Guest Post: GAME ON…@your library

It is always a joy to put the spotlight on my colleagues who are doing innovative and original programming and instruction.  I’m honored and pleased to feature this special guest post from my Cherokee County School District colleague Wendy Cope!

When I think about gamers, I think about slack-jawed adolescents, hands glued to controllers, faces lit blue from the television screen. Wasting time. Not reading books. But I also know there was something significant to the culture of gaming that we needed to acknowledge in our fledgling library program.  When my partner Keara Rubin and I brought the idea of celebrating ALA’s National Gaming Day before Knight’s Tale (our advocacy/literacy club) and they got excited, we knew we had hit on something big.  Two of our boys, Jesse and JD, really took ownership of the event, securing the games and gaming systems from teachers and friends (we labeled EVERYTHING including cords).  Especially for this first event, we chose games that were multiplayer and (relatively) non-violent; Mario Krash Kart, Dance Dance Revolution, Madden 12, and Rock Band were HUGE hits. We explicitly said no to Halo and to Modern Warfare. At first, students griped that the event wouldn’t be any good without FPS (first person shooter) games, but when they realized we wanted to make this an inclusive and non-controversial event, they understood.

We shut down the MC for lunches and sold wristbands for admission ($3 ahead of time and $4 at lunch, with a discount for students who wanted to contribute games, systems, or controllers to the event).

Despite two weeks of promotional posters and general announcements followed by a couple of days of explicit announcements, we got a little flak on that day from kids working on projects, but we sent them to our counseling office, which has several computers and welcomes kids during lunch.

We used the 2 SMARTboards in the media center and set up an additional 3 screens/projectors/speakers.  With their parents’ permission, students brought in a plethora of systems:  PS2, PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360. Jesse and JD looked at the games and systems and determined which position in the library would be best for which games.  For instance, Beatles Rock Band needed good speakers AND enough floor space for players and their instruments, so that went to a screen with access to the sound system.  Madden ’12 needed a high resolution screen, so they went to the SMARTboard.  Their knowledge of how to optimize the games’ effectiveness contributed heavily to the positive gaming experience.

For community outreach, we invited a representative from Play N Trade, a local gaming store.  He brought “Warriors of Rock” and tons of guitars so that more kids could play.  He interacted brilliantly with students, giving pointers along with gaming coupons.  Since he was used to dressing up like Mario and being mauled by elementary school students, he was grateful for the chance to work with potential customers who shared his passion.  He even stayed through the tornado watch, talking gaming with the kids huddled in the hall. Good community relations.

One PTSA member came to help, and Knight’s Tale kids stationed themselves at each game system for security and “fairness”, but neither presented an issue.  At each station, the rules of play seemed to emerge organically with little negotiation. We also asked the teachers to come down to play with the kids (and to provide a little supervision), and that perhaps turned out to be the biggest hit.  The kids loved gaming against their teachers and schooling THEM.

In fact, the amount of problem-solving, teaching, and collaboration going on between the intense (slack-jawed) bursts of gaming surprised me. One group in the computer lab even commandeered the whiteboards for brainstorming tips and shortcuts.

All told, we had thirty kids gaming in the library over three lunches.  Since we regularly have at least 50 kids in our library during each of the three lunches, this event could have been viewed as a failure.  I don’t see it that way.  I stayed outside the media center selling wristbands to last minute-takers and to take in the scene from the outside. What I loved was that, even though event wasn’t well-attended, kids were peeking in the windows and saying, “They had MADDEN? Man, I wish I had gone. That was cool.” For some reason, the posters and the two weeks of announcements just didn’t register.  Our student body is not composed of early adopters or innovators, so they’re only beginning to understand that when we launch a program, it’s going to be good. Next time, their response will be even better.

Our version of National Gaming Day provided an opportunity to game at school with new friends and to make a little money with no financial outlay.  The real prize?  It cemented us as a cool place to be.

To view an Animoto video with highlights of the event, please visit this link.

Wendy Cope is one of the librarians at River Ridge High School in Cherokee County, Georgia.  Her email address is Twitter: @rrhslibrary

Video: The Librarian as a Catalyst and Learning Specialist in K12

English teacher Lisa Kennedy and librarian Buffy Hamilton discuss partnerships for learning between the librarian and classroom teacher; they also share how this partnership between librarian and teacher influences Lisa’s evolution as a teacher and her instructional design and in turn, Buffy’s practice as a librarian.


Harada, V. H., & Zmuda, A. (2008, April). Reframing the library media specialist as a learning specialist. School Library Monthly, 24(8). Retrieved from‌articles/‌Zmuda&Harada2008v24nn8p42.html

Scenes from the Unquiet Library: Four Classes Researching, Learning, and Collaborating

I’m always amazed by how beautifully classes co-exist in our learning space when we max out with four classes.  I thought it would be fun this morning to capture a quick snapshot of what learning looks like at The Unquiet Library—moments like this are the happiest for me here in the library and validate the vision of a learning-centered library.

Your School Library 6th Annual Online Conference–School Library Advocacy: Evidence & Image 

Your School Library via kwout

I’m honored to be one of the virtual presenters for the Your School Library 6th Annual Online Conference!  This virtual conference, which runs March 4-18, 2011, focuses on school library advocacy and ways to make your practice more effective and visible in your learning community.  My session focuses on framing your practice with a lens of participatory librarianship and how that translates into conversations for learning, community building, and ongoing program advocacy.  You can learn more about this virtual learning opportunity and see the outstanding list of presenters (I’m honored to be part of the team!) by clicking on the course information link.

Creating and Sharing Collection Development Lists with Evernote

Evernote is a web-based service that allows you to bookmark your favorite resources and organize those resources into a notebook about a particular topic.   What makes Evernote unique is that you can also import documents, scans, and photos; you can even download the mobile phone app and import photos, text notes, or voice memos.  Like other social bookmarking services, you can add tags and organize your “notes” to your heart’s desire.

While Evernote is not new and many people have found clever and innovative uses for it, I have been half-heartedly fumbling with it for a few months.  I finally decided a week ago to commit more time to playing with it and exploring it so I could decide if this would be a tool not only to add to my personal information management arsenal, but also to decide how I might pilot it with students via library instruction.

My first major project I started this evening is using Evernote for organizing and sharing my Spring-Summer 2010 collection development wish list.  Although I will probably not know until late May or early June what next year’s budget will be (if there is any money from the state), I thought it would be fun and useful to use Evernote to start collecting “clippings” on items I’d like to purchase over the summer.  While I primarily order print materials through Titlewave, those lists are available for public sharing at this time; in addition, I thought it would be cool to use a tool like Evernote not only to share the library “wish” list for print books, but for other purchases as well, such as more Flip video cameras.  By choosing to make my list public, I can share the list via a link or grab the RSS feed and embed that feed in my library blog or Libguides page! [see screenshots below]

Another advantage to Evernote is that I could use my mobile phone app to capture requests on the fly.  For example, I can snap photos of the latest and best-selling titles in the teen section at places like Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, or Target and import those book photos into my collection wish list notebook.  It would also be fun to scan in hand-written student requests or even record voice memos from teachers and students for items they might like the library to purchase over the summer.  I hope to hit a bookstore this weekend; if I do, I will make a video and post it here on the blog so you can see me Evernoting away as I add materials I’d like for next year to my list using my Evernote iPhone app.

Of course, what would be super-cool is if there could be a way to import the Evernote notebook into my Titlewave account.  At this time, I don’t think this cloud computing fantasy can come true, but I can always suggest it as an enhancement to both vendors!

I have created a brief 6 minute screencast on how I can use my Google Chrome Evernote extension (this extension is available for other browsers, too) to “clip” webpages and to share my lists publicly.

If you are interested in learning more about Evernote, I recommend their video tutorials page–here you will find helpful and easy to follow tutorials on how to use Evernote.  I’m looking forward to exploring and playing more with Evernote!