Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First Amendment Rights and Access to Information

I am a lucky Media Specialist. I have an aide at both schools where I work. I am thankful for that. The challenge that I am having right now is that one of my aides does not understand the student's right to access information. She is the mother of a sixth grader at our sixth through eighth grade middle school. She has had concerns about some of the books that her sixth grader has checked out. I am glad that she watches what her daughter reads, and that she is involved in her education, but the books she has brought to my attention are, in my opinion, perfectly appropriate for most middle school students. There was only one book I found that was not really appropriate for the middle school, and I sent it to the high school.

Today she brought up that she had heard that the public library has some books that parents must sign out for their children in order for the children to access them. This infuriated me. I am very much in support of students reading what interests them no matter what the material. Sure, middle school students probably shouldn't be reading playboy, but there might be a book about homosexuality that they really want to read that is appropriate. What really frustrated me about this story is that it was a young adult book that I have in the Media Center collection.

I am glad that some parents are watching what their children read, but I wonder about the kids who can't get information they need because of a permission slip. What about the student who's parents are not around for them to sign the permission slip to check out the book. This might be a book that they would really relate to and help them understand their life. It might be about content that they are personally struggling with. Sometimes reading can be an escape for students who don't have the best life. Are we really going to deny kids this escape? What about the homosexual student who has no one to reach out to? Their parents believe that homosexuality is wrong, or the child just doesn't feel comfortable approaching someone about the topic. Are we going to deny that student the chance to learn about themselves, or find a story with a character they can relate to that makes them feel better about themselves? How can we deny students these opportunities?

Another topic that my aide was opposed to was rape. These are middle school students, by this point in their lives they may very well know someone who has been raped or have been raped themselves. We can't know each child's story. We hope this is not the case, but we just don't know. I understand that this can be an uncomfortable topic, but if the story handles the rape in a productive way and it is middle school appropriate, it will be in the Media Centers.

I want the students to have access to books about many different topics so that they can find books that they are interested in. I want my students to have access to stories they relate to. I want my students to read, enjoy reading, and grow from the reading they do. How can I handle my aides lack of support for the free access philosophy? How can I support the books in the collection should another concern arise?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My First Year

As a brand new teacher, I knew what to expect in some respects, but in others I did not. I knew that as a Media Specialist I would be called upon for technology support, but I never realized how hard fixing minor problems could be when you don't have the administrative rights to download a simple update. I also did not know what to expect when going into a position split between two buildings. I didn't realize how two administrations could have totally different management styles. This has been the most difficult thing for me, trying to fit into two different schools with completely different atmospheres. I also didn't realize how little the teachers would come to me to collaborate on research projects. This is something I really want to do. I want to share my knowledge of resources and technology to help the students create a really cool end project where they learned a number of skills, and a large amount of information along the way. I am slowly starting to settle in, and some things are going better than others, but overall, I love my job and I adore my students. Are you split between multiple schools? How do you deal with the differences, and how do you prioritize to give the best you can in all schools?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Circulation Systems: Pros and Cons

I recently had an interview in which I was asked which circulation systems I was familiar with. Sadly, I could only reply that I had extensive knowledge of how to use Follett's Destiny system. The school had another system called Alexandria.(Despite my lack of knowledge of this system, I was offered and accepted the job.) From discussions on LM_Net, I had heard of this system, and I knew of other schools that used it, but I knew very little about how it worked. After this interview, I stopped at a local coffee shop and hopped on my laptop computer. I visited Alexandria's website, and found a tutorial video that gave me some information on how it works. I see that like Destiny you can run different reports, whether they are for overdue books or circulation statistics. I also saw that it had a similar search structure to Destiny, and perhaps one that was even easier to use. It seemed to have an easy cataloging procedure like that of Destiny's.The site showed that I could type in a title and find existing catalog entries, rather than having to create my own. I began to think that Alexandria wouldn't be too big of a challenge for me to handle. When I went to tour the facility after my job offer however,the current librarian told me that the newest version of Alexandria is not very user friendly at all. I hope I will not have too much trouble with this system, but I am young and fairly tech savvy so I am confident. What circulation system do you use in your school? Do you like it? What would you change about it if you had the chance?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Leveling Labels

There has been a lot of talk lately on LM-Net listserv about leveling books, and how to label the books with their level. Many of the libraries that I have been in label these books using dots on the side. I do not like this method. Using Destiny at the high school, I added Lexile level as a search category, but added nothing to the books. This allows the student or the teacher to look for a book with the appropriate level using the online catalog. This means that the student or teacher has time to practice their search skill, and the pretty spines of our books are not covered with stickers. We already have the call number on our spines. I think it is unnecessary to cover the spines any further. I also think that labeling the spines of books will limit what students choose to read. Students will immediately search out a book at a certain level rather than browsing and finding a book they might enjoy. One solution that a fellow listserv member pointed out is that we place level and AR quiz information on the inside cover or first page of the book. I think this is a much better solution than filling the spines with stickers. In my future library, I believe that I will have the levels as searchable fields in the library catalog, and include this information on the inside cover of the book. How do you handle leveling in your library? What do you think about the solution I have chosen?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Textbook Circulation

When I was in school, it was the teacher's job to keep track of textbooks. We would sign out our textbooks at the beginning of the year, filling out a form that included our textbook number, its condition, and our agreement ( or our parent's) to pay for any damages or lost books. At the end of the year, or whenever we finished the class, we had to bring our book to the teacher and fill out the rest of the form stating any damages and the fine cost. If we lost the book or there were damages to it we had to pay. I don't remember what the consequence was for not paying, but I'm sure there was one. At the high school I am currently student teaching at, we were just informed that the media center will be responsible for circulating books next year. We were told in a very rude email that the board decided that textbooks will be returned to the media center where they will be checked out to students next year. I understand that this may better help to keep track of the books, but with no library aides and so much the media specialist has to take care of, this seems like an overload. What are the textbook circulation policies in your school? What do you think about this new policy?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ELM Stories

ELM stands for Electronic Library for Minnesota. It is a collection of databases funded by the state of Minnesota which can be used by public library patrons and in the schools. These databases are particularly important for schools with limited budgets who cannot provide subscriptions to databases. I'm sure we have all used databases for projects in our own education, and we have used them while teaching our students how to perform research. We know students have become accustomed to using Google, Bing, and Yahoo as search engines. We also know that the websites they find can be inappropriate or inaccurate. This is why it is so important to have databases available to students. We must do everything we can to help them succeed. This means providing accurate and reliable resources such as databases.
So we know that databases are important, and that ELM provides them for free. I want to make sure that you also know the current status of these databases. They may become unfunded, and no longer be available to use in our schools! In order to ensure that they remain available we simply need to advocate to our state representatives and to our governor. But an even simpler help is to go to and click on the link to share your ELM stories. I have also provided a link to the ELM Stories form on the left side of my blog. ELM stories simply tell the people who fund ELM the various ways that you have used ELM. Share the best stories you can remember!
Have you shared an ELM story? What was it?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Weeding: The Same in Libraries and Gardens

 Occasionally libraries need to weed their collection. I was recently working on weeding the collection at one of the elementary schools I am student teaching at. My cooperating teacher was trying to get the teacher resource rooms cleaned out a bit. We got rid of all the VHS tapes since they have become an obsolete format and we got rid of the professional books that the teachers never come to check out. The picture you see on the left is the cover of a book we discovered. The book was from 1984, and if you view the page below, you will realize how much this book needed to be weeded. This book was outdated, it really only addressed the female side of this issue, and it was much too wordy for any child to be expected to sit through. It may be a worthy topic of discussion, but there has to be a better book out there. I shared this book with my boyfriends mom and with my own mom. They both said that there needed to be a more child friendly book available, and a book for little boys. If you would like to view more of this book check it out on Google Books.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Beverly Cleary- Introduction into Chapter Books.

My second graders are ready to move on to more complicated chapter books. We want to begin reading books that are harder than Junie B. Jones and Magic Tree House Books. My cooperating teacher suggested Beverly Cleary books. I suggest not using them. After reading the beginning of a number of her books we realized they were very dull because they were written in the 50's. I have decided to finish the Beverly Cleary author study with some Beverly Cleary games on her website and a booktalk about the Ramona books. I still want these books to circulate after all! The book talk will involve viewing the trailer for Ramona and Beezus movie. I will talk about the Ramona books and read a short section to them. After this, I will introduce the students to the Laura Ingalls books. I might do a book talk like the Ramona books, or  I may just begin reading the books to them. I need to look the books over before I decide. I think the Little House books will work out nicely because there are also easy Laura Ingalls books which I can put in their book baskets, and there is an online extension for computer lab time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Shelf Markers

I am currently student teaching at an elementary school. My cooperating teacher keeps telling kids to use shelf markers. These are paint mixing sticks that have been decorated with fun designs. I could not figure out what these shelf markers were used for, but I just did and I think they are amazing. The students look on the shelves for books and when they take out a book they put the marker in that spot. That way if the student decides not to take that book they will know where it came from and put it back in the correct spot. Anyone have other methods for students putting books back on the shelf?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book Baskets

I have recently come across a new strategy for use in the elementary media center. Primary students come into our media center and go through a lesson with the media specialist. At the end of the lesson students are directed to go to their tables for book checkout. At the tables are book baskets with age appropriate books for students to look through. Kindergartners are not allowed to look through the shelves on their own. They must choose a book from the book basket to check out if they are able to check out a book. First and second graders are allowed to choose books from the shelves, but if they have a book out and are unable to checkout a book they must choose a book from the book baskets to read during checkout time. I am not sure how I feel about this method. I like the way that it works for the first and second grade students because it ensures that all the students have reading material during checkout time, but I am afraid that the way this works with the kindergartners may be limiting their choices and keeping them from learning about the set up of the library. The nice thing, however, is that the students are not running wildly throughout the library searching for a book. They are also sure to pick books appropriate for their age and may come across books they hadn't seen otherwise. What are your thoughts on the matter?