libraries

Southeastern Library Assessment Conference 2015: Introduction and Space Assessment Session 1

library asssessment conf

My friend and former Norcross High colleague Jennifer Lund and I attended the Southeastern Library Assessment Conference on November 16 that was held at the historic Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia.  Though we were probably the only school librarians there, we felt welcome and gleaned many pearls of wisdom from the sessions we attended.  I was sadly only able to attend Day 1 (Monday, 11/16) due to district meetings I needed to attend on the second day (11/17), but I got MORE than my money’s worth from the sessions I attended.  I highly recommend this conference if you are looking for smart, thoughtful perspectives that are grounded in evidence based practice and data collection with integrity.  The conference was limited to 125 people and had a pleasant, intimate feel; in addition, we were served a gourmet lunch buffet (it was fabulous) and many delicious amenities throughout the day (Starbucks coffee, tea, water, sodas, cookies).  Many thanks to the conference organizers who did a fantastic job with every aspect of the conference—it is by far one of the best and most meaningful conference experiences I’ve had in my career—every session had substance.

This is the first in a series of posts on the sessions Jennifer and I attended on Monday, November 16, 2015.

Space Assessment: How They Use It, What They Want, Sara DeWaay, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Session Description:  Getting student input on the library space can be a multi-layered effort. Come hear about the methods used to get an understanding of use patterns, as well as the students’ desires for a small branch library, as we work to transition towards a flexible space.

My Notes:
The emphasis was on users and feedback from students; Sara thought about the feedback in terms of “low cost easy” vs. “high cost hard” solutions and ideas from the students.  When she began the group study, she thought of the library space in zones:  group study, circulation area, lounge, quiet study, flexible, and creativity.  She began by doing a literature review on space assessment, and she focused on both qualitative and quantitative assessment methods.  She also looked at space assessment from a “before” and “afterwards” perspective since assessment should continue after the space remodel or redesign is initially completed.  She also did research on user centered design.  She formed a Student Advisory group; positive aspects of this group included input, support, connection, and ownership for the students, but challenges were maintaining momentum and a sustained sense of meaningfulness for the students after their participation ended.  In the future, Sara would try to make sure students received some sort of course credit for participation, perhaps as part of a project based learning assignment related to space design.

She organized a student event where students could come and vote on designs; approximately 40-50 students participated.  She basically used big notepads where students could vote with sticky notes on larger sheets of bulletin board or flip chart paper housed on easels.  For example:

space-assessment

She also used flip charts to get feedback from students using open-ended questions; she interspersed the flip charts with the buffet of food to “guide” them to this part of the feedback session.    Students also had a chance to mark up floor plans; she provided them a variety of tools for doing this activity including crayons, sharpies, ballpoint pens, colored pencils, and regular pencils.  Students then could tape their proposed floor plan on the wall.  Afterwards, she coded the feedback from the student floor plans using categories like “atmosphere” (and specific elements assigned something like letters A-J) and “physical space” (specific aspects were numbered 1-14).  This method of floor plan coding then allowed her to look at the data in a “layered” way (example:  2B).

Another strategy was student surveys.  Unfortunately, her sample size of 40 was not ideal, but nonetheless, she was able to ask more detailed questions about services as well as questions about the library in comparison to other spaces in the building.  She also had library student assistants help track space use; using iPads and Suma, they were able to gather data and plug it into LibAnalytics to get a better idea of space usage.

Once she looked at all the data, she was able to better understand student needs and could classify possible changes and redesign elements into these categories:

  • Low cost/easy to do
  • Low-cost/difficult to do
  • High cost/easy to do
  • High cost/ difficult to do

Unfortunately, the budget for the renovation was put on hold, but if it moves forward, Sara would get faculty input in the future and do similar activities with staff.  The major takeaway for me from this session was the idea of space assessment as cyclical—it should be ongoing and is important to do even after you complete a renovation or redesign project to make sure the new space is continuing to work for students or to see what areas of new need/adjustment may be needed.  This idea was especially helpful for Jennifer and me since she has opened a new library space, and I’m in the middle of working on a redesign project for the library here at Chattahoochee High.

My next post will be about the second session we attended on battling survey fatigue.

A Visit to Discovery High School: Rethinking Learning Spaces and Learner Experiences

We are preparing for a redesign of our media center learning space at Chattahoochee High School.  Having gone through this process with my friend and colleague Jennifer Lund the last year and a half at Norcross High, I knew that a visit to her new school, Discovery High, in Gwinnett County, was a “must do” when looking for inspiration.  This brand new school that spans 640,000 square feet and just opened in August features a focus on project-based learning with four different learning academies within the school.  The academies include:

  • Business and Entrepreneurship program
  • Health and Human Services
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
  • Fines Arts

I was especially interested in the media center space Jennifer envisioned and designed with Holly Frilot, formerly an Instructional Coach in Media Services for Gwinnett County and now Supervisor of Library Media Education in Cobb County Schools.  Jennifer drew upon many of the design elements we had crafted for Norcross High, but she was also able to incorporate some other interesting elements.  The majority of her furniture is designed for active and collaborative learning with small and large groups, but it is also flexible for individual or quiet kinds of learning activities.   The primary vendors for her furniture include Steelcase, Turnstone (A Steelcase company), Hon, and Artcobell.   Because we had field tested many of these furniture pieces at Norcross, we knew they were a good fit for the collaborative kinds of work (see previous posts from 2014-15) we did with teachers and supported the principles of active learning.   Discovery High is a BYOD school, and in the media center, they use laptops rather than desktops for instructional activities.  Here are a few glimpses of her library learning studio:

DSCN2296 DSCN2307 DSCN2308 DSCN2309 DSCN2310 DSCN2311 DSCN2317 DSCN2318 DSCN2321

DSCN2320 DSCN2324 DSCN2330 DSCN2343 DSCN2348

Another highlight of the visit was touring the Clyde L. Strickland Entrepreneurship Center, a space for students who want to learn how to start their own businesses.  Lindsey Brouillard, Language Arts teacher within the Entreprenuership and Business academy, along with program head Scott Allen, are working with students in a visionary learning space that features:

  • Pull-down garage doors separate the spaces classroom learning spaces (or they  can be left open to combine for larger common learning spaces)
  • “Restaurant” booths for  brainstorming and collaborative work
  • Individual makerspace areas within the larger makerspace featuring 3-D printers, an embroidery machine, banner and poster printers, and separate suites for creating their products
  • Mobile furniture that can easily be reconfigured
  • Natural materials combined with sleek, modern elements
  • Glass dry erase boards
  • Studio work rooms for small group work in different areas of entrepreneurship

Source: CBS 46 Atlanta

I saw students working individually and collaboratively; the common thread was a positive energy in which students were engaging in project based learning.  Other classes were using the learning space for virtual school courses facilitated by a content area teacher.  You can check out some of the rather cutting edge design of the learning space, inspired by the Georgia Tech Innovation Center and Chick Fil-A’s “The Hatch”, below:

DSCN2364 DSCN2365 DSCN2366 DSCN2367 DSCN2368 DSCN2375 DSCN2376 DSCN2378 DSCN2380 DSCN2382 DSCN2383 DSCN2386 DSCN2387 DSCN2390 DSCN2391 DSCN2393 DSCN2394 DSCN2395 DSCN2397 DSCN2398 DSCN2404 DSCN2405 DSCN2406 DSCN2409 DSCN2412 DSCN2413 DSCN2415 DSCN2418 DSCN2420 DSCN2422 DSCN2425 DSCN2426 DSCN2430

DSCN2428 DSCN2431

I apologize that some of my photos are a little bleary—I took over 200 photographs, and my battery was dying!  As you can see from both the media center and the entrepreneurship learning spaces, there was so much to take in and design elements to contemplate.  I definitely plan on incorporating many of these as we begin to work on our learning space taxonomy, sketch our initial ideas for floor plans, and continue developing our wish list for furniture that will support the kinds of learning activities we have started doing in the media center this fall and that we envision for the future.

Last but not least, I was very fortunate to get a special tour from Laura French of the Junior Achievement Biz Town and Finance Park.  I honestly don’t have the words to say how incredibly thoughtful this space is along with the partnership between Gwinnett County Schools and Junior Achievement.  I hope more schools will form these kinds of partnerships that can translate into truly meaningful experiences for young people!  You can read more about the partnership here.

A heartfelt thank you to Jen, Lindsey, and Laura for their exceptional hospitality!!!!  Their work has given me new ideas and inspiration for our media center learning studio redesign here at Chattahoochee.  If you are interested to know more, our good friend Steve Thomas of Circulating Ideas will be doing an interview with Jen and Lindsey for the show.  Stay tuned to his website for the interview/podcast!

Researchers as Artists, Artists as Researchers: Tinkering, Messiness, and Meaning Making in Libraries as Learning Studios

inspire

Last week, I sent out a needs assessment to our faculty.  Initially, I was concerned it was too lengthy, but as a new media specialist here at Chattahoochee High, I feel a sense of urgency to get some idea of what teachers have done in the past, what they are interested in now, and their points of need.  In spite of some lingering reservations, I shared the assessment with our faulty via email.  The next morning, AP Studio Art teacher Dorsey Sammataro came by to see me because she was intrigued by information literacy concepts embedded in the survey.  Long story short, the survey opened a really exciting conversation between us about certain concepts and skills she saw on the survey and how it dovetailed with the needs for a new unit she is piloting related to 2D Design Service Learning and Natural and Human-Made Environments.  Students have started thinking about topics of importance to them but need help growing strategies for search, developing search vocabulary, and becoming more comfortable with web-based resources as well as databases that students can mine to find inspiration for ideas and issues that can then inspire their art.  Ms. Sammataro identified this working list of issues and topics of importance to her students in the course:

  • Issues of socioeconomic equity (rich, poor, middle class)
  • GMOs/Food
  • Education and Equity
  • Human trafficking
  • Environment
  • Cultural appropriation: identifying its effects in everyday life and raising awareness of it
  • Assimilating into a culture:  how, why, impact on those assimilate—what is gained, what is lost
  • Adolescent mental health issues
  • Body image
  • Emotional health
  • A sense of unity and connection to peoples and cultures in other parts of the world
  • Stereotypes and assumptions people make about specific ethnicities
  • Bullying
  • Abandonment of self because of depression/mental illness as well as abandoned communities and/or groups of people

When she said they would be having a group debrief about the first work of art they had created that had come out of their initial pass at these topics, I asked if I could come listen in, and she enthusiastically said yes!  I was able to join them and listen to most of the 50 minute small group discussion as they talked about:

  • expanded insights about their topic ideas—this aspect of the discussion was quite meaty/weighty as students drew from personal experiences.
  • what they had learned about their idea through their initial research and first efforts at crafting 2D art around it.
  • what community resources (people, groups) might be resources for our work and ideas.
  • how and why one might abandon a topic and how the process of making art around a topic may help you realize that topic is not your true passion.
  • one student shared she had discovered she needs a strong intention for figurative pieces, so the idea/topic of interest is particularly crucial for art making.
  • an extended conversation about the importance of time, space, and ownership of experimentation for both literal and experimental/abstract pieces (echoes of Nancie Atwell’s concept of what writers need); the importance of trying new things, art forms.  In the words of one student, “Don’t be afraid to stray from the path of success.”
  • some students discovered they liked new art forms they didn’t think they would like.
  • one student shared how she was excited about the idea that inspired her art but when it came to do the printing process it was very humbling because it was more difficult than she imagined and the piece didn’t turn out quite as she envisioned, yet this trial and error process was important and valuable to her.
  • some discovered it was more difficult than they anticipated to turn an idea/topic/issue into an art piece.
  • one student shared how important it is to find out what you really are passionate about and then wondered how to better go about mining it to yield more strategic ideas/subtopics or focal points for expression of that through art.

I was struck by how deeply invested the students were in these topics and the group discussion; I was also appreciative of their honesty and openness, something that is not easy to do among peers or with a new adult on the staff who is listening to what they have to say.    Their perspectives on these topics as well as their insights on art making processes had a depth I had not anticipated; it also got me thinking about the parallels between making meaning from art and making meaning from working with information (and some form of research whether formal, informal, or some hybrid).   A few wonderings I’m now contemplating:

  • How do the two (research and art) inform each other, and how might looking at art-making processes foreground our conceptualization of “research”?  I can’t help but wonder if some of the precepts of Dennis Sumara’s work with “literary anthropology” in studying reading literacies might be applied when we think of art, the learning environment of a studio, and research intersect as a site of “information literacy interpretation.”
  • How might a library function as a studio where meaning making is elevated across multiple forms of literacy, particularly information literacy processes?  How is research art?  How might research and the cultivation of information literacy skills in art students impact their art-making processes?  What insights from an art studio might we draw upon in designing a library as a learning studio, and what does research look like in this environment?  How will it translate to learning spaces then outside the library and impact a larger learning community and culture where research seems increasingly marginalized in K-12 public schools by the impact of standardized testing?  What tools, resources, experiences, and learning design drivers do artists and learners need in a research/library learning studio as well as an art studio?
  • How is the act of crafting art like acts of crafting research processes and products?
  • Research and art can both be organic, recursive, and frequently non-linear (even though there are those who would like to prescribe models that are contradictory in nature).    Many K-12 teachers, professors, and yes, even some librarians tend to emphasize the consumption aspect of research rather than frontloading the grittier messy work of mucking about in information; students often miss the experience of wrestling with the friction of ideas that comes when one goes beyond regurgitating facts and engages in higher level thinking; it is often the final product, a paper, that gets the most emphasis.  Yet this creative process is viewed positively when it comes to crafting art—-how might it be viewed if we embrace meaning making as the core of research as it is in art?

Building on the extensive work and efforts Jennifer Lund and I invested in developing the concept of library as learning studio at Norcross High (see any of my posts from the last two years), this budding collaborative partnership with the AP Studio Art students and Ms. Sammataro (and my larger/big picture efforts to now develop the library as learning studio concept at Chattahoochee High) may offer opportunities for us to explore these wonderings together by working from an inquiry stance.   I hope to dwell in these ideas and look forward to see how my thinking is shaped by my experiences with Ms. Sammataro and her students.