Why Libraries Rock

“Libraries are where people start their dreams.”
~Betty, 10th grade~

Today, my Media 21 students participated in the blogathon for the Louisville Free Public Library. The blogathon was the kickoff to our mini-unit on how social media can be used to create positive social change/social good.  I have been rather moved and humbled tonight in reading students’ blog posts and their thoughts on why libraries, especially our school library, matter.  I hope that I will always honor the qualities they mentioned in their blog post—at the end of the day, the library is about and for the students.

As a little girl, I was most fortunate to have Joy Mauldin as my librarian at Midway Elementary in Forsyth County, Georgia.  Back in the 1970s, the Midway community was a sleepy little rural section of southern Forsyth County  in which everyone knew everyone and there was a real sense of community.    When I entered Midway, I arrived a reader (started at age three), but Ms. Mauldin was one who nurtured that passion by allowing us to check out whatever books we wanted; she never said that we could not read any particular section, nor did she discourage the rereading of favorites.  I can still hear her voice undulating in soft tones during storytime—every weekly class visit to the library always held the promise of some new magical adventure.  Even now, over thirty years later, my memories of that library seem like something akin to a trip to Narnia.

When I was lucky to enough to get the job to open the library at Creekview High School, it was a dream come true.  I wanted to create a high school library experience like the one I had as a little girl at Midway—many people fondly recall their elementary and even their middle school library experiecnes, but very few people seem to share those sentiments about the high school library.  I wanted to create a library program that made a difference in the lives of students and teachers, a program that was cutting edge, authentic, and meaningful.


I believe that with all my heart, libraries matter more than ever—whether we are helping cultivate one of many literacies, including information literacy which is now an essential literacy, helping a student find the perfect book, teaching cloud computing, providing a safe haven in the day to a stressed out teen, giving students a sense of belonging, or just providing a friendly smile, we are the bridge from past to present to future for our students.

I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate to do something I love so very much each and every day.  How many people can say they get to live one of their major passions for a living?  How many people get to learn something cool and new on a regular basis?    Even on days in which I feel discouraged, I always find something positive that keeps me focused on my mission of creating a library that will hopefully help cultivate a love for lifelong learning and libraries.

Long may libraries be the places where dreams begin and are nurtured.  I urge you to discover how libraries can support your passions and even uncover new ones.   Let us never relent in our efforts to create libraries and patrons that dream big!

Google Reader Bundles

Thanks to friends and fellow librarians Marianne Lenox and Andy Woodworth, I have discovered the beauty of Google Reader Bundles.  Essentially, a “bundle” is a package of RSS feeds–this could be from a folder of your favorite RSS feeds on a topic, such as librarianship, or tags you have in your Google Reader.  You can use the bundle feature to share your favorite “package” of feeds in your shared items; you can even add a clip of your bundle to your website, blog, or wiki!  You can also email your bundle or add a regular link to the bundle to your favorite web space.



Bundles are a terrific way to share and discover what your peers and colleagues are reading!  For easy instructions on how to get started with bundles in Google Reader, check out these two terrific and easy to follow “how to” blog posts/articles.

Happy Bundling!

Media 21 Reflections, August 17-27, 2009

The fact that nearly two weeks have passed since I wrote my last Media 21 project reflections should be indicative of how insanely busy the last 10 school days have been.    More time intensive projects and/or an increased number of collaborative projects with other teachers and classes have been on my schedule in addition to my two Media 21 courses.  While I am grateful for the increase in collaboration with others, the level of business has bordered on overwhelming.

Here are the highlights of the last two weeks!

August 17–21

As it has gone the first two weeks, the third week did not go according to my timetable. However, the fact that we have needed extra time seems to be less troubling to me—I am not sure if this is because I am more comfortable with this reality, but it has made for less internal stress on my part.   The students seemed engaged in our activity of responding to each other’s social media articles—many commented in their blogs that the experience of reading others’ article posts on the class wiki coupled with the act of actually reading those articles and responding created a richer learning experience.  The purpose of this activity was to help them to see how dialoging with others can enrich our learning experiences.   I was pleased that the students had the opportunity to compose some blog entries on their learning blogs and to have some time to reflect on their learning experiences.   Some are still have difficulty responding to the thinking prompt and/or responding with depth, but I realize that many are still building writing fluency, so Ms. Lester and I are not terribly concerned just yet.

My favorite activity of the week took place on Friday—we used our class wiki to collaboratively generate pros and cons for the first persuasive essay (a department requirement in our school/grade level requirement for 10th English).  I acted as the scribe to record their pros and cons for using social media in the classroom.  You can see the list that 5th period created here and the list created by 7th period here.  The act of group brainstorming seemed to encourage some thoughtful conversation and exchange of ideas—I was impressed how they disagreed respectfully with each other.   When one student expressed concerns about Facebook privacy, another created a teachable moment by sharing some of the basics of privacy settings and how you can control who sees certain kinds of information.

August 24—August 27, 2009

This week did not go exactly as planned, but we seem to be recovering!  On Monday, I was out of the building attending a daylong district meeting, and Ms. Lester was at home celebrating the birth of her first grandchild!  The sub and student teacher did not seem to fully execute the instructions of having the student  create the thesis for their essay and to start the “shaping sheet” graphic organizer (part of the school’s adoption of the Schaefer writing method).

When I arrived on Tuesday, I finally figured out what had happened (or not happened), so most of the day was spent re-explaining the directions for getting started.   We also took some time to review the newly re-organized pathfinder page for researching the essay topic and for students to join the our newly created Media 21 Google Group that we will use for communication and information sharing.  We also took some time to respond on our class blog to two blog posts (one from Dean Shareski and one from Seth Godin) as they seemed to address some talking points generated by students in our class discussion the previous Friday.

Wednesday was primarily a working day—students could use the entire period to work on their shaping sheets and then to type their draft into Google Documents.


Thursday (today) was fun—after turning in their shaping sheets and sharing their drafts in Google Docs with Mrs. Lester and me, we got started building our very own Google Sites.  Originally, I envisioned students having accounts at Wikispaces for creating a learning portfolio, but after seeing the new and improved Google Sites (thanks to my friend Jeff Johnson)  over the weekend, I knew it was the way to go since it is now easy to embed content and seamlessly integrate our work from Google Docs!  Today  (Thursday) students created a site, added a theme, and then created two pages; we embedded our rough drafts on one of those pages.  On Friday, we will create a feedback form using the “form” option in Google Docs; students will then peer edit using these forms by embedding their feedback form into their Rough Draft page on their Google Site—this mode will allow us to engage in virtual peer editing!

Many of our students have Michael Sinco for World History—Mr. Sinco and I are doing a project that involves Google Sites (we did most of our collaboration via Facebook!), so I look for my M21 students to be the “expert helpers” to their classmates the next few days.  I love how our work together (Mr. Sinco is working with Ms.  Lester on incorporating and evalauting writing in his class) helps reinforce the skills and ideas we are trying to teach.

On a lighter note, my classes mugged for our “Geek the Library” campaign that we are doing at The Unquiet Library!  They seemed to enjoy sharing that they geeked social media and Media 21!




It seems there is never enough time!  I truly enjoy working with these two classes and enjoy hearing what they have to say.   I feel so lucky to be working with Susan Lester—I think our co-teaching of the class represents the highest level of collaboration as we both take on the role of teacher in this project.  I feel as though the students see me as a teacher, not just the librarian.

It also struck me that a few days ago, one of our students, who had gone home earlier in the day after throwing up twice and having a fever, took time to message me from her iPod about what she had missed in class!  I also have been impressed a few have emailed me this week to let me know about any writing difficulties they’ve had or to just ask me to look over their rough drafts.  I also love how receptive they all seem to be to help and direction—I can honestly say that many days I feel as though this project is a dream come true because it feels as though we are doing something that we are building a foundation for helping these students become “connected”learners, which in my mind, is the ultimate form of being informationally fluent.

We will spend Monday participating in the blogathon for the Louisville Free Public Library as an introduction to our mini-study of using social media for positive change/social good!   We will loop back to our putting the polishing touches on our social media persuasive essays either Wednesday or Thursday of next week so that we can wrap those up going into the long Labor Day weekend.

I am going to spend this weekend remapping the lessons and activities for September.   I hope to blog more on those plans next weekend!  In addition, I hope to get some kind of video assessment in next week—I had hoped to do this the last two weeks, but somehow, it just has not happened—arrrgh!

Overall, I feel so positive about the progress of this project—as I said, I only wish there was more time in the day as 50 minutes just don’t seem like enough time.  Just as we are getting started and really engaged, the bell rings, and we have to go—I do wonder if a block schedule would lend itself more to this mode of learning?

What Keeps Your Library Customers Coming Back?

Yesterday, I had a short but meaningful Twitter conversation with fellow librarian Aaron Tay about “how much is your library service worth to users.”


aarontay (aarontay) o

Twitter via kwout

I shared with Aaron a new “service” my library is offering this year—custom loan periods.  I am actively working with teachers to offer extended loan periods for independent reading assignments to help students stay out of “fine” territory and to schedule a day in which they come back to the library to return the books or renew if needed.  In addition, my staff and I are actively asking students who do individual checkouts if they need a longer loan period than the standard two weeks we offer; if they do, we offer three and four week loan periods.  My hope is that students will be able to enjoy their books and then return them without worry of fines by having the extended loan period.  Only time will tell if these new options will entice more students to use the library and help reduce overdues/fines, but I feel the initiative is worthwhile.

My Twitter-sation with Aaron, along with some other readings and blog posts I’ve reflected upon this summer, have had me thinking again today about “customer service” in my library and library program.   What services or special options can my library offer and add to our current menu to attract and retain student use of the library?  To encourage collaboration with teachers?   What matters to them?

A dream I had in an afternoon nap today somehow reflected these musings.  I dreamed that I was on a trip back from Florida with family and Tammy, our media clerk.  In the dream, we stopped at a convenience store that was a major tourist attraction in the Southeast because it offered quality gas and other standard store fare, but it also gave customers the opportunity to sit in a royal blue Corvette and enjoy a high tech simulated driving experience inside the store.   In my dream, I marveled at how people came from all part of the Southeast to shop at the store and “ride” in the Corvette.    While I realize the content of my dream borders on nonsensical, the principle is perfectly logical—offer your customers services they can’t refuse and that they love—-and they will  keep them coming back.

Two blog posts I have read this evening reinforce my thinking about how I can continue to market my library brand more effectively.  The first blog post, “Brands That Matter” from Seth Godin, offers two important questions:

  1. Do I want people to interact with me and my brand in unexpected ways (as opposed to just quietly consume it)?
  2. When they interact, do I overwhelm people with delight worth remarking about?
I think these are two important questions we as librarians should be able to answer with a resounding yes.  If our response is only lukewarm, negative, or indifferent, then we have some thinking and retooling to do.  I am committed to finding “unexpected ways” to have student interact (think participatory librarianship!) with the materials, services, and staff in my library.   In the next few weeks, I’ll continue to think about how I can innovate at all points of contact with our teachers and students to make our increase the worth of our library and to up the level of conversations we have with our teachers and students.
A second blog post, “A ‘Brand’ New Perspective for Libraries” by Kim Cofino, offers some practical and do-able tips for library design and marketing your “products” (in this case, books are the focal point) from library design expert Kevin Hennah. As the journey of Library Remix continues in my library, my staff and I will use these guiding principles to make sure we our physical space and placement of materials reflect these effective design strategies.    Kim leaves us with this thought-provoking question:
If retail strategies have so much to offer libraries, I’m now left wondering, what do popular and “addictive” websites, like Facebook, have to offer schools trying to shape their online presence?
While Kim’s question is directed toward a general school virtual presence, I will be thinking about this question in relation to my library’s virtual presence.   Am I effectively use our social media presence to reach students and teachers?  How do I assess that?  And if I find I am not effectively reaching students and teachers with our virtual presence, how do I make it more effective?
How would you answer these questions for your library program?  Your musings and ideas are welcomed here!