2016 Library Journal Mover and Shaker!

Spring Break has come and gone and all the before-the-end-of-the-nine-weeks busyness delayed this post…but I’m so honored about being selected as a 2016 Library Journal Mover and Shaker!

Fellow winner Andy Plemmons has a great post about the process of being selected…and I agree that it was very hard to keep it a secret from practically everyone for so long! I won’t repeat what he says, but I will tell you that when I finally saw the list of the other winners I was in awe.  The other school librarians who won are my idols and I’ve been reading about them in publications for years!  Colleen, the makerspace guru, has a great post about all the school librarians who won so go on over and read it.  It’s amazing, as is Colleen.

I’ll highlight something that Andy said – you actually have no idea what category you are going to be put in until right before publication.  I was very excited to find out that I was put in the Advocates category, because I think it is an essential part of librarianship in today’s world, and I think it makes many librarians feel uncomfortable.  It’s actually hard to brag on yourself – it can feel so self-aggrandizing, narcissistic even. But librarians have got to get over this, and get the word out on all that we do everyday. Because, y’all, we are changing lives.  We improve instruction. We inspire readers. We teach kids to be critical evaluators of information. To go back to what my hero, David Lankes, says is the mission of every librarian, we “improve society through facilitating knowledge creation” in our communities. And guess what?  Without us, some of that knowledge is NOT created in our communities.  We make communities BETTER. So we have got to get over our discomfort and sing from the rooftops how we ARE making our communities better. And I am not ashamed to say that I do that. I tweet. I send weekly emails to parents and students about all that is going on in the library. I invite speakers into the library and I showcase what I do. I have students who are going before the board. I facilitate a twitter chat. I contact public officials. I enjoy public speaking, and I do it whenever I can, where I can talk about all the great things that librarians do. I do these things not just to highlight what goes on in MY library, but to show everyone what goes on in MOST libraries.

I’ve always advocated for librarians, but I’m thankful to work in an amazing district with the most incredible leader, Stephanie Ham (2014 Mover and Shaker). Stephanie has empowered me as a library coach for the district to take my advocacy to a new level.  Metro Nashville Public School librarians are top-notch and so much of that is due to Stephanie and her incredible team in Library Services.

If you don’t already, go on twitter and follow the amazing school librarians who are my fellow Movers and Shakers this year – there’s Andy Plemmons, Sue Kowalski, Adam Marcus, Colleen Graves, and me, of course!

What Can Be Checked Out at YOUR Library?

I’m going to tell you a fact: I’ll barcode anything and check it out, if I can.

Here are some of the unique items that are barcoded in my library: supply boxes (filled with a glue stick, box of crayons, markers, colored pencils, a ruler, and scissors), a selfie stick, an instamatic camera, flash drives, flash memory, scissors, headphones, phone chargers, and yard sticks.

I have these items in my library because every librarian’s mission is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their community. And these items, just like books, do that.  Plus, let’s be honest, I’m old and forgetful, so I needed a way to keep up with what students “borrowed”. I only came to this conclusion after forgetting which student had borrowed said item for the gazillionth time.

These items play an important part in providing access for all of my students.  A student might need to charge his phone to make a video for class.  A student might need headphones to listen to a podcast or a video created by his teacher.  Honestly, I feel great about providing these supplies…because these items can empower my community to create new knowledge…as demonstrated by the videos, posters, and signs made by this stuff.

So my newest item to checkout is…dum dum dum…..teacher study guides!  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this.  I’m hoping it expands to the entire school.   Basically, how it works is this… a teacher gives me an optional study guide, because he/she does not plan on going over it in class before a test.  This study guide is not something that is given to the entire class, and this is something that they teacher has a limited number of copies of, but likely enough copies for everyone who would want them.

We label the study guides, and students come in and check out the study guide from us, and they take pictures of the answer key.  We then encourage students to work with our tutors to prepare for the test.  You see, the library also has a number of tutors who can help with most subjects.

You can see the answer key on the left, and a test on the right

This is a win-win for all parties involved.  The teacher does not have to spend time making extra copies, handing out study guides to students who do not need or want them, or going over the review (often, questions from old AP tests)  in class. Since students are coming to the library to pick up the study guide, we encourage students to work with our tutors or each other during their Independent Study class.  This has been a great way to “facilitate knowledge creation”.

I’ve been able to expand this in another class, where students took a test and performed poorly on it.  However, the teacher needed to move on in the curriculum.  So she’s giving a retest, but before that happens, students have to come to the library and work in groups on the old test. They can use notes, their book, videos, and tutors to help…but they have to work on it.  We have the answer key, so when students are done, they can check their work.  At that point, they are approved for a retake.  Once again, the library is playing a role in facilitating knowledge creation, by making sure that students really work through the problems they missed.

I’m curious what uncommon items are checked out at other libraries.  Do share!

Don’t Librarians Just Shelve Books All Day? Or How a Book Helped Me To Begin to Squelch Stereotypes

I’ve always been, well, a bit obsessed about the role of libraries in the world.  As a new librarian, I was never really able to put into words what I thought my role-well, actually, my mission, was.  I’d always hammer on about how important librarians were in a world where information was omnipresent.  I’d talk about the importance of librarians in developing critical thinking.  None of this felt right, though…because what I slowly, but surely, was starting to do (and inspired by so many amazing librarians near and far), felt so BEYOND just that.

But here’s the deal, and if you’re reading this, I’m sure you know.  I don’t think any profession is as stereotyped as librarians.  If you are reading this, you probably are a librarian, but I bet you get comments from your friends on occasion, too.  If I had a dime for every time that someone insinuated that my job consisted of me shushing children all day while I read books and occasionally shelve, I would be a very wealthy woman.

Library Action Figure by Calamity_Sal

I was weary of CONTINUALLY trying to explain my role in a school.  And this was 2011.  I had already been a librarian for 8 years, in an inner-city middle school and an inner-city high school.  I read, with horror, of the massive cuts to school librarians going on in some states. Cutting a librarian was like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

When I first stumbled upon The Atlas of New Librarianship – I’m just going to be honest…I couldn’t stop reading and thinking about it. In it, Professor David Lankes says that “the mission of all librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.” Yes!  Finally, a mission that truly encompassed all that I was trying to do everyday.

As I started listening to podcasts and watching presentations online by Professor Lankes, my understanding of New Librarianship began to grow.  And his explanation of constructivism and how new knowledge is created through conversation really made sense to me…especially since I don’t want my library to be silent…I want my library to hum with productivity.

I’m going to stop right here and tell you …yes, The Atlas can be hard to get through…if that’s the case, watch this screencast RIGHT NOW, because it’s based on Professor Lankes’ other book, Expect More, which has similar themes.

And here’s what my response to this book has been…it’s not really anything novel…but I think, a lot, about how I am improving and COULD improve society.  It’s a lot of little things, like the books I choose for my collection, and how I sometimes order a book with certain students in mind, and then I go and put that book in the hands of that student and I follow up a few weeks later and together, the student and I discuss that book.  It’s how I host a panel discussions with a group of students once a month, where they share their experiences with other students.  It’s how I use my libguides to organize content. It’s how I host therapy dogs before exams – because it’s hard for my community to focus on academics in the stress-filled days before exams.

Most nights, I do this exercise before I go to bed.  I call it jumping down the rabbit hole, because I like metaphors. I think about a time during the day that I facilitated the gaining of knowledge.  Maybe I helped a teacher make a project better.  Maybe I put a specific book in the hands of a kid.  Maybe I encouraged a kid to create something to print on the 3D printer (for free). I think about how these things can play out.  What if that kid is so inspired by that book…that book makes him interested in politics..and 20 years later he becomes Mayor of Nashville.  It happens.  Maybe access to the 3D printer puts that kid on a path to creating something that will help thousands of people live better.  It happens. We don’t always see it play out.  If that kid has gained new knowledge and is applying that knowledge in a way that will improve his community, then it’s enough. And the fact of the matter is, that’s MY JOB.  How freaking lucky am I?

I can’t wait to share more with you, but in the meantime, read The Atlas of New Librarianship, and by all means, watch some screencasts.

And don’t forget to jump down the rabbit hole.  Because you are EXTRAORDINAIRY.  Now go out there, find out what your community needs, and figure out a way to do it.

Rabbit Hole by Rubyblossom