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Salt to the SeaSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ruta, you have hit a grand slam AGAIN. It was a fascinating story, and mid way through I had to stop and research several things, including the Amber Room, the Amber Swan, the Wilhelm Gustloff, and more! It kind of gave me an idea what might happen in the story, but I still read on, enraptured! I can’t wait for our “virtual” book club with you in April, just a few weeks away.

Dabbling in Data

Recently the librarians in my district were asked to provide our library collection number of holdings and our average collection copyright age from the group working on our district reading plan. I don’t want to assume anything about how that data will be used. As a matter of fact, I’m delighted to know the library information for our district’s libraries is being considered at all. But providing this information once again has me worried. This same information made its way for the first time this past year to the annual school report card.

  • Library Collection by the numbers = 23,472 and this is not counting subscription services & ebooks through Gale. (Note – current enrollment, 2381)
  • Library Collection Average Copyright Age = 2002


Tsk, Tsk

It is such a shame to feel we are being nailed on age when we in my teaching context have not seriously invested in our nonfiction in the last few years due to our patron’s preference to do research online. What librarian doesn’t struggle with some pangs of guilt over this information? Instead of getting newer nonfiction books, we have instead bought more subscription databases and services (Gale, Ebsco, Discovery Education, etc.) to supplement project based learning and research needs. The nonfiction on the shelf have been weeded some, but they are ridiculously outdated for research, and more or less now serve as a source for interest reading. We even tell students that check out from these sections to be sure to look at some of our purchased online resources for better quality and more current information.



I don’t mean to make excuses, but rather defend our spending practices which haven’t really focused on nonfiction print materials in quite some time. To be good stewards of our budget, we must provide what our community wants, and let’s face it, now in terms of research, I don’t even know experts in our field or any field that haven’t moved over to vetted, authoritative, and continuously updated subscription and online services that are.


Where is it better?

I would like to bring attention to the more respectable sections of our collection. The most dominantly checked out materials by our patrons hold more current average copyright ages; the fiction section has an average copyright date of 2008, and the arts (non fiction) has an average copyright date of 2005. These materials make up just over 43% of our collection.


What now?

I do not know exactly how this requested data or information will be used, but it did bear sharing and defending our data. With such a large school and large collection, it is difficult to weed more, though we all know it must be done.  Our state’s collection standards are under revision this year, and I hear these revisions will be even more strict, but also take into consideration that research has dominantly become an online entity. So I shared with my colleagues to be proactive with this data, and leverage the information to bolster a proposed budget plan, one that addresses the need for more books and more money to invest in online resources.


Leverage the tools

We in South Carolina have just the right mixture of data to make our case. We are very publicly a part of our school’s report card, and we have solid data from our South Carolina Library Impact Study to make the case that we make a difference in student success. Just this month School Library Journal has our Impact Study featured.  With these tools, timing is ripe to approach the powers that be who decide how much funding the library gets in our state’s dominant site based management world for school funding. Equip yourself and go forth with your data, a budget plan (shoot for the moon people), and the Impact Study. We all know in this day and age of the education landscape, our administrators respond to data. And data this year we do have.  (NOTE: Infographic representing the 2015 SC Impact Study. Click on the image to visit SCASL.net for more information.)
We are quite proud of our SC Impact Study.


As many schools are slowly but surely moving to 1:1 or close to it, librarians are discovering that their role is changing. Here is a recent question posed in one of my networking circles, and I find that it is a legitimate concern. The person states the needs here:

In the next couple of years, my district will transition to 1:1. I would love to hear from middle and high school librarians who have been through this transition in your school/district. Specifically, those who can speak to how or if this changed the dynamic of your library and your day to day. Feel free to elaborate on the good, bad, and the ugly.


I love that one requesting information asks us to include the good, the bad, and the ugly. We all know the transition to any new way of thinking is not always rosy for every party involved. I’m going to respond based on my own experience. I’m also going to add another area to explore, that of “what has NOT changed.”


The Good

I suppose I should go ahead and share that we are not fully one-to-one yet. But we’ve enough devices (in the format of laptops for the most part) to impact the library and staff. I find that we librarians spend about half of our instructional time in classes rather than in the library nowadays, meeting them where they are at. This would truly be a struggle if I was not in a teaching context where there are two certified LMS’s and a full time assistant. Our staffing means when one or both of the librarians are out in classrooms, we don’t have to close/lock the library doors. Our teachers respect that we are willing to come to them, which is less disruptive than them packing up and coming to the library. With online resources being the preferred resource for research, we’ve transitioned to investing in online resources (ebooks, databases, Discovery Education, etc.) to make up for print resources that so rarely get used. To ensure that these materials are used, we spend time promoting and teaching the resources we have invested in. Selfishly it also allows us an opportunity to remind the school community (students, teachers, parents, administrators, etc.) that using these resources IS in essence using their library and library’s staff. It makes us even more relevant. My colibrarian and I have taken on responsibilities that serve the entire school population. We are tech trainers for our school (and even district.) We maintain the webpage, the learning management system, the school’s scrolling tv announcements, the student google accounts and more, giving us even broader visibility in the school program.


The Bad

My photo looking down from the upstairs hallway

For me the bad is that the physical space tends to get ignored, or worse, misused. I work in a beautiful library with high cathedral ceilings with plenty of windows that allow for large amounts of illuminating daylight. But since the space which is located in the center of the main campus is not used as much by classes for research or project based learning anymore, it almost has an empty feel to it during class time. Don’t get me wrong, we still have plenty of visitors that come independently. We are still a preferred spot before school begins each morning, during lunchtime, and for those students who have open blocks.  It is one of the only spaces in our school environment available to students for printing hard copies of any work. In our more conservative setting, we haven’t branched out to offer makerspaces yet (shame on me-what a confession!), only dabbling in small scale activities that we refer to as crafts (up-cycled books anyone?) Our layout is locked in by the design architecture, and the bookshelves and tables are not as easily moved. I want castors on my tables, and newer, more versatile furniture, but it’s not in the budget, though we are long overdue for an update and remodeling. Our library, despite the first impression of beauty and great design, quickly reveals itself as a library intended to serve a different time period. But it does look really nice, and can serve three or more classes at a time. And I won’t complain about that.


The Ugly

Ugly is such a harsh word. Ugly in the library is the many areas of frayed carpeting. Ugly in the library include the nonfiction shelves that are losing ground book-wise, as we weed but do not replace those rarely used printed books, opting instead for online materials referenced earlier in this post. Ugly are the boxes and boxes of weeded books as we struggle to find them new homes. Ugly is the calendar with many days the library is booked and even closed for a variety of testing–WIDA, ACT WorkKeys, End of Course Testing, and I’m sure other testing that has yet to be named for the Spring. Time will tell.  But saying that, even before the trend for our school to go one to one, we still suffered from testing dominating our mid to late spring schedule. It is just part of the public school landscape these days, and one to one didn’t cause it or effect its impact on the schedule. I’m sure many school libraries have some of these same “ugly” features.


So what has not changed?

We still offer great services to our school community. We still offer a variety of in library programming including book promotions, service learning activities, and book clubs. The most popular areas of our circulating books (fiction and graphic novel/manga) are healthy and growing and according to our students and even the visiting teen librarians from the local public library system rival what is offered from the area’s public libraries. We strive to get books almost on demand as students ask for or inquire about the newest or next in the series. We still do booktalks, in the library and in the classrooms. We still work with teachers, plan lessons, and assist or lead instructional activities. We still have the same number of classes schedule to visit the library as a group for book checkout. We still sponsor book clubs, promote YA Lit activities and programs, and cater to the needs of those who come to the physical space. Our school still finds value in our overall program, and we are rewarded with visits, expressions of pleasure, requests for outside visits, and acknowledgement from all that we are providing a dynamic program at school.


All this to say…

The library program will be a living, breathing, vital program if you work at it, making yourself and your program indispensable. Times will always change and throw curveballs at you, and going one to one is just one of many we’ll see in the foreseeable future. Just be flexible and find a way to fit in. Do not worry that your school moving to a one to one environment will adversely affect you and your program. Instead acknowledge it, embrace it, and find a way to be essential despite any change. Most important, don’t resist. As my former University of South Carolina professor Dr. Dan Barron was fond of saying, “Grow or Die.” Be whatever your school and community needs in your library program, and know that your role will evolve just as the school environment changes. I’m often prone to say to those who ask why I became a school librarian. I truthfully tell them no two days are the same, and everyday presents new and interesting challenge, so I never get bored. If you are not experiencing the same, then get worried.



Yep. I said yes. Now I really have some work to do. This and two presentations scheduled between now and March 4. This wordy girl has some work to do! Won’t you join us there in Greenville, SC?

I’m loving the SCBA Group created in Goodreads. It’s for all grade levels for any year our state’s SC Book Award Program.  Don’t you want to join in the conversation??


SCBA 29 members

SC Book Awards Program

Books we’ve read



by Lish McBride
Start date: January 30, 2016

View this group on Goodreads »

For our lunchtime bookclub, we try to find themes for August and January that will draw students in. These particular meetings are designed to be a “bring your own book” meeting, so students won’t feel pressured to get the title we are reading, but instead allow students to check it out and see if it is something they might want to become a part of.  Our August meeting was literally a “bring your own book” where kids could bring any title. We wanted to change up the January meeting while maintaining the byob format, so we came up with the theme, “Books @ the Movies.”  For our January lunch time book club, our kids are encouraged to bring any book that has been a movie. We have se t no other limits.  During this meeting, which happens this Friday, we hope to hear a resounding reminder from all the participants that the books are always better than the movies!

We have designed a Kahoot using pictures from the films based on books, and see who can the fastest with accuracy identify books based on a scene or actor in character.  We’ve selected  which have books physically sitting on our shelves. There are plenty more.


Want to see which ones we’re using? Click here.

We plan to do another surprise BYOB lunchtime meeting in March, as we explore interest in Manga and graphic novels too. We are going to ask the kids to bring any title to this meeting to share with the group. That should be interesting, and maybe even grow into a separate book club/film group.

I always try to attend at least one of Leslie Fisher’s sessions. Sometimes that winds up being in the exhibit hall at a booth. But I made sure to attend her Group Smackdown. I always learn something new that I can use immediately. This session did not disappoint.

My favorite take away:

Mac users who present can be caught in the middle of playing a video and discover the volume needs adjusting. Using a Mac, that’s an easy fix, just quickly tap the increase volume key on the keyboard. While that does fix the issue, it comes with an annoying “wonk-wonk-wonk” noise. To increase or decrease the volume of your Mac computer while playing a video WITHOUT the annoying sound, all the user has to do is hold the shift key at the same time as making the adjustment, and the annoying noise is eliminated! SCORE. I did not know that.

Other take-aways:

I love to see videos that emphasize a point or make me laugh. Here are a few I really enjoyed from Leslie’s session:

Teens React to Books


Selfie Stick Abuse

Leslie has a great website and a treasure trove of content from her presentations not to be missed over at LeslieFisher.com.  Since many educators wear lanyards, Leslie also encouraged us to share a funny school lanyard story. Read some of the hilarious posts folks have shared here.


Special Thanks

I am appending to this post a special thanks to the South Carolina State Library and Halie Brazier for accepting my application for a funding source for travel and attendance at this conference, the Future of Education in Technology Conference. My funding is directly attributed to the Library Services and Technical Services Act and the U.S. Institute of Museums and Library Services. I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to attend this professional development opportunity.


I feel like Steve Anderson is like a next door neighbor. I mean seriously, he’s from North Carolina, just above my own home state. Because I’ve been so close geographically, I’ve managed to never see him in a presentation until Friday, January 15, at FETC. It’s weird to realize I had to travel so far away from the Carolina’s to finally sit in on a session. But it was so worth it.


No Time Wasted

His session, titled above the post here, wasn’t really something relevant for me. I just wanted to hear him speak. I do not have a voice to even recommend observation strategies for administrators in my teaching context. But having been married to an administrator and having all these years of experience as a teacher and school librarian, I figured I would attend anyway. I was not disappointed, and actually I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did I gain some insights about administrators, educational technology, and walk through observations, I also filed away some presentation strategies, specifically, engaging the audience through conversation and brainstorming.


Just Numbers

Anderson shared his assignment at the district level to help administrators track “walk through” observations. He shared his story of working diligently to design the perfect walk through observation form, and then shared with his higher up how to analyze the data to empower an administrator. Using data analysis from the form, administrators could tailor leadership to the identified needs as revealed through data analysis. He was disheartened to learn the only interest was to make sure the right number of walk throughs had been done.


The result of brainstorming and conversation

The conversation then turned to redefining the principal as the lead learner. Most in this session agreed in many places a walk through is just numbers for their admin. As a group we brainstormed the true purpose of a walk through and these were some of the comments shared:

  • Inspect what you expect
  • Connect with kids
  • Gain insights on teaching methodology
  • Establish role as an instructional leaders
  • Becoming  familiar with instructional practices
  • A walk though should be crucial in looking for bloom’s level.
  • A walk through is a way to see where the PD needs to come from.
  • Walk though a can tell you how effective the PD is.
  • Admin have to be model users of PD
  • Walkthroughs are not evaluations, they are opportunities for growth
  • Coaching must be “on-going and on-growing”


Opportunity for more

I love presenters who give me as a participant a chance to be part of the body of knowledge shared and then find a way to share their material after a session.  Steven Anderson provided this via Twitter. It’s not the actual presentation, but it does offer links to deeper knowledge. The session gave me a lot to think about.



Special Thanks

I am appending to this post a special thanks to the South Carolina State Library and Halie Brazier for accepting my application for a funding source for travel and attendance at this conference, the Future of Education in Technology Conference. My funding is directly attributed to the Library Services and Technical Services Act and the U.S. Institute of Museums and Library Services. I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to attend this professional development opportunity.

After such a filling Thursday, it was difficult to imagine that I could add “one more thing” to my brain.  Friday wasn’t as stellar a day as Thursday. My session choices fell flat for me, though Adam Bellow’s One More Thing was a great start!  The session, while entertaining and lively, and a great way to begin my day, especially after a snafu checking out at my hotel causing me to miss the Friday keynote, was filled with brutal truths in the form of nonstop one-liners.  I was glad to hear him say “slides are free,” which was his warning that he had a lot of slides! No worries, they were all good slides with lots of presentation zen. Of course I knew he would hit it out of the park. A perfect session to choice to make up for the hotel checkout snafu at Las Palmeras. Happy to report sessionwise, I started and ended my day well.

Someone else has a good recap

I love that the author of Education Viewpoint(Eric Miller) has posted a thorough recap of Adam Bellow’s Session, One More Thing. I did attend the session, but my notes were scattered. If you hang around his site/blog, you’ll find more recaps.

Lesson Learned

I had wanted to attend all of Adam’s sessions, but I tried to spread my attendance to other featured speakers. I did however notice Twitter was afire for the Session Adam led titled “Double Click to Edit: Hacking Keynote.”  I skipped it because I figured I already knew a lot of this. I forgot though how much I enjoy his humor, wit, and presentation style. And I knew I was missing good stuff when I realized the participants were actually interacting with him as presenter, adding to his already great material. Sigh. Note to self. Do not miss Adam Bellow at conferences, in formal or informal spaces.


I think this Tweeted graphic says it all!




Special Thanks

I am appending to this post a special thanks to the South Carolina State Library and Halie Brazier for accepting my application for a funding source for travel and attendance at this conference, the Future of Education in Technology Conference. My funding is directly attributed to the Library Services and Technical Services Act and the U.S. Institute of Museums and Library Services.  I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to attend this professional development opportunity.

This concurrent session at FETC Thursday, January 14 was extremely inspiring. I’ve listened to Speaker Sylvia Martinez at a number of ISTE Conferneces, at Educon, and now at FETC and she is, with or without hubby Gary Stager, a force to be reckoned with. If you don’t want to feel inspired, skip her sessions! From her bio, “Martinez started her career designing high frequency receiver systems and navigation software for GPS satellites.” It was nice to hear her share this anecdote about her first job as a GPS designer, and how she left the position to do something that she felt made a difference.

I believe she is spot on with her observation that we are living in and teaching during another American Revolution. The Industrial Revolution, more than about steam engines, was about how people changed the way they “organized.”  The revolution we are experiencing now is no less the same. Consider how the tools we have available today, the ones we use on a daily basis, have changed the way we work and live. I wonder what this “revolution” will be referred to in the future? The technology revolution? The “invent to learn” revolution?

Sylvia Martinez gave us much to think about. Today’s mindset of sharing everything, creating, building, learning independently, the growth of the maker movement, and how we have grown into a “show and tell” society are shaping the future. As educators we need to encourage this mindset in our youth.  Sylvia was not the only session where I heard the promotion of her book Invent to Learn, or the concept of the maker movement. It was nodded during the opening Keynote by Reshma Saujani, again in Howie Diblassi‘s session I attended later, and throughout the exhibit hall and smaller conversations in the conference venue. Sometime back I got her book, Invent to Learn as an ebook. Little did I know then it would become known as “the bible of the classroom maker movement.” I am now inspired to load it up and read it, and even implement some kind of maker space in my own teaching context, the library.

Invent to Learn Website

My cover shot/screenshot of my ebook:
Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.18.32 PM
I also chose to attend Howie Diblassi’s concurrent session that afternoon titled Creating MakerSpaces in Schools: Hands-On, Minds-On Activities. His session was energetic and fast paced! Visit his site  (and here) where you can download all 172 slides (mind you he only had 40 minutes for this session) and at his site, you will get all content that he referenced in his pres. While I’m not sure I picked up a lot of new material or inspiration, I definitely found a wealth of material to come back and look at in my leisure.  His enthusiasm was contagious as well.

Some take-aways (other than the book!)

I’d never heard of Sylvia’s Super Awesome Maker-Show, but it was repeated in several sessions. Started when Sylvia was 9yo (I think), the now 13yo is an invited speaker to some of our edtech and education conferences. What!!? Quite inspiring. This is an older video, way before she was 13. Check out this cheeky kid.

Some resources I need to look into include:

Arduino – an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for anyone making interactive projects and Raspberry Pi – touted as the $5 computer to build.


Special Thanks

I am appending to this post a special thanks to the South Carolina State Library and Halie Brazier for accepting my application for a funding source for travel and attendance at the Future of Education in Technology Conference. My funding is directly attributed to the Library Services and Technical Services Act and the U.S. Institute of Museums and Library Services.  I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to attend this professional development conference for educators.

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