Read, Relax, Restore

read_relax_restore

The Building a Culture of Collaboration™ cobloggers are taking the summer off. After four years of year-round coblogging, we are pausing to reflect. Two of us are changing our work lives in the next academic year and are thinking about the next chapters in our life stories, including the future of our blog.

Wishing you all the best for a fun summer,

Judi Moreillon, Lucy Santos Green, Karla Collins, and Judy Kaplan

Word cloud created at Tagxedo.com

May Musings About Telling Our Stories

little chromebooks that can be moved around and 2 rocking chairsAs I look at topics that the BACC co-bloggers have addressed in the past few months, I see an overarching theme that has emerged, and it is a theme that reveals the morphing nature of our profession.  All libraries-academic, public, private, and school are transforming and adapting services and resources for information and digital age learners in today’s world.  Successful libraries are led by dynamic, creative professional librarians who have a vision for the future, and are willing to advocate for the value of libraries in their individual communities or institutions.

In a democratic society, libraries provide intellectual and social clearinghouses for citizens to learn and grow. Librarians continue to curate collections and to respond to a user’s individual and unique information and literacy needs.  Since Benjamin Franklin envisioned the public library in Philadelphia, equitable access to information has remained the mission of libraries as educational institutions for all citizens.   That mission is even more important in contemporary society, with the digital divide that continues to separate the haves and have-nots.

Those of us who have discovered librarianship know this is an exciting and dynamic profession for the future, and we want to share the good news and attract like minded folks to join our ranks.  How do we dispel old fashioned notions about libraries and the role of the librarian? How do we get the word out?  Who are the movers and shakers we need to target to promote library programs and to expand the profession?

For libraries to continue to be relevant and accessible for learners, we have to tell our users’  stories and our stories, too.  We have to show how transformed library learning spaces are impacting our communities.  We have to counter old fashioned ideas about libraries of the past with fresh visions of the present and future.  We also have to answer the question, “Why do we need libraries, since we have the internet, and everyone has a smartphone?”  That question will not go away…

Earlier in the month, Judi Moreillon highlighted examples for spreading the word to pre-service administrators and pre-service teachers in graduate programs who are pursuing educational careers in schools. Fortunately, the American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians provide many resources to help tell our story.  The AASL Pre-service Toolkit for Principals and Teachers (2016) that Judi shared in her post, “can help to educate future principals and teachers about the significant role that quality library programs can play in student learning. The resources can also be shared with practicing principals and teachers, who would benefit from learning more about the impact that a quality school library program can have on their schools.” (2)

Of the varied and comprehensive resources in the toolkit, I would like to focus on two excellent advocacy tools for practicing school librarians to share with administrators and classroom colleagues. Now that “new rules” have been established in the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 2015 (ESSA-Every Student Succeeds Act), school librarians have to maximize opportunities to share the impact of school library programs on transformational learning for digital age students, so let’s be active participants in future educational directions.

Ideas from the toolkit:

Why do we still need libraries?

As you walk the walk and talk the talk, share this article by Ann Martin and Kathleen Roberts. Start a conversation about digital learning….

Martin, Ann M. and Kathleen R. Roberts. January/February 2015. “Digital Native ≠ Digital Literacy.” Principal Magazine, 94 (3): 18-21. http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/MartinRoberts_JF15.pdf  (accessed May 25, 2016)

This article in the magazine of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) explains that although today’s K -12 students typically show confidence and familiarity with digital tools, there still exists the need for professional instructional guidance from school librarians in evaluating information, navigating online spaces with safety and civility, and learning productive use of online tools and spaces.

Capstone Projects and Student Learning

Many schools have implemented capstone projects to demonstrate proficiency based learning.  Do you have capstone projects in our school?  What is the role of the school librarian in providing guidance and support for passion projects and community based learning projects?   What individual interests are supported in relevant library resources? How are school librarians actively involved as facilitators for student inquiry and proficiency?  Use this informative report to spark ideas with principals and co-teaching colleagues.

“AASL Senior/Capstone Project Task Force Report, May 2014.” http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/advocacy/AASL_ExecSummary_SeniorCapstoneProjectTF_2014.pdf  (accessed May 25, 2016)

This preliminary report on the implementation of student-centered Senior/Capstone Projects explores the many ways in which school librarians can be involved in such projects. In addition, it offers links to multiple resources in the United States, including exemplars of school librarian leadership and classroom teacher collaboration. View the related Position Statement on the Role of the School Librarian in Senior/Capstone Projects.

Planning Ahead:

As you look forward to summer months and plans for a new school year in the fall, take time to reflect on ways to continue to tell your school library stories through the lens of the learner, and the lens of all the wonderful folks who work for successful learning in a school community. Be part of the story!

 

Works Cited:

AASL Senior/Capstone Project Task Force Report.  ALA.org. May 2014. Web. 25 May 2106. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/advocacy/AASL_ExecSummary_SeniorCapstoneProjectTF_2014.pdf>.

Educators of School Librarians Section. “Preservice Toolkit for Principals and Teachers.” ALA.org. Mar. 2016. Web. 25 May. 2016. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/toolkits/PreserviceEducators_Toolkit_FINAL_2016-03-17.pdf>.

Martin, Ann M. and Kathleen R. Roberts. January/February 2015. “Digital Native ≠ Digital Literacy.” Principal Magazine, 94 (3): 18-21. Web. 25 May. 2016. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/MartinRoberts_JF15.pdf>.

Image: Judith Kaplan Collection

 

Educating Preservice Principals and Classroom Teachers

This month the BACC co-bloggers are sharing their thoughts about the “Pre-service Toolkit for Principals and Teachers” recently released by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).

what-every-preservice-teacher-should-know-about-working-with-the-school-librarian-1-638The Educators of School Librarians Section (ESLS) of AASL developed this toolkit to help practicing and preservice school librarians and school librarian educators talk with our constituent groups about how school librarians help library stakeholders reach their goals. The opening line frames the toolkit in terms of the interdependence of all members of the school learning community: “There is no question that the success of school library programs depends upon the support of the principal and the school librarian’s ability to collaborate with teachers” (2).

AASL charges school librarians with serving their schools in five roles: leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, and program administrator. There are many challenges inherent in educating preservice principals and classroom teachers regarding the capacity of state-certified school librarians to serve in these roles and improve teaching and learning in their schools. These challenges include the sad fact that too many schools lack a professional school librarian on the faculty and preservice principals and classroom teachers may not have had first-hand experience of working with a dynamic school librarian.

In my role as a school librarian educator, I have had two exceptional opportunities to speak with preservice principals and classroom teachers. Thanks to Teresa Starrett, my Texas Woman’s University colleague in Educational Leadership, I have had the opportunity to speak with future principals enrolled in a course called Professional Development and Supervision in Education. I have posted resources online for a 60- or 90-minute agenda: “What Every Principal Should Know about Evaluating a School Library Program and a School Librarian.” The resources include a one-page assessment based on the school librarian’s five AASL roles.

In 2013-2014, along with TWU colleague Jennifer Richey and Denton-area educators, I had the opportunity to provide two three-and-half hour workshops for a total of 163 preK-12 preservice teachers. At the time of “What Every Preservice Teacher Candidate Should Know about Working with the School Librarian,” they were conducting their student teaching. This links to a Slideshare of the opening session in which Becky McKee and I demonstrated collaborative planning. I published an article in Teacher Librarian magazine about the research study based on these workshops.

These presentations had two things in common. In both, our goal was to change the preservice principals’ and classroom teachers’ paradigm of teaching as a solo activity. We also included a role play of a classroom teacher and school librarian coplanning a unit of instruction in both. This helped the participants see the benefits of coplanning to students, classroom teachers, school librarians, and to principals, too.

Educators of preservice school librarians and preservice classroom teachers and principals “should make concerted efforts to demonstrate the value of classroom-library collaboration for instruction during preservice teachers’ (and principals’) preparation programs. Still, it is up to practicing school librarians to reach out to student teachers and make sure that mentor teachers are given extra attention while they are guiding the student teaching experience” (16). It is also up to those in the field who are providing exemplary practice to show their principals the school librarian’s capacity to contribute to the school’s academic program.

The “Pre-service Toolkit for Principals and Classroom Teachers” provides multiple resources for thinking, discussing, and presenting the roles of school librarians in student learning: articles, blogs, books, brochures and infographics, posters, reports, research, and videos.

Thank you to the ESLS committee members who curated all of these materials and put them together in one easily accessible place.

Works Cited

Educators of School Librarians Section. “Preservice Toolkit for Principals and Teachers.” ALA.org. Mar. 2016. Web. 5 May. 2016. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/toolkits/PreserviceEducators_Toolkit_FINAL_2016-03-17.pdf>.

Moreillon, Judi. “Making the Classroom-Library Connection.” Teacher Librarian 43.3 (2016): 8-18.

Moreillon, Judi and Becky McKee. “What Every Preservice Teacher Should Know about Working with the School Librarian.” Slideshare.com. 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 5 May 2016. <http://www.slideshare.net/jmoreillon/what-every-preserviceteacher0314>.

The Recruitment Conundrum

readerToo many jobs, not enough applicants…

Successful school librarians lead by example, and share the passion for their unique role within a school community with their students, colleagues, administrators, and the wider world.  For the past four years in this venue, BACC bloggers have attempted to capture some of the joys and challenges that keep us energized and committed to our profession, even in the face of budget cuts, ever shifting educational “reforms,” and the information and technology tsunami.

Now we are looking to a future that includes renewed possibilities for strengthening school library programs across the country.  Traditional school libraries are being reinvented as 24/7 learning spaces or learning commons, in a variety of schools. Makerspaces are the current buzz. Research studies continue to demonstrate the correlation between strong school library programs and student success by multiple measures. ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015) is finally on the books and language that recognizes the role of school library programs, resources, and certified professionals is included. There are new guidelines that open areas for funding resources for school libraries and professional development for school librarians.

Telling our stories, listening to others…

As Judi and Karla have shared in their posts this month, there is a growing need for new school librarians to replace retirees and to staff open school library positions in school districts across the states. They have suggested ways for practicing librarians to encourage teacher colleagues to consider making a shift to the largest classroom in the school-the school library.  We need to tell our own stories of how we made the journey, and the difference that it has made in our lives.  (Indeed, the bloggers did that in February 2016!)  We need to listen to their stories, too, and to encourage them through collaborative teaching experiences, and by suggesting that they sample a school librarianship course or two.

With the idea that we tell and listen to stories to promote and recruit new school librarians, I decided to ask a few of my current students about their journey to the world of librarianship.  The adult learners in the course are very goal oriented and focused on new ideas and skills that will help them succeed as school librarians.  They have a range of backgrounds and experience in education, mostly in literacy or humanities, and more recently, from educational technology.  Each person brings a distinctive voice to the group, and it is a pleasure to have them contribute to our shared learning.

So here’s a sample of what I heard:

  • Having been an educator most of my professional life, I find library work to be a really wonderful fit for me at this time. It gives me an opportunity to lead collaboratively with a focus on curriculum.  It provides opportunities for teaching and learning for me, though not the full time role of a classroom teacher.  I love children’s literature and the difference it can make it readers’ lives, and my life. Libraries are exciting places to be:  They have the potential to be on the forefront of innovation—providing new resources, equipment and learning environments to bring education forward in this changing world.  Libraries create a space for creativity and curiosity whether it be makerspace, arts programs or reading clubs.  Libraries can be a vestige of welcome, calm and delight, and an antidote to high stakes testing.    —-Eileen Riley: email correspondence April 22, 2016
  • As a child I dreamed of becoming a librarian. I had a collection of books that I would check out and stamp. I found that I was attracted to the LMS endorsement because there were only 6 classes in the sequence that I would take in order to gain my endorsement.  It seemed to be a manageable goal that could be accomplished since each class was taken during a fall, spring, and summer semester. I did have two other classes that I have to take since I do not have an education degree.  I have been able to take one of the classes last semester and have one other class to take.  The classes are a hands-on experience for me.  I enjoy working with the other classmates and am able to discuss different situations that occur in the library.  The benefits of the LMS are to provide an environment where one can gain life long learning skills, and to be a leader who promotes literacy and technology skills.        —-Faith Lucas: email correspondence April 19, 2016
  • I always wished to be a librarian. I kind of forgot about that wish, though, when my “real life” became my life! Four years ago I was a traveling literacy specialist for kindergarteners in suburban CT, and worked in a bunch of different schools each week. I used the libraries for books, for work space and to take my kiddos to…it all came back to me that I wanted to be a librarian, especially in a school. When we moved up to VT and I realized I could have a fresh start, I went for it. Our pivotal conversation two years ago changed my life! Thanks, and hooray!    —Kristen Eckhardt: email correspondence April 19, 2016

We need you in our school libraries!

In Vermont, the Agency of Education publishes a list of shortages for educator positions, and the library media specialist (school librarian) position has a perennial spot on the list. The University of Vermont School Library Media Studies courses are designed for educators who want to add that endorsement to their teaching licenses. There is also an option for enrolling in a Masters of Education program, with a concentration in school library media studies and additional education coursework to complete the program with an advanced degree.  Some candidates are experienced educators are looking for new options, and are attracted to the program. Other candidates who enroll in the courses have been hired to fill vacant jobs, and are working within provisional licensing regulations.

Telling our stories to administrators:

In this small rural state, there has been a continued tradition of support for school libraries, and there are not enough certified professionals to fill all the positions in the state. Professional school librarians continue to advocate, individually and together for school library programs, by communicating with administrators about the impact of school libraries on learners.  Administrators play an important role in recruitment, and they need to have current data and information that will inform their decisions about the role of the school librarian..

Superintendents and principals are often the headhunters and recruiters who identify educators from within their ranks who might be willing to make a shift to the role of the school librarian. Those folks are encouraged to enroll in the UVM two year program, or some other recommended graduate program in school librarianship. Once the educators are committed to the required coursework, they may be hired as professionals with a provisional license under the direction of the school district. Upon completion of the courses and a practicum, the educators are eligible for a Vermont prek-12 endorsement as certified library media specialists. When administrators recruit from within, and encourage and support the professional learning of potential school librarians, they will get a return on their investment through a valued employee whose professional skills will enhance the teaching and learning for all members of the school community.

We are all stakeholders in the future for school library programs, so get out there and do your part. Spread the word locally and globally! Tell your story!

Image: Judith Kaplan Collection

 

Recruitment and ESSA

Those of us in the profession know the value and importance of having a qualified, effective school librarian at the help of quality school library. We know the benefits to the students and the entire school population. We know that school librarians are essential. According to the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), school librarians are including as “specialized instructional support personnel.” ESSA does not go as far as to require a school librarian in every school, but it does speak directly to the importance of school librarians  and allows school districts to provide support for school library programs and professional development.

Sometimes my mind gets ahead of me, and I think about what could be. I imagine a world with a qualified, effective school librarian in every school. I imagine those librarians taking full advantage of professional development to bring the latest and greatest research-based practices to their students and teachers. I imagine highly skilled and motivated librarians working with excited students as they make new discoveries and connections. I imagine vibrant, active learning spaces where needs are met and students have a chance to be successful.

Then I worry. What will happen if all states embrace ESSA and decide to do what is best for their students and require a school librarian in every school? Are there enough qualified school librarians waiting in the wings to take those positions? Where will they come from? How will administrators know if their new recruits are ready for the challenges they might face if they walk into a school where there has not been a school librarian?

It is essential for those of us currently in the profession to tag our teacher colleagues and invite them to consider becoming a school librarian. When we see the dispositions that are important to be an effective school librarian, we need to point it out to those people and our administrators. We need to be the ambassadors for the future of school libraries and bring in fabulous new colleagues who will enrich the profession.

More information about ESSA can be found here: http://www.ed.gov/essa?src=rn Additionally, AASL has gathered resources and information related to ESSA and what it means for school librarians. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/legislation/essa I encourage you to read through these items and become aware of what is coming our way. Be involved and interested. Be an advocate and a recruiter.

Advocacy Stories as a Recruitment Strategy

we-want-youOne thing I have consistently heard from preservice school librarian graduate students (all of them current or former classroom teachers) is that they didn’t really know what the school librarian’s job entailed before they started their library science preparation program. There are most likely many practicing school librarians who entered into the profession without deep knowledge of the benefits, rewards, and complexities of serving as an educator working in a school library.

In a course I teach called “Art of Storytelling,” students participate in an assignment called “digital advocacy storytelling.” Students begin the assignment by connecting with a core belief in librarianship. They build on their passion for a particular aspect of library work to develop a digital story targeted to a particular audience. They field test their advocacy story via social media, revise it based on feedback, and publish a final version.

Even if these stories were originally targeted to other audiences, I believe students’ advocacy stories can serve as recruitment tools to invite classroom teachers into the profession. Three students from the Spring 2016 class have given me permission to share their stories—stories that make a strong case for why they aspire to serve in the role of a school librarian leader.

Thank you to Lauren Scott (@MrsScott_1), Kathryn Shropshire (@MrsShropshire7), and Maricela Silva for allowing me to share your stories here.

Lauren Scott: Building Bridges Through Collaboration @Your Library®

Kathryn Shropshire: Read Together, Grow Together @Your School Library®

Maricela Silva: Coteach Technology @your library® 4 Lifelong Learning

You can view their one-sentence themes and digital reflections on this assignment on our course wiki.

School librarians are in the very best position to identify classroom teacher colleagues who have the “right stuff” needed to be passionate, exemplary school librarians. If every school librarian would recruit even one classroom teacher to pursue further education in school librarianship this year, our profession could be in a better position to staff all preK-12 schools in the U.S. with outstanding school librarians.

What’s your school librarian story? How will you share it to advocate for the profession and enlist exemplary classroom teachers to join us?

Word Art Image created with Microsoft

Recruitment to the School Librarian Profession

This month the BACC co-bloggers are sharing their thoughts about recruiting new school librarians to the profession. With many retirements on the horizon and some districts reinstating school librarian positions, there seems to be a dearth of qualified school librarians to fill vacant or soon-to-open positions.

Texas Flag at Veterans' Memorial Park, Port Arthur, Texas

Texas Flag at Veterans’ Memorial Park, Port Arthur, Texas

Recruitment to the school librarian profession is a hot and timely topic in Texas. I can share my perspective from the Lone Star State. Each spring since 2010 (I arrived in Texas in the fall of 2009) school librarians and district-level school library supervisors post job openings on the Texas Library Connection distribution list. Some of these positions are new openings and some are to fill vacancies that were left unfilled in the previous academic year.

Although I do not have hard data to back it up, I suspect that one reason for the shortage of qualified Texas school librarians (at least in this decade) was prompted by the 2011 cuts to school librarian positions and library programs across the state. In that year, a number of my advisees at Texas Woman’s University who were preparing to serve as school librarians changed their focus to children’s or teen services in public libraries. They were justifiably concerned that there would not be school librarian positions when they graduated from their Master’s degree programs.

In the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed by President Obama on December 10th, 2015, school librarians are included in the “essential personnel” category. This designation by the federal government should result in confidence on the part of library science school librarian graduate students and classroom teachers who pursue a career in school librarianship.

Today, for example, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) has a bold advocacy campaign in progress in order to rebuild the district’s school library programs. According to a blog post by Dorcas Hand, co-chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians Legislative and Advocacy Committee, “20% of HISD libraries have no designated staff and another 26% have only a paraprofessional managing circulation. 22% have teachers standing in for librarians, leaving only 32% of HISD libraries staffed with certified personnel” (http://tasltalks.blogspot.com/2016/01/libraries-in-hisd-by-numbers.html).

HISD is actively seeking certification options for classroom teachers to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to serve as effective state-certified school librarians. How can HISD help classroom teachers see that school librarianship is an extension and expansion of the knowledge and skills they have honed as classroom teachers? (Texas certified school librarians are required to have classroom teaching certification, two years of successful classroom teaching plus 24-hours of graduate work in library science or a library science Master’s degree.) How can HISD convince these educators to invest in their own professional growth and pursue graduate-level course work in order to earn certification?

School librarians from across the state of Texas are joining with the HISD school librarians to promote the work, the values, and the potential impact of school librarians on student learning. You can view their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/studentsneedlibraries/

School librarianship needs classroom teachers who believe that:
1.    Reading and writing literacy are the foundation for all learning;
2.    Libraries, reading, and resources create opportunities for students and classroom teachers;
3.    Every student deserves to have physical and intellectual access to ideas and information;
4.    Proficient readers have more life choices, enjoy more satisfying lives, and will be able to participate more fully in society;
5.    Using the technology tools of our times to motivate students, to help them learn, and to produce new knowledge is an essential instructional approach;
6.    Every classroom teacher deserves an instructional partner (a school librarian) who can provide resources to enhance learning and serve as a coteacher to improve student learning outcomes;
7.    They have knowledge and skills to share with their classroom teachers and specialists and position themselves as equal partners who are committed to lifelong learning with their colleagues;

How do we invite these classroom teachers into the profession? By telling the library story… To be continued on Thursday.

Works Cited

Bodden, Ray. “Texas Flag at Veterans’ Memorial Park, Port Arthur, Texas.” Digital Image. Flickr.com. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

Hand, Dorcas. “Libraries in HISD – by the Numbers.” Blog Post. TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU. 30 Jan. 2016. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

STEM: Opportunities and Challenges

robotsA foot in the door, a seat at the table-either way you describe it, school librarians have to be proactive in cultivating instructional collaboration within STEM classrooms in their schools. This month, BACC bloggers and guest (Sue Kowalski) have highlighted successful ways to meld the mission of the school library program with a new emphasis on science through inquiry based, experiential learning and innovative thinking.  “Think-Create-Share-Growth” morphs into “Think, explore, design, build, create.”  As Karla Collins said, current buzzwords sometimes seem like new packaging for what we have always known to be good teaching that is best for students.   The STEM, STEAM, STREAM movement in education is the perfect entry point for partnering with our professional science teachers, and sharing their enthusiasm and curiosity about the wonder and mystery of the physical and natural world we live in.  Our learners are and will be the problem solvers of today and tomorrow. As educators in the science classroom and in the library, we can work together to provide opportunities, challenges, and resources to set them on that path to the future.

In The Collection Development Program in Schools, Marcia Mardis examines the commonalities between the mutually reinforcing roles of STEM teachers and school librarians, based on National Science Teaching Standards (2006) and Empowering Learners (2009).  The potential for cooperation and collaboration is not always appreciated or understood for several reasons, and we have to recognize the barriers that prevent successful science teacher-school librarian collaborations.  Mardis elaborates on previous research that identifies those barriers, and some issues may seem familiar as we address our own school learning spaces and our own comfort zone with science topics.   Barriers include the perception by science teachers that the library resources for science topics are old and limited, and that librarians do not seem fluent in science and mathematics topics.  School librarians point to a lack of access to STEM professional development opportunities with science educators, or to be welcomed as members of curriculum committees, or to be unable to collaborate beyond the library due to staffing restraints and schedules.  Another barrier is that resources for STEM education in professional reading for school librarians are limited. (227)

Overcoming STEM Collaboration Barriers:

Begin with a self assessment-

Comfort with science topics:

  • Am I curious about the physical and natural world, and engineering and mathematics,  or do I feel unprepared as a STEM expert?
  • Have I explored the science standards that drive the science curriculum in my school?  NGSS or other state standards?
  • How do I collaborate with science or math teachers in my school or district? What has been successful? What are the challenges or obstacles to collaboration?
  • Can I have knowledgeable conversations with science teachers about implementing the standards in their classrooms?
  • Have I taken any professional development science related courses, workshops, or attended conferences for or with science teachers?
  • How can I make improvement to my practice to include STEM learning?

Collection Development and Curation of Resources-Physical and Virtual:

  • Is the school library collection current and representative of the science curriculum?
  • Are the resources varied in reading levels and available in a multiple formats to meet the needs of diverse learners?
  • Are there databases or electronic resources that provide 24/7 access to information anywhere, anytime?
  • Is there a procedure for accessing information from other libraries or experts in the field?
  • Do learners have opportunities to ask for assistance with inquiry projects?

Library Learning Space:

  • Is the library learning space arranged to accommodate varied group and individual inquiry or innovative projects for STEM?
  • Is there an area designated for innovation and experimentation?
  • Are there materials, technology tools, and applications that allow for experimentation, innovative thinking, and creation?
  • How does the library media professional or staff provide guidance for learners within STEM curricular units or interests?

More Successful Examples of STEM Collaboration-from New England and beyond:

A foot in the door, a seat at the STEM table:

  • Science professional learning teams in Vermont include school librarians at the leadership level. In 2013 the Vermont State Board of Education adopted the Next Generation Science Standards to guide science instruction in the state.  Science Assessment Coordinators for K-5 and 6-12 at the Vermont Agency of Education developed a multiyear plan to gradually incorporate the standards into curriculum and instruction.  Professional learning teams were recruited to plan for and facilitate professional development for science teaching and learning in the state. Members of the two teams represent classroom teachers, principals, science coaches, technology integrationists, university professors, curriculum directors, and school librarians.  During the past two years the teams have been meeting and unpacking the new standards, and learning about instructional strategies that enable inquiry based, active learning, that taps into scientific phenomena and innovative problem solving.  Members have brought new knowledge and ideas back to the local districts to encourage and support teachers in the field.  Denise Wentz, school librarian at Allen Brook School in Williston, Vermont, a member of the K-5 team, shared the progress of the group with members of the Vermont School Library Association in November, 2015.  Here is an  overview that she provided as an update so that school librarians can be participants in their own schools.         Librarians Role in the NGSS: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1qnLp7NL-Y2OnfiN8sgReTlBzy7fneBz_L_kddb4oi0Q/edit?usp=sharing

STEM Resources:

  • Meanwhile, Vermont school librarians, Linda McSweeney and Meg Allison curated a list of resources that supported the NGSS, and presented those resources at the Vermont Science Teachers Annual Conference, and also at the Dynamic Landscapes Conference in 2013.  Here is the website that they developed, and it remains very comprehensive. https://sites.google.com/site/vslascienceresources/

Other STEM Excitement:

 

Works Cited:

Mardis, Marcia. The Collection Program in Schools: Concepts and Practices, 6th edition. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2016.

Image: Judith Kaplan Collection

Makerguilt – A Guest Post by Sue Kowalski

This week’s guest blogger, Sue Kowalski, is the librarian at Pine Grove Middle School in the East Syracuse Minoa School District. Sue is actively involved in her local, state and national organizations and contributes by presenting, writing, and embracing her #leadoutloud campaign. In 2011, Pine Grove Library was awarded the National School Library Program of the Year from AASL.  In 2012, Sue was recognized as an “I Love My Librarian” recipient from ALA. Sue was recently named a 2016  Mover & Shaker by Library Journal. She can be reached by email: kowalski423@yahoo.com or on Twitter: @spkowalski

I am sensing an undercurrent of “maker guilt” in my professional circles. While many are sharing the successes and impact of their vibrant makerspaces, an equal number of library professionals are avoiding eye contact and apologetically whispering about their lack of a maker program.  “It’s not that I don’t want a makerspace,” they’ll say with their shoulders slouched. Then the confession unfurls. Concerns about budget, space, supervision, staffing, management, community perception, and student responsibility make the “Reasons I am Not There Yet” list. 

Some may view these concerns as mere excuses or minor obstacles that are easy to overcome. Just find a space, just write a grant, just get a few mentors, just learn from the leaders in the field…just just just…. just get going already and get your makerspace on the map. For others, those concerns will ring true for them, as well, and create a feeling of relief and solidarity for the “not there yet” club. Guilt-free conversations will ensue about the realities, the questions, the failures, the concerns, and the plans to shift forward.

Our 6-8 middle school is just months away from moving from the temporary digs we embraced for two years to a dynamic new building that has been totally transformed.  The library will reflect the mission of a vibrant 21st century learning space. A designated physical makerspace in the library was a shared vision for our entire design team and the expectation for it to become a high impact aspect of the library program is a given.

Beyond exciting, right? Gorgeous new building, breathtaking library and even a designated space in the library named the “Innovation Studio” are bound to provide sustainable inspiration. How could this NOT work?

When I learn of opportunities and successes that are a result of vibrant maker programs across the country, I’m inspired. As students demonstrate the exceptional level of their learning, I take note about what empowered that learning. When best practices are showcased, I try to soak it all in. I’ve got mentors in the field that feed my quest for research, ideas and information. I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t admit that I still have concerns, worries, and questions.  Don’t misunderstand, I have always embraced and empowered formal and informal opportunities for students to think, explore, design, build, and create.

How do we ensure that our makerspace is not just a room with supplies and equipment, but a program that is:

  • appealing to students
  • a program and a concept; not just a place
  • in alignment with our District mission, vision, and values
  • rigorous
  • self-directed BUT supported
  • manageable for staff
  • safe
  • financially realistic
  • not in conflict with academic needs of students
  • diverse for different interests
  • in alignment with other functions of the library
  • adaptable to variety of learning abilities
  • educationally sound
  • assessed
  • replicable
  • sustainable

I know when I engage in conversation about what our Innovation Studio will be for our school community, there is enthusiasm and affirmation about how makerspaces are game changers for all who participate! There are also the voices of the critics, those currently unconvinced, or those who are completely unaware of the maker movement. These voices and opinions can’t be dismissed and no one should feel guilty about asking the hard questions about the goal of a makerspace program.

Those who question the purpose, goal, or logistics of a makerspace program are offering perspectives that can provide valuable input to the planning, development, and sustainability of the program.  Everyone, even library professionals, have the right to ask the questions without being labeled as a someone who is standing the way of progress. There should be no shame, guilt, or self-doubt about vocalizing conceptual or logistical concerns.  The more rich the dialog, the more our honest perspectives can shape the direction of strong maker programs.

As a library leader, I won’t just jump on board without a confident response to the questions, concerns, or doubt. The planning and development of our program needs to work with our school community. That means we may or may not be the same as other programs across the region, state, or country.  We must open the lines of communication to make sure questions like “Why?” “How?” “What if?” “Who?” or “Why not?” are valued, not viewed as roadblocks.

I’m on board with the value of a strong maker program. I’m also on board with the need for thoughtful and honest conversations with our community to drive our program. We won’t just load up a room with “maker” supplies and equipment and call it day. We’ll learn and we’ll teach; we’ll agree and disagree; and we’ll succeed and we’ll fail.   Throughout it all, we’ll share our successes and not be at all ashamed about what we haven’t achieved yet.

Makerguilt is stifling. The next time someone asks about the makerspace at YOUR library, own it. If you have a successful program, say so. If you haven’t even started, say so. If you have questions, ask. Let’s trade the smoke and mirrors for some honest conversations. So, tell me honestly, how is YOUR library embracing the maker concept?”

STEM + Inquiry + Makerspaces = Library Excitement!

Inquiry…STEM…Makerspaces…these are three very popular terms in education right now. I try to avoid buzzwords and falling into traps of the latest and greatest idea to save education and make our students better adults. I see many of these hot ideas as new packaging for what we have always known to be good teaching that is best for students. However, our high-stakes testing society has gotten us away from that mission, and the world outside of education seems to be feeling the impact in their hiring pools. Maybe these three terms can work together to bring us back to teaching in a way that makes a difference. Librarians are positioned to lead the charge!
green-question-mark-2
Inquiry – asking questions. What better place to encourage questioning than in the library? Librarians are trained to guide students to find answers and we should be focused on teaching the students how to use the resources effectively and efficiently to not only answer their immediate question but to continue asking more. The library should be a place that stimulates curiosity.
STEM – It can be difficult to see ways to directly link science, engineering, and math to library instruction, but when it is done the connection can be powerful! Our students who go into the workforce in a STEM-related field are increasingly expected to have the knowledge and ability to think critically and solve problems that we didn’t even know existed a few years ago. A collaboration between content area teachers in these subjects and librarians can open even more doors to the students and allow them more opportunities to bounce ideas off of adults who can facilitate questioning and learning. This was the essence of my most powerful collaborative work with a Biology teacher when I was a high school librarian. The teacher knew the content and I could be in the classroom, computer lab, or library with his class as they experienced learning. Together we could offer the students so much more than just the content from the textbook. They could become scientists, asking questions and seeking answers. The same can be done in math, engineering, and technology classes with a collaborative librarian as part of the instructional team.
arts-and-crafts-suppliesMakerspaces – early in my career, I set up a “Children’s Engineering” station in my library. There I had a variety of arts and crafts materials, found objects, and tools for students to create things. I included books in the area that would help them generate ideas. When they were finished, I displayed their creations. I also started many class lessons with an engineering activity – build a tower for Rapunzel out of newsprint and a length of tape…make a house for a pig out of toothpicks. I allowed students time to play, and through that play they learned. This is the heart of a makerspace. It does not have to be fancy or include a 3D printer (although that might be cool). It does need to encourage play and creativity. It needs to allow students to think out of the box and to make things using their own imaginations, to solve their own problems, to be part of something new. To create.
Inquiry, STEM, and makerspaces. Not the scary buzz words that I often shy away from, but a powerful triangle of success for our students’ futures.
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