About me

For the past 13+ years, I have been the sole library person in small rural school in Alberta, Canada, so by default,  I am called the librarian, (or Library Lady). Previous to this job, I was the manager of the local public library. I have some technical training but no degree. If I did, I would not have this job since Alberta has seen fit to eliminate all professional staff from its school libraries (and this is how I feel about that). I am actually  fortunate to hold a full-time position, which is rare in my district.

I do, however impossible it is, love my job. I feel very fortunate to be in a K-12 school where I literally get to watch the kids grow up. If variety is the spice of life, then I’m as hot as it gets, as I expect are all those in my position. Our district has a wonderful network of library people, who, although considerably spread out geographically, share ideas and knowledge to support each other very well.

My greatest job-related dream, besides cloning myself or finding myself with a full-time on-the-job partner, is to one day look at my library and think that everything is just fine the way it is. In the meantime, I keep myself terribly busy trying to make it perfect.

I began this blog to track my learning and progress on my most recent pet project. My goals in redesigning the  library are about making it more, to risk cliché, user-friendly, so that it is exciting for the kids to enter, inspires them to broaden their minds and lifts their spirits. I am very enthusiastic about the opportunities that technology gives us to teach and learn more broadly and creatively.

I love books, nature and art and I am a hobby-photographer. I’m excited about what artists are doing with discarded books and include a lot of that here.   I also love to laugh and post library, book and technology humour whenever I run across it.

I hope you will join in a conversation or two with me.

Regards,

Cindy Kilpatrick

32 responses to “About me

  1. David Bone

    Hi Cindy,

    My name is David Bone and I work at at IT company called Xoomworks in London. Each Friday, we get together and watch Things like TED talks. Today, we luckily found your website.

    We love what you are doing and we will be regular viewers and hopefully collaborators.

  2. Dr Ruth Richardson

    Hello Cindy!
    I was delighted to find your coverage of my work on Dickens and the Workhouse on your website. I love books and libraries, too, and am lucky enough to live in London and have a Reader’s Ticket for the British Library.
    I wanted to say how splendid your enthusiasm for books is, how lucky those schoolkids are!
    I was very fortunate to have parents that read books, and although we were not at all financially fortunate, they had second-hand books and a bookcase where my small hands and curiosity found Dickens when I was aged 4!! My first school prize was Oliver Twist – so you can see why I feel it is really important to lay knowledge before kids – they can take it or leave it, but if it is laid out, they know it’s there, and may come back later for more. I myself drifted away from literature into history, but the work on Dickens (begun when an old workhouse in central London was threatened with demolition) has brought me back full circle!
    You are clearly doing a splendid job in your library!
    Kind regards – Ruth Richardson, historian.

    • Dear Ruth,

      I appreciate your kind words very much. The research you did on Dicken’s characters must have been very exciting: sleuthing out real people from a century and a half ago and connecting them to the novels, examining his sources and inspirations. Connecting literature to its time is valuable and fascinating, bringing the characters and setting to life. I am forever going to books and the Internet to fill out details about novels I read. I can’t wait for my copy of Dickens and the Workhouse to arrive! I also have The Making of Mr. Gray’s Anatomy on my reading list.

      I fully agree that children must be exposed to as much knowledge as possible, which is such a challenge now since the explosion of information. In Alberta, classics, even fairy tales seem to have taken a back seat to more contemporary topics although I do my best to make sure my students are at least aware of them. As you say so wisely, “they can take it or leave it, but if it is laid out, they know it’s there, and may come back later for more”.

      Thank you for taking the time to write to me. You have made my day!
      I wish you all the best and look forward to your future projects.

      Best regards,
      Cindy

      P.S. For others reading this, the post on Dr. Richardson’s book is here.

  3. Hello Cindy,

    great site! Even in Australia the school libraries are being overrun by the “ICT”. I think being the “Library Lady” is great!! Getting our children to read (and love it) is just SO important.

  4. Hi Cindy. I was so excited to find your blog! I am in a similar position here in New Zealand, although not as qualified as you.

    I am the library assistant in a relatively small (roll of 344) school in Central Auckland. This school is in a low socio-economic area, with many refugee and migrant students. Three of my four children attend this school, two of them being boys who are not enthusiastic readers – hence I am driven by a similar challenge – to make the library user friendly and make access to books easy and appealling.

    My past experience has been two years as a library assistant in the public library system in a local community library, but before that I worked for many years in retail. Sometimes I think of my job as being a marketer!

    Our budgets are also very constrained, so I only work two days a week, but once I have more professional development under my belt, and my younger son is older, I hope to put in more volunteer hours.

    I look forward to following your blog and learning more!

    • Hi Donna,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and interesting comment. It appears that you are new to blogging and I look forward to following your posts. Being alone in the library with no one around who really has any idea what you do all day to bounce ideas off of, you can begin to wonder if it’s all worth it. I have found that keeping this blog and reading others’ helps keep me motivated and enthusiastic when I start to feel overwhelmed. I hope it will work the same way for you.

      I think you have the right idea about being a marketer. We have a lot to compete with. Don’t worry too much about your boys, though. Just keep handing them the good stuff – and read to them as much as you can – and they are likely to catch the bug by osmosis :). My boys were not really big readers as kids but now that jumping on a skateboard or jamming with friends isn’t quite as appealing or convenient (they’re 28 & 30), they always have a book or two on the go.

      Thanks again and I look forward to keeping in touch,
      Cindy

  5. Hello Cindy!
    Came here via your tracks at Flandrum Hill. Yep I’m out exploring blogland. I’ve spent A LOT of time in A LOT of ‘libraries’ over the years–and I’ve worked just enough in a couple to appreciate your perspective. I have a lot of trouble comprehending how anyone can cut any library’s budget for staff and materials—books, movies, cds etc. But it keeps happening everywhere. Each time I hear of another “slash” I recall the first time I read Richard Wright’s “The Library Card” which is a story about a young black man in America whose white boss provides him with access to the public library by sharing his library card with him. Yes, at the time African Americans could NOT have library cards nor access to library books. I was unaware of this unpleasant piece of American history until I read Wright’s story. I’d had my own issues regarding access to books while growing up and the story hit me hard. People take too much for granted –especially books (in any form) and libraries with all the wonderful things they offer to people who might not otherwise be able to afford buying any book. Books are one very important means for fueling the life of the mind. They nuture intellect, creativity, imagination and critical thinking in so many ways. Your very presence as a book lover is a wonderful light for all the children you encounter at your school.
    Sorry to run off at the fingertips–but–well, Hello!

  6. I remember The Library Card. It is incomprehensible that libraries do not figure more highly on the budget scale, but I can understand that when the choice is between teachers or even program assistants who do so much for struggling learners, I do see how in the short term it seems to be the right decision to make. In Alberta, a least, the political climate seems more and more prone to supporting industry, which needs/wants a lot more ‘ditch diggers’ than scientists.

    Students are pushed and led by the hand through high school just so they can have that piece of paper that says they did 12 years of school (which ends up meaning very little, but that for some reason makes one more hire-able for digging ditches). Perhaps it’s just so they have something to possibly keep them busy until they’re big enough to dig a good ditch.

    Wow, that’s awfully cynical, isn’t it? I’m going to leave it though because it really is the way things seem to be right now.

  7. Judy Workman

    I am a volunteer at our local middle school library in central Indiana, the kids are 7th and 8th grade. I found your blog through a picture posted to flickr, which I think was pinned and put on Pinterest. I am always looking for new ideas and better ways to be a volunteer, I hope you don’t mind my following along on your journey.

  8. Hi Cindy. I am a children’s book author in Alberta. I do school visits and author readings and I also like to donate my book to school libraries.
    Please check out my website and contact me for more information.

    • Hi Diane. It’s great to meet a nearby author – so glad you stopped by the blog. I’ll happily have a look at your book and contact you for a visit (as budget allows, of course). It’s a great thing for kids to meet authors and realize that they are real people too.

  9. this weekend I was the recipient of The Gargie Award awarded by Bruce the Gargoyle of the Bookshelf Gargoyle. I would in turn like to nominate you for this award, if you are so inclined as to accept. You can find out more about this award here http://thebookshelfgargoyle.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/introducing-the-gargie-awards/. and I thank you for all your fun posts!

  10. Cindy- About 2 weeks ago I jumped feet first into changing my MS Library from a traditional layout into a book store model. I quickly went from “No problem” to “Holy cow, what did I just decide to do!?”. I came across your blog this week and wanted to thank you for chronicling your process and sharing it! Seeing your process has given me a template to look at and has helped me to process my thoughts as I begin the planning phase of this huge project.

    Thank you again!

    • Hi Kate,

      It’s quite a process, isn’t it? I’m so glad you have found the blog to be helpful. That’s the whole reason I do it – hoping someone else will get something from it.

      Make sure you read the last post in the series, where I list some of the things I wish I had done differently and feel free to contact me if you need to hash out a idea. I found it extremely helpful to have someone to bounce ideas and challenges off of. I wish you the best in the project and hope you’ll keep me and other readers here posted on your progress.

      Regards,
      Cindy

  11. Cindy, I had no idea you were a librarian. I just happened to see you at Aubrey’s blog and popped over. I’m thrilled to have found your blog and intend to pass it on to two women I know who work in libraries – one school, one public.

    I was traveling during October and stopped at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas – the much-maligned and much-admired creation of Alice Walton. I was completely entranced by the free library there, as well as their online resources, which I’ve discovered since returning home.

    The emphasis there is not only on what’s hanging on the wall, but art education – for children as much as for adults. It was such fun to experience.

    I’m looking forward to browsing your site. I just received a special book in the mail today. I visited Pawnee Rock in Kansas on my trip, and discovered a Kansas Women’s Club had saved it. The book they sold to raise funds for their project – “Echoes of Pawnee Rock” – was published in 1904, and the copy that arrived from Abe’s Books has an onion skin cover and uncut pages!
    Not only that, there’s an essay by William Allen White.

    I’m going on a bit, aren’t I? Ah, well. I was a junior librarian in school. I think some of that fondness for library paste and the Dewey Decimal System still lingers.

    Best!

    • Sorry to be so late in replying to this wonderful comment, Linda. Crystal Bridges Museum sounds like a great place. In general I think, and I suppose partly because they’re concerned about ‘grooming’ future patrons (a perfectly legitimate practice), museums do a fabulous job of reaching out to young people and thus enriching the lives of those who are lucky enough to become involved.

      I, also, have found some special treasures through Abe Books, but it sounds like you hit the jackpot! Uncut pages! Wow!

      Speaking of grooming future patrons – there’s really something to be said for the junior librarian programs, isn’t there? Unfortunately mine is dormant for the moment, for various reasons – but I hope to be able to get it up and going again.

  12. Cindy – I am thrilled to discover your 7 blog posts about the transformation you accomplished. I have printed them all out, and will be using them as my road map as attempt a similar feat between now and June 2015 (my retirement date). I have a bigger K-2 library, with 378 students, but since we’re solely K-2 we can target our non-readers with lots of signage. My principal is already on board with the idea, but wants to see specifics. I will begin with the weeding – get the hard stuff out of the way first!
    I wanted to share with you a couple of comments from a conference speaker we had back in November.Her name is Jennifer LaGarde, her website : The Adventures of Library GIrl.
    ” Good libraries build services ( of which collection is only one). Great libraries build communities.” from DAvid Lankes
    “Library skills are only as useful as the life skills they support.” Jennifer
    LaGarde
    ANyway, between these thinking points and your blog, I am ready to get this project underway. I have a vision, thanks to you.
    Keep up the great work.

    • Hello Margaret and welcome to the blog.

      I’m thrilled that you have found some useful information here. I think it would be a treat to be able to focus on a small age group like yours. I find myself making so many compromises trying to accommodate all age groups.

      You’re so smart to weed first . Of course it’s ongoing, but you don’t want to have to add that decisions to all the others you must make as you reclassify your materials.

      I will definitely be taking a peek at Jennifer LaGarde’s blog. She sounds like a very smart ‘Library Girl’. Thanks for sharing her wisdom.

      And thanks so much for stopping in to tell me about your project. It’s so nice to know that my blog has been a help.

  13. Hello Cindy,

    Thanks for including Ricky Kidd in the storytelling! I would like to send you something. Would you mind emailing me the best address for it to reach you?

    Sigmund Brouwer

    • Hi Sigmund,

      I’m honoured that you’ve visited my blog. I can still “sell” your books by mentioning your visit to our school and hope to have you back soon!

      Ricky/Rocky’s adventure in The Tyrant of the Badlands is perfect for Grade 4 as they visit the badlands and the Royal Tyrrell Museum each year as part of their study of Alberta History. It’s fun to give them a little mystery to add to their experience.

      I’m intrigued and of course will pop over to email you. 🙂

      All the best,
      Cindy

  14. Liz

    A whole load of super fun info on here, I like all that you are doing!

    Liz!

  15. Shelagh

    Hi Cindy,
    Found your blog and loved it.
    I run a High School Library in a tiny remote town in the middle of the Northern Territory of Australia. I am qualified as a Library technician, but not as a Teacher Librarian, so I don’t have the teaching knowledge that a TL would have. I am classed as admin staff.
    We are in the same situation here in Australia – library staff losing jobs, while admin people get to run the library due to costs. Schools here in the NT have just started something called global budgeting, which seems to essentially mean that money is handed to the principal/School Council and they decide where and on what it is spent. In a decision between teachers and library staff, no contest – after all, the students have the Internet, it’s all there, why do we need Librarians? And I can understand, in the very short term – but not as a permanent thing. The students need to at least know HOW to find what they need to know – it is a life skill.
    I used to run Library orientation classes about finding information, searching the web, web evaluation and so on. I designed activities using QR codes and research games, and activities about genres and so on – but can’t get teachers interested enough to bring their classes in for them now. The whole area has just become a larger than usual classroom.
    I feel more and more often that I am just banging my head against a very big wall….and that we are truly setting our kids up to fail.
    Reading your blog – and the comments – helps. It is not just me feeling this way. Thank you.

    • Hi Shelagh.

      Sorry I am so late in responding. You are singing my song! I agree that the best information out there may be missed by this generation just because Google can’t find it. Since the elimination of Teacher Librarians, teachers are expected to guide students through resource discovery and evaluation. I think it might be for them I feel the most. They are handed tools and resources from a small team at the district level and in a mostly ad-hoc way.

      I too am classified as admin staff. I used to try to do a lot of instruction, but without teacher collaboration, the lessons were void of context and so were not particularly valuable.

      I now focus more on sharing with teachers than with students. I offer to help them find resources for particular units and have lately started a new blog with six “Weekly Web Wonders to show (and not overwhelm) teachers. My K-9 library classes are specifically about reading now, which is actually much less stressful and more fun for me. I try to implement interesting technology like QR codes into library space & programming and work at just getting kids in here, to connect with them individually. High school students just use the library to get their textbooks, read, study and write tests, so I don’t reach many of them unless they are recreational readers.

      Our principal controls the budget with input from the parent council, but within categories like staffing, tech, learning resources, etc. I’m lucky to have a principal who appreciates what I do, but I know that’s as much about tech support, creating the yearbook, and looking after our website as it is about anything library-related. She understandably has to put teachers in classrooms first, so I’m grateful that I still have a full-time job. Our province has just recently elected a brand new government which ran on increased health and education funding, so I’m guardedly hopeful that things will look up a bit.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment and I’m glad the blog has helped a little. I’m on the fence whether or not to get back to it. Nothing is sure but change.

      All the best,
      Cindy

  16. Ayush Jha

    I love what you are doing for the library and the kids. I work at a volunteer at a children library and I am planning on switching from the (bloated) Dewey devimal system. Your series on how the islands and departments was very helpful. Thanks alot 😀

    Regards from Nepal,
    Ayush

    • I’m so glad you found it helpful. It’s a continuous work in progress though, especially as nonfiction use declines. Just know your kids and make it easy for them to find what they’ll like.

  17. Colleen

    Love your site. I am planning to do this with our school library. We will be getting a new building and we are consolidating it into K-12. I am researching and your site has been very helpful. I was wondering where you found the book dividers? The tall ones that go from top to bottom on the shelves.

    • Hi Colleen, So sorry to take so long responding. Ironically, I find myself with a little blogging time now that school is out! Thank you for your comment. Aren’t those dividers awesome! Unfortunately the shelves were handmade many, many years ago. The dividers are were inserted in slits cut into the tops and bottoms of the shelves and held in place with the the edge trim. Even though they’re quite old, I can’t imagine ever replacing them. They are the absolute bomb for picture books!

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