Posts Tagged ‘school library’

Libraries – power, joy and passion.

January 23, 2010


I unabashedly love libraries…all kinds of libraries!  Big libraries, small libraries, old libraries, new libraries and public libraries as well as school libraries.

In several conversations over the past few weeks about libraries, I realized that most people spoke from quite differing viewpoints. There were positions for or against different formats, different customer service ideals, different expectations concerning funding sources, overdue fines, bestsellers, computer usage….you name it. Nearly anything that could be viewed differently…was viewed differently. I left the conversations with a nagging uncertainty. How could there be so many different ways to think about the role of libraries?

I realized that I understood why I loved libraries. I know why I am a passionate believer in the power and joy that libraries can bring to people’s lives. But maybe, many other people had a library experience that was quite different than mine. Those personal life experiences about libraries give then their own unique understanding,  perspective and values.

My love of libraries has been influenced by a number of experiences during my life. As an early elementary student – the county bookmobile stopped in our neighborhood, on our street. With no nearby library and no 2nd family vehicle, the rolling library brought far away places and people right to me.  The arrival of the big, noisy, smelly,  black bus, brought yells of excitement and a mad dash home to get our library cards. Stepping inside and seeing all those books and getting to take two home to read and then return again for more adventures a week later was pure magic. Would it be a Hardy Boys mystery and maybe a book about some wild animal or outdoor adventure? During the summer, those new books were sure to mean a few late nights with the flashlight under the covers.

The bookmobile was followed by our school library. A K-8 private school – with a small, lovingly created collection. Compared to the bookmobile, the options seemed unlimited. For the first time, I saw encyclopedias and dictionaries and amazing nonfiction to do homework assignments with. The big, real world was there in those pages.

High school brought an even larger collection. Remember a time when reference was the dominant part of high school collections? No internet, no google – just print reference. Anything you needed to know were in those pages. Granted – it took hours and sometimes days, but it was in there. Then came a college library in the 70’s that seemed like a warehouse filled with the world’s knowledge. Those old, musty books, the quiet spaces, the decades old single carrels tucked away – seemingly locked away from the rest of the world. Endless days spent exploring, thinking and writing in the world of science, literature, philosophy and more. Group projects meant, index cards, stacks of books, quiet debate and mountains of yellow legal pads of hand scratched notes – the words, numbers and scribbles that occasionally evolved into stories, or projects to be proud of.

As a twenty something trying to make it on my own – working, having fun, learning about life – I moved 4-5 times chasing career opportunities. Each new city or town had a library that offered advice and information as I tried to learn and become a better manager and professional as well as just getting acclimated in a new community. In my 30’s, marriage and family brought the joy of the bedtime story. There is nothing better than a new stack of picture books from the library and having an infant or toddler on your lap turning the pages and loving the moment.

As a professional traveling and working with both school and public libraries, I continue to see all the magic in those rooms and buildings filled with information, computers, librarians and customers and students – all in search of sharing and or receiving the power and joy that libraries offer. I am especially encouraged to see how many libraries, school and public, are moving to further enhance their sense of community and personal interaction. It is no longer just about the content – increasingly it is about the people connections. As the world gets “flatter” and we can interact with people and places from around the globe in an instant, our libraries offer unique opportunities for learning, sharing and engagement in our local and expanded communities. I understand we have many problems: funding, staffing, changing technologies, leadership challenges and increasing competition. But all of those problems have solutions.

Maybe it’s time we stop and take the time to ask questions and really listen to each other.  We all have a library story to tell. It is within these life experiences that our passion for libraries resides. Maybe it’s time we ask: staff, customers, local government leaders, school educators and especially our kids to explain why – “Libraries are important to me because…?” From these stories come our passion for library advocay. Let’s talk…. and listen.

Maybe it is within these shared stories and understanding that we will find our common ground, the new ideas and the courage to solve our many challenges. Passion always triumphs over fear.

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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – for Libraries

February 21, 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act  – we must fight for funding projects for libraries. In these critical and challenging economic times, libraries deserve some funding from the stimulus bill. It won’t happen automatically. See below.


The ALA has created a webpage with critical and timely information about the available funding as well as the mechanisms for advocating the use of the funds for libraries. There are very specific programs from which funding could be used to support library programs.

ALA – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act info site is here:    

Besides the opportunities listed on the ALA website, both school and public libraries should consider unique and new partnerships wth each other. The Federal Education Dept. is looking for and willing to fund – innovative and unique new programs that will support student learning and improve workforce readiness.

I have previously listed some good ways that school and public libraries can and should work together. The posts are here:  School and Public Libraries Work! (Together would be best) Part 1  and here: School and Public Libraries Work! Part 2  Maybe your school and public library could sit down together now and create a plan for a partnership program including requird costs.  Submit those plans to your State Dept of Education for funding consideration. The A.R.R.A plan is to begin funnding within 60-90 days.

Please act now. Don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity to greatly improve your school and public library partnership.

The 21st-Century Librarian – Video

February 19, 2009

Everybody who cares about articulating the message and advocating for children’s librarians should watch this video. For every librarian who feels that their library funding is insufficient to allow them to run a great library program, read the full story linked below as well as watch the video. 

Ms. Rosalia is an elementary school librarian, but her message and impact can happen in any library  – middle school, high school or a public library.  When she was hired to be the school librarian, Ms. Rosalia introduced herself to her fellow school colleagues as the “information literacy teacher”. Excellence starts with just one person.


The 21st-Century Librarian – Video Library – The New York Times
Published: February 19, 2009
School librarians like Stephanie Rosalia have transformed into multi-faceted information specialists who guide students through the flood of digital information that confronts them on a daily basis.

The full NY Times article can be found here: 

A lack of traditional library  funding never really prevents a great library program, only small thinking can do that. What is holding your library program back?


Libraries are Changing – school library presentation

February 13, 2009


Libraries Are Changing  – a presentation at the Woodland Hills School District 2/13/09.  Understanding the significant shifts affecting school libraries. How should libraries work to support improved student achievement. Collaboration with the public library is important.

Library: patrons or customers? … I like – Members

November 6, 2008


Not: patrons….. Not: customers……. Members. 

The credit for this idea belongs to Joan Frye Williams: 

I attended a public library presentation recently where Joan presented a half day seminar. Joan did a wonderful job helping us to think about libraries in some new ways. She discussed a survey she did that tried to communicate how users of a public library would like to be identified. The survey winner: members.  I think that is perfect.

The old fashioned term “patron” seems just that…old fashioned. I have always liked the term “customer”. Customer conveys a more specific “service” provider and receiver relationship. But I must say….”member” gets it even more right. Member implies “a person” who is a part of the community. The term is more friendly, more personal, more warm and more engaged. A member might be: a family member, a school member, a church member, a local community member….. or all of those. You get the picture. I especially like the idea that “member” conveys a sense of “belonging”. Isn’t that exactly what we hope happens to all those people who enter our doors, or use our services… that they feel a sense of belonging?

The term member also conveys a sense of relationship. No longer a top down, us vs. them. A member is more of an equal, a part of the team. A member has a stake in the process and the outcome. A member has ideas, thoughts and wishes that need to be taken into consideration. A member gets to contribute.

So I move we abolish the term “patron” and even “customer” from our language and written communication. We are all “members” of our local and even the larger…library community as a whole. Thanks Joan!

Video – A New Librarian Assistant?

October 9, 2008

Did you ever wish you had a way to have your own personal video of your self answering that same question over and over and over….? You know the ones: what time do you close?, when does this book have to be back?, where is the bathroom? When you hear the “question”, just hit the play button and voila…..question answered. It’s a nice fantasy isn’t it? As you know by now….I would always expect librarians to give the best customer service possible. Our customers deserve that.

But what if there was a way to give great service and solve that “repetitive question that needs an answer” issue. Why not let short, to the point, online videos – help solve the problem of: never enough time….and… our customers deserve good service.

Another great video from the folks at Common Craft gave me the idea.  Web Search Strategies in Plain English. 


Keep the video bookmarked on your computer system. Then when a young student or a new library customer asks the age old question: “How do I find some information about ….fill in the blank….. on the internet”?  You simply have them view the 2:51 minute video and they have a good start. There are lots of wonderful and informative videos just like this one available for free on the web. Check out YouTube and the TeacherTube sites for some great ideas. Also the Common Craft website has many terrific instructional videos, most aimed at teaching Web 2.0 skills.

For those brave technology explorers, consider screencasting. Screencasting is creating short, instructional videos by capturing your computer’s on-screen movements and adding audio for explanation.  For a good rundown and some resources check out the iLibrarian link here: A Quick Guide to Screencasting for Libraries

Using existing free web video resources or creating your own custom screencasts could be effective ways to stretch your personal time and to provide valuable 21st century information skills for your students and customers.

I have some more video ideas on the Vodpod video display on the right and on my Great Library Resources page.

“Recession” Funding for Public Libraries – It’s Critical!

April 24, 2008



You have seen the headlines: Gasoline prices at an all time high. Foreclosures up 100%. Home sales down again last month. Food prices up 40%. Possible food shortages this summer.

As the economy continues to weaken – libraries must be prepared.

During slowdowns or recessions – consumer discretionary spending falls. Retail sales fall. Entertainment spending drops. Vacations are downsized and big ticket item and new home purchases are delayed. In all of these economy sector’s revenues will fall. Government tax revenue will surely fall as well. Many of us been through these cycles before. We know that revenues will be down.

The question is: In challenging economic times – will school and public library funding be cut to help balance strained state and local budgets?

But what of the school and public library demand. With entertainment, education and most other discretionary spending cut, families will turn to the public library. The free resources: information, books, audio, video, children’s and adult programming as well as internet access will all face increasing demand.

An economic downturn also means higher unemployment. Job seekers will turn to the library for employment information, resume and computer skills help as well as internet access. The digital divide is real and will grow during tough economic times. With many large companies moving to online job postings, online applications and screeening tools – those who become unemployed or underemployed without internet and computer access will miss out on those job opportunities.

With the possible cuts to school library programs, the public library will be an even greater resource for local students. When the internet access at home is gone, students must turn to the public library.  Books and other circulating resource needs will go up as students will have limited time within the library to complete research projects. The materials will have to go home.

Strong library programs have been scientifically proven to contribute to student academic success. If school library funding is cut – there will be a negative impact on student achievement. Can the public library help minimize this negative impact – of course we can.

As adults look for ways to stretch their budgets – consumer information needs will grow. As retirement and savings accounts face downward pressures – stock, financial and general economic information needs will grow. As individuals decide to cut back on medical care spending – health information needs will grow.

What can libraries do?

Redouble your outreach and marketing efforts to help those customers who may not have used your library services in the past know about all your materials and service offerings.

Have renewed conversations with your local legislators and other elected officials. Make sure they understand the critical role the library will play in the support and vital interest for the well being of your community. Families, adults and students will turn to your library in increasing numbers.

Thank them for their previous support and begin the dialogue to inform them of future needs you may expect. Libraries have been excellent stewards of the public funds. I know we will continue to provide a high return on their local investment in the library.

Talk to your local school librarians. Know how their library program may be affected by budget cuts. Discuss new and improved collaboration in support of the the students needs.

Plan, plan, plan. Make sure you are prepared with materials, programing and resources for these new customer demands. Prepare for a possible budget squeeze. Talk to your staff about being fiscally prudent and start discussing ways to conserve on staff and reprioritize spending patterns. Consider some job sharing and allow staff a greater say in new ways to consider floor coverage and operational issues.

The tools, information and resources the library provides will help your community weather the economic storm of this weakened economy. By improving job outlooks, minimizing unemployed time, saving consumer dollars as well as providing family educational and enrichment resources – the library truly will become a critical community asset. 

How well you handle the needs of first time or “long lost” returning customers will go a long way toward improving the standing , funding and support for your library when the economy does improve.

With strong planning and improved community outreach let’s continue to build “great libraries”.


The “Black Hole” School Library

April 4, 2008
First a warning: this is a rant. If you are looking for fun, or exciting, stop reading.

Today was one of those days of frustration and regret. Regret due to lost opportunity for about 1,500 students. It’s happened too many times before and it happened again this week. A struggling small school district, with a typical single elementary, middle and high school arrangement. They are struggling to meet achievement goals – only 50% of the kids can read at grade level or worse. A committed staff, caring parents, seemingly concerned admistrators and school board. The all too typical – diversity achievement gap issues and lack of general readiness to begin school. A weak local tax base but extra support from the state for funding based on need and poor achievement results. The actual spending per pupil is significantly above the state average due to the extra state financial support. Now here come the typical bright eyed, energetic, happy, playful kids coming to start another day at school.

Why a rant you say?. Can you say – they have lousy school libraries! Imagine an elementary school library with tired, old books, a dull, lifeless, neglected room and a “librarian” who is way past ready to retire. I am sure if we looked hard enough we might find a “newer” biography in black and white text about a long dead president, or that futuristic space book that marvels about when we might get to the moon or maybe that 50 year old “classic” picture book filled with dull prose and pencil sketch black/white drawings. How about a middle school library that is a library in name only. No staff, a few thousand old books, no computers, no scheduled time in the room (of course you can’t, there is no staff), with a door that is usually locked. I won’t even talk about the high school, you already get the picture.

How does this happen? When did it become OK to let school libraries become a joke, a travesty? After working with school and public libraries for 8 years, I have seen magnificent and modern and welcoming and enthusiastic and exciting school libraries. Unfortunately, they are offset by nearly as many libraries as described above – the “black hole” libraries. The “black hole” libraries are so depressing – so as to suck the “reading is fun” completely out of all but the best students. If we think of libraries as “place”, as “collection” as “people”, these “black hole” libraries have none of the above. With more than 10 years of research that proves that a great school library positively improves student achievement – why do schools and districts allow this to happen? We all talk about helping our kids to be “lifelong learners”. Some districts use a motto of “Excellence in Education”, yes that was their motto, but how can those same people allow the school library program to be such a disaster?

Districts and schools try so many things: new basal reading programs, reconfigured instructional methodologies, curriculum rewrites, school day schedule changes, reading coaches, team leaders, tutoring, mentors,  electronic reading programs and sometimes, new, crazy gimmicks – all to try and improve the achievement tests scores and hopefully the skills of their students.

Districts invest hundreds and thousands of dollars on the “new” or “promising” programs that they hope will improve the skills and corresponding test results for their students. They pay for these “new programs” by cutting a program that already has been proven to positively affect student achievement – their libraries. They cut and cut and cut library programs and hurt the libraries’ impact on achievement results. They invest those savings in new programs to hopefully raise scores. Then they wonder why the total scores never improve.

Cut and dimish then invest and improve = a zero sum result.

Even with the research to the contary, school library programs regularly face: consolidation (1 librarian – managing more than 1 library), elimination of support staff, reduced collection budgets, hand me down computers and peripherals, and no funds for support of the library as “place”. Over time, these struggling libraries, faced with these continuing cuts, become “black holes”.

Why does this happen?

I can reach only one conclusion: the public library and school library communities have done a poor job at “validating their worth” to their respective administrators and funders. Librarians have allowed their program to become – “unimportant”. You are sceptical???  You think it is about the money? In this same tight finances era – we invest hundred or thousands of dollars, sometimes millions, on the newest, the best, the most expensive equipment, facilities, coaches and technology so we can have successful high school football teams. So much for the “lack of money” as root cause.

There are plenty of groups that can share this “failure to validate” culture that has spread through out the school and public library communities:

  • How about academic library schools who teach and train librarians for an old, outdated library era.  
  • How about school administrators who haven’t kept up with the research about the impact of libraries on achievement?
  • How about those librarians who actively refused to become technology literate? Rather than lead the charge and advancement for teaching information literacy skills, some librarians clung to “we prefer the books”. 
  • What about those librarians that spend their time whining about all the reasons they “can’t” have a good library program: no money, no time, no staff – so they curl up in a corner and give up and become bitter?
  • How about vendors and publishers who have stood by idly watching the library market spiral downward? Some vendors have been clinging to an old, declining  business model – cutting their costs and services in the hopes of preserving profits – all to no avail.
  • What about those teachers and librarians who can see the retirement door waiting to swing open and have given up on their kids and are just marking time?
  • How about academic education institutions that turn out education graduates who have no clue about the positive impact of collaborating with their school and public librarian?

And with all of this, is there any wonder why many school libraries are in serious trouble???

Now that many school libraries are in this mess, what are we to do? 

I think the primary answer lies within the library community itself. One librarian, one library at a time, individually and collectively we all need to stand up for school and public libraries and the library profession. Stand up for the impact we can have, stand up for the tools we teach, stand up for the learning that we can inspire. Speak out for positive change, build collaboration bridges, market and promote your program, teach information literacy skills and most importantly: advocate that “reading is fun”.

What else needs to change:

School libraries need “teacher librarians”. Principals and all administrators should demand this type of librarian. Teacher librarians must teach the information literacy skills our kids will need as adults.

Librarians must be “certified librarians” who have instructional and oversight responsibilities. Librarians should not cover the planning periods for teachers. Librarians need to be collaborating in planning periods with teachers.

Libraries must have current, engaging, quality materials, resources and collections of diverse formats that inform, and promote reading and learning as fun. Lets not forget we need support staff to run a library. Technology: of course we need current tools and resources to actually do the things required in out 21st century world. But it’s not about only having stuff. It is about “learning and doing skills”.

The library as “place” must be warm, inviting, inspirational, cozy and practical. It needs to support individual, small group and large group learning and working needs of all the students and staff.

Library schools need to train and motivate their students to be prepared to lead and manage the libraries of the future – not – the libraries of the past. Fix the curriculum, teach and then demand that newly certified librarians have the 21st century skills of creative collaboration, aggressive management, advocacy and yes library skills.

Academic Education departments need to train new teachers the importance and impact of aligning their classrooms to the resources of the school and public library. Any teacher who isn’t using all the connections and resources available isn’t being as effective as they could be. Collaboration with the librarians is a “must do”. Integration of information literacy skills into all subject areas is a “must have”.

Publishers and vendors should be encouraging and supporting innovation and extending the reach of the library through the use of their products and their relationships. If your vendor doesn’t think this way – find another one who does.

Librraians need to build effective Librarian networks. Those librarians who accept this challenge to be leaders in this new teacher librarian movement should band together. Share your ideas, challenges, pain and suffering. Sharing the success stories will build the foundation for the library communities to reinvent themselves as true leaders and innovators that positively affect their students. Go to  and and  to find your partners and collaborators.

Finally for librarians: Don’t forget to improve your own personal skills. Your library can be dramatically better in the next 2-4 years. Will you have the skills needed to manage it well? All of the above will be difficult – you must have courage. Librarians Must Be Brave!

I know that my world is filled with fabulous, aggressive, energetic school and public librarians who fight every day to make their library program great! I have already acknowledged all those wonderful libraries and library programs I see….I know you are out there. I believe that we must all work together to help eliminate those “black hole” libraries that we all know about. These libraries reflect badly on all of us. What can we do together to makes this situation better?

Every school needs to have a great school library. The library as that “special place”  – where students want to come, where students get excited to take another magical journey through books, where all kids can feel welcome, challenged and encouraged. The “place” where kids get connected to learning and ideas and to new places and to each other. The library – the place where “reading is fun”.

Well, I finally feel better. Now we all need to work together to start making the changes that will make this situation better. I promise to do my part. Will you?

Fight for your library program!  Build a great library!

24/7 “live tutor support” for your students? YES, you can.

April 1, 2008

Every parent’s nightmare – It’s Sunday night – you just found out about a homework assignment or project that is due for your student.

UNSHELVED– the daily library comic strip on April 1st presents the following dilema for school and public libraries:  Do you want to provide “live tutor” homework help and support for your students? Of course you do -> but live tudor resources cost money. In many cases, the various tutor products are quite pricey and beyond many libraries’ budget.

What to do about this conundrum?  Your solution is simple: your library website! It’s always on 24/7, it’s live.


Go back and take a look at your website using a student/adult researcher viewpoint:

Your website:

  • Is it attractive?
  • Are the reference and resources links: easy to find?
  • Do the links have a description of the resource materials?
  • Is it clear which resources are available via “home access” vs. “on-site”?
  • Do you provide any training for these valuable resources?
  • Are you tracking both remote and on-site usage?
  • Do you provide links to other valuable free resources?
  • Have you considered hosting specific school or teacher links or pages if the school or school library doesn’t or can’t do that?
  • Have you done: on-line information “scavenger hunts” as part of regular or special programing like Summer Reading using your on-line resources as directed sites?
  • Do you promote the resources in the library, on the website, via email, with teachers and school administration, with your local parent groups, your home-schoolers and directly to the students in the library?

You are providing 24/7 live homework help – make it the best it can be using your current available resources. Maybe it’s time to improve the look, the feel, the functionality of your library website. Go ahead – help your students with their homework, they need your support.

See your library through your customers eyes and be great!

What teacher librarians should know. A few surprises.

April 1, 2008

Looking to be your best?

I know many of these types of lists have been posted before and will be posted again in the future. This list comes courtesy of the librarian support website via Scholastic Librarians. I am sure every teacher and teacher/librarian would want to know this list. The article helps explain why each is important with some examples for the ideas. I especially like three of these tips.

Librarians are always very busy, so use – #3  Sending 30 emails to parents – it’s all about saving time, yours and the parents. Direct communication with parents improves your effectiveness, visibility and importance. 

#7  Know what the remote buttons do– playing audio, podcasts, video (dvd and streaming) all take some know-how to get the best learning experience for your students. Your actual instruction and impact time with students is limited, so make sure every experience is a valuable one. No fumbling with technology allowed. 

#8  Know how to spend PD hours – don’t use them to get caught up with your work – Use them to get caught up with your skills. Don’t be afraid to call one of your product vendors to get some free training or support for you and your teachers via a collaboration workshop. 

The list comes from the article:  9 Technology Tricks Every Librarian Must Know 

Here’s the list:

  1. Know how to play and make podcasts
  2. Know how to blog
  3. Know how to send an e-mail to 30 parents
  4. Know how to wiki
  5. Know how to take great photos
  6. Know how to find the best Web sites
  7. Know what all the remote buttons do
  8. Know how to spend PD hours
  9. Know how to call Australia for free

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