Monday, October 10, 2011

School Libraries Looking Forward

I've been thinking a lot today about what the library program should look like to best serve students in the future. If I walked into my library in five years, what changes would/should I see in the physical library? What would like virtual library have to offer? How would I be working with students and teachers?

This idea of looking forward was inspired by working in the present. On Friday I did a couple of workshops for teachers. One was entitled Research Boot Camp. While it was a promising idea, I was disappointed with the execution. I can show staff and students cool tools and resources. But I always feel this disconnect when it comes to teaching people how to use these things, especially in the case of the workshop where there isn't an immediate information need. I thought the boot camp model of hands on practice would be an effective way to learn, but I think if I did this again I would have to do more modeling and then more chance to practice.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


I've been contemplating the future a lot lately. The future of libraries, generally, and my school library program in particular. In what ways do things need to transform to best meet the needs of the learners at my school and help push things forward in a meaningful, substantive way? I've been contemplating transformations.

Today I looked and read several things that made me continue to contemplate. No action plans here, yet, rather just an awareness and openness that these ideas are rattling around in my brain not quite ready to be cohesive.

I saw the presentation deck from a session called "Field Guide for Change Agents" which was posted by Ben Hazard and came from the EduCon conference.

I saw the slide deck from a talk given by Dr. Michael Stephens for the Australian School Library Association called "The Hyperlinked School Library".

One of my goals this week was to read at least three dissertations. One of the works I read by Carol Revelle relied heavily of the work of Paolo Friere, an educational philosopher who I am inspired by, and it got me thinking more about transformations.

Where do I go from here? I'm not sure yet. But whatever shape the future takes I'm excited about it! Any ideas?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Freedom to Fail

A few weekends ago I got back to my car after a trip and found it dead. After jumping all the hurdles that this caused including buying jumper cables, figuring out how to use them, dealing with being in a dark parking garage, getting the car alarm to shut off, I finally got the car in working order again. As I drove, I realized that I had left a light on inside the car. My mistake was the cause of all that hassle! And I felt horrible about it.

This got me thinking about failure. I don't deal with it well. I'm a bit of a perfectionist which may be my nature, but this tendency was probably exacerbated by my experiences in school. The emphasis, at least in my experience, was always to cram things in my brain or create fantastic projects with the aim of earning an A. Watching students where I teach now, for the lion's share of them, that seems to be their M.O. as well.

However, when I think about how I learn most meaningfully and how I learn for my own personal growth, usually it is trial and error. When I'm interested in something I like to play with it to figure out what works and what doesn't. When I get stuck I seek out expertise, whether it is takes the form of another person or information in one of its many forms that will help me.

How do we shift what we do in schools to move from the culture of perfect to a culture of experimentation when we learn it's ok to fail on the way to breakthroughs? How can I transform my thinking to reflect this in my teaching? How can I help design experiences to make this happen for the students and staff with whom I work?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

ISLMA Conference

I just returned from the annual ISLMA (Illinois School Library Media Association) Conference: Futures Begin by Embracing Change. It's an event I look forward to each year, as it is a great chance to connect with other school librarians and get re-energized.

The keynote speaker, Stephanie Vance, talked about advocacy and working more effectively with elected officials to advocate for libraries. She was really engaging! Some of the tips included the importance of personalized contact and requesting specific action when contacting elected officials.

I attended a session about using art within the library as a way to build literacy. Having just been awarded a local grant to have a temporary art exhibit in the library this spring it helped spark a lot of ideas. And there certainly were some creative ideas shared in the session led by Patti Foerster from Vaughn Occupational High School.

I attended a couple best new books sessions when I heard book talks for hot YA and middle school titles led by Michael Cart and Sally Walker. I heard about the use of iPods in the library, collaborations for student projects using multimedia and web 2.0 tools, and using picture books in middle schools. I attended a reception for alums of the GSLIS program at Dominican. Most valuable of all was the chance to network with other school librarians from around the state.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Migrating to a new management system

My district is in the process of migrating to a new automation system. Although we've been working on this since March of last school year, things have kind of come together all at once. We are doing a series of trainings this week to get on board with the new system.

I'm excited about the new possibilities that the system should afford us. I hope it will have more opportunities for user interaction. It will certainly be more graphically appealing than our current system. A huge benefit is that results will now have a book cover image. That will make a big difference for our users. Our current system has pretty awful catalog search results and will no longer be upgraded due to being bought by a competitor.

I've got my fingers crossed for a smooth transition and a relatively small learning curve.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Self-Directed Learning

My district has announced a new initiative for this school year which I'm really excited about! We've used the Illinois Applications of Learning as a way to guide the effort to develop 21st Century Skills. The Applications of Learning are:
  • Communicating
  • Working on Teams
  • Solving Problems
  • Using Technology
  • Making Connections
This year there has been another component added, Self-Directed Learning. The district has decided to encourage self-directed learning in both the students and the faculty. I'm super excited about this. It gives us, the faculty, the opportunity and responsibility to direct our own professional development.

We each will design our own learning project for the year. During our institute times we will have the opportunity to use part of that time to work on our learning projects, rather than participating in the usual blanket professional development. It was an attempt at one-size-fits-all training that really meet the needs of very few.

I have colleagues that are starting books clubs - some to focus on reading young adult literature, some to explore areas within their subject areas. People have the option of working in small groups or individually.

I'm excited by this opportunity but (big surprise here!) am having a difficult time narrowing down my focus. I think I am going to work on a project that can work in conjunction with my dissertation. Exploring student interaction with information in virtual environments is an area which will help me grow as a professional and will help me develop a library program that better serves students.

I'll keep updating this blog with my progress. Kudos to the administration of my district for having the vision for practicing what they preach. This is an exciting opportunity and gives me support within my district for what I do as a professional anyway, continuing to find ways to grow and challenge myself.

Monday, July 27, 2009

ISAIL: Get on board

I attended a session about ISAIL, Illinois Standards Aligned Instruction for Libraries, hosted by ISLMA (Illinois School Library Media Association) recently. I've been to a couple sessions about ISAIL to date. The project is really picking up steam and is a fabulous effort to coordinate school library objectives, goals, and benchmarks with ISBE content standards, AASL standards, and NETS standards. The document is in an easy-to-use format.

What really excited me this time around is the push for creating a mISAIL component, where schools can individualize ISAIL to meet their needs. As I am reworking the library standards documents for my school, I look forward to using mISAIL to help me do this. Down the road there is also going to be a wISAIL component where people will have a chance to collaborate and share.

I'm proud of the effort that ISLMA members have put into this project to date. This work is really help blazing a trail in the country. If you haven't seen this project yet, do check out the ISAIL wiki. All the ISAIL documentation uses Creative Commons licensing and sharing is encouraged!