I'm super excited to be here at the Georgia Library Media Association's Summer Institute 2018! The first day has been full of excitement as I was honored as the recipient of the GLMA Intellectual Freedom of Information Award. What an honor. I received this award for the work I've done this year in educating my literacy committee and administration on the best practices concerning leveling and labeling of books within a library media program. Being nominated by Deana Cicero and then being selected as the recipient of the award has been such a blessing to me. And this award is heavy! It is a beautiful glass sculpture (a flame...very appropriate I think) and I think I just might have to display it on my mantel at home for a bit.
My morning was filled with a little volunteering, as I worked alongside Wendy Smith (pictured below) at the registration table. I laughed a lot with Wendy...she is so much fun! I really love working check-in because I get to meet so many smiling faces! Repeat attendees are filled with excitement as they approach the table and I also love the nervous anticipation of those who are first-timers. Volunteering at your favorite conference is so satisfying and such a great way to make new friends and grow your PLN.
After a lively lunch, I headed into my first presentation of the conference. Of course I chose to share my favorite tech tool (can you guess?) with a packed room! I'm so thankful to my tribe who took photos during the session and shared their learning on Twitter! I feel like the time just flew by and I hope that everyone walked away with a new tool in their toolbox.
After such a busy morning, I attended a session with Karen Burton Garner from Grayson on utilizing tech centers in media center. Karen had a few technology issues, but like any media specialist, handled it with grace and charm. We laughed a bit and with a little help from her friends, Karen was up and running in no time! Can you just imagine how much help someone gets in a room full of librarians?! It is awesome to watch. Later in the day, Keith Osburn and Shauntice Wheeler of the GaDOE shared some information about how our Georgia media specialists will be evaluated in the coming year. We aren't implementing SLEI just yet in our State, but we are well on our way to getting more attention in terms of a quality, meaningful, and reflective evaluation....which we deserve, right?!
The evening of the first full day of the conference was spent at dinner with friends and then getting a good night's sleep in my luxurious room. The Crowne Plaza at Peachtree City has undergone some beautiful refurbishments and I was fortunate enough to get a room with a king bed overlooking the beautiful lake. With the spa packages left in my room and the sound of a splashing fountain outside my window, I slept like a baby! It was a lovely respite during a busy conference. Just look at the sunrise on Tuesday morning from my room window!
The next morning was a bit emotional for me as I headed into my second and last presentation of the conference. My presentation was titled "Leaping from High School to Elementary" and I planned to share my successes (to give other ES folks a chance to get some ideas) and also to share my failures. Now anyone who really knows me knows that I just don't like to talk about failing. I'm pretty much a glass-half-full kinda girl! But my dear friend and colleague, GeAnne Bolhuis told me that my story had value and that it was important for me to share my year in an honest and open way. Of course, she was right. I had a small group of attendees for this early 8:30am session, but it was the perfect group. I had three people come up to me afterward and tell me they were in similar situations in their schools and that hearing my struggles (with the push for lexiled libraries, leveled book labeling, etc.) helped them reflect on their own. One sweet colleague even shared this tweet....
This was such a rewarding experience. Telling our story isn't always easy. It isn't always pretty. And feedback like Martha's means so much to me. That morning session was very cathartic! I now feel that I can walk away from The Happy Library with a full heart and a sense of completion. Someone in the session asked me...."so what's next for The Happy Librarian?" I had to respond...."I don't know, but I'm excited to find out!" So folks, you will just have to stay tuned as they say to find out. I'm sure I'll post a little something here and certainly on Twitter once I know where I'm landing in the coming months. And if you aren't following Martha on Twitter, do so! She is one of the founders of our #GaLibChat on Twitter and is an up-and-coming in Georgia's library world! She was also just recognized at the conference as the 2018 Coastal GA Library Media Specialist of the Year, so congrats to her on that accomplishment!
I attended many great sessions at this conference, but one that I must give a little shout-out to is the STEAMing up your Library! presentation by Kathy Schmidt. Kathy is a dynamic librarian who has been on the forefront of the maker movement in our libraries. She is a member of ISTE and you will find her at almost every big conference related to technology, so if you ever get the chance to hear her share her ideas, do it! She's also on Twitter so follow her HERE! Kathy shared her experiences in a STEAM certified middle school, Coleman Middle School in Gwinnett County...the first middle school to receive the designation in the State. I got lots of ideas from Kathy and she is just FUN to listen to and laugh with!
There is so much more I could share about this wonderful conference that supports our profession, but I feel that it would be lost on readers. Sometimes you just have to be there. So, if you were there, thanks. If you weren't, then ask yourself why not. Any school librarian deserves a conference like this one. There is no other conference in our State that directly supports, encourages, and advocates for the work of the school library media specialist like this one. And at 180 attendees this year, we are growing! Learn more about GLMA and the Summer Institute HERE. I hope you will consider taking two days out of your summer next year to attend. And bring your tribe with you!
I have attended many professional conferences over the years and there is one that is the highlight of the year for me. The Georgia Library Media Association's Summer Institute is by far the best conference I attend. I love that it is an overnight conference, but doesn't take three to four days out of my life. I love that it is FULL of great sessions (some long, some short) that offer great ideas that can literally be implemented the next day (if school were in session). I love that there are always wonderful authors and guest speakers featured at the large group sessions! I love that it is my librarian family...this conference is all about the school librarian!
The conference usually takes place in Peachtree City, Georgia which is not too terribly far from where I live. This makes for a relatively short commute to the conference and requires no plane tickets. The conference also highlights and celebrates librarians by offering awards....Georgia Library Media Specialist of the Year, Georgia Intellectual Freedom of Information Award, and Exemplary Library Media Program Awards to name a few. It is fun to see librarians being recognized for the amazing work they do each and every day in Georgia libraries! They also award grants!
If you are near Georgia, please know that this conference is open to ALL librarians. We usually have several folks from Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida with us. And...if you are interested...I'm doing two sessions this year. One session is on my favorite digital tool and some of the projects I've done this year using it. You know what it is if you've read any portion of this blog. The other session I'm doing is a reflection on my year in the elementary library. I'm going to share the challenges, successes, and take-aways from a high school librarian-gone elementary-perspective....should be interesting!
So, please come join me!!! I promise you won't be disappointed.
HERE is the link to the registration and more information about the conference.
Hamlet pondered the big question of his own existence. School librarians are pondering the big question of labeling. At the core of the question is the type of labeling being done. Under pressure to improve test scores and student growth percentiles in reading, many schools are now asking librarians to level the library or to place labels on books indicating a variety of reading levels, tests, or word count. School librarians are overwhelmingly against this sort of labeling. But on the other hand, librarians are embracing more readily the genre label. Many school librarians are making the leap into genrefication of their library collections without apology.
In my former position as a high school librarian, I genrefied a collection with huge success. It enabled me to weed the collection thoroughly, as well as identify needs in terms of collection development. It also reignited some interest in our library collection, as students were more easily able to locate the types of books they wanted to read. The biggest hit was creating a section for the graphic novels, the fastest growing genre in popularity among teens and elementary students alike.
Now I find myself only three months into my new position in an elementary school and I have the bug. I want to genrefy. But there are a few hurdles to overcome. I want to share my own journey. That's it. And so it begins with labels.
I have mentioned before that the books in my library are covered in labels. There are:
1. Is the book on my reading level? The kids are told what letter to look for and that is what they seek out. "You are an H, so only get an H book," said a teacher to a student just this week.
2. Is the book a Reading Counts book? The kids are told to test over every single book they read. If a book doesn't have a quiz, many teachers make students return the book and select one that does. Some teachers go as far as requiring students to pass the quiz over a book before allowing them to select a new book.
I cannot even begin to explain the frustration I feel with this. And the AASL's position on this type of labeling is clear:
One of the realities some school librarians face in their jobs is pressure by administrators and classroom teachers to label and arrange library collections according to reading levels. Student browsing behaviors can be profoundly altered with the addition of external reading level labels. With reading level labels often closely tied to reward points, student browsing becomes mainly a search for books that must be read and tests completed for individual or classroom point goals and/or grades. School library collections are not merely extensions of classroom book collections or classroom teaching methods, but rather places where children can explore interests safely and without restrictions. A minor’s right to access resources freely and without restriction has long been and continues to be the position of the American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians.
Although I feel encouraged by the position statement, it doesn't ease the burden of the battle with the mindset at my school. It can be overwhelming to think about being the sole person trying to change this type of culture within a school. But a wise colleague reminded me "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." This is sage advise. And so...I begin with the labels.
I first went in to my book vendor websites and changed my labeling preferences for future book orders. I only want Reading Counts labels on the inside-cover (verso) of any new books. That way, the information is still available to teachers and students, but hopefully it won't be driving book selection, as it is no longer on the outside of the books.
The second thing is that I have decided to jump into genrefication a little sooner that I might normally would. By choosing to begin genrefying our fiction section, I can justify the removal of certain labels. But, it does mean adding new labels in the form of genre labels.
I first pulled all of my graphic novels from the fiction section of the library. I personally like that Dewey catalogs graphic novels as 741.5 and not fiction, however the previous librarian in my school had all of the graphic novels shelved as fiction with FIC call numbers. I worked to pull these as they were being checked back in by students and quickly added a "sub-location" category within Destiny. It was quick and easy. I then removed the guided reading letter labels, yellow reading counts labels, and any Lexile labels that were at the top of the spine of the book. I wanted to remove the Lexile dots at the base of the spine, but many of these are attached to the call number labels and I didn't want to commit to re-making all of those at this point in time. So, they will have to stay for now.
Once I had the former labels removed, I then could clean the book and add the new genre label. I ordered these from Demco, but many librarians are making their own custom labels. I liked the look of the Demco modern labels and for now, they have the categories I need.
I have completed most of the graphic novels at this point and they have been moved to a new section of the library, complete with new signage above the section that was ordered through Vista Print. I have these same signs above my other sections (Fiction, E Fiction, Nonfiction, Help desk) of the library and can share them in a future blog post if you guys are interested.
Last Friday I began working on the As and Bs in the fiction section of our collection. I have a good bit of those books weeded, cleaned, and ready for new genre labels. I will share pictures and more commentary as I work through this process. I will also share reaction from teachers and students.
I expect to get some push-back from teachers who are dedicated to the guided reading levels or RC tests as a method of student book selection, but I think that students will have a sense of freedom and empowerment when they can see the genres grouped together and can choose books based on their reading interests. This is a culture in our school and it will take time, patience, education, and open conversation to change it. But, the labels are a start.
If you want to see what others are doing or saying about genrefication and/or labels in the library, check out these resources:
Fountas and Pinnell article on leveling
Fountas and Pinnell statement in School Library Journal
Genre Signage compilation by Nikki D. Roberston
Expect the Miraculous blog
Mrs. Reader Pants blog
Mighty Little Librarian blog series on Ditching Dewey
Rhonda Jenkins article for Future Ready Libraries
Ideas for Labeling from Demco
AASL Position Statement on Leveling (labeling books with reading levels)
The last post left me feeling a bit down, but as that classic Beetles tune says, "I get by with a little help from my friends" and so...I did.
My good friend and colleague Melissa, who I have mentioned before, shared that the "rainbows" on the canvas were covered up by all of that glorious colorful paper that was going to be used to bring life and happiness to the new library space. That little comment lifted my spirits! Then just a few days later, I had the pleasure of visiting a library space that is being transformed by another colleague (you can follow her on Twitter here) and we took about four hours to talk about our ideas on all things library! Gina is weeding thousands of old books (we are talking copyrights prior to 1990 old) and has already installed a Lego wall thanks to Donor's Choose.
This all served as inspiration! Then...the AASL's Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2017 were announced this weekend and I was super excited to dive in! There are so many wonderful resources here for librarians!!! And I must admit that my personal two favorite tools from this year made the list....Buncee and Flipgrid. They are two fabulous tools for the library and for classrooms. Check them out if you haven't.
And I've got many other things brightening my days and clearing away those overwhelmed duldrums. I'm following friends on Twitter who are at the ISTE Conference in San Antonio, Texas. I'm catching up on some of my Netflix shows. And right now...the sun is shining bright outside my window as I get ready to start a new day. I'm quite simply...happy.
Who to follow: