Cool Tools for School, Thing 50: The New AASL Standards

I was lucky enough to attend the national conference in Phoenix when the standards were unveiled and even pre-ordered my copy so I could pick it up right at registration with the rest of my conference bag goodies. I’ve participated in Webinars and Twitter chats related to the new standards, I’m even in an online book study through our local Boces. But man, oh man. That is one dense book and I’m still, all these months later trying to wrap my head around it. So, I figured why not round out my Cool Tools experience this year with even more standards talk? I mean, if wanting to know and understand these new standards is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

For my first activity, I did the one suggested in Paige’s article.


I know we’re probably harder on ourselves and our programs than others would be but, this was a bit depressing to look at! I don’t have nearly as many green highlights as I would like and far more red circles than I would have hoped. It looks like we’re strongest with the Domain Think, doing alright with the Domain Grow and have much work to do in the Domains Create and Share. Include is by far our worst Shared Foundation with Inquire being our strongest and Collaborate, Curate, Explore and, Engage being works in progress.

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Looking at the Powerverbs! Checklist Paige linked to in her article, it looks like we have trouble with:

  • reflecting
  • seeking diverse perspectives and viewpoints
  • identifying bias
  • evaluating sources
  • locating appropriate sources
  • sharing our knowledge products with genuine audiences

Some of these, like identifying bias and evaluating sources, I expect to have more difficulty within an elementary school library as they are a bit complex. Others, like sharing our knowledge products with genuine audiences, are difficult because technology, particularly social media, is quite locked down in my district. We don’t often have the ability to share our students work outside the classroom. I need to find other ways to share our students work with real-world audiences (and keep working on the IT department to loosen up a bit). Finally, others, like reflecting and locating appropriate sources, are problematic because of the way I have been doing research with our students. I often curate our list of databases to a smaller, more manageable list before we do a research project. Instead, I could be doing that with the students, at the very least talking through my choices with them and modeling my thinking so they can start to see and hear how an experienced researcher evaluates and locates appropriate sources. Reflecting on our final products often gets the short straw because we are often rushing to finish up a project so they can move on and not fall behind on the curriculum. I’ll need to keep this exercise and the list of Powerverbs! handy as I begin to rethink and plan next year’s curriculum over the summer…

After that somewhat disheartening exercise, I began looking at all the different handouts and materials available on the Standards portal. One of the first handouts I looked at was the AASL’s “Six Action Steps for Getting to Know the National School Library Standards”.


I was happy to see that, thanks to my online standards book club and other standards-based PD I’ve been engaging in, I’d made my way through steps 1-3 already. Step 4: Curate, I managed to tackle with the help of the Paige Jaeger article. Steps 5 & 6, Include and Engage, will require some thinking and planning over the summer. I like the idea of sharing the foundation words with students and seeing which ones they already know and which ones need defining for them. I’ll definitely have to start thinking about how to work those vocabulary words into our existing lessons next year…

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Next, I looked at the standards guides for Administrators, Teachers/Educators, and parents. I looked at the key talking points and began to think about how I could incorporate them into different elevator speeches for each of those key groups. Writing an elevator speech is the final assignment for my online Standards book club so I’m still working on those but I’ve found the guides to be very helpful in crafting my messages so far.

Finally, I poked around a bit more and discovered some potentially fun and useful things:

  • You can get presentation templates modeled after the new Standards formatting
  • You can download web banners modeled after the new Standards formatting
  • There’s a hashtag bank with hashtag suggestions for following and using on social media (very handy for my next Twitter lurking session)
  • You can find all the explainer videos for the new Standards there
  • THERE IS A STANDARDS-BASED CARD GAME!!! (it’s kind of like Apples to Apples but with the foundations, domains, and the personas-and I just might have printed it off and plan on bringing it to the CNYSL book club meeting at my house this summer).

All in all, this was a very eye-opening Cool Tools with which to wrap up the year. I didn’t always like what I saw but, I certainly will be a better teacher and librarian for having taken the time to see (all the many, many places) where I can improve.


NYLA Breakdown-Part Two

All right kids, whose ready to learn about teaching with historical documents? Let’s get started then.

  • When teaching kids how to analysis photos direct them to the people, the background and objects. Study those elements for clues as to what is going on and be on the look out for things that don’t seem to fit or you wouldn’t expect to find.
  • Sometimes you need to break a picture up into quadrants so you can isolate what is going on and what you are analyzing.
  • When analyzing letters have kids ask themselves the following questions:
  1. When was this letter written?
  2. Where was this letter written?
  3. Who wrote this letter?
  4. To whom is the letter written?
  5. Why was this letter written?
  6. List three pieces of information from the letter you think are important.
  7. List tow questions you might want to ask the author.
  • After exploring a series of historical documents related to a single person or family, have students create a short movie story board depicting key scenes from the person/family’s life.

For more information and inspiration on teaching with historical documents check out the the New York State Archives website (not from New York? Search around and see if your state has an archives website and what it may have to offer). Stumped on how to find and incorporate primary source documents into your teaching? The New York State Archives website even has a series of videos on how to find and teach with primary source documents.

NYLA Breakdown-Part One

Woot woot. That’s how I feel about the first NYLA conference I attended. As soon as I got there I immediately wished I had been able to sign up for more days (like all of them). Saturday was the last day of the conference so there were only three program slots on the schedule. The first session I attended was a double session so, I really only sat in on two programs but I still, a great day.

Today I’ll be sharing some of the haphazard notes I took during the first program and tomorrow I’ll fill you in on the tips and tricks I jotted down during the second session I attended. Some of this may be old news if you follow me on Twitter (and if you aren’t following me on Twitter, what are you waiting for?!?) but I couldn’t possible tweet everything I jotted down so….let’s get this recap started.

The double morning session I attended was called Design on a Dime and was hosted by Paul Mays from Butler Rowland Mays Architects, LLC and Gillian Thorpe from the Julia L. Butterfield Memorial Library.  I took three pages of notes. Here they are:

  • Invite local business leaders to the library for weekly talks. This gives them free advertising and helps the library reinforce it is part of the community. Also, those business leaders can act as experts who help you weed out parts of your collection. The example library had the local auto mechanic owner go through their car manuals and car repair books and tell them what could go and what they should consider getting instead.
  • Don’t give up on a project because you don’t know from where funding will come. Gillian mentioned that she couldn’t get anyone on board with funding a project she wanted to do until she secured a grant that would allow them to start funding the project. Once word spread she said people came out of the woodwork to offer funds, supplies, and other means of support.Sometimes, we just have to give people something they can attach themselves.
  • It can be tough to justify spending money on cosmetic issues in your library. But think of it this way, many libraries are struggling to prove they are still relevant in this day and age of technology. 30 year old carpet and ugly wallpaper from the 70’s does not say “current, modern, up-to-date and able to compete with Google.”
  • Rethink how you see spaces in your library and what they can be. We saw several examples of how spaces as small as 5’x8′ closets made a big impact in how the library looked just by re-imaging what they could be. One was turned into a copy room which cleared clutter from the circulation desk. Another closet had the doors removed and was turned into stroller parking and backpack storage off the children’s section which freed up floor space in the area.
  • Invest in better, more functional storage solutions to cut down on clutter and keep areas organized.
  • Don’t underestimate the simple power of paint. But please, don’t shy away from color. There is no law that says libraries have to be white and only white.
  • Instead of being the “no” police (no talking on cellphones, no food or drink in the library) find designated areas in your library where you’ll be comfortable allowing these activities to happen. Even opening a small part of the library to these “forbidden” activities can go a long way in how people think about the library.
  • Do you have a tutor or quiet study room? Think about renting it out to as a conference room to people who work from home.
  • Furniture on wheels can be your best friend. It makes it easy to shift furniture around and create new zones and spaces as needed.
  • And remember, your library is its own billboard and marketing tool. Keep it maintained so it sends the right message to the public.

Finally, here are the questions they recommend you ask yourself when thinking about any kind of redesign, big or small:

  1. What does your library need long term?
  2. What could the library do in the meantime?
  3. What would the goals of the short term improvement be?
  4. Who are the stakeholders? Staff? Community? Children (aka Future Stakeholders)?
  5. What expertise should be engaged?
  6. What are the other possible partnerships?
  7. What are the funding options? Referendum? Private funding? Grants?
  8. What are the phasing options? (You don’t have to do everything all at once).

Finally, they left us with this quote and piece of advice:

Just do it, even if you can’t do everything you wanted to do.” 

~Rosemary Cooper, Director of the Albert Wisner Public Library

Join me tomorrow when I walk you through part two, Teaching with Historical Documents.

See you then,


Library Leadership Academy Workshop-A Quick Recap

This was my first workshop/conference experience so you’ll have to forgive me for my somewhat incomplete notes and complete lack of pictures. I’ll do my best to recap the day and share some tips, tricks and snippets of knowledge that I picked up throughout the day.

We started our day with checkin, a light breakfast, and a morning keynote speaker. The keynote speaker, Marc Aronson, was a surprise to me since I hadn’t remembered seeing it mentioned in the brochure. I must admit, I wasn’t familiar with Marc’s work prior to the workshop but I’ve been itching to check it out since the conference. He was very engaging, funny, smart, and well-spoken. I enjoyed his presentation immensely. Here are some little nuggets of wisdom I jotted down during his presentation:

  • “School should not be passively absorbing and taking in what others know.” ~Marc Aronson
  • Resources shouldn’t stand alone in isolation from each other, they should be in conversation with each other. The example Marc used was on the number of planets in our solar system. Get out your non-fiction and fiction books out about the planets, the ones that say we have nine, they ones that say we have eight, and the new ones that advocate for an eleven planet solar system and put them on display together. Use the disagreement between the resources to spark a conversation and a curiosity in the students. Use the conversation between the resources as a teachable moment on getting information from more than one source and exploring more than one avenue to an answer.
  • He also had a great quote from Dewey that even though it was from a writing he did in 1900 could easily apply to today’s students. Unfortunately, I only noted the name and date of the quote and not the quote itself and I’m having trouble finding it for you all. If I do, I’ll update this post to include it.

Then, I attended a session on “Coring out Your Collection”. Sue Bartl taught the session and she is a dynamic personality and I’ve heard good things about her workshops from other librarians I’ve worked with in the past. She let us know we were the first group to receive this presentation and it was a little jumpy for me but still informative. Her are some of the things I noted during this session:

  • Get yourself a “Core Buddy”. Like a weeding buddy, they can help keep you motivated to move through your collection and get rid of the resources that don’t hold up to the common core standards. Your “Core Buddy” doesn’t have to be in the school or even the same state as you. As long as you keep in touch and encourage each other, you’re good.
  • Make it your mission to get to know your non-fiction section as much as your fiction section. Try to recommend non-fiction books as much as you recommend fiction books to students interested finding new books.
  • Have the kids help you evaluate your non-fiction collection. After you’ve taught them the basic parts of a non-fiction book (index, glossary, page numbers etc) pull some books you aren’t sure about keeping and have the kids look at them in groups. Ask them to find the different parts of the non-fiction book (good practice for them) and note which books are missing key elements or to which ones the students don’t respond well. Pull those on a cart and look them over later to see if they should be weeded from the collection (good for you).

The second session was about teaching research and technology skills to K-2 students. The main takeaway from this session was that, yes it is possible to start those skills, even at these young ages. The key was to keep it simple and think of it as a building block step and not feel compelled to teach them everything-that can wait until later. They should use some great, simple graphic organizers students can use to fill in information on a topic and each one had a simple line at the bottom that said, “I found this information here:_______.” Students would note the name of the website or book they found the information in and that was it. I really liked the simplicity of the act and how it will make learning about citing sources that much easier in the long run because they will be use to providing source information and will have a better concept of recognizing your sources.

Then it was time for lunch and our lunchtime key note speaker, Lee Berger. I wish I could provide you with some tidbits and nuggets from Lee’s speech but honestly, I was so entranced and enthralled with his presentation, I couldn’t stop making faces like this, much less remember to take notes:

Here are some links about Lee and his book so you can get an idea of what he talked to us about and why I was so awed by his presentation.

Finally, I attended a workshop on creating better MARC records. I was especially looking forward to this one because, I’ll level with you all here, I was not the best at my class on cataloging. It is such tedious, detail oriented work and I actually thought it might be right up my ally but alas, my brain must think differently than catalogers because I rarely identified the correct subject headings in our exercises. I digress. Things I learned from my workshop on better MARC records:

  • Consistency and uniformity are key components of good records. She gave us some worksheets we could use to figure out how we want things labeled so we and our staff/helpers can all be on the same page.
  • Only fill in what is absolutely necessary in your MARC records to make it possible for students to find books in the OPAC.
  • MARC Wizard is your best friend. If you don’t have it, figure out who you need to talk to to get it. There is no need to manually create full records in this day and age.

So that was my day. I have a folder full of handouts and a brain full of ideas to show for it. I’m already looking forward to the next workshop they host. Fingers crossed that my first NYLA experience tomorrow is just as exciting, enthralling, and informative.

Until Monday,


ACK! Networking!

Saturday, I will be attending my first ever NYLA (New York Library Association) conference. Saturday is the last day of the conference and it will be the shortest day as well. However, there are still several great sessions to attend and I’m sure, some opportunities to meet and network with fellow librarians and future librarians. Naturally, this prospect excites and terrifies me (mostly terrifies).

Sometimes I find it easy to chat up random strangers and other times, I just struggle to make a connection and get a conversation off the ground. I know many librarians (and some of my fellow library students) have gone to these conferences before so many will be reunited with old conference friends. I also know many librarians (including my fellow library students) attend with a friend. With so many librarians coming in with pre-established friends I’m afraid I’ll be the sad, lonely library girl in the corner struggling to find space in other people’s conversations to join in and have some fun of my own.

So, I was very excited to find this pin from one of my favorite bloggers, EZ at Creature Comforts, floating around Pinterest this afternoon after work.

Some of these are sillier than others but, they are great reminders that starting a conversation and networking are as complicated as we make it. Enjoy the full article here. Any networking tips and tricks to share with me before I head out to Saratoga Springs this weekend? Share away in the comments and I’ll “see” you all tomorrow when I share my favorite takeaways from the workshop last week.



Let’s Get Down to Business

Friday, I finally sat down and got on some librarian-esque paperwork I’d been putting off. In addition to renewing my professional organization memberships and my School Library Journal subscription, I finally sifted through the conference/workshop paperwork I’ve accumulated and narrowed it down to the must do finalists, filled out my registrations and shipped off my payments.

On November 1st I will be attending the Library Leadership Academy Training session being hosted by Wayne Finger Lakes BOSCES.  There are three sessions over the course of the day. My first choices for the day’s sessions include:

Option B: Core Out Your Collection! with Sue Bartle- Let’s look at weeding the library collection through the lens of the Common Core. Where should you start? What qualities should you look for in your books? Do you have nonfiction on the shelf that will work? Learn the answers to all this and more in a new dynamic Common Core approach to weeding.

Option H: Research and Technology Projects for K-2 Students with Katie HerrGesell & Jennifer Waddington- You can’t do research with primary school students! Guess again! This collaborative team will share some of their research and technology projects for K-2 students from start to finish. Aligned with 21st Century Learner Standards and the ELA Common Core, these projects will show the nuts and bolts of successful learning experiences for our youngest students that lay the foundation for information literacy and technology integration.

Option I: Cataloging Tips and Tricks: What You Need to Know with Kristin Harrington- This workshop will cover the basics of cataloging, important fields in the MARC records, and how to create custom templates for easier cataloging.

My back up choice are options C, G and K.

In just four and a half weeks I will be attending my first conference EVER!!!, NYLA 2012 in Saratoga Springs, NY. I’m just attending the Saturday session but I’m still very excited to finally attend a real librarian conference. One of my (brave) classmates is even presenting during the Pecha Kucha Presentation sessions on Friday so I can’t wait to see him on Saturday and find out how it went.

Finally, I’ve already registered for the Spring NYLA/SSL conference. It will be April 25th-27th in Rochester, NY. I’ll be doing the whole three day session for this one. My student teaching mentor went last Spring (and has gone for many years) and she couldn’t say enough great things about this conference so I’m really looking forward to attending my first school librarian specific conference this Spring.

All these upcoming workshops and conferences combined with my December graduation date made me realize it’s time to get some business cards! I’m lucky enough to have a friend who actually owns her own letterpress stationary business so I’ll be working with the amazing Amy Rau of Green Girl Press on some custom business cards. Amy did our wedding stationary three years ago when she was first getting started and she was a joy to work with, more than exceeding our expectations, so I can’t wait to work with her again now that she’s even more experienced and amazing at what she does. We’ll be meeting next week to start brainstorming ideas and layout so I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on how the process goes (and of course will show off the finally product). For now, let’s look at some designs that caught me eye and I’ll be sharing with Amy as inspiration pieces:

For more details on the business cards shown, visit Bifocals & Buns on Pinterest

Anyone have any business card musts for teachers/librarians to share? Have a favorite stationary store/business card source? Don’t hold back, spill the details in the comments section.

Tomorrow, we’ll be having another Technology Tuesday. See you then.