We Have a Winner

Well, the contest is over and a winner has been randomly chosen.  Thank you to “bigvincec” for contributing this picture for the Lenovo M90z library photo contest.  I left a comment on the photo in Flickr.  I’ll give him a few days to get me his information – either by a comment here or in the comment section of the picture.  If I don’t get it, I’ll randomly select a new winner.

Thanks to everyone who submitted photos.  Here’s a link to all of the pictures.

Game On!

The M90z contest is now open!  If you want to read in more about the contest or the reasoning behind me choosing this as the contest, you can do so here or here.

Here’s the contest in a nutshell: 

To enter, you must submit a picture of any school or public library that you think is fantastic.  The photo could be of the entire library, a small corner, a new book display, signage, reading area or whatever you think shows off a neat library space.  The main idea is to share pictures of great library spaces with others to help everyone create wonderful library environments.  Here are a few requirements that must be followed:

  • All photos must be uploaded to Flickr and tagged “librarym90z”
  • In the description of the photo, please include the name of the library and the location.
  • State what you think is so special about the photo.
  • To be eligible for the computer, photos must be posted between May 11 and May 15.

That’s it, it’s pretty simple.  Are you in?

The Contest…Are You In?

I’m not talking about That Contest, I’m talking about the Lenovo M90z Contest that’s starting here on May 11th and wrapping up on May 15th.  Over the past several weeks, many bloggers have been writing about and giving away a Lenovo M90z All-in-One desktop computer as part of a promotional arrangement.  Some of these bloggers have ties to the educational blogosphere while others do not.  The contests have been pretty interesting, all lasting 5 days each.  Here’s a neat example of the contest my friend Lee Kolbert ran on her blog.  My contest, is the last of the bunch and one that I think a lot of educators, especially school librarians, can benefit from.

I wrote a previous post that prompted my idea for the contest.  I’m interested in creating fantastic library spaces in my school library, but often struggle with ideas on what I could do.  Seeing other school libraries could give me ideas on displays, signage, or furniture arrangements to improve the atmosphere of the library.  However, actually visiting a lot of libraries isn’t the easiest thing to do.  This is where the contest comes in.  To enter the contest, you must submit a picture of any school or public library that you think is fantastic.  The photo could be of the entire library, a small corner, a display, signage, reading area or whatever you want.  The main idea is to share pictures of great library spaces with others to help everyone create wonderful library environments.  Here are a few requirements that must be followed:

  • All photos must be uploaded to Flickr and tagged “librarym90z”
  • In the description of the photo, please include the name of the library and the location.
  • State what you think is so special about the photo.
  • To be eligible for the computer, photos must be posted between May 11 and May 15.

That’s it, it’s pretty simple.  Are you in?

Soon after May 15th, one winner will be selected among the hundreds (hopefully) of photos submitted and that person will receive a Lenovo M90z computer all for themselves.

Spaces in the Library

Schools and classrooms can be exciting places of learning. Like our homes, we invest a lot of time in our workplaces and we want them to be comfortable. The more we feel comfortable in our space, the more productive it can be. This comfort translates to the students as well. If they are in an environment that is conducive to learning, the will be more productive as well. The physical layout of not just our classrooms, but our school libraries as well, should create these positive climates.

To some extent, the layout and furniture in our classrooms and libraries is not in our control. We walk into our rooms when we first get the job and take a look around. The desks and tables that are already in a the room are probably the only options. School budgets can often limit new purchases of desks, tables, and chairs. It’s not reasonable to expect walls to be knocked down to expand a classroom or to have additional lighting, electrical, or data ports installed. We usually have work with what we’re given. Regardless, we do what we can to create a positive learning environment that meets everyone’s needs

A recent school library journal article got me thinking about the space of my library. I think there could be a lot of improvements, but I’m limited, in much the same way as other teachers. I’d love to rearrange books shelves or move the circulation desk, but I can’t. All of my bookshelves, with the exception of one, are built into the outer walls of the library. There isn’t a data drop where I’d like to put the circulation desk. My hands are tied. Somewhat. Over the past couple of years, I’ve added some color to the walls and added a couple of book racks. I had a couch in the library to create a comfy reading areas. Unfortunately, I had to get rid of it for a couple of reasons, one being the constant fighting among students wanting to sit there. Perhaps other comfy furniture will return someday, but for now, it’s just wooden tables and wooden chairs.

The article in SLJ led me to an idea after looking at some of the pictures of incredible schools libraries. Wouldn’t it be great to have a place where librarians and teachers can post and share pictures of their favorite school libraries? This depository would be a place school librarians could go for ideas when rearranging or creating their library space. I’m going to set one up very soon, but there will be a catch. A catch that will be an added bonus to those who submit photos.

Check back soon to find out more.

The Nooks Are Here

Today, 10 Color Nooks arrived in my school library. I’m extremely excited to get these up and running and to let the kids get their hands on them.  I was very impressed with the person I dealt with from Barnes and Noble.  I spoke with her on the phone around 11:00 am and told her my purchase order was all set and that I wanted to order some ereaders.  She told me to fax over the PO and what I wanted and she would get everything together.  I had the option of picking the items up at the store or to have her bring them to school.  I asked her when she could deliver them and she said she could be at school within a couple of hours!  Wow.  I took that option.

She showed up at a time when I didn’t have a class and we spent about 30 minutes going over questions I had and setting up an account and some basic management issues related to the books I would be downloading.  I thought I could just connect the Nooks to a computer and download all of the titles, but she told me that wasn’t an option for Nook Books.  I realized that the books needed to be downloaded to the Nooks wirelessly.  Our building currently does not have wireless at all, it’s coming this summer at the latest.  For now, my only option was to bring the Nooks home and download everything there.  I only brought one of the Nooks home to give things a try.  It worked just great.  I now will need to bring the rest of them home and finish the downloading.

The Nook was laying on the kitchen table when my kids asked what it was.  I explained to them it was a Nook and that you could read books on it.  My son commented, “That’s it?” He wanted to know if there were games too.  I think he’s used to my iPad.  I currently have 23 picture books downloaded and told him that he could do his nightly reading on the Nook instead of the book he brought home from school.  He said he’d do it.  He read one story himself and then for the second story, had the story read to him.  I think this a great feature of the Color Nook and will be valuable for the students.

When he was finished reading the stories, I asked him if I could interview him about using the Nook.  He reluctantly agreed.  Below is my 3 minute interview with him about his thoughts on using a Nook.  It starts off a little rough, but I think some of the ideas he has are rather interesting.  I guess that’s what you get when you just toss questions at a second grader without giving him any time to process his thoughts.



The WEMTA Conference wrapped up this week and it was a rather interesting conference for a couple of reasons.  Earlier this year, I received a phone call gauging my interest in running for a Board position within the organization.  I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do it or not, but I knew a couple of people on the Board, so I decided to run.  About two weeks before the conference, I received a phone call informing me that I was elected.  At the conference, I had the opportunity to meet some of the people I’ll be working with the next two years.  My term officially started at the conclusion of the three day event.  I have no idea what to expect or what my responsibilities will be, but I hope I can help move the organization foward.

The conference also gave my an opportunity to present more than I ever have in the past. This year, I was a Featured Speaker.  I have no idea why I was chosen, but certainly someone felt I would be a good addition to the program.  As part of my responsibility, I had to lead a 2.5 hour workshop on Sunday, followed by 3 sessions during the conferences. My sessions were scheduled first thing in the morning on both conference days – you can look at that as either a positive or a negative.  On one hand, it’s nice to get the sessions over so you can enjoy the rest of the conference.  On the other hand, early sessions could curtail evening collaboration with colleagues.

I enjoyed my sessions and my time at the conference.  The room I presented in (above) is clearly the largest room I’ve ever presented in.  Luckily, there were more people in the actual sessions than are pictured above.  I think everything went well – that’s at least the feedback I received from some of the people who spoke to me after.  That’s very rewarding to me.  If you’d like links and slideshows from my presentations, feel free to click on the Resources tab at the top of my site.

I attended a few sessions that I thought were pretty good.  Jon Tanner did a great session on email and strategies to control your inbox.  I’ve already streamlined my GMail and really like the system.  Learning a few tricks and tips is always a good thing.  Also attended a session on Google apps given by another Featured Speaker, Chad Kafka.  There was some pretty interesting information shared about library funding in Wisconsin in another session.  It sounds as though some pretty interesting options could be in store for the future.  Luckily, we were told that our funding is pretty stable and won’t really change much in the near future.

Oh What a (Bad) Night

Last night, my local School Board, decided by a vote of 4-3, to eliminate all of the elementary school librarians.  The District will be implementing a Spanish language program in the elementary schools and will be using the cost savings from the library positions to help fund the new Spanish teachers.

The initial meeting on January 10th was packed, with many incredibly passionate community members and parents speaking in support of the school libraries.  The meeting last night also had good attendance, but not like the previous meeting.  Again, there were outstanding comments made, all but two in support of keeping the school librarians.  In the end, it wasn’t enough.  I had a feeling who would vote in what direction.  I had some hope that the Board president, who revealed her vote last, would say no.  The vote was 3-3 when she spoke.  Unfortunately, she supported the proposal.

There were tears from some of the librarians who are losing their positions.  I feel for them, some I know very well.  Luckily, they are not losing their jobs, just assuming different teaching position if they choose.  I know the value of school librarians.  I’m one of them.  I would hate to have been in their shoes the last two weeks.  It had to be incredibly stressful.

Last night wasn’t fun.  The last two weeks weren’t fun.  The schools will adjust, elementary students will begin to learn Spanish next year.  Life will go on.  It just won’t be the same without elementary school librarians. They are a valuable asset to a school.  The students and teachers in the nine elementary schools in Wauwatosa will not only miss them, they will suffer.

Update: This is the article from the newspaper that I didn’t see until now. I’m sure the comments will be interesting.

A Sigh of Relief

A few days after the School Board meeting I wrote about, I was speaking with someone who mentioned that the Director of Curriculum from my district, was in attendance at the meeting.  I didn’t see her there, but the room as packed, including a nearby hallway, where she was standing.  I wondered why she were in attendance.  This person happens to be my boss, the person in charge of the school librarians in my district.  Hmmm.

Three days after this meeting, everyone librarian in my district received an email from her.  The subject line of her email said “Future of IMC.”  The first two lines of the email said “I am sure that all of you heard about the proposal from the Wauwatosa School District.  I want to assure you that we are not moving in that direction.  Kurt announced at our board meeting that our IMC directors were and are proactive in providing services to students in meeting needs of technology.”

The email goes on to talk about how we, as a department, will still need to utilizing best practice un teaching with Web 2.0 tools and that we still need to consider the possibilities for the future and the IMC role in our schools in order to be valued.  It’s time to up the game again.  I couldn’t agree more with many of this statements and while it’s sad the Administration in the District I live doesn’t feel the same about school librarians, I’m glad my current Administration supports us.

Whew!  Big sigh.

I Hope it Doesn’t Happen

It’s the middle of January and I haven’t posted anything.  It’s not that I haven’t been thinking, it’s just that I’ve been a little consumed by a proposal my local School District released last week.  They, the District I live in and my kids attend (not where I work), are interested in adding a World Language Program in the elementary schools.  The idea is to introduce the Spanish language to students beginning in first grade.  On the surface, this sounds like something that will be a huge benefit for our students.  The problem, however, is how they plan on funding the additional teachers.  We all know the budget situations most school districts are in and that money isn’t easy to come by.  The proposal on the table to fund the new positions will come at the expense of the elementary school librarians.  The District is proposing to cut all elementary library media specialist and reassign them to different teaching positions.  The libraries would be staffed part time by educational assistants.  I know this is not a good idea.  I think those of you reading this would agree.

This information was told to teachers and parents only 5 days before a School Board meeting was being held to go over the proposal.  This left little time for people to gather information and share their feelings with the District or School Board members.  To assist with the sharing of research, ideas, and comments, I created a Facebook group and quickly invited neighborhood parents.  In just a couple of days, there were over 100 members of the group.  I was pretty pleased with this.  Great conversations were taking place in the days leading up the School Board meeting.  At the meeting, many concerned parents spoke, as did I.  The speakers were incredibly passionate, informed, and positive in their comments.  While there were many comments on the actual structure of the language program, no one spoke against it.  One common theme was the need for our schools to continue their quality library programs and staff those programs with certified teachers.

The vote on this proposal is scheduled for January 24th.  I believe the vote is going to be very close.  There is still about a week for parents to express their concerns to School Board members.  I hope the proposal, as it’s currently written, is voted down.  I do hope, however, that a new proposal to fund the world languages program comes back to the table.  Perhaps the District can find a way to fund the additional teachers without cutting a program that impacts every single elementary school student in the District.

Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

A couple of days, I had a thought provoking conversation on Twitter that centered around this article.  The basic idea is that we need to ban fiction from the curriculum.  I don’t necessarily agree with the statement, but my mindset is coming from a librarian’s point of view.  Nick Provenzo wrote about this from his English teacher mindset and MaryBeth Hertz also chimed in with a blog post as well.  Those were two of the main people I was chatting with regarding this issue.  They were much more prompt than I was in sharing their thoughts, but nonetheless, we were all thinking a little bit more about this topic after coming across the main article.

I started to think about this from the library point of view.  Are students checking out more fiction these days?  Are they more interested in non-fiction?  Why are students choosing the books they choose.  I tried to pull some statistics from my circulation software to determine what was being checked out but couldn’t figure out how to do it in a simple way.  From my own observations, non-fiction is being checked out a lot more than fiction.  Picture books are certainly on the decline.  I rarely see checking out picture books at the rate they were a few years ago.  I don’t know why.  The upper elementary students aren’t really sticking with chapter books as much either.  If it’s not Diary of a Wimpy Kid or a book that was made into a recent movie, they aren’t reaching for fiction that much.  In fact, a student recently grabbed a Percy Jackson graphic novel in our library.  He told me the book was wrong because one of the characters in the book was white and in the movie, that character was black.  We had a nice little discussion about this, but his thoughts about the book were based on how someone else (the director) interpreted the book.  Kids are not coming up with their own pictures in their mind anymore, something you must do when you’re reading fiction.

Why aren’t kids choosing fiction as much?  I have a couple of theories on this.

  • Kids don’t have the reading stamina to handle long chapter books.
  • Attention spans are getting shorter, therefore sticking with a long chapter book is more challenging.
  • Kids want to learn more about stuff that interests them – cars, dogs, sports.  They want facts.
  • Movies. Movies are taking away the fun of a good books.  There have been a ton of children’s books made into movies recently and kids are simply watching the movies instead of reading the books.
  • They don’t know what they are missing.  If students were more aware of the great stories waiting for them, they might be more apt to grab a fiction book. (Yes, this is my job to make them more aware).
  • Kids don’t have good imaginations.  With all of the technology available to them, they do not simply make up things to do.  They don’t play with legos and build stuff, don’t get out arts and crafts things and create.  They don’t just make up things to do.
  • Kids are not talking about the great books they read as much as they used to because they aren’t reading as many great books.  Kids often hear about books from their friends.  If fiction reading is declining, it makes sense that book recommendations from friends is also declining.

I can’t speak for what should or shouldn’t happen in high school English classes because I don’t have the knowledge.  I’ll leave that up to Nick and his fellow high school teachers.  I don’t think we need to get rid of fiction, I think the opposite.  We need to expose students to more of it.