Currently in June



Book Lovers Club

Someone asked on a teacher librarian listserv:
After seeing the excitement for Battle of the Books, I am convinced I could easily find a handful (to start) of upper elementary students (thinking grades 4-6) to start an elementary book club. I’m thinking they could bring their lunch in and we can eat and discuss their books – nothing formal or fancy, just relaxed and something extra for them to look forward to each week.  Does anyone have any experience with implementing a book club for students in these grades?
And per my usual, I started to write a long reply.  But I think it’s better as a blog post!  So I’ll just respond with a link to this.
Here are my kids in the spring of 2001, vacationing in Jekyll Island, Georgia:

Oh, aren’t they cute?

On the way home to Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee . . .
. . . we stopped at the Jimmy Carter National Historical Site in Plains, Georgia:

One thing at the historical site in President Carter’s old high school (which became his presidential campaign headquarters) was a picture of his principal, a steely woman named Julia Coleman, and mention that she helped lead a “Book Lovers Club.”  Huh, my kind of group, I thought.  I loved books, too.  That got me thinking.


So after spring break, the kids went back to school.  My two older daughters were in a combined 3rd-4th grade, and the teacher had asked for parent volunteers to help proctor the standardized tests.  So one day, my husband came, and the next I did.  (We were there in case someone had to leave the test all of a sudden, so Mr. Shafer could stay with the rest of the class.)  Of course, we brought books to read, in fact, I brought two, as I had just finished reading a book and I wasn’t sure which book I wanted to read next.

A little girl with a very strong Southern accent said, “Gosh, Libby!  Your daddy reads, and your momma reads too?  That’s weird!”


That’s weird!

And then THAT got me thinking more.  I decided I should start a book group for children, so naturally, I went to the librarian.  This was my children’s first year at Charlotte Elementary, after first enrolling them at Vanleer Elementary (this was after a few years of homeschooling).  The librarian there, Sandy Buckner, was awesome.  And I had in the back of my mind that someday I’d be a librarian.  I’d done some cool programs with Mrs. Buckner, and she liked me.  (She retired in 2005, and I wrote her a few years ago to tell her I became a school librarian, too.  She responded, a letter I cherish.)

So I went to this school’s librarian, who shall remain nameless.  (I checked; she’s not there anymore.  Good.)  She was extremely negative, responding, “How will you get many copies of the same book?  Our kids are poor!”  (Okay, point taken, there are poor students everywhere (though this school had nothing on Vanleer), and in no way, shape, or form, was this going to be a cost to parents or kids.  So that did help me recognize an issue I needed to address.  But honestly, woman.  You are a librarian.  Be a problem-solver.  [Another aside.  Once my girls had both forgotten their pencils to bring to Library class.  Because, you know, worksheets.  And she said to the whole class, “Oh, I guess the Sturgeons can’t afford pencils!”  I put this blog out on my signature line for my work email, so I’ll stay classy and won’t use the language I really want to use about her.  But that is not how you treat children.])

So I went to Ernestine Adams, who at the time was assistant principal.  (She’s now the director of elementary education there, which, I should say so, because she’s amazing.)  She’s a smart lady and knew a good deal when she saw one, so yes, of course I could start a book group, where kids could participate for free.  And get free breakfast treats too because yeah.  It was before school and I love donuts.


So, yes, I went to my personal hero, mentor, and friend, Tori Ross, a children’s librarian at the Edmondson Pike Branch of NPL, and she hooked me up with a new library card (I didn’t want to use my personal one, because you know, 25 item limit.)


It’s been 14 years and she hasn’t changed a bit.

We started the next fall, and the Book Lovers Club was open to fifth graders.

We read great books, like A Year Down Yonder, Black Beauty, A Single Shard, and Because of Winn-Dixie (among others).  I gave the students some options – books I could get 10-12 copies of – and the kids chose.

We met once a week before school.

One teacher came.  She didn’t know it was for kids, but we liked having her and encouraged her to come.  She mostly did.  Every week, about 10 students came, though there were some who didn’t come every time.
We made the yearbook!  I’ll post a picture when I find it.
At the end of the year, I made a book diary for the kids.  My daughter kept hers.

Poor Libby, we tease her about her handwriting.


Hey give me a break, it was Microsoft Publisher in 2002. I liked funky fonts and border art, okay?

All in all, it was a great experience, and I’d do it again.  If there wasn’t like, makerspace, and high school classes, and video production, and 1KB4K, and a thousand other things getting done and not getting done.
But things are different, too, so here are some things I’d do or have to consider:
*Was I so successful because I was an outsider?  Or because I’m just me?  wink  I would consider finding a parent volunteer to help, anyway.
*How to get the books?  Without a big public library system nearby, I’d have to rely on the AEA or borrowing from other school libraries, but that’s not going to get me very current books.  Maybe I’d fundraise to get new books?  Maybe if we did it monthly instead of weekly, the school would fund it?
*These days, I could get some titles as ebooks with unlimited simultaneous access (if I’m lucky).  But even if I can get books the kids want to read, who wants to read a novel on a Chromebook?  A Kindle is one thing, a Chromebook is quite another.
*Could I get as many students to participate?  The 10 or so regulars I had was a great number, but this was in a school with five classes per grade, i.e., about 125 students.  So 8%?  Is it worth the trouble in my school if I get only 4 students?
I don’t remember if that little girl who exclaimed that it was weird that my husband and I both read books participated or not.  I hope she did.  I do know that many of the kids didn’t have parents who read at home, and for that, I think I made a difference.  I should have continued to do it, but you know, life.
So, do you do a book group for students?  How do you get several copies of new titles?

Sioux City presentation

I’m presenting PD in the Sioux City School District!  It’s midnight and I’m just finishing up, so I won’t put my resources here quite yet – besides I hate to spoil the fun.  But here’s the link for the Padlet!

Here’s some raw (and one finished) video you can download.  They’re in Google Drive, just click on the link and choose download file.

For sound, go to Soundzabound on the Iowa AEA Online website, Free Music Archive, SoundBible, or FreeSound.

For images, try Library of Congress, Flickr Creative Commons, or Iowa AEA Online‘s iClipart for Schools.

Inadequate staffing in school libraries harms student achievement

I created this Pecha Kucha for a class in my doctoral program.  My problem statement is the title.  I’m thinking of changing my research focus from that exactly, because as I say below, the research has been done.  This is a settled question.  The problem now becomes how to get that message to stakeholders?  That feels a little squishy to me to be my research because I’m so close to it, as IASL Past President and Advocacy Chair, and the chair of ILA’s Governmental Affairs Committee.  So who knows.  But here it is, and at the bottom as a video:


This work, “School bus” is a derivative of “2007 International Corbeil School Bus” by dflirecop, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

People have argued for centuries about the purpose of school.  Is it to guide students to be good citizens and future leaders?  Or to help them gain job skills so they can support a family?  Is it to give students a true liberal arts education?


This work,“MNW Elementary Library,”is by Christine Sturgeon and is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Whatever the case, it seems the central role of school is to educate young minds.  So it’s only fitting that the school library – a repository of information, after all – should be the metaphorical if not physical center of the school.


“Day 174: Amazing Push-Button Shushing Action!” by Laura Taylor, used under CC BY 2.0.

Now, when I say “school library” you may have an outdated vision in your mind.  Let me assure you, today’s school libraries – and the  teacher librarians who lead them –  belie that stereotype.  School libraries can, should, and must be “safe, vibrant, energized information-rich environments” (Lewis & Loertscher, 2014, p. 48), led by professionals specially trained in information literacy.

Vision Statement Postcard

This work,“IASL Vision Postcard” created by Chelsea Sims, is used with permission.

And the state Department of Education knows it.  Their Vision for Iowa’s School Libraries reads, “Iowa’s best schools have library programs that engage the entire school community to elevate the learning experience for all.” It describes how teacher librarians teach students critical thinking and research skills, and how they “nurture curiosity to develop in students a passion for learning for life (Iowa DE, 2013, para. 8).


States with impact studies, 2000 – 2009, even more since This map was made at

In order to have that sort of impact, school library programs must be lead by full time certified teacher librarians.  Impact studies in many states, including Iowa, have demonstrated an increase in students’ standardized test scores and pleasure found in reading when a school has a full time teacher librarian (Lance, Schwartz, & Rodney, 2014; Lance & Hofschire, 2012; Lance & Hofschire, 2011; Lance, Rodney & Schwartz, 2010; Lance & Schwarz, 2012; Rodney, Lance, & Hamilton-Pennell, 2002). Many of these studies show these increases cannot be explained away by other school or community conditions.


Many of these impact studies were conducted by library consultant Keith Lance.  In 2009 he looked at data from the National Center for Education Statistics, “to document the impact of librarian layoffs on fourth-grade reading scores between 2004 to 2009 . . . Fewer librarians translated to lower performance – or a slower rise in scores – on standardized tests” (Lance & Hofschire, 2011, p. 29).


This work,“MNW Elementary Makerspace Marble Challenge”was created by Justin Daggett and used with permission.

Denice Adkins from the University of Missouri combed through PISA data and found that school libraries can positively impact poor students at such as degree as to help level the playing field.  But she states, “Merely having a dedicated library space is insufficient to serve the needs of students.  What is more important, especially for low performers, is having resources available and staff who can provide support” (Adkins, 2014, p. 17).


“Chained” by Kool Cats Photography, used under CC BY 2.0.

One review of the literature stated, “The existence of a positive link between school library services and academic achievement is a practically inescapable conclusion” (Chan, 2008, p. 7).


Feuerbach, S. (2014). TL building staffing in districts in Iowa. Des Moines, IA: Iowa Association of School Librarians.

In a study commissioned by the Iowa Association of School Librarians, only 8 of the 331 responding districts – 2% – had at least one full-time teacher librarian per attendance center, which is considered best practice.  Five percent of the respondents – 158 schools – had no teacher librarian whatsoever (Feuerbach, 2014).

Stressed Schoolgirl Studying In Classroom

Vital Imagery Limited. (2015). Stressed schoolgirl studying in classroom [stock photo]. Retrieved from iClipart for Schools. Used with permission.

This is a problem for Iowa’s schools, teachers, and most importantly, Iowa’s students.  Academic achievement is harmed when school libraries are inadequately staffed.


Adkins, D. (2014).  U.S. students, poverty, and school libraries:  What results of the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment tell us.  School Library Research. Retrieved from ERIC database.  (EJ1043360)

Chan, C. (2008).  The impact of school library services on student achievement and the implications for advocacy: A review of the literature.  Access 22(4): 15-20.

Feuerbach, S. (2014).  Ratio of teacher librarians to school buildings in Iowa.  Des Moines, IA: Iowa Association of School Librarians.

Iowa Department of Education (2013).  Vision for Iowa’s school libraries.  Retrieved from

Lance, K.C., Schwartz, B., & Rodney, M.J. (2014). How libraries transform schools by contributing to student success: evidence linking South Carolina school libraries and PASS & HSAP results. Retrieved from

Lance, K.C., & Hofschire, L. (2012).  School librarian staffing linked with gains in student achievement, 2005 to 2011.  Teacher Librarian, 39(6), 15-19.

Lance, K.C., & Hofschire, L. (2011). Something to shout about: new research shows that more librarians means higher reading scores.  School Library Journal, 57(9), 28-33.

Lance, K.C., Rodney, M.J., & Schwartz, B. (2010).  Idaho school library impact study – 2009: How Idaho school librarians, teachers, and administrators collaborate for student success. Retrieved from

Lance, K.C., & Schwartz, B. (2012).  How Pennsylvania school libraries pay off:  Investments in student achievements and academic standards.  Pennsylvania School Library Project. Retrieved from ERIC database.  (ED543418)

Lewis, K. R., & Loertscher, D. V. (2014). The Possible Is Now. Teacher Librarian41(3), 48.

Rodney, M.J., Lance, K.C., & Hamilton-Pennell, C. (2002).  Make the connection:  Quality school library media programs impact academic achievement in Iowa.  Bettendorf, IA: Iowa Area Education Agencies. Retrieved from

Bookstore model ins and outs

Here’s a link to my presentation at the AEA today on the bookstore model.3d wooden shelves background with books. computer generated


1.Find (mostly uninterrupted) time

2.Get help if you can

3.Mostly plan your categories

4.Touch every book




8.Circ system

Complete BISAC subject headings can be found here, or transcribed in my spreadsheet



  1. America
    1. Government
    2. History
      1. 20th Century
      2. General
      3. Early
      4. 19th Century
      5. Revolution
      6. Civil War
      7. 21st Century
      8. World War
      9. War in Asia
    3. Native Americans
    4. Military
    5. States
  2. Animals
    1. General
      1. Habitats
      2. Misc. Invertebrates
      3. Endangered/Extinct
      4. Encyclopedia
      5. Animal babies
      6. Traits
    2. Bugs
      1. General
      2. Bees
      3. Spiders
      4. Butterflies
      5. Insects
    3. Fish
      1. General
      2. Sharks
      3. Assorted
    4. Amphibians
      1. General
    5. Reptiles
      1. General
      2. Lizards
      3. Turtles
      4. Crocs/Gators
    6. Birds
      1. General
      2. Assorted
      3. Penguins
      4. Birds of Prey
    7. Mammals
      1. General
      2. Rodents/Mustelidae
      3. Wild Dogs
      4. Bats
      5. Deer
      6. Mursupials
      7. Bears
      8. Primates
      9. Wild Cats
      10. Elephants/Rhinos
      11. Ocean Creatures
      12. African Prey
    8. Pets
    9. Farm
      1. Horses
      2. General
  3. Art
    1. Architecture
    2. General
    3. Drawing
    4. Crafts
    5. Music
    6. Theater
  4. Celebrations
  5. Dinosaurs
  6. Facts
  7. Farming/Gardening
  8. Health
    1. Medicine
    2. Psychology
  9. Hobbies
    1. Magic
    2. Games
    3. Puzzles
  10. Language
    1. General
    2. Books
    3. Literature
    4. Sign Language
    5. Folklore
      1. Assorted
      2. Collections
    6. Poetry
  11. Math
  12. Science
    1. Astronomy
    2. Weather
    3. Habitats
      1. Desert
      2. Ocean
      3. Jungle
      4. Arctic
      5. Mountain
      6. Prairie
      7. Forest
      8. Wetland
    4. Earth Science
    5. Physics
    6. Experiments
    7. Environment
    8. Botany
    9. Ecology
    10. General
    11. Encyclopedia
  13. Sports
    1. Extreme
    2. Water
    3. Motor
    4. General
    5. Winter
    6. Soccer
    7. Football
    8. Baseball
    9. Volleyball
    10. Cheerleading
    11. Martial Arts
    12. Basketball
    13. Wrestling
    14. Bicycling
  14. Tech and Invention
  15. Transportation
    1. Shipwrecks
  16. World
    1. History
      1. Ancient
        1. Mythology
      2. Middle Ages
      3. General
    2. Geography
      1. General
      2. Americas
      3. Europe
      4. Asia
      5. Africa
      6. Oceania


  1. Adventure
  2. Animals
  3. Classics
  4. Fantasy
  5. Historical
  6. Horror
  7. Humor
  8. Mystery
  9. Quick reads
  10. Realistic
  11. Science Fiction
  12. Sports

On mindsets

I’ve been meaning to read Mindset by Carol Dweck for a long time, but finally am forced to because it’s the first reading for my first class in my (first?) doctoral program.  (Okay, okay, this better be my only doctoral program.)


Anyway, I’m only on page 8 but something hit me so profoundly that I needed to blog about it.

She writes:

To give you a better sense of how the two mindsets work, imagine – as vividly as you can – that you are a young adult having a really bad day:  One day, you go to a class that is really important to you and that you like a lot.  The professor returns the midterm papers to the class.  You got a C+. You’re very disappointed. That evening on the way back to your home, you find that you’ve gotten a parking ticket.  Being really frustrated, you call your best friend to share your experience but are sort of brushed off.

Then she talks about those with a growth mindset vs. those with a . . . set? . . . mindset (I’m not far enough to know what the opposite of growth mindset is called.  [Edit:  Set mindset, ha ha.  I think it’s fixed mindset.]

But I don’t have to imagine her scenario because I have my own:

I was really excited, eager to start the program for my BA in elementary education, which would allow me to eventually become a librarian.  I worked as a secretary and had a great boss, who allowed me to work over lunch or later on some days so I could go to class on others.  Classes started in the city, about 45 minutes away, at 4:30.  These were definitely designed for people already working in a school, rather than a secretary like me!  But I forgot something at home, so I had to go twenty minutes the other way first.  I was scooting along at a clip so I wouldn’t be late, and I got a speeding ticket.  After dealing with that, I sat in my car and cried, and I had to make a decision:  Was I going to go to this first class late, or just forget about the whole thing?  I didn’t have the money for the program and would rely on student loans.  I worked a full-time job and had five kids at home.  Was this smart?  Maybe I should just go home and crawl into bed.

I didn’t.  And I can honestly count that decision as the one that made it so here I sit, reading this book . . . for my doctorate!  Boo-ya!