librarians who felt confident about how they were moving forward were not required to attend these.