Friday, March 30, 2012

Library Lady sings Lady Gaga

Found this cute video from another Texas librarian. Really cute and quite appropriate for this time of year when we are trying desperately to get materials returned to us before the end of the school year! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Open Culture

Have I ever talked about the site called Open Culture? It's an amazing treasure trove of freebies available on the web. Everything from movies to university classes to books--it's all here! Any time I need to look for a book available online, I go here.  I probably should access more of their free movies since I'm an old movie buff.  And every time my hubby talks about wanting to improve his foreign language skills, I send him this link. 

I follow Open Culture on Twitter to keep a running feed of new things available on their site.  I just discovered a download of all the organ pieces by Bach.  Might take me a while to download them all but think how cool that is! 

Here's an example of the type of content on the site.  This is a video about Michael Pollan's books--In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemna--both excellent books even though they don't really go along with the educational theme of my blog. 

Check out the site next time you have loads of time to explore!

Michael Pollan's Food Rules from Marija Jacimovic on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New review in SLJ

I don't know why I get so excited when I see my reviews posted in School Library Journal, but I do!  I mean, the whole point of writing them is to see them published, right??  Yet still, every time I run across one in the print version of the magazine, I get a little heart flutter of excitement!  Sort of a Sally Field's reaction--"they really liked it!"

And the latest review published in the Journal was actually a pretty negative.  I wasn't anticipating publication of this one at all.  The book was good but really, in my humble opinion, more appropriate for older, mature readers.  But hey, my words are in print and I'm excited for that!

I may have posted this one before, but just in case I didn' it is again....straight from SLJ.

Pieces Of Us
GELBWASSER, Margie. Pieces Of Us. Flux. ISBN 9780738721644. Gr 10 Up. Magazine Section: Grades 5-up
Gr 10 Up—For a few weeks every summer, Julie, Katie, Alex, and Kyle are free of the demands of school and their lives back home when they meet at their grandparents' homes in the Catskills. But this year, events at home begin to interfere with their peaceful lives in the mountains. Alex is angry at his father for abandoning the family and his mother for ignoring him and Kyle. He acts out by having meaningless sex with a succession of girls and leaving them behind. Kyle stays quietly out of sight as much as he can. Katie is a popular cheerleader whose mother dotes on her while her sister, Julie, can do nothing right. But when a violent date rape is caught on tape and goes viral throughout the school, the grief and humiliation is more than Katie can handle. And when Alex finds out about the incident, his anger boils over into his relationship with her, and their idyllic summers are over. This bitterly dark, depressing drama has multiple interlocking story lines that all end unhappily, and the characters, especially Alex, don't change much by the end of the book. The narrative alternates among the four teens, which gives interesting perspectives to the story, but can be confusing. The plotline of too much alcohol mixed into a party atmosphere results in a great cautionary tale but the extremely descriptive sexual violence and repetitious use of raw language make this one suitable for only the most mature readers.—Diana Pierce, Leander High School, TX
School Library Journal, March 1, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

EB vs. Wikipedia

Over the past few weeks, you probably heard the news that Encyclopedia Britannica is ceasing publication of its print edition.  I found this infographic from Mashable comparing Encyclopedia Britannica with Wikipedia.  Now as a librarian, I tend to discount most information from Wikipedia as being a bit unreliable.  But after looking at this comparison, I must admit I had to pause and think. 

This paragraph is the most compelling:

The crowd-powered reference site (Wikipedia) is arguably the greatest knowledge experiment civilization has ever seen. And while its critics are the first to point out its unreliability, advocates would counter that a self-correcting collective is more reliable and scalable than a room full of scholars (who, on occasion, also make mistakes).

I never thought about the "self correcting" aspect of Wikipedia.  I always thought of it as being interesting but unreliable.  I do encourage my students to look at the external links with articles--those will lead a researcher to other sources of information.  And sometimes Wikipedia is the best source for "pop culture" or very current information--something Britannica or World Book can't always keep up with.

So here's the you allow Wikipedia as a research source?  Is it acceptable as long as it is not the sole source? 

Once again, I'm finding myself changing my train of thought and trying to adapt to a "new world" in terms of technology.  Learning new things is supposed to grow brain cells and keep you young......I just feel old......

Monday, March 26, 2012

Library spaces

You know I try to use my blog for good positive sharing of educational information of interest to teachers and librarians.  But once in a while, I just need a place to vent my own personal concerns.  Today is one of those days. 

A little background.....I work in an old school.  The physical building isn't large enough for all the students who attend the school.  The gym, the cafeteria, the library--none of the common spaces are big enough.  I understand the need for us all to work together and be creative with the use of space.

But these days I'm beginning to feel a deep resentment at the way the library space is seen in the building--especially by our administrators.  I've lost two large storage areas all ready and yesterday I found out I stand to lose two more.  It wouldn't hurt so much except for the fact that I have asked and asked to rearrange our circ desk.  Doing so will mean we have to run some electrical and cable wiring.  And I keep getting turned down because it "costs too much." 

Moving the desk will open up the library and allow better traffic flow as well as allow me to rearrange our computers into a better teaching arrangement.  But no one above me understands that.  But they do seem to think it's okay to pre-empt library space and use it for another purpose, whether I'm in agreement or not.

I'm seen as "not being a team player" when I fuss about losing our storage areas, but no one thinks my ideas for improvement are valid.   My administrators think all I do is check out books and harass kids about missing ones so why should we bother rearranging things?  I don't know how else to show the importance of the library to this campus.  I send stats every six weeks on every possible number I can think of; I've shoved my way into our IB program to coordinate and improve our extended essays, and I've volunteered for every committee I can find.  I'm at a loss where to go next.

 My library coordinator suggests talking to students and video taping their responses.  That's one good idea I haven't followed up on yet.  I suppose when I'm not mad any more, I will be able to think better, but right now, I'm just hurt and angry.  My assistant always says we should just lock the doors one day and let the admins deal with the fallout.  Maybe she's right, but in my heart of hearts, I just can't do it.... to the kids or the teachers.

So to anyone out there in the great me out!  How can I show the importance of this library to my admins?  I welcome any and all suggestions.

Friday, March 23, 2012


In need of a new project idea?  Here's one you could use with an sort of project involving famous people or historical figures.  It's a site called Blabberize.  It's so cute! 

You insert a picture and then you can make a part of the picture move and "talk"--saying whatever you want it to say.

Students could use this site for book reports, using pictures of characters to "talk" about the plot.  Or use it for a biographical report. 
It's a fun site--check it out!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Survey Monkey

So I guess all I've been thinking about lately is our Extended Essay assignment for our IB students.  Hopefully you read my short article yesterday so you know what I'm talking about.  I took over the job as Extended Essay coordinator and after fumbling around this year, I've spent the past week revising the way I approach the assignment for students and for teachers. 

A lot of the revisions I've made were based my end of essay survey I conducted with this year's seniors.  I used Survey Monkey--a great site to help you gather information!  I've used them before and the information I can gather is invaluable.  The site has various levels and I'm just using the free part right now.  I don't need the bells and whistles the site offers but it's nice to know they are there!  I can write my own survey questions so I can tailor it to just the information I need. 

Here's my end of essay survey:

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Extended Essay

I was asked to write a short piece about our IB students and their Extended Essay assignment.  See what you think:

The Extended Essay as a component of the IB Curriculum
“You know this wasn’t so bad.  I think I learned more in this assignment than I have in some of my classes.” (student, Class of 2012)
“I didn’t think I could do this when you first told us about it.  I’m so proud of myself for completing it.” (student, Class of 2012)
“The Extended Essay was the perfect training for writing college papers.” (College freshman, Class of 2011)
The learning involved in researching and writing the extended essay is closely aligned with the development of many of the characteristics described in the IB learner profile. Students are, to a large extent, responsible for their own independent learning, through which they acquire and communicate in-depth knowledge and understanding. (from the IB Diploma Programme Extended Essay Guide)

One of the most rigorous components of the IB curriculum is the Extended Essay.  It falls within the center of the Hexagon of Core Courses, just like TOK and CAS hours.  Students have the opportunity to research a topic of their choice from any of the core courses and then compose a 4000 word essay on the topic. The paper must pose a research question, and then through investigation and analysis, support an opinion.  The score on the essay is combined with the score from the TOK essay as part of the total IB results.

As the librarian of our school, I serve as the Extended Essay coordinator, directing and helping students with the assignment.  The paper is written outside of class time, much like a college paper.  However, unlike a college assignment, students have an individual teacher mentor assigned to help them with the details of researching and writing.   

Many of our IB students approach the assignment with some degree of hesitation.  This is probably the biggest and most involved assignment they face within the curriculum.  However, the paper is also one of the most rewarding aspects of the programme, as it gives the students the chance for independent, self-directed learning as well as a huge dose of self confidence when they finish and see their accomplishment.

One of the biggest issues with the papers concerns the level of research needed.  The assignment requires rigorous, academic research and for many students, this is the first time they can’t just “surf the Internet” to find information.  Teaching about peer-reviewed journals vs. magazines as well as using databases to find information becomes a necessity as the students begin the research and continues throughout the process along with learning to cite sources correctly.  The teacher supervisor has a big role here, helping the student find appropriate sources and using the correct citation format—whether it’s MLA, APA or Chicago Turabian.

Although initially overwhelming to most students, the essay can be one of the most powerful experiences of the IB curriculum.  Learning the researching and writing skills along with the time management needed to complete such a large independent assignment are as valuable as any content in the core curriculum classes and these skills benefit students far into the future.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I made a powerpoint to train our IB teachers to help with our Extended Essay assignment. I can link a powerpoint to my LibGuide, but to embed it, I made the presentation available on SlideRocket. This is a great site and I've used it before when I need to embed a presentation rather than just link to it. You can create the powerpoint and then upload it to SlideRocket or you can create on the site. I guess this is one way I'm still old school because I find it much easier to upload after I've created the powerpoint. Take a look here and see what you think.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A cute infographic showing the most common grammatical mistakes! From Copyblogger.... 15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
Like this infographic? Get more copywriting tips from Copyblogger.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy Spring Break!

This is the start of our Spring Break week.  I'm going to unplug and recharge the old batteries, see how much reading I can do and see if I can get back to my long neglected novel.  I'm never going to get that finished at the rate I'm going!

I will probably read more than just my novels--although I've got to finish The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene.  And I'm re-reading Switch for a book study.  If I find any other good professional articles, you know I'll share them here! 

And if you are having a break this upcoming week, enjoy!  And if you're not, you have my deepest sympathies. 

Let me a comment if you learn something new this upcoming week!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Oscar winner

This film won the award for best animated short film--The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Take 15 minutes to watch--it's absolutely adorable.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Who do you follow on Twitter?  Do you ever send any tweets?  Do you know what a hash tag is? 

I'm finding my best professional readings come from Twitter.  I have several organizations I follow--SLJ, ALA, TCEA and then I also follow some of the best professionals in the teacher librarian world--Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton and Teri Lesene. I have some other random people I follow, people in the publishing world since I want to be a writer when I grow up.  And then I also follow some general news sites--our local tv station and newspaper, a network news site and Texas Monthly magazine. 

All in all, I get a broad spectrum of news and information as well as keeping up with the trends in our field.  I can join #edchat to see what teachers are discussing.  Once a month #titletalk discusses young adult books and titles. I can at a glance scan the postings and save any that might catch my eye.  I think I've done more professional reading this year since I've joined Twitter than I've done in a long time.

Do you have a Twitter name?  Post it here and I'll follow you too!

P.S.  Found this great Common Craft video of Twitter basics.  Hope this helps!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Google maps and literature

I heard this idea of using Google Maps to study the setting of a novel.  Students can look at a map to see where the setting is actually located and through the street view, they can see what the area looks like today.  Interesting concept.

I used to teach the novel April Morning, set in the U.S. at the start of the Revolutionary War. I always had trouble getting the kids to picture the area of the story.  Distances are so great in Texas, they couldn't imagine how the troops could get from one town to the next in a day.  If I could have used a Google map, I wonder if that would have helped.

Or think about studying about the slave trade. Kids would be able to see the distances the ships had to travel to bring those people over to the Americas. A novel set in the Civil War era could follow the battles of the war.  I think there are lots of possibilities.

Anyone ever tried this idea?  I would love to know how your students felt about using Google maps.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I don't have much to write about this morning. I have a heavy heart--a former student passed away this weekend. It doesn't matter how long they've been gone; it still hurts. And since I'm not a classroom teacher, no one will think that I am hurting. But I knew this young man in middle school--longer than most of the teachers here. So I'm going to just write about it a minute--please bear with me. This young man was a bright and talented theater student. He could light up a stage with his presence. I thought sure we'd see him on Broadway some day. I don't know any details of his passing but I do know I'm sad at the loss. Over the years I've lost several students and it never gets easier. I hate to see such a loss of talent and brains at such an early age. I'm just grieving quietly today. I'll be back on my blog tomorrow.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Cute video---I just want to know who is going clean up all that mess!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I found a new blog from SLJ written by Sara Kelly Johns, librarian at Lake Placid Middle/High Schools.  Her post was about advocacy for the library in schools.  She starts by talking about an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about fewer schools having trained librarians.  I know California is having budget issues but the state is making a huge mistake replacing librarians with aides in schools. According to the article "California has 6,000,000 students, 9,000 schools, and 895 credentialed librarians in the 2010/2011 school year".  That works out to be 6703 students per librarian in the state. And I thought I had a lot to keep up with!

Her article goes on to talk about the importance of advocacy.  She says, "Everyone working in a school library needs to step back, reflect on what your program and you do for your students, how that relates to the needs of your school, and make a plan…a promotion and marketing plan.  It’s our job to market and promote our program, no one else’s."   Words to remember!  And she gives some links to some of the tools available to us from ALA to help make the job easier.

Texas isn't as bad as California yet......and that's the key point. YET.  We are easily headed that way and  we need to be advocating now.  I know it's hard....this year I've lost staff and gained responsibilities so I know what lack of time means. And this article was the perfect reminder of what my priorities should be.
Thanks Sara for the great post and I look forward to reading more in the future!