My vision for school libraries

Perhaps you’ve come to my page as you consider your vote in the Iowa Association of School Librarians election.  Great!  Glad to have you.  I hope you will follow my blog and come back routinely.  I try to blog at least a couple of times a week.  If you blog, too, please comment and link back to yours; I’ll reciprocate.

I believe that school libraries should be the center – symbolic, if not physical – of the school.  Schools are places of learning, and libraries are repositories of the learning of all mankind.  Of course, access to that learning has changed tremendously in the decades since I graduated from high school (Dike High School, Class of 1988).  And yet, libraries still serve an important function in our schools.  

One thing that I’ve done in my time at Manson Northwest Webster Schools is to work to create Learning Commons environments at both the elementary and secondary centers.  This week at the Barnum center, third graders came into the library and used the space as an extension of their classroom as they did their Daily Five literacy stations.  Also this week, students brought their parents into the library after their conferences were done, to proudly show them the many changes that we made this summer.  Our guidance counselor, Pam Bleam, said, “The changes to the library make me ask, ‘Why didn’t we do this twenty years ago?’ It’s hard to believe what paint, talent, rearranging, and fresh new energy can do to a familiar space.”  It really is true.  We’re not done yet, either – my associate, Donna, and I are looking at genrefying the fiction, and bookstore-modeling the nonfiction.  Next summer!  (Granted, we are blessed with a generous gift from a benefactor, and a tremendously supportive administration.)

Changes at the high school are no less exciting.  In fact, it was the library in Manson that was first tackled. What has happened since, though, is more exciting – students come in to the library each period to study, to collaborate, to relax, to talk about the latest game or current events.  That reminds me – I need to count students!  I’m sure, though, that we’ve gone from about fifteen students a day at the beginning of last year to over a hundred these days.  Mondays often find students coming in, checking out new books or magazines.  There will be even bigger changes soon as the FCCLA makes the finishing touches on – what used to be my office – a coffee bar, once a week serving not just flavored coffees, but breakfast pizza, cinnamon rolls, smoothies, and more.

Another thing I think we need to do as teacher librarians is to reach out to new teachers.  If elected as IASL vice-president/president-elect, I will reach out to our teacher education programs across the state and seek to put teacher librarians on their radar.  When I was in UNI’s 2+2 program not too long ago (I was a non-traditional student), there were many opportunities for collaboration with teacher librarians, although it seemed I was the one, as a student, who repeatedly mentioned that.  I had several professors who, when pressed, sort of romanticized teacher librarians, as if we belong to some idealized past.  Perhaps we are part of their memories – which is great! – but we must be part of their realities, too.  Teacher education programs have a lot to focus on, yes, but I believe teacher librarians can help.  

At any rate, one thing that I’ve done at MNW is to hold “Lunch ‘n Learns” (last year) and now “Teacher Investigations,” both dedicated time in the library for new and seasoned teachers to learn about new technology, to share what is working in their rooms, and to help each other in educating the children at our school.  This is exactly the vision I have for Iowa’s teacher librarians.  I know I already do this through Twitter, through reading librarians’ blogs, through the IASL convention – learn about new technology and ideas, share what is working at my library, and, with other teacher librarians, work together to educate the children of Iowa’s schools.  

It’s so easy as a teacher librarian to feel isolated, but it doesn’t have to be.  IASL is there to help.  

I humbly ask for your vote as IASL vice president/president-  at large elect (that’s what you get for blogging at 5 a.m).


Book party

I went to visit my mom on Saturday, and we went to the annual Lions Club book sale at the mall.  It was completely unorganized!  Still, I found several good books:

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen – I already own this, but I’ll keep it for my daughter’s college graduation in the spring.

Barron’s 501 Russian Verbs  – I was going to give this to my daughter who took 2 years of Russian at college, but her brother, who was with me, said he wanted it.  He’s learning Chinese and wants to learn Russian, too.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix – Haddix is very popular at the elementary school (her Beyond the . . . series particularly) and we don’t have this one, so hopefully it will get read.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – the cover is pretty dirty, but it will be easy enough to clean.  I don’t know if I own this or not; if I do, I’ll donate it to the high school library.

Questions Children Ask, from 1968.  Check out an interior page next . . .]

Loved the part about the moon – one year before man first walked on it.

The Girl on the Floor Will Help You, by Lavina Russ – 1969.  “This is a wise, witty, and wonderful book about people who are concerned about books – children’s books, chiefly.”  Sounds like it’s meant for my vintage books about libraries collection.

Oh, also this for $1, Frank Sinatra Beginnings.  My favorite Pandora station is Michael Buble, so I do listen to quite a bit of Frank!

Then we went to the public library’s bookstore.  It’s a lot easier to find books here, but where’s the challenge in that?

For Everything a Season by Philip Gulley – I enjoy his Harmony series about a Quaker minister and his life in a small town, so I figure I’ll like this.

The Well-Educated Mind:  A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer.  I’ll read this as soon as I’m done with my Greek and Roman Mythology class – I probably will be able to check off several items from this book with that course!

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.  These are very popular at the high school, so it won’t hurt to have an extra copy.

Wildlife Preserves:  A Far Side Collection by Gary Larsen.  I remember cutting out the cover cartoon from the Sunday paper when it first was published and bringing it to my typing teacher.  I thought it was very funny – preserves, preserves, get it?  She sighed philosophically and said, “Yes, that is just so true.”  I guess I was the one who didn’t get it!

Another Gary Larsen – Cows of our Planet.  I’ll put this and the previous collection at the high school library.

The Children’s Book of America by William J. Bennett

The Children’s Book of Heroes by William J. Bennett. 

Exploring Energy – a National Geographic book.  This is for the elementary library.

Calvin and Hobbes’ There’s Treasure Everywhere – this will go to the elementary library, too.

Oh I see I forgot two books (New Junior Cook Book and Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck).  But not a bad haul for $18!  (And the weekend isn’t even over yet . . . )

#itec12 wrap-up

Cross-posted on the Iowa Teacher Librarians Ning.

#itec2012 was held this week and what a fantastic experience it was!  It began for me on Monday, October 15, with so many good choices of conference sessions to choose from, it was a difficult decision.  Sessions were plentiful and varied, with options for teachers at all grade levels, technology coaches, technology directors, and administrators.  Sessions ran the gamut, from things for the most novice to very advanced, and for both the PC and Apple crowd.  

The sessions I attended:

  • Andrew Fenstermaker, “Tech Toolbox, K-2.”  Right away I learned something – I loved how he shared resources he uses in his classroom, with a mindmapping tool called Pearltrees.  I’m going to use this to keep track of options in different curricular areas and building levels.  Here’s his Pearltree – isn’t that cool?!

  • TL Karen Lampe, “Bringing history to life with primary source documents.”  I was already familiar with the Library of Congress resources – although she taught me some tricks there – but really taught me about the resources from the National Archives and how those can be used in classes.  Thanks, Karen!  (Here are her resources.)

  • Stacy Behmer, “Using Chrome in the Classroom.”  This was perfect for me as MNW has implemented 1:1 Chromebooks at the 4-6 grade level.  (Her resources are available here.)

  • Aaron Cook, “Recording better video for educators.”  This was extremely timely for me, and he was flexible enough to change his presentation to address the things the audience needed to know.  He had a pretty intimidating set-up – TV station looking cameras, professional lighting, etc., and yet, I went away more confident in my ability to do video with students.  (Here are his resources.
  • Roundtable discussion for technology coaches and integrationists.  The slated presenter was unable to come, so her friend and fellow tech coach stepped in.  This was a great experience to get ideas, ask questions, and network with people who do the same things we do.  That’s what conferences are for!  (Are you going to #iasl13?  You should!)
Round table – get it?


  • Layne Henn, “Free your students from the bondage of school boredom!”  A fun way to start a new day at the conference,  He gave us the mantra, “Technology is good, but people are better.”  Technology is just a tool, but it’s a tool that we can use to engage students and to build relationships with them.
  • Leigh Zeitz, “Readings, watchings, listenings, and doings:  Making learning meaningful for your Millenial students.”  He stated there are 5 Rs to engage the students born from 1984-2001:  Research-based methods, relevance, rationale, relaxed, and rapport.  Are you doing this in your library?  (His resources can be found on his blog here.)
  • Denise Krefting, Lynn McCertney, “Changing teaching with TPCK and Bloom’s.”  More than other session, I wasn’t sure what I was going to learn here.  The ladies did a nice job of making us work, delving into the Iowa Core and doing some backwards design.  

There were two amazing keynote speakers: 
  • Marco Torres, a social studies teacher from California who spoke about how technology can help empower students in their own learning, even in impoverished areas like his own.  He asked questions that really make me think, like, “What does YOUR evidence of love of learning look like? Is it love of learning or love of schooling? “  He took the old paradigm of learning (sorry, didn’t get that in my notes) and turned it own its head:  love of work + curiousity + access + multimedia (multipled by your PLN) = success.  Do I create remarkable moments for my students?  I’m going to work more on that.  

  • David Pogue, technology writer for the New York Times.  He showed us examples of “disruptive tech” – like the retina app (fix your wardrobe missteps before they happen), Twitteround (tells where people are that use Twitter), and Word Lens, an amazing language translation app that I’ve already downloaded.  He was the most dynamic presenter I’ve seen in ages – at the end, he played two songs with original lyrics for us on the piano, “I Write the Code that Makes the World Go Round”  and “Don’t Cry for Me Cupertino.”  Classic!  I should see if anyone has put it on YouTube yet!

Other fun:
  • Lunch was excellent, and it was great to meet and talk with librarians from around the state.  Many were talking about Shannon Miller’s Monday presentation which sounded amazing.  One said, “They could have put her in the biggest room here and every seat would have been taken!”  Thankfully, she and many others have put their presentations on the ITEC website, available here.
  • Checking out the vendors in the exhibit hall.  There was a great variety here and it was fun to catch up with some I hadn’t seen in awhile.  I needed to charge my computer so I didn’t get much swag . . .
  • Looking at the exhibits and purple ribbon winners in the exhibit hall
  • Finding new folks to follow on Twitter
  • Catching up with old friends and making new ones
I can’t wait until next year!

Top Ten Picture Book Authors

This week it’s top ten authors in x genre.  I’m actually not a big genre reader.  I’ll read any – after I took a Readers Advisory class and had to read a novel a week in different ones, from romance to horror to literary nonfiction (that was an amazing experience) – but I can’t pick any genre in which I have ten favorite authors.  Realistic fiction comes the closest, I suppose, but that seems sort of lame.  So picture books it is!

10. Brian Selznick

Normally, I wouldn’t call Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck picture books, but the Caledecott Committee did, so that’s good enough for me.

9. David Wisniewski 

I just discovered Wisniewski’s work when I was reshelving picture books.  His work, Golem, for which he won the 1997 Caldecott, is an artistic wonder of paper craft.  It’s a little dark for my picture book readers, though, so I added this title, Tough Cookie, to my fall book order.

8. Kevin Henkes

I know that Henkes has done a lot of other more popular work, like Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse and Kitten’s First Full Moon, but A Good Day is my favorite.  If there’s any book that I’d like to go cut up and make into gift wrap or posters, this is it.  

7. J. Klassen

This is a new favorite author.  This is Not My Hat continues the hat theme after the hit of 2011, I Want My Hat Back.  I feel a preschool storytime theme brewing . . . 

6. Jan Brett

Jan Brett’s books are an intricate delight, and truly a must-have for any children’s library.  I especially love that Brett has created signs for libraries and distributes these free on her website:  “Print as many as you wish.”  How cool is that!  (Smart too – get the librarians on your side, and they’ll buy all your books.)

5.  Quentin Blake

Although I’m featuring picture book authors, I have to include Quentin Blake here, just for his illustrations.  I wasn’t aware that he’s author/illustrator of many books in his own right.  I’ll have to check those out.  Blake, of course, illustrated many of Roald Dahl’s books, including most famously, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Check out his Rights of the Reader poster (with Daniel Pennac) – free for download here.

4.  Chris Van Allsburg

Van Allsburg’s portfolio is very deep – Jumanji, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, and The Mysteries of Harris Burdock.  The one above, though, is my favorite, for its almost ethereal images that evoke the exact emotions of the story.

3. Tad Hills

Truth be told, I’ve never read one of Tad Hills books – they are always checked out!  But after hearing of his generosity to a great cause – creating an original Christmas card for free – he has to be included on this list.  

2. Kate and Jim McMullan

This is a favorite book of mine to read out loud.  And how could it not be?  Know what I do when you’re asleep? / Eat your trash, that’s what.  I will say, though, they get to the near top of my list also for the reminder of another of their books popping up in my Amazon feed, with me just seeing the title.  I wondered what sort of book Amazon was suggesting I buy!

1.  David Wiesner

I’ve already talked about Wiesner, winner of the 2007 Caldecott for Flotsam, and before that, one in 2002.  Although there are other wordless books that have a less intricate of plot and perhaps are better choices for younger students, you have to hand it to Wiesner for boldly going where no one had gone (much) before.  Word is, Wiesner is working on a new book, called Mr. Wuffles.
  • Runners up:  Mo Willems, Eric Carle, Ludwig Bemelmans
  • What I don’t like:  Curious George, and most picture books published by a famous person who isn’t a writer – actor, television news anchor, singer, etc.  With a few notable exceptions.

Top 10 rewind: Top 10 books that make me think

10. Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan – This made me think, “Genetic engineering is dangerous.”  Also how great Johnny Appleseed was – he’s not exactly what you think!

9. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – This made me think, “Being teenager isn’t always great.”


8. My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen – This made me ask myself, “If I named a handful of events to symbolize my life, what would they be?”  Also, how absolutely great it is to share your life with dogs.

7. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith – Even if I’m mad at Grahame-Smith for how he ruined this book for the big screen (with that said, I’ve already pre-ordered the DVD), his book definitely made me think, “What if it’s true?”

6. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – This made me think, “I have no idea what my students’ lives are like at home.”

5. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer – This made me think, “Are we already on the road to El Patrón’s world?”

4. Night by Elie Wiesel – This made me think, “How can man do this to man?”  Also, “How did a generation live through these horrors?”

3. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich – This made me think, “I really have no idea what life is like for those around me.”  And it made me a better tipper.

2. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore (obviously) – This makes me think, “What one decision have I made that changed everything in my life?”

1.  The Giver by Lois Lowry – I refused to finish this book the first time I tried, it made me so angry.  I finished it eventually, and it makes me think, “Be careful what you wish for.” 

It’s Monday – What are you reading?

It’s Monday!  What are you reading?
Sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey
I have been busy reading this week – I finished The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (I was really surprised by the book, in a good but sad way), but most of my reading has been for my Coursera class.  I’ve suspended reading Tomatoland until my Kindle reappears as it’s gone missing in our house!
So this week, I’m reading:
The Odyssey, Fagles translation, chapters 9-16.  I plan to get this done before Sunday so I can actually watch all the videos before the quiz is due.
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling – I told my(adult) daughter she can read it when I’m done so I best hurry up on this one.
Anna Quindlen is one of my favorite authors so I was happy to see this available at the public library.
I love to read cookbooks!  I have Ree’s first book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks:  Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.  Although I do find the step by very slow step (“Here’s an egg,” e.g.) a bit annoying, I will say her cookbook gave me the courage to try chicken fried steak, one of my favorite dishes when I go out to a restaurant, and it was fabulous.
We have a stack of new books to add and this is one I definitely want to read.  I’m going to a couple of meetings in the next two weeks, so when I am here, we’re doing technology things with the classes, so no picture book reading for me with the students.  But this one looks great – I don’t want Donna to get all the fun!