Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer Book Club 2016

There are always students ready to lead book club discussions
When the library began having summer hours during the 2013-2014 school year, I decided to make book clubs available to students during the summer months as part of our library services. During that same school year, we had our first student led book clubs. We have discovered that there are always students willing to lead book clubs in the library. This will be the third summer we have held a club. We decided to read The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. One of our upcoming juniors, Nathan, volunteered to lead discussion activities for three sessions.

We started promoting this club during the last few weeks of school. Ten students signed up by the end of the school year. I used Remind to send text messages to book club members to help them remember the book club meeting dates and page assignments. One of our principals even sent out a phone message to all parents in grades 8-12 advertising the summer club. Nathan and I also decided to use the library Edmodo page as a place to continue discussions between meetings. Using Edmodo was also a great way for students to participate that could not attend our meetings.

We just had our first meeting last week. Six students attended the meeting. I always read with the students and participate in the meetings as a facilitator. Nathan started off the hour long discussion with many questions he had prepared . Some of his questions are listed below:
  • What do you think the aliens want?
  • What is the 5th wave?
  • What do you think the aliens are?
  • What do you think the aliens look like?
  • What do they want the children for?

Book discussion!
I'm always impressed by the discussion during our book clubs. The students often dig deeper into story components. I have yet to have a club meeting that doesn't run long. The students just keep talking about what may happen next and what characters should do. 

Following the discussion, we decided to watch the movie trailer to The 5th Wave. I also reminded students how to access our Edmodo library page so the discussion can continue. Our last two book club meetings will be in the middle and end of July.

Consider trying a summer book club during a portion of summer. If it makes a difference in one or two students, it is well worth it! 

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

How I Used Microsoft Sway For Our Annual Report

I've been sharing library annual reports since I have been a school librarian. Administrators often get small snapshots of the library during the school year. They are busy people pulled in a million different directions each day. For me, sharing an annual report during the summer gives us a chance to show our administration what happens in the library from a statistical perspective. Administrators are also more likely to have a moment to look at a report during the summer months.

A screenshot from the completed Sway
Why Share Annual Reports?

Annual reports are just another way to tell our stories from the library and share the value of what we do for students. It also gives a return on our stakeholders' investment. Libraries are expensive. If we share circulation statistics and other usage information, it can help change perspectives. Some teacher librarians have complained that their administrators don't have time to view their reports. This is a valid concern, but what if they do happen to view it? A few moments of their time could change their thoughts about what we do in the library. For these reasons, it is worth the time to create the report each year. I'm guilty of showing them snippets of the report as I'm working on it in an attempt to generate curiosity. Another positive of sharing annual reports is that it shows we are making a strong effort to keep and report good records. This reflects well upon us as program administrators. It is also excellent evidence for us to use in our yearly evaluations.

A Quest For Different Formats

This year Misti Bell (my 2015-2016 teacher librarian co-worker at LHS) and I decided to experiment with an infographic for our annual report. We wanted to get away from the standard text document containing basic statistics and make the project more appealing to administrators. Misti created a wonderful infographic using Piktochart. She used the free version (which worked great for creating the report). However, we wanted to share video clips and Tweets from social media in the report. I liked Piktochart, but I needed something that would do more for the presentation. It is important to sometimes change the format we use for presentations to keep it interesting for viewers. We must also search for the most effective methods to tell our library stories and share the value of our program.

Microsoft Educator Community webpage screenshot

I have talked about becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (#MIEExpert) in a previous blog article this year (thanks to the help of my friend, Tracey Wong). Through the MIE Expert group, I have learned about one of their new graphic presentation tools called Sway. I decided to use the library annual report as an opportunity to learn more about Sway. I had previously joined the Microsoft Educator Community, and I knew there were free training courses and videos available. I searched for resources on Sway, and I found the following link:

There were 10 video modules to watch (most of them were between 2-3 minutes long). After completing the videos, I felt confident I could create a Sway with photos, charts, video clips, and more. It took me about an hour to complete the first draft of the Sway. I shared it with teacher librarian colleagues and co-workers for advice on what to improve. After two days of editing, I felt my first Sway annual report was ready to publish.

Go here to view our 2015-2016 annual report via Sway.

How To Access Sway

I have access to through and also through our district's Office 365 login. I recommend creating a free account through Microsoft here if your school doesn't have Office 365. You will then be able to go to and create your own presentations. I look forward to getting feedback from our administrative team as they view the statistics of 2015-2016 through the Sway report! Please, be sure to share your improvement ideas and comments below. Also, feel free to share your annual report links in the comments. I'm always looking for better methods to share our library's story through the examples of others.

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Value Of Summer Library Services

I'm beginning my fourth year as a 12 month public school teacher librarian. I'd like to share some of the things I do in the summer months that have helped our learning community and our library program. It is rare in Arkansas (and in most states) to hear of 12 month school library positions. I want to pose some ideas for those of you that have considered working some of your contracted days in the summer months (if that is permissible in your school district).

A Great Opportunity
The library is a great place to host summer PD sessions!
I have always envisioned the school library being available to students and teachers year round. This was something that came to pass for our learning community starting in the 2013-2014 school year. Since that time, I have witnessed a great increase in the use of summer library services, most notably following our recent library renovation earlier this school year. 

Many people ask me "what do you do in the summer?" or "don't you get bored?" There is always plenty to do in a school library; in 8 years as a teacher librarian, I have yet to ever catch up on my work. I'm sure you relate well to this! I keep waiting to experience the boredom in this career, but I haven't seen it yet. With all of the constant changes in technology and publishing, I feel certain it will never be boring. There is always a new book to read, a new skill to learn, new technology to try, and patrons needing help. I have discovered that it is difficult to decide where to start every day when I walk through the library doors, especially in the summer months.

There are always new materials to catalog during the summer!

Benefits of Summer Services

I've decided that opening the school library (even a few times per month) in the summer is beneficial to the entire learning community. First of all, we have equipment and inventory that is just sitting during June and July. Opening up allows it to be used. Consider using some of your summer contracted days to host teacher training sessions. Groups are always needing places with computer access and presentation spaces; the library can be a perfect place. Presenters always need technical assistance, and teacher librarians can easily provide that expertise. This adds value to our programs and allows attendees to view us in a different way. Everyone loves a good host/ hostess!

There are always students and teachers needing tech help

Secondly, consider having a summer book club. When I host summer book clubs, I invite students to lead them. We typically only have three meetings for each book club. The groups are usually small and easily manageable. The students who join these clubs really seem to enjoy coming to discuss the readings. Most of these students are not typically involved in many other summer activities, and they are looking for things to do. Book clubs are a great service to them! I'll be sharing some summer book club stories soon!

There are always students needing new reads in the summer!
Thirdly, any summer hours you have provide amazing promotional opportunities! Recently, I shared photos of our summer daily library traffic on social media. Parents and administrators noticed this. (Some even shared my posts on their social media!) Imagine how this changed how our library program looked to others. My hope is that our administration and school board get a small return on their investment in the library renovation and in providing me extra days to work when they view such photos. I am grateful to them for funding our library to be open in the summer! I want them to see summer activity, excitement, and value to our learning community. Imagine how this could make a difference in your school and library program, even if you opened just a few days each month in the summer. Make sure you share your summer library stories, or others may not know what cool things you are doing!

Our students love to come eat lunch in the library during summer school!
Final Thoughts

This student came by the library to read last week
I understand that summer time is sacred to both teachers and students. We need our time away from the intensity of school in order to recharge. Consider having a few activities in your library during the summer months. The potential benefits to your library program are huge. Most importantly, if you can make a positive impact on just a few students or teachers during the summer months, the results are priceless. Be sure to share any of your ideas or success stories in the comments below!

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Our First Google Hangout For Professional Development

Our administrative team witnessed our first International Mystery Hangout earlier this year. As a result of seeing the high level of student engagement, they began to brainstorm how the activity could be spread to our other schools in the district. The assistant superintendent over curriculum asked me if I might be able to share about the Mystery Hangout/ Mystery Skype activity to our district teacher librarians on a professional development day in February. I was delighted to have this opportunity! This was a chance to show our district teacher librarians the power of connecting their students and teachers at each level (Primary K-2, Intermediate 3-4, and Middle School 5-7).

After thinking about it, I decided to see how the assistant superintendent felt about me actually making Google Hangout connections during the time we were provided for the meeting. Talking about the activity is good, but actually modeling a Hangout or Skype session is even better! Before I checked with the superintendent, I sent Twitter messages to my teacher librarian friends, Lynn Kleinmeyer (@THLibrariZen) and Elizabeth Hutchinson (@Elizabethutch), to see if they were available to visit with us! Lynn is a teacher librarian in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Elizabeth is a chartered librarian on the Island of Guernsey which is located in the English Channel. She is the head of Schools' Library Service there which serves the Bailiwick of Guernsey island schools. Luckily, they both were available to visit with us on the scheduled day!

Lynn Kleinmeyer presents to us via Google Hangouts!

The assistant superintendent and principals were very excited about this idea. The administrators provided us 3 hours for the district teacher librarian meeting. It was great for all of us to visit with Lynn in Iowa and Elizabeth on the island of Guernsey. We discussed best practices during the meetings.

Lynn presents to all of our district's teacher librarians!
The Discussion Topics

I asked both Lynn and Elizabeth to talk about the power of being a connected teacher librarian. We connected with Lynn in Iowa first. Lynn talked about things she was doing in her school. She talked about her schedule and what it is like to be a teacher librarian in her state. She also discussed her role as a teacher librarian at grades 2-5 which connected well with our district librarians. We in turn shared about our various schedules at each level (grades K-12). We visited with Lynn for about 45 minutes (It went by very fast!).

Elizabeth presents to us from the Island of Guernsey

We had a 15 minute intermission, and then we connected with Elizabeth at Guernsey. Her overseas location was 6 hours ahead of us. Elizabeth discussed the nature of her job and how she and her team serve schools on the English Channel Islands. It was fascinating to hear about her job! She discussed literature awards specific to her schools. At that point we began discussing the possibility of connecting our schools together for book clubs and discussions in 2016-2017! She also talked about our Mystery Hangout with one of her schools on the Island of Alderney. It was an amazing brainstorming session. It was hard to believe that Elizabeth was so far away since the quality of the audio and video was so good! We talked to Elizabeth for about 45 minutes.

Elizabeth talks to teacher librarian, Jackie Martin

Reflections from Elizabeth

I sent a Voxer message to Elizabeth asking her to reflect on this event. She felt that she benefited from the session more than we did (which is certainly not true from our perspective!). Elizabeth said, "Being able to Hangout and explain what we did with our Mystery Hangout really opened my eyes to the fact that not only is this an opportunity for our children and students to connect, but it's also a real opportunity for us to connect with people that we just wouldn't have (been able to) in the past." She also stated, "It has opened my eyes to possible other opportunities to share experiences, to understand that maybe I have something that is actually worth sharing is something new (to me)." Elizabeth's reflection should speak to all of us because we all have strengths that we should share with others! We all have stories to share that communicate the value of the school library!


As a result of these sessions, our primary school teacher librarian, Tammy Catlett, had an international Google Hangout for her students with Elizabeth several weeks later! Our middle school teacher librarian, Jackie Martin, has been communicating with Elizabeth about connecting next school year.  In addition, Elizabeth and I are planning to have book club meetings via webcam in 2016-2017! The professional development we were provided changed our learning community for the better! I am very grateful to Lynn and Elizabeth for being agents of change by taking the time to visit with us on that morning in February 2016! I am also very thankful to Lakeside assistant superintendent, Mr. Bruce Orr, high school principal, Mr. Darin Landry, and high school assistant principal, Mr. Anthony Brunet for allowing us to have this important meeting. Each of them are responsible for professional development, and this was one meeting that opened our minds to "be the change". If this sparked your thoughts to ways you can use Google Hangouts or Skype to have exciting professional development in your district or if you have done similar things, be sure to tell us in the comments below, or email me! I want to hear about it!

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