Banned Websites Awareness Day 9/28/16

bwad-2016_webbadgeLibrarians across the U.S. will be recognizing “Banned Websites Awareness Day” (BWAD) on 9/28/16. Working toward unrestricted access to information and resources should be one of librarians’ top priorities. Choice in checkout helps students (yes, even kinders) practice a lifelong learning strategy. Internet filtering and blocked Web sites and social media are an on-going challenge in many schools and libraries.

Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was passed in April, 2001, in order to address concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. Just as school library policies can minimize the frequency of book challenges, policies can also mitigate complaints regarding Web-based information.

According to CIPA:
“Schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:
◾Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
◾The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
◾Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
◾Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
◾Measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them” (FCC).

While protecting children and youth from obscene and harmful information is essential, overly restrictive filtering software may prevent young people from accessing information that is important to their health, wellness, and intellectual growth. School librarians, in particular, may frequently be in the position of advocating for a particular educational website to be unblocked. The wise school librarian makes friends with the IT department and helps to educate administrators about the importance of students having opportunities to practice digital citizenship.

If students are to become responsible, informed digital citizens, they must be given guidance as they develop skills to evaluate information. They must learn to use social media venues in an environment in which they are accountable for their communications. School librarians in collaboration with classroom teachers can provide youth with learning experiences so they can explore, evaluate, and responsibly use Web-based information and tools.

As AASL notes, “Relying solely on filters does not teach young citizens how to be savvy searchers or how to evaluate the accuracy of information” (BWAD Background).

What are you doing in your school to recognize BWAD?

 

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians (AASL). “Banned Websites Awareness Day.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

American Association of School Librarians. “Banned Websites Awareness Day Background.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad/background. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

Federal Communications Commission. “Children’s Internet Protection Act.” FCC.org. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

Image courtesy of AASL

Celebrating! The Freedom to Read

Our_Library_Hands_Raised_crop_sizedNext week from September 25 through October 1, the American Library Association (ALA) leads the annual “Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read” initiative.

Along with a coalition of other organizations that include the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), ALA and the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF), ALA’s non-profit legal and educational organization, have added a focus on diversity for this year’s campaign.

As the FTRF slogan reads, “free people read freely,” the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment give us the freedom to access ideas and information. For school librarians, the questions and answers surrounding challenged and banned books revolve around how this right applies to students who access resources in our libraries and online.

Since five of the top ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 were written expressly for children or teens, it is important for school librarians to have policies and procedures in place to address students’, parents’, classroom teachers’, or administrators’ concerns regarding the resources available through the library.

“Banned Books Week” gives school librarians the opportunity to discuss ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement and the First Amendment with students, colleagues, administrators, and parents. It also serves as a reminder to examine our own collection development practices.

In August, Maria Cahill published “How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources” on the School Library Connection blog.  She offers the results of an anonymous survey of 200 school librarians that found 65.67% of the librarians who followed collection development policies did not experience materials challenges; 22.89% did.

Perhaps the most notable result of this survey was that 11.44% reported that they engage in self-censorship in order to avoid challenges to library materials. “Self-censorship is much more prevalent at the elementary level and in schools that have multiple grade configurations such as P-12, middle and high, etc. than at middle or high school levels” (Cahill).

One reflection question for elementary school librarians could be: Are I Am Jazz and Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan in our collection? Why, or why not? A question for secondary librarians could be: Are Looking for Alaska, Beyond Magenta, and Two Boys Kissing in our library collection? Why or why not?

What are you doing this week and next to highlight the right to read with your school library community? Please share in the comments section below.

Note: One easy way for school librarians to participate in this campaign is to display the “I Read Banned Books” Twibbon on their Twitter and Facebook profile photos.

 

Works Cited

Cahill, Maria. “How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources.” School Library Connection Blog. http://goo.gl/NcrNf6. Accessed 18 Sept. 2016.

Thurston, Baratunde. “I Am a Community Organizer.” Flickr.com. 18 Sept. 2016, https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493.

“It is the time you have given…”

little_princeOne way to make professional connections and build relationships with our colleagues is to read what they are reading. Many school principals are members of ASCD, formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and receive the Educational Leadership magazine. “Relationships First” is the theme of the September 2016 issue.

Since school principals’ perceptions of and support for school librarians is critical to the success of school library programs, I look forward to reading this magazine when it arrives monthly in my mailbox. (Even if you aren’t an ASCD member, you can access a few articles and the columns online for free: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership.aspx).

Educator and researcher Carol Ann Tomlinson’s column in the magazine has been one of my touchstones for many years. This month in “One to Grow On” she wrote: “Fox Taming and Teaching: The Little Prince offers a lesson on building relationships.”  I was delighted to read that Dr. Tomlinson and I share a favorite book: Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943). In fact, I quoted from the same passage in the book on the dedication page of my dissertation.

In this part of the story, the Fox is sharing his wisdom with the Little Prince, who has grown fond of a rose. The Fox tells the Little Prince that: “It is the time you have given to your rose that makes your rose so important.” The investment of time, energy, care, and attention that we give to other members of our learning communities is the mark of their value to us.

While the order of the books on the library shelves and empty book carts help students, classroom teachers, and librarians find materials more easily, it may be the time we take to listen to a student’s, teacher’s, or administrator’s story that is the most important thing we do on any given day.

This time of year when the stores begin displaying large bags of Halloween candy, I think of the mini dark chocolate candies that I always kept in my library office drawer. Offering a sweet treat can be an icebreaker. It can be a way to connect with others, to share a success or express empathy, and to start a conversation.

A library that is the hub of learning in a school can be the hub for relationship building as well. Being present for others, listening, offering a word or two of encouragement, or showing that you care is a way to “give” to your community. (And a micro chocolate bar can sweeten the deal.)

How do you show that you value relationships in your daily work?

How do you want others to “see” you and how would they describe the feeling tone of the environment you co-create in your school library?

Image Credit

de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine. The Little Prince. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 2000. Print.

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

 

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.

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!
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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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