5 Resources Providing Open Source Images

 Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/91779914@N00/2279892412 under CC 2.0

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/91779914@N00/2279892412 under CC 2.0

Sometimes people mistake me or others in my profession as the Copyright Police. And while it's true that we librarians may literally be the only people who care so passionately about adhering to copyright laws, I think most people out there - from teachers assembling a PowerPoint for a science lesson to students creating an infographic to instructional leaders presenting at conferences to bloggers who write for a living - they really do have some level of respect for intellectual property. Sometimes people get nervous with image use because they aren't sure if they really can use that image that they want to use, or if they go ahead and use it, they fret over whether they've cited it properly.

 *From Unsplash.com under CC0.

*From Unsplash.com under CC0.

My advice is simple, and it's the same regardless of your age, purpose, or profession. If you want to be absolutely certain that you aren't breaking any copyright rules with images, then you have two choices:

1. Generate your own images, with your phone/camera/computer/tablet/whatever,
OR
2. Use an Open Source or Creative Commons image.

Here are five - of MANY - websites that offer searchable collections of free, Open Source (free to use) images:

The great thing about these is that they provide pretty nice quality images - some clip art, but most are actual pictures, and you may have to wade through a few ads or sponsored images (ahem, Shutterstock) they're still providing you with gobs of content and asking nothing in return, not even account creation. And even though they don't require you to cite under most Creative Commons licenses, in my librarian heart of hearts I'll always do it anyway, even if just to promote their website. It's the least we could do, right?

What are your favorite sources for free, Open Source images?

My AVL Story Video Contest

The Alabama Virtual Library Executive Council announces the “My AVL Story” video contest! Library patrons of all ages and from all geographic locations within the state are invited to participate in this simple campaign, in which we gather brief video stories about how the AVL has impacted Alabamians. Prizes for winners include GoPro cameras, Chromebooks, iPad, gift certificates, and more! See http://www.avl.lib.al.us/video_contest/ for all details. The deadline for entries is March 13, 2015 at midnight. 

This is a great opportunity for teachers, librarians, parents, and students to tell how the Alabama Virtual Library has helped YOU! Every resident within the state of Alabama is eligible. Click over to the contest guidelines and start working on your AVL story TODAY! 

Stretching the buck

Blogging Challenge for School Librarians, Day 20

Well, now, here we are on the final entry of this blogging challenge! What a great concept for promoting reflection and idea-sharing in our profession, and I would love to see this become an annual event. 

Budgets are tight. How do you make it stretch? Fundraisers, paperbacks, doing your own rebinds...how do you do it?

Budgets...such a hot topic for school libraries today. Public, academic, and other specialty libraries are doing just fine. Classrooms have had supply funds cut, but at least they still exist. Teacher salaries have been frozen for some time, but I don't even care about that. We're okay. Public school libraries are unfortunately the first to be cut from state and local budgets and are among the last to be restored.  

In Alabama we are hoping for our school library funds to be restored in the next fiscal year, which the legislature will be working on very soon. If you have a moment, it's time to contact your reps and encourage them to restore library funding. It's called Library "Enhancement" Funds, though that terminology is disturbing to our profession. School librarians know good and well that we depend on these funds to meet basic needs for our patrons (especially the changing curricular demands brought on by the College and Career Ready Standards), and that it is not the fluff insinuated by the term "Enhancement."

How am I making it? In my previous school I had access to a small bit of federal funds, as we were a Title I school. It did not meet all our needs but most certainly helped. My current school is in much more dire straits. No federal funding and very little local funds have resulted in a crumbling collection. In the past year I have sold concessions, all kinds of "grams," written grants, and written to city and state legislators with data from a collection analysis and pleas for help. I've looked into crowd sourcing options but have some personal hangups with the approval process and what happens to funds donated by your family/friends/parents/community if you don't meet your goal (long story short-they go to other fundraisers...which could be in another state). 

Book fair remains the most successful fundraiser, but even then we only bring in about $800. One cartridge for the library's laser printer costs 1/4 of that. Books (good ones, that will last) cost at least $20 each. That money goes quickly, to say the least. 

It's not a pretty picture, though it might explain why most of the books on my shelves could literally fall apart before I can get them checked out to a student. 

Moral of the story? Let your education and legislative leaders know that it is time to restore funds for school libraries in Alabama! 

restore school libraries.jpg

Provisions from our library

Blogging Challenge for School Librarians, Day 17

What type of supplies and materials do you provide for students? How do you fund these items? Do your students/staff expect you to supply materials?

There are several "answers" to this question for our library program...I've definitely detected a pattern that there is never an easy answer to these prompts! 

For typical information-resource needs (if there is such a thing), our library provides an aged-but-I'm-working-on-it collection of books and periodicals supporting as many areas of the curriculum as we can muster. As mentioned on Day 15, I definitely have an ongoing list of desired books that would strengthen the massive holes in my current collection. The sparse collection of periodicals I have are either free from the state (Alabama Heritage), donations from parents (hunting/fishing magazine...and yes, I strip out any questionable pics or ads), and the few I can get with Scholastic dollars after a book fair. The only issue I have with that is a personal belief that one publisher shouldn't dominate a collection, but these are desperate times and it is what it is. 

After nearly 6 years of being drastically reduced or completed zeroed out, a renewal of state funds for school libraries would certainly help improve this, and quickly.

Students and teachers have 24-hour access to cutting edge and professionally refereed research through the state's virtual library. The Alabama Virtual Library (AVL) is a truly fantastic collection of resources that I promote with teachers and students every single chance I have. Although a log in was required in the past, now devices are geo-authenticated which encourages even greater use of these resources. Though we do have access to other databases in my district such as Nettrekker for example, still the AVL is the absolute best tool for Alabama residents of any station in life, not just for academic use. 

Overdrive is another resource currently provided for our district to allow checkout of ebooks and audio books on their personal devices. I have very strong/mixed feelings about this tool, probably best left unsaid, but we do have it to offer to students and teachers. 

Reading supplies for my student book club, which meets twice each week for about an hour total, are provided through small sets of Scholastic Guided Reading leveled readers. In middle school I throw those levels by the wayside and instead put all of my focus on matching readers to books that interest them. In a community hard hit by the recession, I wouldn't dare expect my students or their parents to purchase copies of books at this point in time. I'll never forget the moment when the students who had signed up (about 30) visibly sighed in relief when I told them I wouldn't ask them to buy anything in order to participate. 

Any lesson materials for which I am primarily facilitating, such as crayons/colored pencils/markers/chart paper, are provided. Tech resources such as refurbished computers, Nooks, and access to the Nearpod software are newish and provided by a combination of local school funds, board-level funds, and grants I've written. 

For staff members, we provide printing and laminating services as close to free as we can get it. Students can print anything for .10 per sheet. Network access is provided in the library's bank of computers for teachers who are having issues with connection or access in their own rooms. We also have a Cricut for cutting out letters and designs teachers need for displays or lessons. Some teachers never use those, and others use them quite a bit. We also have a backup copier (ancient...I'm talking maybe 10 sheets per minute) for which teachers can pay .25 per page.

As far as expectations go, there has never been any issue with the kids. The only real challenge we have at all is when a teacher here or there abuses copy privileges, expecting class sets of items (over multiple times a day or week) without being willing to cover those charges. 

For the patrons

Blogging Challenge for School Librarians, Day 12 

What is one thing you have changed in your library to meet patrons' needs? What spurred this change? What would you do differently?

 Image courtesy of  Unsplash , under  CC0

Image courtesy of Unsplash, under CC0

I have mentioned my genrefying project here already, but am still in the thick of getting that organized and executed well. 

One really simple answer to this question is a strategy I discovered while serving elementary school children. The daily frequent fliers (I miss that so in middle school!) tended to want really specific types of books...such as books about cheetahs, snakes, bats, dinosaurs, trucks, etc. With no paraprofessional and all kinds of circulation/shelving/management/tech support responsibilities on my shoulders, I learned to place visuals near those books that would help match readers with their desired books. A quick stroll down Target's dollar bins was always fruitful in providing the stuffed animals, rubber frogs and snakes (bleck), plastic trucks, and toy dinos that I could place on the shelves beside those books. 

Completely simple strategy, but one that made a real impact in helping the patrons find what they needed independently and efficiently. 

Then again, there were those who just wanted to play with the toys. :)