Recently in School Libraries Category

Alternative Spring Break

schoollibrary02.jpgThis week I took advantage of one of the many opportunities that are offered during spring break to try something new and spent an afternoon volunteering at the school library of the Boston Teachers Union School.  I've spent a lot of time working with teens and adults in public libraries, but have not really spent a substantial amount of time in the children's rooms.  I've also never worked in or even volunteered in a school library before, so I thought it would be a really interesting and fun experience -and that I was pretty much guaranteed to learn something.schoollibrary03.jpg

Given my lack of experience, it was a good thing that our day consisted of labelling, barcoding and shelf reading; anything more advanced probably would have been a little nerve-wracking because I would have been too worried about screwing up something completely new to me.

Boston Teachers Union School is K-8, so we got to see kids of every age throughout the afternoon, and process materials for every age as well.  We also got to see a little bit of how a library gets up and running: the school is only 4.5 years old, and is cooperatively run by teachers.  The library has only been in place for a couple of years, and runs entirely on donations and the hard work of one part-time intern and one staff member who isn't a librarian.  It's a set up that has an awful lot of possibilities for creative fundraising and collection building, and getting to be part of it, even for just an afternoon, was amazing.

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Just a Liberian

I talk about the school library I work for far too much. I think this is mostly because I love my job and its challenges. My students' unreturned laptops haunt my dreams and their evaluations of my teaching darken my doorstep, though I have no doorstep to speak of in a 4th floor apartment. When asked what they would most like to change about their information literacy class, my 9th graders deemed the professor, me, to be the element that needed changing the most. "You need to just chill. You have to remember you're not a real teacher, you're just a liberian." For further clarification, I am not a citizen of Liberia. Nope, that was just a real punk of a student trying to set my teeth on edge. Just a librarian?! Not even a librarian, a LIBERIAN!

It is at this moment that I am choosing to see the up-side of the upcoming summer vacation. My students' resentment of bibliographic instruction and citation styles is reaching maximum capacity. I am losing my patience. Teachers get a lot of flak from the rest of the working population for having many vacations, but the more I see the daily war waged between teachers and students in my school I'm not sure if the person who designed the school calendar wasn't some sort of ambassador for peace. Education should not be warfare. I'm seeing the best of teachers, colleagues who I consider mentors, lose it in the past few weeks. We're all so disappointed. Students are disappointed they can't watch movies in every class or have class outside. Teachers are disappointed their students still have no idea what a print source is. That's right. "Ms. Davidov, what's a print source? Is it an e-book? These are really ridiculous questions you can't possibly expect us to know the answers to." I try to think back to September, and I remember an optimistic, bright-eyed library student honored by the idea of teaching a group of young women how to navigate the increasingly complex world of information. Where is that person? I need to get her back!

Summer vacation is not an armistice; it is the beginning of finding our passions once again. I will be taking time this summer to further my studies in information literacy. I will remember why I love teaching people how to be better researchers. I will hone my teaching techniques to become a better teacher. If my students are right, it's time they got what they asked for, a new teacher. Liberian, I will never be. But teacher AND librarian, I can definitely become.

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School's out for the summer... or is it?

School's out.jpg

I remember telling a friend, way back in September, that I couldn't possibly think about taking a class in the summer. I wanted to prevent burnout and make sure I had time to recharge my batteries for the coming year. However, the further I went in the program the more I realized EVERYONE's here in the summer! Ok, that's an exaggeration, but I would say at least 75% of my friends at GSLIS are taking at least one summer course. I, myself, am VERY excited about my summer course with Vivienne Piroli: User Instruction. I'll keep you up to date on the many pearls of wisdom that will undoubtedly come my way. I'm also excited about my new summer job at Beatley library. HUZZAH! That's right ladies and gentlemen; I am staffing the reference desk this summer at the Beatley Library. I am delving into the realm of academic libraries. I'll also be reporting on the awesomeness of recording every reference transaction I have, the new subscription databases I learn about as well as Beatley's libguides and the most excellent librarians who create them. So, while school may be out, after a few weeks I'm definitely back in, and for the entirety of the summer!!

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The United States of YA




In this week of festive, inaugural, bi-partisan activities I thought I'd let everyone know about a fun list of books lingering out there on the interwebs. This is a list developed by the brilliant minds over at  A question was posed: What is your favorite young adult book? Name the state in which it takes place. Thus, the United States of YA was born, or at least, the list. Then the blogger made this amazing graphic (see above). The graphic and the list were made readily available for display makers, like me, and I stumbled across them on pinterest.

I thought it would be an easy display. I wouldn't have to do any list making. I could just pull the books and let the graphic speak for itself...WRONG. In the end it took me a WEEK to put up. But let me just say, it was worth it. Check me out.

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Do you dare?

daring librarian


While I continue my efforts to make myself a well rounded library student I have started to target blogs. I set up my google homepage through my Simmons mail so that I'm alerted to their newest posts etc. As you well know there are a ton of most excellent blogs run by libraries and librarians alike. I love the bloggish library site I work on at my job. In what other job can I spend a good half hour on a well crafted "Hey girl" post, complete with graphic and cuddle speak from the man we all know and love? Really...only in libraries. God, I love my job!

In this spirit I comb the web for blogs to inform my studies and my work. Multiple times a blog is shows up in other librarians blogs, exciting webinars cite a guest speaker most commonly known as the daring librarian. She defines her commentary on what works in school libraries as "sweet, snarky freshness". She's tech savvy and embraces the massive changes taking place in the field making her commentary incredibly relevant. I appreciate her appreciation of others contributions to the field, her humility and her dry wit. Every post is rife with helpful links and infographics to help you learn. I hope I can be just as daring as the superhero librarian with the cape and sexy glasses when I grow up. Check out one of my favorite posts from her archive. It's about smart tech practices to put in place for the new year. Enjoy it!

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And so it is over

2.5 years at Simmons is officially over for me.  The last project has been submitted, the second practicum binder has been handed in, and I am ready to move on to the next chapter and start my professional life.

Last Friday, I went in for a job interview for a maternity leave position, a long-term substitute.  I got the job (hooray for gainful employment!), but more than that, this week has shown me just how thorough my preparation for this role has been.  When the person I am substituting for didn't come in Tuesday, I didn't hesitate to jump right in.  Were there bumps? Sure, but that's to be expected, especially when working with younger students who thrive on routine and consistency.  What counts to me is that I know now, after just three short days of observing and teaching, that my time at Simmons, my coursework in the SLT Program, and my two practica experiences have more than prepared me to step in, take charge, and hopefully take this position, or any future positions, to the next level.  I am confident.  I am ready to collaborate with teachers to improve instruction and information literacy skills. I know what it takes to develop a strong collection, how to identify weaknesses, how to use a budget, and even how to locate resources to help stretch a limited budget further.   I have been taught what it takes to make (or in this case, expand) a library program and integrate it into the heart of the school.

And for that, I owe a measure of deep gratitude to my instructors at Simmons.  To Dr. Zilonis, Chris Swerling, and Professors Saunders, Kimball, Pattee, and Schwartz, I say thank you.  Thank you for giving me the tools to take charge.  Thank you for exposing me to resources and ideas that will benefit my students.  Thank you for taking so much time to create interesting, engaging curricula and lesson plans.  I've learned a great deal from all of you, and now I get to put that into practice.

To those of you considering school librarianship at Simmons, I hope my posts have helped give you an idea of just what a great program we have here.  I hope to check in from time to time and give you updates from the field, but until then, thank you for reading, and goodbye.

GSLIS | Jobs | School Libraries | Students | 1 comment

Finishing My School Library Teacher Degree

If I am not mistaken, this blog entry represents my penultimate contribution to the Simmons GSLIS admissions blog.  For I, dear reader, am exactly one week away from finishing my library school career after 2.5 years.  I am excited about that, but it's also bittersweet, but that is not the focus of this post.  This post is about how I finished my high school practicum yesterday.  Yes, 150 hours, a 22-page practicum log, six lesson plans with reflections, 12 artifacts of different types, and a lot of paper later, I am done.  It's a tremendous sense of accomplishment seeing this giant binder come together with its pretty colored dividers, the cover page, the table of contents.  I've taught lessons galore on how to find non-fiction books and generate keywords to run effective searches in the OPAC and in the Gale databases.  I've learned to use iPads and researched a dozen apps that have really, really cool implications for students with special needs.  I created a rocking pathfinder for students researching Romney and Obama's positions on different key election issues.  I helped make the library website more aesthetically pleasing, rewrote the parent section, designed a beautiful poster on copyright and fair use, and made a YouTube channel for the library to house my two book trailers.

But the practicum experience isn't just about what you do, it's about what you learn, about the profession and about yourself.  After two practicum experiences and courses taught by school library veterans, I have accumulated a wealth of tips and tricks for running a great program.  I have developed my teaching skills and become more confident as an instructor.  I now feel fully capable of going to a job interview, talking about my accomplishments to date and the kind of program I hope to run, and then setting about creating that program.  Maybe some of this is idealism speaking, but I genuinely do feel like the knowledge I have gained from my time at Simmons has gotten me to this point.  And that is an awesome, awesome feeling.

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Reader's Advisory

One of the hot topics in reference is reader's advisory. It's the reason many people engage in reference interactions with librarians, but it's often hard to narrow in on exactly what a patron liked about a particular book.  And for me at least, when a patron admits that they don't enjoy reading or actively dislikes it, I feel a lot of pressure to deliver.  I have long felt that there is a book out there for each person, it's just a question of matching the two together.  But doing that can be a complicated, frustrating, and sometimes disheartening experience.   If I sound down, it's because I've just handled two reader's advisory interactions which went less well than I would have hoped.  In the first case, I had a freshman who "hates reading" looking for a short, funny book, but not one that would make her feel dumb (so graphic novels were out), no vampires ("read my lips: N-O, NO!"), no romances, no chick-lit books, nothing I could suggest caught her interest. "You know who's really good at finding me books that I like? Mrs. F_____" (the librarian, who is out today).

Finally, she started to drift onto the fact that she wanted to know more about why she felt sleepy after getting enough sleep, and mentioned that a classmate had told her she could get shaky from low blood sugar even if she wasn't a diabetic.  Aha! Science books!

Continue reading Reader's Advisory

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Current Trends and Topics in School Librarianship

One of the best ways to get a sense of whether or not school librarianship (or really, any aspect of LIS) is right for you is to explore what the current trends and topics are in the field.  The school library field is a particularly rich one to investigate from the comfort of home because even if you don't have database access to the leading journals, there's a lot of great stuff out there that can give you a sense of what we school librarians spend our time thinking and talking about, and better yet, they're free!

The wonderful (really, I've met her in person, she's fabulous!) Joyce Valenza can be found over at NeverEnding Search, her blog at School Library Journal.
Buffy Hamilton blogs at The Unquiet Librarian, and closer to home, Michelle Luhtala publishes her thoughts at
SLTP Professor Rebecca Morris is also active in the blogosphere at School Library Monthly.

There's so many more diverse and interesting voices from the field out there, so go explore!

YALSA offers webinars, both for free and for a price, but members have access to these webinars and the archives, so sign up today (you can do it even if you're not an LIS student, but you will have to get an ALA membership first, and then select YALSA for your secondary membership).
Booklist offers a veritable treasure trove of webinars, relevant and interesting not just to school librarians, but to all librarians, and you don't have to be a member or sign up to download them.

Really, if you're not on Twitter, you should be.  Check out the hashtag #tlchat for the scoop on what teacher-librarians are talking about in the Twitterverse.

For the cash-strapped amongst us, these free resources are a gift, a way to enrich our practices and our ideas about what it means to be a school librarian in the 21st century without spending a dime or having to worry about transportation to and from conference venues.   It's a wonderful way to begin learning about the profession, to get informed, and to figure out if this field really is for you.

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What Does a Library Lesson Look Like?

It's a question I get asked over and over again, by strangers and by those closest to me.  My friends and family know that I love what I'm doing, some of them know I get to do cool tech things like play with Glogster, or Prezi, or VoiceThread, and iPads, but they don't really know what happens during a library lesson.  The short answer is, of course, not very helpful: many things.  Our core goals as school librarians are to foster a love of reading (naturally), but in today's "information overload" age, our job is also to teach students key information literacy skills while meeting state curricular standards.

"What does that mean?" I hear you asking. Well, to give you an example, the past two weeks I've worked with several high school classes in my practicum to help them with different research projects.  Part of this process has involved teaching a refresher on how to use the OPAC to find books relating to their topics.  Part of it has been website evaluation - a recap of website extensions and a reminder to always check who is publishing the information you are using so that you can gauge their potential biases. Or I've been teaching them how to do advanced searches in the databases, or navigate the library's new collection of e-books.  At my elementary practicum, my lessons included a unit on nursery rhymes, poetry, Greek mythology, and global Cinderella stories. Information literacy is a vital skill for success in today's world, because these are skills students will use not just in school, but in college and throughout their lives as well.

Librarians are also involved in educating students about cyberbullying, a responsibility laid out in the Massachusetts state law relating to bullying.  We teach students how to use technology, software that enhances their learning, and how to think critically.  We design graphic organizers to help them learn effective note-taking techniques and information organization.  In the younger grades especially, we are closely involved in building key early literacy skills by exposure to books and language, both in library lessons and by giving students access to books through checkout, which is vital especially when they don't necessarily have access to them at home.

This is a very enriching, engaging, meaningful profession, and the Simmons program trains you to be an excellent librarian, one who is given the skills, training, and experience to create and implement a curriculum that will benefit your students.  As I draw to the end of my time here at GSLIS, I realize what a great choice I made by coming here.

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The Teacher Connection

Working in a public library (and a small one, at that), I deal with varied patrons with varied needs.  In any given day, we have toddlers arriving for storytime, teens coming in to use the iPads, middle-aged job seekers, homeschooling parents seeking educational resources, seniors looking for help with technology, boy scouts borrowing our telescope, and anyone and everyone seeking a good read or new movie to take home. Interestingly, I don’t see many teachers.

Enter the Teacher Tea, a.k.a. The Library’s Educator Open House.

This afternoon, I am joining my colleagues at the public library in re-introducing our public library’s wealth of resources to our local teachers.  Truth is, most of our teachers turn to their school librarian for resources and some, who commute here from other towns, don’t realize all we have to offer.

While my colleagues will be introducing our downloadable audiobooks, library programming, and reminding all teachers that working in town entitles them to a free library card with no checkout limits, my job is to demonstrate the eReaders we have available for checkout (both a Kindle and a Nook) as well as our many EBSCO databases such as Novelist and Searchasaurus, which are remotely accessible with a patron’s library log-in.  (And we will all be enjoying tea and cookies.)

I am not in the School Library program at Simmons, but I hope all you future School Librarians remember to connect with your public libraries…and I hope all you future Public Librarians remember to connect with your school libraries.  Together, we are a great team for our teachers, our children, and the future of our communities.

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The Practicum Binder

If you've ever known an SLTP candidate, you'll know that these two words have a special power over us.  The practicum binder represents the culmination of all the hours of work we put in at our practicum experiences - the rich experiences we have are condensed down into two, massive, three-ring binders filled with papers.  Yet, it's also really satisfying to see this tangible evidence of all you've worked to achieve.

The practicum binder serves as the official documentation of the evidence submitted to the state by Simmons when we graduate, since our diplomas become our initial licenses.  This way, if the state ever wants to audit the program, we will have the evidence to support what we said we did during our student teaching hours.

The binder is a mammoth undertaking, one that must be completed over the course of the semester, within the 100 hours we are meant to work (most candidates work more, but 100 is the official minimum requirement).   It breaks down into four major components (apart from a summary experience reflection and official paperwork): the practicum log, the major and minor projects, lesson plans, and artifacts.

Continue reading The Practicum Binder

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Practicum Experiences

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend a Boston Arts Academy pep rally for the whole school at Fenway Park.  Now, I've been to Fenway before, but always surrounded by legions of fans.  Today, however, the park lay entirely empty, save for some groundspeople and a few (slightly confused) tourists, and it was pretty cool.  The reason I got to do this was because I am doing my high school practicum at Boston Arts/Fenway High School, and as a library intern, the librarian wanted me to be introduced to the student body as part of her staff, but it really stood out to me as a hallmark of the experiences we have as practicum students.  Though we are only at our schools for a few short months, and though the time flies by really quickly, the schools and the librarians take great effort to welcome us and make us feel included.  To my mind, this makes the experience that much richer, because it gives you a sense of every aspect of the librarian's role - the emails that must be answered, the parent volunteers who must be coordinated, the book fairs that must be supervised - as well as the teaching side of things.  It's invaluable, because it helps make sure that Simmons graduates will enter the profession with a holistic perception of what the job entails, which in turn lays the foundation for creating strong, vibrant library programs in communities across the state (and the country).  We are very fortunate, as practicum students, to have such welcoming schools to host us and such dedicated librarians who guide us, mentor us, and help us to grow as pre-professionals, and it's what makes the SLT program so strong.

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It's Good to Be Back

School is back in session, and though we're only in the second week of the semester, December seems frighteningly close.  Maybe it's because I'm on a fairly strict deadline of when materials need to be due for my second teaching practicum experience, but there really is not that much time.   But that's not the point of this post. This post is to revel in how nice it is to be back in a school environment, doing my librarian thing.

I have so far spent two days at my practicum site, and I'm already brimming with ideas and glowing with some successes from yesterday.  An 11th grade science class had come in to do preliminary research for their science fair projects.  The librarian I'm working with did a quick overview of Dewey, and then they were off to the stacks.   Some students knew immediately what they were looking for, others grabbed books on science experiments and sat down to review their choices.  But a few students looked puzzled, so I seized the chance to engage in some guiding reference questions and do some impromptu search skill strategies with students.  With one student, that involved brainstorming some keywords for search and where he might go looking, with another, it involved talking through keywords relating to her interests in marine biology.  But a third student was completely stuck.  So I began by asking him which science class he liked the best, which one he was the least likely to fall asleep in.  He thought a moment, then replied chemistry.  One step forward.  Next, I asked him what part of chemistry appealed to him, and he answered experiments.  We had a search term!  Off to the catalog we went, he found some resources, and then took off for the rest of the period.   I was busy with other students, so I didn't check back with him again, but as he left, he caught my eye, smiled and said "thank you, that was EXACTLY what I was looking for" (the resource we'd identified was a binder book of chemistry experiments).  Successful reference interactions are always a special kind of buzz.  You feel accomplished, satisfied, and like your librarian skills are unassailable, like that "A" in Reference wasn't just the result of doing well on assignments.  It's a particular joy when students get bitten by the bug as well, and delight in finding a resource that answers that exact question they've been looking for or didn't even know they were looking for.

It's good to be back.

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Another Semester Begins...

It's hard to believe the semester's start is already upon us.  Just yesterday, it seems, I was luxuriating in the post-semester haze of sleep and excitement for a full summer that stretched in front of me, gloriously empty.  Well, it didn't quite work out that way (for the better), but I'm back and ready to take on my second round of practicum teaching (HS level), and my VERY LAST GSLIS CLASS EVER! Ahem.  It's the last of the required "core" classes, Evaluation of Information Services, which should hopefully prove interesting as well as giving me my annual exposure to people outside the SLT program.

Yet, even though the semester hasn't officially begun yet, things are already in motion.  The fabulous new officers of the MSLA-SIG group are hard at work, preparing for the back-to-school introductory meeting, I will be on campus in two short hours to share my practicum experience, tips and tricks learned to the newest crop of first-time practicum students, and my own practicum meetings with my cooperating librarian and practicum supervisor are close at hand.

It's also been wonderful hearing of all my GSLIS friends who graduated and got jobs (amongst my personal acquaintances, the rate is 100%, which is both fabulous and indicative of the extremely high quality of Simmons' GSLIS program.  I'd also like to mention that last year, by the end of the summer, 100% of SLT graduates had secured jobs in the field). This last part is especially heartening, because if you've been paying any attention to the library world over the past two-three years, it's been a pretty dismal picture indeed.  The pressure on our libraries (of all shapes, sizes and types) is still very much present - on August 14th, the Huffington Post reported that 58 elementary schools in the District of Columbia would re-open without school libraries.  That's a tragedy.  But it is encouraging to see that slowly but surely in some parts of the country at least (including Massachusetts), hiring is picking up again and schools are recognizing the need for trained school library media specialists.

So, since this entry will be posted on Friday, the second official day of classes, let me be the first to welcome you back! To new students, welcome to Simmons and to Boston, and to prospective students, I hope these blog posts give you an insight into what makes the Simmons GSLIS program so outstanding.

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Two Weeks In

The crowning experience of the SLT program is the two practica, which are carried out at the elementary and high school levels (though starting this fall, middle school will be an option as well).   In addition to a mountain of paperwork and a log that could possibly qualify as a lethal weapon due to its sheer weight, part of what we are meant to do is learn the ins and outs of being a librarian.  This includes not only shadowing our cooperating practitioner, but writing our own lessons, collaborating with teachers, planning activities, creating displays, doing our three minor projects, and, of course, teaching.

Yesterday marked the end of my second full week (though this week was a little off-kilter), so I thought it might be interesting to give you all an idea of what happens at a practicum at the beginning stages.

In the past two weeks, I have:

Introduced myself to the students and found out about what countries some of them have lived in

Written and taught the first lesson of my unit on nursery rhymes to kindergarten, including an animated discussion about the meanness of Mother Goose's goose (hint: it's a very mean goose)

Pulled over a hundred books from the fiction section to be considered for weeding, and actually weeded nearly 70 already

Discovered a whole heap of books that should be recatalogued, including some wonderful treasures that I plan to booktalk and promote in some way

Helped kids draw pictures about themselves using KidPix, and learning that favorite pastimes of some first graders include "building things with Lego," "skiing," and "going on mysterious adventures"

Attended the annual MSLA conference in Hyannis, where I learned of a whole bunch of nifty curation tools that I want to use for a research project

Suggested a poetry exercise to my cooperating practitioner, which developed into a unit on poetry with the fourth graders - this week, we wrote sense poems

Went to a district-wide department meeting with my cooperating librarian

I'm at my school four days a week, which is unusual, but I'm glad for the opportunity.  I've learned an incredible amount already, but the highlight is definitely working with the students.  Elementary school students are not only adorable, they're also bright, inquisitive, and fascinated by what they're discovering about the world around them.  It feels great to finally be putting everything I've learned into practice, and I hope to share more of my experiences with you all over the coming weeks.

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SLT Practicum

It's only a month into the new semester, but for those of us in the school library teacher (SLT) program, we're already looking forward to August and September.  Our wonderful advisor, Dr. Fran Zilonis, has already wrapped up meetings with all students planning to undertake a practicum experience in the fall to let us know about deadlines and offer advice in choosing a site.

The practicum experience is the capstone of the SLT program, and is required by the Commonwealth for our teaching licenses upon graduation.   Each SLTP student does two practicum experiences - one at the elementary level (k-5 or k-8), and one at the middle or high school level (6-8 or 9-12).   There are two hundred hours of work required in total, which are done under the supervision of a licensed library teacher at dozens of schools across the greater Boston area (students who attend GSLIS West do their practicum experiences in western Massachusetts, generally).

What this means is that the great scramble to find practicum sites has officially begun. 

Continue reading SLT Practicum

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