Doo-doo-DOO-doo, Doo-doo-DOO-doo

(First, it’s been over a year since I blogged!!  I see I had started a piece twice – once when I was at ALA – I should’ve posted that one.  I should do better.)

I’m home on a snow/ice day (snice day?) and working on a presentation I’m doing this Friday with my dissertation advisor at the Nebraska Reading Association conference called, “Diversity in Rural Classroom Libraries:  Build Your Classroom Culture Through the Books on Your Shelf .”  It’s mostly for classroom teachers, but obviously I come at it from a librarian point of view.  But while I was eating breakfast with my husband (a mailman, so he has Presidents’ Day off), we started a friendly argument on one of my biggest pet peeves, when people put commas and periods outside of quotation marks, and depending on the sentence, exclamation points and question marks too.

It should be:

Hans Gruber said, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.”  NOT
Hans Gruber said, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho”.
If we’re considering question marks or exclamation points, it might differ.  If I were asking a question about a line, it might be outside the quotation mark:
Did Hans Gruber say, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho”?
But if the question is part of what you are quoting, it goes inside the quotation mark:
John McClane asked, “Glass?  Who gives a shit about glass?”
And same goes for exclamation points:
John McClane looked out the broken window and called out, “Welcome to the party, pal!”
It’s inside the quotation mark because what John was saying was an exclamation.

John McClane looked out the broken window and called out, “Welcome to the party, pal!”

But this is also correct:
I can’t believe she said, “You should use quotes from Die Hard“!
I think my family argues this with me to piss me off, honestly, but my husband swore that he was taught it goes on the outside.  He thought maybe the standard for it had changed.  So I decided to prove him wrong.  We decided the New York Times would have had it correct, so I went to their TimesMachine and found some old articles to prove my point.  I used “librarians” as my search term, just because.  I found this:
Well that’s great, because it shows the period inside the quotation mark (last sentence) and it had me thinking about diversity as far as religious books go.  In the above article, the quoted librarian said that Catholics would like some books on the ALA Religious Books Round Table (wonder when that RT went away?), but some they wouldn’t like, while Protestants would like some and dislike others.  I discussed this with my daughter who said, “It’s like in Blues Brothers – we have both kinds of religion, Catholic and Protestant!”  (Obviously paraphrasing.)  I thought this would be an important point to make, when we talk about diversity we often think of race and sexuality first, but religion can come into play, too, especially in a high school library.  A mentor of mine, Becky Pasco of University of Nebraska-Omaha, reminded me once in a class the importance of making sure your high school library has books for religious kids as well.  You might think that since most kids in my rural Iowa library likely identify as Christian that that wouldn’t be difficult to do, but honestly, most YA fiction kids want to read is not geared to the adherent.  But even so, when we do make a point to put books for the adherent teen in our collection, we can’t assume they are only Catholic or Protestant.

ANYWAY, I decided this was all a good point to make for the presentation, at least for a couple of slides.  So I wanted to get the image from the movie where she paraphrased the line.  The scene actually goes like this:

Jake:  What kind of music do you usually have here?
Waitress:  Oh we got both kinds! Country and western!
I found it without too much trouble and went to the original post (here) to see who had it up:
I read the post -Aaron D. Wolf, the blogger, wrote about as a religion writer, he straddles the line of not offending this sect and that sect when it comes to his friends.  He wrote:

The truth is, I know a lot of people from diverse backgrounds.  I’ve lived many lives.  I’m interested in a lot of things.  I’m blessed to have many friends.  And I don’t normally choose to bring up the thorniest of subjects when I’m with any one particular friend or set of friends.  Except maybe the intrinsic value of a fried-baloney sandwich, which I harp on even with those who find it disgusting. . . .

Posts on any of these topics are likely to offend someone.  Please feel free to add a comment if you like—agree or disagree.

As Francis Schaeffer used to say, shake up the bottle, and we’ll see what bubbles forth.

Or, as LL Cool J says, if you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains.

Then, as I am wont to do, I go down to the comments.  And honestly, push me over with a feather.  The first one says:
I had to go up and make sure I agreed with Polly on how Mr. Wolf punctuated his piece.  I figured it’d be correct or I wouldn’t have thought it was well-written, which I did.  Of course it was punctuated correctly.  It’s just weird how what goes around comes around, even in the matter of an hour or two.

But my friends, THIS is how I don’t get anything accomplished on snow/ice days.

Oh now I better find out when the ALA quit having a Religious Books Round Table.  That won’t take but a minute . . .


My take on makerspaces

From time to time, people ask me about makerspaces.  Instead of recreating the wheel each time, I thought I’d write it all here so I can just send them to my blog!


So to me, a makerspace is a community center with tools, the community in this case being the students and staff at the school.  I don’t have a soldering iron at my elementary makerspace, but I do in my secondary one.  The tools have to be age-appropriate for the audience.

And the tools in a makerspace are varied.  I share Kristin Fontichiaro’s list all the time.  When I first got started, I gave that list to a few students and asked them what we should get.


And do get student involvement!  The maker movement is all about empowering students.  Let it be *their* makerspace by letting them have decision-making power.  I actually have a Makerspace Club, and we fundraiser and do events and all of that.  They make most of the decisions.  But just by themselves, makerspaces can help lessen the digital – or resource – divide.  I have students who got Lego Mindstorms and Makey Makeys and Wacom tablets and 3D pens for Christmas.  Let’s share those sorts of things with the kids who didn’t find those under the tree.

The one thing at the elementary level that I’ve struggled with is getting teachers to see the makerspace as more than just *my* thing.  It’s in a space in the library, we have classes most all the day in the library itself so it’s difficult for teachers to use the space or resources in here.  This spring and summer, I’m going to work to make it more accessible for teachers and students, so they can check out materials.  Barcode numbers and due dates they understand.  (I’ve already started some – I have a Makey Makey checked out to a 4th grader and her parents right now.  She’s going to meet me next week and tell me all about it.)

But even if I succeed in getting the tools in classrooms, the fact is, not every teacher will use those tools.  Elementary teachers are so stinking busy and I honestly feel guilty asking them to put anything more on their plates.  So we do “Maker Week” each month, where students come for their regular Library/Technology special class but instead of what we usually do, we do maker activities.  Those have varied from coding to fusing plastics, robots to braiding yarn, marble roller coasters (with toilet paper tubes) to stop motion videos to marbling paper (that’s this month’s activity).  We hold a maker night a few months of the year and that is for kids and their parents.  We don’t get a huge turn out to that but that’s okay.  I think the people who come get a lot out of it.


Author photo. All rights reserved.

I think kids sometimes get the message that they aren’t in charge of their learning.  It’s all do this and do that, without giving kids ownership of any of it.  I think the library can be instrumental in giving them the message that they are in charge of their own learning.  We can do that through makerspaces, with the type of existential learning that can occur there.  (We can also do that through fighting for our students’ intellectual freedom, but that’s a whole other blog post!)

At the secondary level, makerspaces are a bit easier to set up and for students to use – they have more free time than elementary students – but then it’s on you to do the marketing.  Your audience doesn’t come to you in a specials class – you have to go get them.  Have an assembly, have making contests, do little workshops on making a craft or treat for a holiday.  Keep the makerspace in front of the kids all the time.

OK, so I’ve convinced you.  Now what?  First, educate yourself on the benefits of a makerspace, and formulate a loose plan.  Do you have a room you could put it in?  A corner?  I did a case study on a high school makerspace that is situated in two different corners of the library.  It wasn’t a separate room or anything, just a cart with a bunch of craft supplies accessible to the kids and then a green screen on the wall with a iPad on a tripod.  It really doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it’s probably better to start not that way.  (That library also has Lego Mindstorms and that sort of thing kept away in the back for kids to check out for library use.)  Look around for funding sources – fundraising, material donations, grants.  Then go to your administrators and talk to them about makerspaces and tell them what you’ve figured out.  Maybe they’ll give you some money to get started.


See the other makerspace posters I made here.

If you’re asked to do a makerspace, make sure you have help.  I could not do this without my full-time paras at each building.  They’re my eyes and ears on what the kids do every day, what they’re using, what they’re not, what’s giving them fits.  I’m not always there.

But remember, you and your paras don’t have to know everything.  Think of it this way – librarians are great at facilitation – giving their patrons the books and internet access and meeting space and even cake pans they need (well, North Liberty (IA) Public Library does!). Have we read every book?  Well, I haven’t.  This is simply one more thing we’re facilitating . . . tools.  It doesn’t mean we have to be the resident experts – let our patrons, especially our student patrons – teach us a thing or two.  That’s where their real learning begins. (But safety first, of course.  See ¶2 above, ” I don’t have a soldering iron at my elementary makerspace.”)

Finally, I think Dale Dougherty, current leader of the maker movement (Seymour Papert has the title of “Father of the Maker Movement) said it best:

Kids today are disengaged and bored in school, and as a result, many see themselves as poor learners. We should be framing things in our schools not just in terms of “how do we test you on that?” but on “what can you do with what you know?” When you’re making something, the object you create is a demonstration of what you’ve learned to do, thus you are providing evidence of your learning.” (Dougherty (2012).  The maker movement.  Innovations, 7(3), 11-14.)

Sometimes, librarians will talk about makerspace classes and challenges and grades . . . that’s just not how I do things.  Makerspaces really should provide existential learning opportunities, giving students a safe place to fail.  Dougherty stated, “If schools don’t get the spirit of [the Maker Movement], I don’t think it will benefit them a whole lot” (as cited in Herold, B.  (2016).  Maker momentum.  Education Week, 35(35), 28-30.)  But when they do?  The sky’s the limit.

(And that shushing thing?  You’ll have to give that up.  Makerspaces are usually loud and messy.  But so is learning.)

Taylor, Laura. ‘Day 174: Amazing Push-Button Shushing Action!” CC BY 2.0

My Dad, the Maker

You might know that one of my passions is the maker movement. I speak about makerspaces often, and I plan for my dissertation to be on the subject. Truth be told, though, I’m really not much of a maker myself. I mean, I cook, but going off-script, eschewing my cookbook collection, is actually out of my comfort zone. I’ve made baskets but it’s been more than a decade since I did that. I’ve sewn before, but I haven’t done mending in ages, let alone straight-up sewing. Oh well. That’s actually something I stress when I present on the topic – that you don’t have to be a maker yourself to have a makerspace. It’s about facilitating the work and creativity of others, and I definitely can do that. 

But the recent Make issue got me thinking. It has a piece about leathercraft. Leathercraft?!  My dad used to do that. He would order these Tandy kits and make wallets and belts and that sort of thing. It seems very 1970s-esque, so I was surprised to see it in the bible of the maker movement. 

And my dad did woodworking.  Turh be told, my dad was a little competitive and when my brother took shop class, my dad decided to take up woodworking. He made me a beautiful oak desk that I still have, and will always treasure. 

The epitome of his making was, of course, his house that he literally built with his own hands. When I became an adult and someone would tell me that they were building a house, I quickly learned that that did not mean that they were building it themselves, like my dad did with the help of his dad and sons, but they were paying someone to do so. Later, he remodeled the kitchen and made all new cabinets. Not buy, but he made them himself. Really fancy ones, too. 

You know, I still have those basketry supplies. Maybe I should get those out . . . 

RIP, Dad. The original maker in my life. 


Lion Love

A special education teacher recently asked for a children’s book that had a strong storyline for an upper elementary student to identify actions and consequences in text.  I walked her to the picture book section of my library (which looks like this):


And scanned for books.  I quickly found one of my favorites:


Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, with pictures by Kevin Hawkes.  It’s the story of a lion that happens to find his way into the public library and all that happens – good and bad – because of it.

But that got me thinking of another picture book that has a pretty substantial storyline, again about a lion and libraries:




Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty.  It won the Caldecott Medal in 1939.

Well, then THAT got me thinking of pairing up these great lion books with a nonfiction text:



Lions:  Life in the Pride by Adele Richardson.  The series from Capstone Publishing, Wild World of Animals, is really popular.  We have 29 of the books in the series, which isn’t even all of them.  (You can see the ones we do have here.)

It’s fun pairing up books like this!



Book Review

Descriptions of Heaven by Randal Eldon Greene is the story of a small family dealing with an impending grief. Death looms large in this novella, where the protagonist, Robert, must say goodbye to his wife, Natalia, whose body is riddled with cancer. Several poignant scenes stay in the mind long after the words pass, including when the couple takes their young son to their annual pumpkin patch visit and Robert encounters an old friend. A cerebral read, Greene’s ethereal prose matches the heady topic, and his characterization is impressive, especially considering the truncated format. I knew the ending before I began, but in this case that isn’t a complaint. In fact, had Greene done otherwise, I would have felt cheated as a reader. When reading Descriptions of Heaven, make sure to have your dictionary nearby because you’ll definitely need it. Greene’s offering is a strong contribution to the literary fiction genre and portends a promising career for this young author.

Ranganathan & the 21st Century Library

I did a “Tech Talk” for a class I’m currently taking, and I thought I’d put it up here in written form on my blog (that I’ve ignored lately).

S.R. Ranganathan

You’ve probably never heard of him, but this guy is one of the foremost leaders of my field.  You see, I’m a teacher librarian, and S.R. Ranganathan is regarded as the father of library science of India.  Now I’m not Indian, yet his 5 laws of library science are as relevant today as when he articulated them in 1931.  In fact these laws really encapsulate my philosophy of what my library should be.

I’m Christine Sturgeon, and let’s re-imagine libraries for the 21st century.


Chicago Architectural Photographing Co. photo.

Listen, I get it.  Libraries?  Who needs libraries when you can get information at the literal push of a button?  And librarians?  Oh right, those women who shush if you’re being too loud and who wear cardigan sweaters and reading glasses and their hair in a bun.

OK, so I resemble that remark.  But let me say two things.  Men can be librarians, and I don’t like to shush.  I mean, sometimes it’s necessary, but I really try to avoid it.  And the thing is, libraries are a lot more than repositories of books these days. If you haven’t been to a library lately, you’re missing out.

shushing librarian

And librarians?  We’re much more than our stereotype.


So back to Ranganathan.

He was a mathematician-turned-librarian who actually hated his job at first.  He was used to being a college professor and the traditional library was just so quiet and lacking in energy.  So he went off for training overseas and he came back with a newfound vision of what his library should be.  He wanted it to be the intellectual and cultural center of his campus.  He was definitely a man ahead of his time.

But he was a man of his time, too.  He traveled by steamship and he corresponded with Melvil Dewey, the other father of library science.  And you’ll notice he’s a bit old fashioned in his language, but we can fix that.

So here’s the first one.  Books are for use.

Books are for use

Image from

Like I said, libraries are a lot more than books, so let’s change that to

Library resources are for use

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I mean, I love books, don’t get me wrong.  I want a strong print collection, and there’s nothing better than preschool storytime.  But we’re more.  I know of libraries here in Iowa that check out vegetable seeds or laptop computers or bicycles or puppets or cake pans.  In my own library, we have a 1,000 books before kindergarten program and we check out backpacks to little people with 10 preschool level books to be read to them at home.

So here’s the second law.

Every reader his book

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Again, it’s not only books, and we’re not all men.  So that becomes:

Every patron their library resource

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Sounds simple enough.  If you come into the library, you should be able to find what you’re looking for.  My high school’s science teachers have their students read a literary nonfiction book on a science topic over the trimester, so we have over 100 books, everything from Silent Spring to The Physics of Star Trek. 

And the PE teacher, Mr. Harman, he wanted to better communicate with a student who uses ASL, so I asked a friend and he suggested I get these cards:

ASL flash cards

Image from Amazon

And I did, and these are available for checkout in my library.  So yes, sometimes resources are books, except when they’re not.

Then there’s my daughter, with me, and she had a high school reading class.  She had to do a project on a book she read, and she read World War Z.  She decided to do a zombie puppet show, and she found a Youtube video that showed her how.  A trip to the fabric store and $80 later, she’s ready to go.  But there was a problem.  Now this is important.  I want you to know I’m a woman with a sewing machine, but I’m also a woman who didn’t know where her power cord was.  So what to do?  Abby went to the home ec teacher and used one of hers. Great.  The thing is, what if Abby didn’t have a study hall?  What if they didn’t get along?  What if the home ec teacher was really territorial about her tools?

Instead, what if we have a space in the school where kids can use resources like a sewing machine, a video camera, a 3D printer, a vinyl cutter, to do school projects.  To do things for 4H or Girls Scouts or just because they want to.  We have a place like that and it’s called a


Image by Josh Anderson, used with permission

I have a makerspace in both the elementary and secondary libraries, and libraries across the country are increasingly putting them into their spaces.  I think it’s changing the very definition of libraries and doing so in a positive way.

So here’s the third law:

Every book its reader

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Just a little tweaking, and we get

Every library resource its patron

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Which this just means, we try not to waste money.  The things we buy we buy because someone asked for it, or we believe with the right marketing, that they’ll use it.  So that really puts the responsibility on us.

Now the 4th law:

Save the time of the reader

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Again, we’re not just about books, so that becomes

Save the time of the library patron

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One big way of doing this is thinking about how we organize our books.  I use the bookstore model, so fiction books are organized by genre, like mystery or romance or whatever.  So when I have a class of 25 5th graders come in who each need a mystery book, I don’t have to rack my brain to remember who wrote Encyclopedia Brown (Donald Sobol, as if), and just point them to the mystery section.  And nonfiction is done using not Dewey Decimal – sorry, Melvil – but the BISAC method, like bookstores use.  So there’s cookbooks and philosophy and travel, and these are all put alphabetically by topic.  Frankly I think it’s a lot easier to find a book in my library than a bookstore!

And of course the makerspace saves time for patrons.  Not having to rush around to find who has a sewing machine you can borrow has its advantages.

The fifth law then is

The library is a growing resource

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And this one needs no changing.

This is why I think Dr. Ranganathan was brilliant.  Even 85 years ago, he understood that the library would change.  I frankly believe he would approve of seed libraries and 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten programs and makerspaces.  For libraries to be relevant in this century, we have to continue to grow.  And to all of you I say, come to the library and check us out.

The library - a great place to get checked out

Image by Mental Floss


Currently in June