Instructional Technology: Approach with (Healthy) Caution

In his insightful speech to a 1998 world on the cusp of the explosion of the Tech Age, American philosopher Neil Postman presented his five basic ideas on the concept of technological change. Even though his talk is now nearly 20 years old, his ideas (warnings, really) still ring true for us who lead the charge of integrating technology into all areas of the curriculum...

{Click over to the American Associations of School Librarians Knowledge Quest blog to read the original post}


Are you a font barista?

Ask me what I love about being a school librarian, and we’d have quite a lengthy conversation. However, in the top tier of my favorite aspects of school librarianship is the unpredictable nature of our work day and task list. Every day truly is a new adventure, bringing fresh opportunities to serve kids, teachers, and administrators in your building...

{See my original post on the American Association of School Librarians Knowledge Quest blog}

Excellence in School Librarianship

This is a really powerful video (less than 5 minutes) compiling feedback from administrators of different schools located around the nation on the impact of school librarians. It was posted on the AASL forum yesterday and was created by Judi Moreillon, who is known for her advocacy of school librarians. This would be a fantastic resource to share with principals and other supervisors! 

*Personal side note, feel free to take or leave it: the only two aspects I really wish they had tweaked were the consistent reference to librarians in the feminine (as we all know we have some rockstar guybrarians in our midst!) and the emphasis on school librarians as the Most Important Person. We are each free to have our thoughts on this, but personally I don't think that touting ourselves as the most important members of our faculty is beneficial or accurate. We are equal partners with our teachers and administrators and students and support staff...we just have unique training that helps us fill some special roles!

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 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! 

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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.