Tag Archives: school

Books are the Medium, Love is the Message: Altered Books for Valentine’s Day

Not to take anything away from the artist’s work, but a simplification of some of the following might make a nice last-minute classroom Valentine’s craft. Just ask your librarian for any boxed-or-lockered up old weeds & out-of-date textbooks! Clicking on the images will open a new window or tab to the crafters’ pages.

Hanging Hearts Valentine by BooksETC

The Color Purple Flower Brooch by whatanovelidea

Altered Board Book Valentine by xinme

Mom Present by Glitterbug

Heart Garland by Bookity


Filed under Art & Design, What to Do With Discarded Books

Technology in Schools Faces Questions on Value – NY Times

Technology in Schools Faces Questions on Value – NYTimes.com.

“The class, and the Kyrene School District as a whole, offer what some see as a utopian vision of education’s future. Classrooms are decked out with laptops, big interactive screens and software that drills students on every basic subject. Under a ballot initiative approved in 2005, the district has invested roughly $33 million in such technologies. “

“Hope and enthusiasm are soaring here. But not test scores.

“Since 2005, scores in reading and math have stagnated in Kyrene, even as statewide scores have risen.”

“Some backers of this idea say standardized tests, the most widely used measure of student performance, don’t capture the breadth of skills that computers can help develop. “

More at the link, or click on image.

Via Scoop.it! 21st Century Libraries


Filed under Technology

Cultural Anthropologist Mimi Ito on Connected Learning, Children, and Digital Media

“Mimi Ito is a cultural anthropologist and expert in the field of digital media and learning, focusing on children and youth’s changing relationships to media and communications. She recently completed the Digital Youth Project, a landmark study supported by the MacArthur Foundation of the ways youth use new media. In September 2010, she was appointed as the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning at UC Irvine.”

Via Scoop.it! 21st Century Libraries

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Filed under Technology

SLJ Warns that School Libraries Will Need to Organize for Ebook Purchases

Buyer Beware: Ebooks are a key purchase, but not by single libraries.

“Right now, ebooks only make economic sense when purchased as part of a consortium. You need to be part of a larger group sharing the costs and distribution of ebooks. And your library needs to carefully consider the type of ebooks being considered.”

“For example, if you bought an ebook for $20, a group of 50 schools might buy the same book for about five times as much, or $100 instead of 50 times as much or $1,000. Given a budget of $5,000, your library could purchase 250 ebooks. However, if you pooled your $5,000 along with the other 49 schools in the consortia, the group would have $250,000 and could purchase 2,500 books at the reduced group rate.

“Given that scenario, you could have 250 books for your library or shared, unlimited, simultaneous access to 2,500 books. The math seems clear to me.”

More at the link.


Filed under eReaders in the School Library, Library Management, Technology

Islands of Knowledge will Transform Learning: the Plan Begins to Come Together

Acitrezza Faraglioni Moon Rise Sicilia Italy Italia by gnuckx

In earlier posts I have discussed my dissatisfaction with current library organization and my thoughts on how the improvement of successful library use is essential. In these days of almost all public school libraries in Alberta being staffed by heavily burdened, non-professional assistants, it is even more essential that students and teachers can successfully find what they require and desire with minimal assistance.

Working through the possibilities and researching the projects undertaken by public libraries who have embraced the bookstore model like the Spruce Grove Public Library’s Neighbourhoods and Anythink’s innovations, I have designed a plan to transform my collection into the possibly pretentious sounding “Islands of Knowledge”.

From supporting the inquiry-based learning philosophy of Alberta Education to improving the success of the browse for reluctant readers, the Islands concept will transform the way the library is used by students and teachers alike.

Instead of being scattered throughout the library, general topic areas for Grades 3 through 12 will be grouped in u-shaped Islands and will include all media that pertains to that theme including guided access to virtual resources and related fiction. There would be seating and table space within each island and realia decorating the shelves.

By mind mapping the Dewey Decimal System and its uses in my library both for curriculum-specific topics and general interest use by students, I was able to connect disparate areas that are commonly used together. I am still working through the fine-tuning, but my current plan consists of nine Islands with the following working titles: Arts & Entertainment, The Art & Science of Language, Mental Health & Relationships, Fantasy & the Supernatural, Body & Health, Daily Life, Science & Technology, Nature & the Environment, Global Society. The ninth Island, Global Society is far too large and will likely be further divided. As I work out the physical configuration these will all evolve.

Current draft of Islands project - Click to enlarge

This is a custom-fit plan. Each library would be different, based on the needs and interests of their patrons.

Despite my initial thoughts, the Dewey Decimal System will not be eliminated. Rather, it will be preceded in the call number by an abbreviation of the Island’s name and subtopic, and shelved accordingly within the Island. There will be further customization as time reveals the need, but the quick location of specific items by call number is still essential and shelving by author or title is not a useful option.

I have placed almost equal emphasis on curriculum and general interest needs because I believe students learn best when they are following a personal path of inquiry. There is significant learning value in a student successfully discovering and enthusiastically perusing a range of resources to support his or her current fascination with snowmobiles or hamsters.

Easy Street, the fiction and nonfiction section in my library for Kindergarten through Grade 2 will be a large, inviting Island of its own. I am considering the possibility of highlighting some specific genres within these primary books as well: interfiling fiction and nonfiction relating to Dinosaurs and Animals for example. Many books at this level cross the fiction-nonfiction boundaries. I feel it would be a valuable exercise in critical thinking for children to personally and instinctually work out truth from fiction among and within the material they read, a life skill that most are in the process of developing in their daily lives.

A presentation to administration, teachers and program assistants with discussion and feedback and a specific appeal for any potential negative impacts on teaching and learning outcomes yielded only positive, enthusiastic responses.

There are many challenges ahead not the least of which is designing the physical layout and finding the shelving that will work with the plan and within the budget. The nine Islands need fine-tuning for some kind of consistency in size and scope and many areas have been identified for serious collection development.

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Filed under Rethinking My Library

The Challenges of Reorganizing Nonfiction

I’m trying not to steal too much time on the details of potentially converting my library to the book store model until I know whether or not it’s actually going to happen. My principal is for it, but several other things have to fall into place before it happens.

However, it is ever in the back of my mind and there’s nothing to be done when an idea is pushing you around, but to indulge it a little.

A first draft. Some popular areas are missing. Click to enlarge

I am concentrating on the primary nonfiction at the moment, since it is a little less daunting. Kindergarten to Grade 2 students are so certain about their reading desires and the curriculum is fairly cut-and-dry.

I’ve ‘stolen’ a little time from preparations from my impending Book Fair to attempt to mind-map the collection, marking curriculum connections and popular topics. In discussing the use of the Accelerated Readers, a teacher helpfully pointed out that the primary students browse more successfully in face out (or even piled) displays. As a result of that discussion, the early AR books will go into bins by level.

The low shelves under the window would be filled with plastic bins, tastefully labeled with bold word and picture guides.

That got me thinking about how the children use the nonfiction. Aesthetically, it’s not going to be ideal: plastic bins as opposed to books lined up on lovely wooden shelving is not my idea of attractive, but each bin could have bold word and picture guides on it and I know the kids would love it. And that, of course, is what it’s all about.

Curriculum topics and popular subjects would be gathered into single bins and books re-catalogued to reflect that. I can imagine the children pulling out a bin and pouring through the contents together. The process would be so much more fulfilling than carefully placing their spacers to keep the place of the books while they look at them one-by-one, or wait for their turn in the section. The Dewey numbers would not be eliminated, at least not during the first trial year or so, but they would be given new call letters based on the topic itself. The WordThink grid at Anythink gives some good connections. (I can’t thank Susan enough for directing me there.)

I’m not even sure that the primary nonfiction will remain on these shelves once the library is reorganized. It’s not ideal, extending as it does, rather distantly from the picture book area, which I call ‘Easy Street’. I am tempted to purchase the bins and give it a try without re-cataloguing, since once they are in clear subject bins shelving and retrieving should not be too much of a problem. The same does not hold true for the Grades 3-12 nonfiction. It will be much more complex.

Some important questions though: What colour and size should the bins be?…and Where am I going to find the time???

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No Decision Yet on e-Readers, but Required Features Determined

I had an exciting Saturday. I spent most of it trying to learn about e-readers and attempting to make a decision with regard to which model to buy for the school. I originally thought I’d be deciding between Kindle, Sony and Kobo, since those are the ones I have heard most about, but after nailing down the features I most wanted I was quite surprised at the outcome.

Evolution of Readers

Image by John Blyberg

Since our initial purchases will be for struggling readers, I felt it was important that they had text-to-speech, font-size selection and an integrated dictionary. I also wanted an open source format so that we would not be tied to a particular e-book supplier and could access the plethora of free material available through our library system and on the Web.

In addition, I looked at the type of screen: eInk or ePaper, versus LCD. I have not had a chance to borrow a reader to check out the difference, but I find it difficult to read a lot of text on my computer screens and will need to discover if vision comfort is a make-or-break factor. Most dedicated e-readers have an eInk screen and most tablets are LCD.

A replaceable battery seems like an economically sensible feature so that one does not have to replace the entire unit if the battery fails. I considered a strong web browser more of a liability than an asset, in fact any internet access or games could be a distraction for reluctant readers, our target group. Almost all of those I looked at had some Internet applications and all had Wi-Fi.

Like several other brands I had not previously heard of, Sony, Nook & Kobo were eliminated early because they do not have text-to-speech capability: a must-have feature as I mentioned above. I took the Kindle off the list because books must be purchased through Amazon only, it is not library compatible and there is no replaceable battery.

The two that met all criteria were PocketBooks from the Ukraine and Pandigital. I still have to pin down Canadian suppliers and support. I may have to go back to my reject list! There is a decent, sortable comparison chart here Wikipedia. Pandigital is not even on it though. I found it first at Best-Buy.

So, no decision made as yet. I really want to hold a few in my hands and read from them. Hopefully then I’ll feel a little more confident.

Cartoon from Rhymes With Orange


Filed under eReaders in the School Library, Technology

Sharing Knowledge

When I think of the number of years I spent fumbling about on my own, I very much appreciate the networks I’ve discovered in the past few years, the newest of which is the potential of this blog. Many thanks to Susan for all the feedback and great links. You’ve encouraged me to stick with this blog and motivated me to keep working towards a challenge that seems somewhat overambitious. The ‘revolutionary’ Anythink library site has a wealth of resources that I’m just beginning to understand, thanks to her.

Another relatively new network that has been highly beneficial, is the group of 13 librarians in my district. We have been getting together three times a year for a few years now. Yesterday was our final meeting for this year. We rotate our meetings through each others’ libraries, an idea that has really consolidated the group. We share ideas, knowledge, concerns and frustrations, and I always come away feeling positive and motivated.

Although we all belong to the same Regional Library System and School District, we are a very diverse group. Working hours range from 6 hours per week to full-time, and many of us split our duties between the library and in classes as program assistants. About a third of the libraries are combined school and public.

From a couple of brief discussions yesterday, I took away a few ideas and opinions with regard to my project. I didn’t feel ready to present a full-on discussion about the potential implementation of the book store concept, but I hope some of my colleagues will follow me here and offer their advice.

We did, however, discuss e-book readers. I discovered that a least one other library is looking into them as well. With the group’s help, I managed to pin down several brand options (including iPad, which my computer technician generously let me borrow this week), as well as some questions I need to answer before purchase is made. Topping the list is the issue of e-book availability. Apparently some brands are affiliated with specific suppliers and formats are not universal. Will I have to decide on a supplier before I decide on a reader?

An autumn morning welcomes me to my library

A priority for me and a function I couldn’t find on the iPad is read-aloud, or text-to-speech capability. This is an essential feature for struggling readers and one of the prime reasons to buy e-readers for the Special Needs department. According to the most recent chart I have so far found, Amazon’s Kindle is one of the few that has it, but that brand has a couple of big disadvantages, not the least of which is the inability to borrow e-books through libraries. An equally important function is the integrated dictionary. I think I will be narrowing down my choices by those two features first.

So here I am on Saturday, researching e-books and ways to transform my library. If the sun comes out for an evening show, I am going to go out with my camera. Thank goodness housework is so very patient (and I can’t see it when I’m staring at my computer monitor)…

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Filed under eReaders in the School Library, Rethinking My Library

I Couldn’t Wait

Will old Melvil stay or will he go?

I have the go-ahead, in principle, from my principal. I can kill Dewey if I want to.

My boss loves the book store concept – even mentioned a cappuccino machine, but I’m not sure parents would go for that. I’m dreaming about a fireplace, a large screen TV, ebooks lying around…I’ve only just begun.

I do have to decide on which ebooks to buy. I have approval to buy some for at least the Special Ed. Department. I understand that copyright issues for international titles in Canada can be an issue.  It’s about time we bought some, though. Kids are reading novels on their smart phones. I should have pushed them sooner.

As for Dewey…I can see how difficult it could be to place some books, but there are others I’d really like to shelve together. I sure wish I could get some feedback here. Pros and cons, I want – no, I really need –  to hear it all.

Perhaps I should arrange them by colour. Kids are always asking for books that way.

And it would look cool.


Filed under Rethinking My Library

In Response to Robert McCoppin

There’s a very interesting discussion here, with some very good arguments for hanging on to the Dewey Decimal System. One commenter suggested, “These so-called nouveau-libraries would be better served by holding classes in their neighborhood schools to educate both the student[s] and, obviously, their teachers on how to use the Dewey Decimal System.” So true! However, that statement does not address the reality of libraries staffed by non-teacher-librarians and teachers who can barely find the time to teach research skills as needed. Library managers are not in control of policy or budgets. We can only do our best so support curriculum and promote literacy.

It was also suggested there that no-one ‘browses’ nonfiction. Although I understand that school libraries are not the focus of the discussion, that has not been my experience. My students, especially up to Grade 7 and particularly boys, browse the nonfiction stacks with enthusiasm. In my opinion, the potential ‘success of the browse’ is what is going to keep nonfiction books in the hands of our children. The question is only how radical does the change need to be to make this happen. Is signage enough, or does there need to be a revamping of the way books are displayed as I outlined in my previous post?

I did attempt to join this discussion, however I’m not inclined to enter my birthdate or even a fictitious one when simply commenting on a blog post as the Chicago Tribune required me to do. My entry would possibly not have been accepted anyway, since ‘Zip Code’ was also required and my Canadian Postal Code would not likely have passed muster.

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Filed under Rethinking My Library