Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Random Thoughts: Things are Looking Up

Random Thoughts: Things are Looking Up: The Texas Association of School Librarians has put us firmly on the right track.  Their idea is simply to plan on posting a message via s...

Saturday, September 16, 2017


Disappointment is a humbling emotion.

I spent a great deal of time and energy in 2015-2016 designing a new library for my school.
I researched AASL and ALA publications and drew various renditions for months. I decided on an arrangement and labeled each subset of shelving with the book range it would contain.  My design had three separate sections - one for k-2; a makerspace, and a space for general instruction. I was very proud of my design, and was elated - no, on Cloud 9- when the architect used my design for the basis of the final blueprints.

Yesterday, I saw the completed result.  My heart dropped. I felt betrayed, angry, depressed, disregarded and tossed aside, and a myriad of other feelings I cannot begin to catalog.

Here is what I drew:

Notice how each section is marked off by a range of moveable shelving.

These are the architect's rendering:

My design was rearranged, but key functionality was maintained.

What actually arrived is a shell:  a room with bookcases along each wall, a circ desk that is double the desired size with a book drop on the wrong side of the desk. There are no interior shelves that support the three defined areas of instruction.  There are no predefined sections.

In short, all the time I spent was for naught; worse yet, dismissed by someone who "knew better."

I am sure this post reads like I am whining and feeling sorry for myself (I was). I have a certain deal of respect in the library community and many seek my advice and opinion.  Did I ever think my design would be cast aside?  My ego has taken a tumble for sure.

This is a very sad cautionary tale,not because of  comeuppance, but because of the lack of respect for school librarians as professionals who understand curriculum and the needs of students and teachers.  If you have the chance for a remodel and are fortunate enough to give valued input in the design, stick with all details until the end.  There are still too many who feel a library is a room with tables, chairs, and books but have no understanding of function.  Stick with it.  I never in a million years dreamt the architect's design would be disregarded when it came to ordering shelving.  Never.

Yesterday my emotions flowed.  Today I am in control.  But I am so sorry for my school's loss.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Opportunities of Early Retirement

When I retired as an elementary school librarian in December, I was looking forward to leisurely days of reading, gardening, learning and writing of all my experiences. I wanted to sit by the wood stove with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the snowfall.

 I intended to continue working 19 hours a week at a public library, handling social media,writing newsletters and creating adult programs, but in no way did I imagine I would be doing what I am now:

  • Working almost full time at the public library, informally supervising teen and children's programs, and being an event coordinator, in addition to my other responsibilities;
  • Teaching short-term classes in technology at the adult education center;
  • Teaching productivity software professional development at a Fortune 500 company; and
  • Creating or revising courses for online teacher professional development.
I have a couple additional projects (job opportunities)on the horizon, and I have been nominated as secretary of our state library association.

While I didn't plan on any of this, I am extremely excited about all the opportunities that have come my way. It has been interesting viewing librarianship and teaching through these different lenses.  I am very proud to see that my degree and skills are indeed marketable in other areas than the school library.  It is gratifying that my curiousity about all other work experiences are being sated.

By doing this,  my growth as an information professional continues. Professional growth should be an ongoing goal for all of us. I believe these opportunities have opened up for me because of my ongoing professional development experiences.

To my colleagues contemplating retirement, I would say that other opportunities are available, if you so desire, but to be offered these experiences and opportunities, one must step out of his comfort zone and be seen and heard as an information professional, a change agent and a leader in your present position.

One has to believe that his professional opinions have value. One must articulate these opinions and take the lead in negotiating change. Choosing to be a leader opens many doors of opportunity.

As a colleague told me, don't wait to be asked to the table.  Grab a chair and sit down. Get your name out there.

As a school librarian, I did not advocate to call attention to myself.  I advocated for best practices in school libraries and for equality among the counties in my state.  I would like to think this is what got me noticed.

Probably in three to five years I will really retire.  In the meantime, I am learning more everyday and enjoying these opportunities.  If the snow falls heavy one day, I most likely will have the flexibility to sit by the fire and enjoy that hot chocolate.  I hope you can, too.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Value of Becoming Information Creators

For all we have learned about Bloom and Marzano, we are reluctant to employ higher level thinking skills in lesson design.

Call it assimilation or application of knowledge, or content creation, students show true understanding of content when allowed to create a product of their own design as a formative assessment.  Yet it is a rare thing for teachers on a regular basis to let students design their own assessments.

There are many reasons for this - time being a main issue.  To groom students to be able to work independently or in groups to produce content requires great patience and persistance.  Many might feel they cannot spend precious time of activities that are unorganized.  But organization takes time and practice.  I assert by a third attempt using a consistent approach, students would be well on their way to managing themselves appropriately.

I think another key reason teachers might refrain from this method of assessment is personal lack of understanding of all content creation might entail.  Technology advances quickly, and while most teachers are trained in integration, few practicing teachers have experimented in tools to create unique content for their students. Teachers expect to be the experts and know the how-tos of tasks required of their students.  Teacher professional development is falling behind.

Ironically, in the early days of web integration (ca. 1996-2000), web design for teachers was an important piece of professional development.  But technology moved faster and before teachers were comfortable in designing their own platforms, content providers with premade platforms came along, and the teacher training changed from creation to integration.  Now we must change back.

I firmly believe that teacher-made materials are better for students understanding, because the teacher is the expert in her content area and knows how to deliver that content to her students.  Just as I dislike the end of the textbook test, I feel most commercially produced content only grazes the surface of content a teacher hopes to cover.  By creating their own teaching products and assessments, students are bound to know more.

I am thinking about this because I am in a unique situation: I teach Office 365 classes for teacher professional development and also for corporate staff development.  The demands expected of the corporate clients are much higher than for school personnel.  The reason?  School personnel rely on reusing the works of others within the bounds of fair use (a terribly misunderstood concept), while the corporate world takes no chances and requires original work.  Would it not ultimately be to teachers' benefit to insist that they only use orginal content in their Sways and Mixes?  

In a world that is awash in multimedia, we should ensure that teachers have the skills to best model their expertise.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I Love Being a Librarian

 I believe that to be effective, people must love their work. I love being a librarian.  While most see this as an old-fashioned, stereotyped profession, I disagree.  I see librarianship as the most adaptable profession imaginable.

In December I retired from the school library position I had held for 21 years.  I truly loved the job, the people and especially the children. Over the course of the 21 years, my school transformed from baseband Internet to a T3 line with wifi connections.  Our PCs moved from dumb clients to 1:1 Chromebooks for each child in grades three through five, with other grades being added in coming years.  The philosophy of the library moved through two versions of Information Power to Standards for the 21st Century Learner. Collaboration, tech integration and information literacy skills became the focus of the library program.  So many federal mandates came and went.  There were truly more changes than I can remember.

It was only for health reasons that I retired. Now I serve as a part-time program outreach librarian at a public library.  My collaborations take me out into the community to spread library resources to everyone possible.  It is exciting to make new contacts and to help people.

There are so many things going on in all kinds of libraries today.  One can never be bored. I have so many projects on the burner now that I could work 72 hours a week and not be close to running out of things to do.  It is all about offering more to the public and making sure that all members of the community have the opportunity to benefit from library services.  I love my job!

When I worked in the schools, there were those who felt calling me a librarian was an insult.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Librarians throughout history have dealt and embraced every change that has come at them.  I think change is exciting.  Bring it on!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Enter the Public Library: Libraries Provide Only Opportunities for Some in Applying for Jobs

"Get a job!" is the sentiment many have toward those who are perceived to be living off the system of entitlements.  In today's digital world, that is easier said than done.

Those who have not been in the job search arena in the past 10 years may be unaware that most jobs require applications to be submitted via computer, rather than by hand. The lack of a home computer, coupled with possibly insufficient reading and digital literacy skills, put those most in need of a job at a disadvantage.

Enter the public library.  Not only does the library have the digital tools necessary to fill out online applications, we have staff that can help applicants shift through job postings, help construct resumes and cover letters, and fill out the necessary applications.  Patrons needing extra help can Reserve-a-Librarian specifically to work one-on-one with him.

The digital divide, including the equipment, the connections, and the skills to use them, are getting wider.  In order to have a true democracy, all citizens should be equipped with the same basic skills.  Being able to access the job market is one of those skills.  I am thankful public libraries remember their roles as a people's university and are able to help bridge some of the issues confronting our citizens.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

In West Virginia, the Digital Divide Just Got Wider

It will take weeks before a final account is made, but as of now, at least two public libraries in West Virginia are a total loss as a result of the flooding that occurred in the state last weekend.  I am sure when the count is over, several school libraries will be on the casualty list.  What scares me to death is that they won't be replaced.

The southern part of West Virginia is arguably the poorest, and this is the area that received the rainfall that resulted in heavy losses.  Many of the counties in this area did not have school libraries to lose.  Local boards made the tough decisions long ago to cut libraries and library positions in response to dwindling income.  Now, the decision would be easy not to replace damaged school libraries; there were no funds to operate the existing libraries and now there will be none to rebuild.

While I worry deeply about what this means to a profession I fiercely believe in, I worry more about what it means for society.  If knowledge is power, and digital access is our source of knowledge, a lot of students in our state are without the necessary tools to compete economically or scholastically against students from more privileged areas.  By no means are these children receiving an equal education to those in the northern part of the state.  How long can this disparity go unaddressed?
To ignore this issue is to be a willing partner in the oppression of the poor everywhere.

Today Hilda K. Weisburg wrote a post outlining the digital access disparities among affluent communities, the rural, the urban and the tribal.  She noted many key aspects, including poverty (the inability to afford home access) and lack of broadband in remote areas.  Her suggestion, (though certainly she did not suggest that this would solve all our access problems), was to call our legislators and ask them to enact legislation that helps alleviate disparity among school districts via ESSA.  This certainly is good advice, but it needs to go further.

When legislation is crafted, it needs to remove loopholes.  Money cannot be redirected to other purposes.  Kids need libraries and someone to teach them how to evaluate the rhetoric that is tossed about daily.  The essence of the school library in this scheme cannot be bypassed or redefined for the convenience of a district.  The language has to be firm.

Knowledge is power. Libraries exist to bring power to all.  Don't leave these poor communities in the dark.