Friday, August 28, 2015

How My Wife Became Super Librarian!

My wife is a library media specialist at Hot Springs Intermediate and Park Magnet School in the Hot Springs School District (Hot Springs, Arkansas). She always plans wonderful themes for her Accelerated Reader (AR) program. I have been trying to get her to write a few blog posts for teacher librarians in grades Kindergarten through 6th grade since she works with this age range. I simply had to share her theme this year. It is near and dear to my heart, because it involves super heroes!

Super heroes are huge right now. They are in the movies and on television. They are also in comics! Cindy decided to make a big display of super heroes right outside her library entryway. It is the first thing you see as you come up the stairs to the second floor where the library is located.

AR displays on library windows

At open house, she had several parents excited about the theme---especially the dads. They actually asked to purchase her decorations. Open house was a huge success! When learners and parents are excited, everyone wins!

The excitement carried over to her co-workers. One of her colleagues suggested that she dress up as "super librarian". She actually offered to help Cindy develop a costume. It was then decided that she would be in costume for her presentation to teachers during professional development before students arrived. This was definitely stepping out of her comfort zone! At the meeting with 50 faculty, super hero introduction music was played... then in ran Super Librarian giving faculty members high fives and generating thunderous applause! Instantly, smartphones were out capturing the moment on video and in photos! Cindy's risk paid off. This is exactly the kind of excitement we are looking for in public schools. It is the kind of energy we should want for our school library programs!

Cindy in costume at the faculty meeting!

After this introduction, Cindy shared how she wanted to team up with teachers to build powerful collaborative learning events for students in the library. She shared her goals with the excited crowd of educators. It was a great success. Even in the weeks following this event, teachers are still seeking opportunities to work with Cindy in the library.

A comic book style photo created with the Halftone App

She decided to take it a step further. She wanted to create a custom video to introduce the AR theme to her students in grades K-6. We brainstormed and decided to write a short story and create a comic strip of digital photos. I showed Cindy the Halftone app for iOS that creates comic quality pictures from digital photos right on the device. I knew we could add text balloons and effects right in this app. We decided to make a movie using these comic styled photos. Cindy was able to get some students to be in her movie. She also found a willing teacher to play the part of the villain that we developed, The Anti-Reader. We took pictures one afternoon after school. It took about 40 minutes to capture all the shots we needed. Then we converted the photos to comics in Halftone and built the story with text and effects. This took about two hours to complete.

After the comic photos were complete, we imported them into iMovie and added music. This was the time consuming part. It took about 2-3 hours to edit the movie and add music/ sound effects in all the right places. We then took a day away from the project to rest. We came back on the third day and completed the voice over recordings and sound effects. All of the music and sound effects were found in iMovie for MacBook Pro (except for the fighting sounds which I recorded with my fists).

Super Librarian video link above.

Cindy showed the video to 23 different classes on Friday, August 28th. There were approximately 500 students who saw the presentation. All the students really enjoyed the video. After the video was complete, Cindy would run out of her office in the Super Librarian costume to an excited crowd of learners. She would then explain the Accelerated Reader program to those in attendance. After the video, one class yelled, "Encore, encore!" Others wanted to know when the next episode of Super Librarian would be revealed. Cindy challenged these classes to help her write and produce the next video.

Presentation day!

This was a great opportunity to model technology and innovation to her learning community. Her learners will no doubt want to see more of Super Librarian this school year. It was a time consuming task; but most of the time when we do what is best for kids, it is rarely easy and convenient. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone to become a super librarian/ educator to your learning community.

Follow Cindy on Twitter: @CindyRookEvans
Cindy's email:

Go here for our 11th Grade Great Gatsby Library Collaboration Program!

Have you been wanting to try #Mysteryskype? Go here to see how we did it!

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Finding Value In Tedious Tasks

We all have tasks within our jobs that fall into the category of "tedious". I can think of unpleasant but necessary tasks I have had to endure in my 20 years as a public school educator: taking daily attendance, standardized testing, and inventory to name a few. For the school librarian, there are still jobs that are not as enjoyable as others. Probably one of the most demanding jobs we are tasked with at Lakeside High School is textbook distribution.

One of our 3 textbook storage rooms.
At a school of over 1300 learners, one can imagine the size of the required textbook inventory. We keep these textbooks in three different storage rooms in the school. During the first full week of school, we schedule all English classes in each grade to come checkout their textbooks. It is an all day event for each grade that generally takes at least four days to complete. There have been years I have dreaded this event, mostly because it occurs during the initial days of school. During this exciting time, I had much rather be planning library events to draw new learners to our programs and to new books. I also tend to worry about classroom technology not working correctly at the first of the year (our library team serves as technology support). There are always glitches with new software and any hardware that has sit idle during the summer months.  It is important to me that teachers and students have access to the technology they need, and that it works correctly! I also want our learning community to have the print materials they need. The first order of business is handing out the texts that contain the information the teachers must use. Right now, textbooks are the vehicle for this content. In the future, electronic devices will hold this content, and I feel certain we will be tasked with issuing these products during the first days of school. This service is invaluable to our school learning community now, and it will continue to be in the future.

Our learners are always happy to pose!

I truly changed my attitude toward textbook distribution two years ago. I realized that this was an opportunity to see every learner. Every student will not come by the library during the course of the school year. Even though we aren't hosting this checkout process in the library, we still represent the library to the learners. Our library team decided this was a great opportunity to serve and positively impact students that we may only see a few times this year.

How can I make a difference in these learners with only a few moments to interact with them as we retrieve their textbooks, get their student ID number, scan the books, and then send them on their way while the next person comes in? The process is simple:

  • I say "hello" or "how are you today?"
  • I smile when they come into the textbook room. 
  • I have been known to "pick" at students (for a laugh) when it is their turn to get textbooks.
  • I take the time to say their name. 

I don't know all the students' names, but I can take the time to look at their name on the circulation database screen and make it a personal interaction by calling them by name. Everyone appreciates this.

Also, this year I decided to genuinely use phrases like:

  • "How can I serve you today?" 
  • "It's good to see you today." 
  • "Thank you for coming by." 

I have noticed the difference it makes when I am served at restaurants or other businesses and the workers say things like this to me. What is the impact for me personally? It is simple: I want to go back to those businesses because the employees make me feel like they care about me! I feel valued!

All students need to hear these phrases. When we say things like this, I believe it makes people feel important. I have personally seen a difference in their faces when I have done this in the textbook rooms and in the library. My hope is that they will want to come back and give us an opportunity to serve them in the library media center.

Yes, we took a textbook checkout selfie ;-)

We also took some photos when time permitted. I found that students loved to have their photos taken holding textbooks or waiting in line. (Yes, we even took a textbook room selfie.) I decided to post some of these photos on Twitter and on our Facebook group for the library. I also shared some of our textbook circulation statistics for the day in these posts. Now, others could be better informed about what we were doing.  In a sense we took a tedious task and turned it into a library promotion event!

One of our library Facebook posts (Good PR!).

Textbook checkout is still a tedious task, but more importantly it is an opportunity to see every learner in our building since they ALL have to have textbooks. If we were able to make one learner feel valued over these four days, it was worth the effort. If they come to the library in the future because we served them well, it was definitely worth the work! I hope this reflection will help you find ways to make your tedious tasks a valuable experience for others. We can make good things happen in almost every situation. Most of the time, it depends on our attitude. Attitude is contagious!

Have you shared your annual library report? If not, what are you waiting for? Go here!

Read what one of our students wrote about the library in "Not Just A Room With Books" here.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Confessions Of A School Library Media Specialist At The End Of Summer

Summer is quickly winding down, and more teachers are starting to show up in the building. It gets more challenging to sleep at least seven hours a night because I keep thinking of things I need to do to prepare for the first days of school. I had a 3 hour meeting with the social studies/ history department last week. Did I remember to order all the novels the teachers requested? We have a 30 minute time slot with the teachers during building professional development, what should I share first? There is a library renovation currently in progress, have I planned everything correctly for my learning community? I had to help train new teachers with technology for 6 hours 2 weeks ago.

Does the paragraph above sound familiar? I want to take a few moments to share about the things that concern me most this time of year. I want to confess that I worry too much about things I cannot control as school begins. I hope that when I "fess up" to these items, it will make you realize you aren't the only one that struggles to get it all done during these last few days before everything rolls out! You aren't alone in your first of the year anxiety and concern!

I have been involved in education for 20 years this fall. I can't remember a year that I didn't worry about getting everything done before students get to school. In the 7 years I have served as a library media specialist, that concern is even greater since there are so many things to prepare.

My solution to this problem every year is to prioritize. I suggest making a list of items that must get done first, and then make a wish list of things you hope to get accomplished. Realize that you can't do it all. Take care of yourself these first few weeks on the job! You do not need to stay late in the library to work! You may think this is a good idea, but it will just wear you down when you need to be at your best the next day. Get plenty of rest in these days before students arrive. When they get on campus you will be serving them with their initial needs. This is frequently time consuming and mentally draining.  During these first few weeks you will make first impressions with new students and staff. Those impressions last forever! Make their experiences valuable. When you do this you will have repeat customers. It doesn't take long for others to realize you have a service approach. This adds value to your library program.

As a teacher librarian, I have found that the first of the year and the end of the year always have the most challenges. Getting the program started with a bang in August and gathering all materials in May tend to be very demanding mentally and physically. Remember that what we do makes a difference to the entire learning community. We are leaders in the building because people look to us for answers and solutions everyday.

Make a goal to take care of yourself this year! Work hard at school and work diligently to disconnect from school on the weekends when possible! Exercise and do activities that you love just for fun in your off time.

I'm convinced if we all consider doing these things, it will result in a better year! If you can't sleep because you are thinking about all the things you have to do tomorrow, make a "to do" list for the next day. I have found this helps me sleep. Write it down and stop thinking about it until the next day! It's ok to be nervous the nights before the first day of school. This shows you have genuine concern for your work, and you want to do a good job. Stop worrying about things you cannot control.

Get excited because it is contagious! Every student and teacher that visits the library need the services you offer. You never know how you will make a difference. Have a great year!

Read what one of our students wrote about the library in "Not Just A Room With Books" here.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Presenting and Learning About Makerspaces at ArASL 2015

My librarian co-worker (Mrs. Misti Bell) and I had the privilege of attending the Arkansas Association of School Librarians (ArASL) conference in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 27th. This was a special occasion for a few reasons. The first being that the ArASL Chair-Elect, Mrs. Sloan Powell, extended an invitation for us to present at the conference back in May when she read the blog post on our "Makerspace Day" in the library. (The link to this page is at the bottom of this article.) The second reason is that the keynote presenter was Mrs. Leslie Preddy, the current President of the American Association of School Librarians. Leslie did a wonderful job sharing about the many resources that AASL offers!

It was also great to hear her talk about the Makerspaces she has established in her own middle school library. I came away with five important points that Leslie shared about starting a Makerspace:

1. Begin with what you know
2. Start small
3. Think hands on creativity
4. Let failure be an option
5. Make something old new again

Another important point she made was that "failure is an option". Students will learn from failures and so will we! All of us should "think, create, share, and grow" in the library makerspace. After Leslie presented, it was our turn to share our makerspace experiences. 

Manga art during "Show Your Talent" Day

Misti and I discussed how we accidentally started our library makerspace back in 2013-2014 with "Share Your Talent" day. We invited students to share skills we had observed them using in the library during lunch. These talents included Magic Cards, Rubik's Cube, Manga Art, and Jewelry Making. We had these students at different tables so library lunch visitors could come learn and/ or watch during the entire period. It was a great success! Everyone at our conference session seemed interested in these ideas.

Misti presents the Sphero to attendees

The Rubik's Cube table was a hit
We also shared that in 2014 we were provided a Makerbot Replicator 3D Printer and two Spheros. Students enjoyed learning on these gadgets all year during lunch and after school.  After our students successfully presented 3D Printing to the library patrons during multiple lunch sessions, we finally decided to bring in additional makerspace lunchtime activities (which we called "makerspace day"). We set up tables for 3D Printing, Spheros, Jenga, Legos, and a "Deconstruction Station"  We reflected on the successes of this event to our approximately 50 ArASL conference session attendees. After this, we talked about potential future goals for the makerspace program (mainly items we hope to add like Makey Makey and Duct Tape projects).

I demonstrate the 3D Printer
We then invited everyone to try the same makerspace stations! We had brought each of the items for librarians to try out. The most popular two gadgets were the 3D Printer and the Sphero. It was inspiring to see everyone's interest in Makerspaces! We are grateful for the opportunity to share and learn at this state conference. It was so good to meet librarians from distant parts of the state and network face to face. It was also great to meet and learn from Leslie Preddy. Misti and I returned to Lakeside High School inspired and motivated to make the coming year better than ever for our learning community!

Check out our Makerspace Day here!

Two of our students helped present 3D Printing at a state technology conference. Go here to view!

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