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.

Jarrett Krosozcka

Jarrett Krosozcka, creator of the Lunch Lady series, described a childhood where he was constantly reading comic books, but sure that this was not really reading.  Yet, he pointed out that he walked a three mile  round trip to buy comic books each week.  He pointed out that this commitment does indicate that he probably was  reader.  He told us that he values that librarians because they have championed the graphic novel.  He also said he does not like the idea of promoting comic books and graphic novels as "gateway books" that kids will eventually give up as they discover "real books."  He, instead, sees these as a parallel universe where something such as Art Spiegelman's Maus is the pinnacle you want kids to reach.

Krosozcka described the path that led to his success as a children's book author and illustrator.  He showed us that from an early age, he'd been an artist and an illustrator--producing books and comic strips throughout out elementary school and high school.  He received support and encouragement throughout, and it led him to RSDI, where he concentrated on developing picture books.  He told us how an author visit from Jack Gantos encouraged him, how his grandparents saved his work, and how a teacher led him to become a reader through (of all things) Anne of Green Gables.

Korsozcka described how he creates the Lunch Lady books.  We saw the genesis of this series, the process he uses to create the page, and described what happens when you create a series.  His newest series Platypus Police Squad, he describes as a cross between Frog and Toad are Friends and Lethal Weapon.  He told us that he does his research by visiting cafeterias, watching platypus videos and riding in police cars.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Olga Nesi--Transformative Power of Care

Applying painstaking attention to an issue can really transform a program in your school.  Olga Nesi described how using incredible care helped her transform the reading culture in her school.

Nesi described her school's well-intentioned reading program as a "dead horse" and described the process she used to carefully, slowly and intentionally to shift the culture so that the entire school bought in to transforming her middle school to become a school where reading is valued, participation is increased, and EVERYONE participates in a culture of reading.

Nesi's step (which she describes as useful for any big library shift) include:

Form allies--who can you approach to help you?  look for natural allies (e.g., new teachers, reading staff, parents); think about THEIR goals for the shift--what concerns do they have, what outcome do they want to see

Prepare for change--bring a team together and discuss HOW this will happen; use great care in explaining why the change needs to happen (what is the dead horse?) and talk about how you can carefully and intentionally change the culture--get buy-in

Step 3:  Roll out--Olga described a new reading program that her team developed that got rid of many of the elements that were not working (book reports, summer reading assignments, etc).  Some of the components of her program included:

  • book hooks--instead of book reports, students used short forms to keep track of what they read and these were stored in ELA classrooms; included short "what is the hook?" and 3 words/phrases that described the book
  • language to describe books--Nesi used a list of adjectives that she overtly taught to kids through ELA classes to help them acquire a vocabulary they could use to discuss the book's pacing, tone, characters.  Her book "Getting Beyond Interesting" discusses how this works.
  • reading bulletin boards--as school began EVERY bulletin board in the building had a message that the school was a READING school; Olga provided classes with book hook forms to post on the boards as students reported on what they were reading at the beginning of the school year (no more summer book reports)
  • stress free books--in a school with many SPED students, Olga encouraged the kids to also include "stress free" books on book hooks--those considered below grade level, such as picture books and a list of stress-free book hooks is available to everyone
  • book pamphlets and reading lists--at different points during the year, pamphlets and online promotions are created using students' book hooks and these are shared widely
  • All school read--Principal purchased Diary of a Wimpy Kid book for everyone in the middle school--teachers and kids
  • teachers as readers--Olga encourages all teachers (apart from reading with students) to read current YA books to introduce great new literature to faculty
  • promoting the program to feeder schools--Olga goes out to the elementary schools in the spring before kids come to her school to promote reading and the library

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Melissa Stewart

Melissa Stewart has written has written more than 200 nonfiction books for children.  She presented on the evolution of the nonfiction book, and described some of the more interesting types of nonfiction books currently available for children.  These include:

Traditional narrative--take a topic and tell what you know; the True book series follows this model

Creative narrative--takes a nonfiction topic and tells it from a particular point of view, follows a chronological order, or imposes some other structure on the information

  • layered texts are now often employed in some texts, in which basic facts are presented in large type and more detailed information is also provided using a smaller font for more sophisticated readers

Compare and contrast--just what it says

List --a general concept or category is presented and then examples are provided on each page

Question and answer books--some are especially well done, such as Steve Jenkins "What Do You Do With a Tail Like This"

Stewart's website includes lots of ideas for how teachers and librarians can use nonfiction texts, and she has a great example of how she revised a book that could be used when working with students on their writing.

Paige Jaeger: Nonfiction and the Common Core

Paige Jaeger is leading a group of NESLA pre-conference folks through a discussion of the role of
Nonfiction and Common Core.

Pay attention to assessment so you can show your own efficacy!  Assessment is turning from a way we determine if students know something to a way to show we are doing our work effectively.  A good instructor DOES assess learning.  We need excellent rubrics.

If you do or create anything--make sure you indicate that it comes from the library!  Get credit for what you're doing!

The big picture--where does nonfiction fit in to the Common Core:

SHIFT 1 & 2:

  • Close reading and text-based answers
  • writing from sources
SHIFT 3 & 4:
  • spotlight on vocabulary
  • literacy is not just ELA
SHIFT 5 &6:
  • building knowledge
  • 50% - 50%--reading fiction/nonfiction
GOAL:  College and Career readiness--reading, writing and information literacy is needed

Sleeping kids in your class with no engagement is a waste of tax payer money :)
We need to engage kids in a deep learning experience
New challenges for us:
  • how kids search--quick, bouncy, look at a site for a total of 2 minutes to evaluate if it is good/useful
  • 3 dimensional reading--reading a screen is not a left-right/up-down experience
  • expect high level of excitement to stay engaged
  • if you don't give a student a question, they don't know when to stop a search
  • good questions mean you need to craft questions that cannot easily be "googled"
  • "selfie generation"--needs to be all about them

Half of the Common Core is content and half is delivery
  • the delivery change is where the library comes in!!-
  • IFORMATION is mentioned 10 times more than TECHNOLOGY in the standards
  • Teachers should move from a "covering" content mode to an "uncover and discover" mode:  nonfiction should be at the heart of information delivery
  • Research is one of the only types of learning that embraces every shift of the CCSS; lots of short research is useful--research is an ANCHOR STANDARD
Book recommendations:  Practice Perfect by Doug Lemov -- will help you address this as you talk to your teachers about bumping things up
Prescription for the Common Core by Paige Jaeger--organized essential questions

  • The fastest way to improve vocabulary is READING (Marilyn Jager Rand) and nonfiction has higher level vocabulary
  • Librarians who can get students to do more independent reading will prove their worth
  • Develop an academic vocabulary -- over a 4th grade level (BIG issue for ELL kids and kids coming from poverty)
  • Paige Jaeger has Vocabulary bulletin board ideas on her website
  • You cannot JUST read a book--the book and reading must serve a purpose--have a question where kids are using evidence from the book to support a claim
  • Think about how to draw attention to high-level vocabulary during library read-alouds  (e.g., read Dav Pilkey's Kat Kong and tell kids that there will be 15 amazing new words in this book--create a bookmark list of the words.  Have the kids notice when these words appear in the text and help figure out what they mean)
  • As you read a nonfiction text to students, talk about what the key words you could pull out to do further research on that topic
  • Help kids practice fluency and use a technology such as audacity to record kids reading with tone and voice; select a book with the right lexile level and one that has content that ties into curriculum (e.g., So You Want to Be President for grade 5 civics)
  • Wordless picture books--what is the main idea?  Put it into words.  Have kids write dialog and use great words.
Essential Questions

  • Give kids an essential question and then an article that contains information that will help them determine an opinion;  Tell kids that we are going to have an "evidence-based" discussion
  • Important role for library is to provide multiple perspectives and help students see multiple points of view--more than one source matters
  • Creating an essential question--you want to create an enduring understanding
  • A good essential question can help save a lame research question--look at your "find the answer" types of research and think about how you can improve it with a targeted question:
    • what can you ask that will compel the students to find an answer
    • can you embed a pronoun (we, I, us, you)
    • What is the moral of the story/
  • If your assignment can be answered on Google, then it is void of higher level thought.
Look at Intel Teach Program for ideas for "country reports" that matter--looking at real world problems--nice website

Up and at 'em with NESLA

Our annual conference is underway!  This morning we are kicking things off with a preconference event sponsored by NESLA.  NESLA decided that it would make sense to offer some preconference days for its members tied to state conferences, and MSLA was the first to take them up on this exciting offer.

Today, we arrived early on Cape Cod (where it promises to be above freezing!) to gather as NESLA President Irene Kwidinski gave the annual awards out for NESLA, to announce NESLA's new ability to offer webinars, and to hold a brief annual meeting.

The highlight of our day is a presentation on Nonfiction and the Common Core.  We are waiting to hear from Paige Jaeger and author Melissa Stewart about how to effectively use excellent nonfiction books in engaging students and teachers in this new focus of the Common Core standards.

Throughout the weekend, we look forward to having librarians with us from around the state and around New England.  Please check in here for updates throughout the weekend as we gather and learn.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Library Evaluation

Evaluation of school librarians...presented by Judi Moreillen, Paige Jaeger, Kathryn Lewis, and Mary Keeling

What do you do well?
How do you prove it?
How do you measure student growth in non tested areas?
What are indicators principals should look for?
Evidence must be measurable AND rigorous (Worth measuring)  and appropriate to what is being taught
What library activities or programs lead to student growth?
Library instruction should be emphasized, and AASL Empowering Learners document has lots to mine for this
Areas to focus...information literacy, multiple liters it's, reading strategies
How to measure- information literacy?  Overwhelming! Looked to ACRL for college proficiency and worked backwards with rubrics by grade levels and student goals, used Stripling model and AASL materials to help with this
One way to get librarians to reflect is to take snapshot - give librarians standards and ask them to show what they did that day/week to meet the standard.  This gets them aware of standards and can be shared to give librarians ideas about what others are doing
Some concerns that narrowing focus to very specific areas can lead to leaving out some teaching that is happening now

Instrument for principals in school library monthly.  Would be great tool for talking to your principal about what your program SHOULD look like

We need to change perception of what school librarians do and how we can make an impact.  Formative assessments are very very important for librarians, so much of what we do impacts student learning but can be hard to tease out of quantitative assessments.

We heard about efforts being made in various states and districts to evaluate librarians.  Amy short described efforts with ma DesE
Colorado added appendix to standard state evaluations; evaluation must include test scores and grappling with how to show how librarians make impact on PARCC
Fairfax VA is using teacher eval tweaked for non tested teachers--- progress can be based on student data or on program goals that department sets
Ohio set rubric based in part of PA and sent to OH DOE and it was well received, but still no DOE evaluation past that for teachers
MI has local control with poor funding with huge loss of common standards:  state school library association is trying to develop standards for local districts
PA has done lots to set up rubrics and model curriculum, and has nice baseline from PA study that can be used

Big problem is that few states have person at state DOE to oversee school libraries, district administrators are also less common and this is leading to problems

Push librarians to think always about MEASURING....exit tickets, pre- and post-assessments, running records,etc

Judi moreillen wants ideas for what could be studied for hard data about the processes we teach kids,  what data can be directly tied to what we do AND keep us collaborating, and does measuring skills (which is easy to measure) really give great feedback on what we do best?

ALA midwinter Philly

Cold, slushy and full of cool librarians.....Sharon Hamer, Amy Short, Jennifer Kelley Reed, and I are here for midwinter meetings.  Most of midwinter is about meetings - AASL Affiliate Assembly, L4L learning and a host of workshops.  Lots of nice informal talks too as we run into people from MLS, MLBC, Horn Book and colleagues from around the country - all of whom have great ideas that I love to borrow and bring back home.  For example, the legislative arm of ALA showed some great promotional videos that Amy Bloom and the Advocacy Committee could use as exemplars for our work in Massachusetts.  We always find some good stuff to bring home.