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: Additionally, AASL has gathered resources and information related to ESSA and what it means for school librarians. 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 + 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!
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.
Images from

“The Library is the Place for You!”

“If you love children and you love books, the library is the place for you.” These words convinced me to get an endorsement in Library Science. These words led me to the best place in a school.
I was an undergrad student majoring in Early Childhood Education and taking a Children’s Literature course when a wise middle school librarian said these words to me. I went back to school the next week and declared a minor: Library Science.
My teaching career started in the library, but as much as I loved the job I kept thinking there were other teaching jobs I wanted. I left the library when I got married and took a job teaching preschool special education…then went back to the library. I decided to get a masters degree in Elementary Teaching and left the library to teach 5th grade…then went back to the library. I learned my lesson. The next time I was ready for a change I moved from the elementary library to a middle school library. The next step was a high school library. Of the three levels, which is my favorite? Whichever level I am in at the time. I truly loved them all.
The common denominator for all of my favorite jobs was the library and the magic it holds. One time someone compared my job to that of a grandmother. My children were still in preschool, so after getting over being slightly offended, I heard his explanation: “You don’t care what the kids do before they come in your door. You love them, give them what they want, and when you are ready for them to leave you send them back to their class.” Bingo!
To me, the library is the ultimate teaching position. As a librarian I got to teach every child in the school. I got to work with every teacher. My job was never boring and no two days were ever the same. For those of us who like variety (and maybe some chaos) the ever-changing library environment is energizing. You never know who will walk through the doors and you never know how your words or actions might impact someone in your library world.
I now have the privilege of working as a library educator. I get to teach people to love the job I loved so much for so many years. What an honor!
Recently a young man in his 20s who lives down the street told my husband how much he loved coming into my library when he was in elementary school. His class would beg me to read Dogzilla, by Dav Pilkey every week. Over ten years later, this young man still remembered that book and his time in the library. Reading that silly book over and over again was a small thing to me but became one of his fondest childhood memories.
That is why I do what I do. I love children and I love books and I want others to experience the joy.

This thing called “social” media

What is this all about and how can social media be helpful? I have debated this question with myself for a long time. I have accounts with so many different social media outlets that I cannot begin to remember them all, much less keep up with them. When I think about social media as “professional media,” it makes more sense to me.
There is a difference between social media for social purposes and social media for professional purposes. For example, I use Facebook to keep up with my personal contacts. It is a great way to know what my friends and family are doing. I use Twitter and blogs for professional learning. To my friends and family, my Twitter feed is rather boring – it is full of links to great library ideas and library humor (which doesn’t seem to have the same impact when shared with teenage boys!). To my professional contacts, I might retweet something exciting!
Where does that leave blogging? I use blogs as part of my professional learning network. There are so many great school library blogs out there, where do you start?
  • Find a few to follow and make it part of your daily routine to check in with each of them. Is there a specific day of the week the blogger posts? Add it to your calendar so it becomes part of your to-do list.
  • Start small. Find two or three bloggers that you enjoy. Get into the habit of keeping up with a few. Library Learners has a list of library blogs by state, if you want to follow someone in your area:
  • Ask colleague which blogs they read. Browse a few and see which ones speak to you. Choose blogs were you find support or ideas that match your teaching style. Choose one that stretches you and introduces new ideas to you as well.
Do not let the idea of following blogs overwhelm you. Just like you would read the latest journal as soon as it showed up in your mailbox, make it a habit to read the latest blog post. This is the heart of “professional media.”

Barriers in your school library

Paul Gorski says it is imperative that we need to remove barriers to learning for all students, not fix the student or teach them to be resilient. (Gorski, 2015).

In Empowering Learners, one of the Common Beliefs is “Equitable access is a key component to education. (AASL, 2009).

Identifying barriers in your libraryimage

Organization of the library space

  • Take a good look at the signage in your library. Are the signs accurate? Are they easily readable from a distance? The signs should be large and have strong contrast.
  • If you use color coding on your book labels, is this information provide in another way? Remember, not all people see colors in the same way. There are likely students who cannot see the difference between the blue and purple labels, for example.
  • Teach them your organization and how to use the library catalog. As more librarians join the genrefication bandwagon, it becomes more important that students know how to use the catalog and how to figure out the system. It used to be the case that all libraries had the same system so if a student went to a new school he/she could find the sports books without asking anyone. As organization systems change, it is imperative that students know how to independently find what they need in your library.

Universal design of library instruction

  • Research is the perfect differentiation activity. Students can choose their topic, their essential question, and their sources on their own reading/understanding level. They can take notes in their own way, report in their own way. (Woodring, Woodring, & Hall, 2015) What is most important – the process or the product?
  • Whole class read-alouds: Can all students see the pictures? What about those sitting in the back of the room or those with vision issues? Can everyone clearly hear you read? Are there words used in the book that require some background knowledge? How can you be sure all students understand the vocabulary before you read the book?
  • If your activity requires movement, how will you ensure that all students can participate, even if someone in the class has limited mobility?

What are some possible barriers to success in your library space and instruction? Take a fresh look through the eyes of your students. Where can you make simple changes to break down the barriers?


AASL. (2009). Empowering learners. American Association of School Librarians, Chicago, IL.

Gorski, P. (2015, October). Equitable learning environments for low-income students and families. Presented at Teaching, learning and poverty: Meeting the needs of a new demographic. Farmville, VA.

Woodring, A., Woodring, A., & Hall, A. (2015, November). Innovative research process with interactive technology. Presented at AASL Fall Conference. Columbus, OH.


Student Voice

I love the AASL conference. It is always packed with great ideas, inspiring sessions, and generous vendors. I love the hum in the air as thousands of school librarians gather together and spend a few days talking about the career they love. I love to watch people greet friends they only see every two years and make connections with new friends.megaphone-308846_1280

Before each conference, I put a lot of thought into my strategy – which sessions will I attend? Will I focus on one theme or try to gather ideas from as many topics as possible? This year I took the shotgun approach – I went in a variety of directions, gathering ideas from here and there. After a few sessions, it hit me that although I was not focusing on a theme one was emerging. I kept hearing about the importance of student voice.

In one session, the presenter talked about her challenge with getting teachers to read emails sent from her. She shared her frustration when learning that some teachers had an email folder with her name on it where they would simply drag her emails to keep them out of their Inbox. She made a simple change and had students create quick tutorials about various tech tools. When she emailed these tutorials – done in student voice – teachers read the emails and watch the tutorials!

In a session about copyright, intellectual freedom, and privacy, we broke into smaller groups to discuss issues related to the topics. One discussion group focused on privacy and social media. We talked about the importance of including student voice in social media policies. What tools are the students using? What instruction is needed? Is there a difference between students’ personal use of social media and schools’ instructional use of social media? As adults, we cannot address these questions without listening to the students. We need to hear and reflect their voice in our policies.

An elementary school librarian presented great ideas for reaching our youngest learners in the library. She encouraged us to listen to the questions the students were asking and be flexible so our library lessons could build on their interests. There might be times when their questions lead to fabulous inquiry projects. She suggested we should, “Embrace opportunities to learn from the students.” Embrace the student voice of our youngest learners.

How do you include student voice in your library program? Does your library space reflect student voice? Are your lessons designed to celebrate student voice? We need to relax our adult expectations and be flexible enough to allow our students to shine.

**You can access many resources through AASL eCollab: There are many free resources available for everyone on eCollab, but if you are a member of AASL you will have access to more resources.


Image from Pixabay.


Family Literacy Night – Success Through Collaboration

We know the importance of literacy across all disciplines there are a variety of types of literacy…media literacy, digital literacy, information literacy…it seems like the list grows every day! According to, one definition of “literacy” is “a person’s knowledge of a particular subject or field.” Literacy applies to every aspect of education, so what can librarians do to include all educators in the building and all members of the school community in a literacy event?family-469580_1920

As a middle school librarian, I was looking for an evening event that would bring our school community together. I decided to host a Family Literacy Night. My goal was to include as many different people from the school community in a variety of activities that all centered around the theme of literacy. I put together a small committee to begin brainstorming possible ideas, then I started on the task of getting the teachers excited to participate. A successful event requires participation from many!

As a new faculty member in the school, I noticed we needed something to bring us together. The teachers were working hard in their areas, but little collaboration was happening across the school. Family Literacy Night seemed like a perfect opportunity.

Here are some tips for getting a variety of people involved:

Ask teachers what they want to do – use their strengths and interests. As much as we might want to plan everything according to our interests, others will be more likely to participate if they are allowed to be involved in an activity related to their interests. Our principal was crafty and manned a table where she taught children (and families) how to make their own blank book with a stitched spine. She shared some she had made and encouraged them to make their first entry in their book before they left her station.

Include everyone somewhere – encourage cross-curricular collaboration. Don’t forget the electives teachers. What does literacy mean in their curricular area? Encourage people from around the building to have an activity related to their area. Encourage them to collaborate with people in other areas. For example, does the math teacher also run marathons? Why not encourage a collaboration in the gym with the gym teacher and math teacher? Their activity can relate to math and exercise – easy!

Involve parent volunteers.  There are usually some parents who are anxious to help out when they are presented with specific tasks. Family Literacy Night is the perfect opportunity! Involve the parent volunteers in the preparations for the event – designing and hanging signage, setting up the activity rooms, baking treats for the culminating activity. Then encourage the parents to bring their families and participate in the activities that night. This is their night – make sure you have teachers and others from within the school lined up to man the activities so the parents can have fun with their families.

Plan a culminating activity for the event. At our event, we decided to have an “open mic night.” Some parent volunteers turned the cafeteria into a lounge theme, complete with bean bag chairs, strings of lights, and cookies and hot chocolate. Teachers and students were allowed to share songs, poems, and other creations at the microphone. The art teacher hung student art work around the room. We ensured participation by personally asking some students and teachers to participate so we knew there would be something going on. Others were happy to join in that evening. It was a relaxing and fun way to end the evening.

The key to a successful event is collaboration. There is too much to do alone, but an event of this magnitude is relatively easy to pull off if you have many hands invested and excited.

Let’s do some brainstorming: What are some ideas for stations you might include in a Family Literacy Night event? Later this week I will post some ideas for different curricular areas.

Tools to Add to Your Lighthouse

On Monday I shared some tips for ways you can “be the lighthouse” for the teachers – be there at their point of need to guide them to the correct resources. Today I would like to share some of my favorite tools that you might want to have on hand for just the right lightoolbox-mdthouse moment. Some are new, others have been around for a while but might be new to you.
Online Interactive/Collaborative Spaces
These tools would be great to show in a faculty meeting since all can benefit from them. Open your professional development time by having the teachers work together to add to an interactive space. Have them brainstorm right on the space about ways they might use one of these tools: – This features of this tool keep growing. You can create your own board, use a template, import files, web links, videos, images…the list goes on. There is a ton of flexibility with RealTimeBoard. – I love this one, maybe because the name is great! Who doesn’t want to create something called a “Popplet?” This is a great tool for even the youngest students. You can create linked brainstorming maps with Popplet and add images, text, videos, etc. – This is another simple collaboration tool that is used by many teachers. Simply drag and drop files right onto your wall. Or double-click anywhere on the wall to upload images, audio, video, or other types of files. Share your wall to allow others to join in the fun.
State-Sponsored Reference Resources
Databases, etc. – Many states provide online reference sources to school students at no cost to the schools or students. In Virginia, is sponsored by the Library of Virginia and provides access to eBooks and databases that are specific to various grade levels. Check with your state library or Department of Education to find out what might be available in your state.
State Encyclopedias –  Does your state have an online encyclopedia specific to information related to your state? In North Carolina, for example, it is called NCpedia and can be accessed directly from the website or through the State Library of North Carolina
Research Help –  With Diigo, you can organize web links, outline, highlight, and annotate. This site is filled with helpful research tools and also includes a Google Chrome extension to make it easy to use the tools.
Citation creation tools –  There are so many out there now, and all have different features. A few I have used with students include:
With any of these, I always have student double-check the citations once they are created. It is not uncommon to use a citation generator but still need to fix the capitalization, and the generators do not usually fix typos by the student.
For many more great websites and app ideas, check out the annual lists by the American Association of School Librarians: ;
What are your favorite online tools to share with teachers? Add them in the Comments below.

Be the lighthouse

A few years ago I conducted a research study looking at the resources used by high school teachers (See link below). I wanted to know about teachers’ understandings of library resources and how they used the resources in their instruction. One of the findings from this study that has stuck with me is that teachers are spending a lot of their own time finding the perfect resources to use in instruction. It seems that few are using the textbook as more than a supplementary resource and they are searching many different sources for additional resources. This is where the school librarian can and should step in. The librarian should be that source for good information beyond the textbook and beyond what is found in the print library collection.

lighthouse-585944_1280 There are many great resources available online that are free for teachers, but they need to know about them and they need to know at the point of need. Just like a lighthouse guides boats to safe harbor, we need to be there when the teachers need us, when they are searching in the dark for the perfect resources. We know the most effective way to teach library skills to students is when they need to use the skill, and the same is true for teachers. They are more likely to use a resource if it directly relates to the curriculum that is being planned and taught right now.

A few tips to get you to them at the point of need:

  • Regularly attend grade level or department meetings. (If your schedule does not allow you to attend the meetings, ask the lead teacher to share meeting minutes so you are kept in the loop.) Find out which units are coming up soon and go to the meeting with a couple of resources that directly relate to the upcoming units.
    • Follow up with an email that gives direct links to the resources. Offer a prize (small candy, etc) to anyone who shares with you how they used the resource with their students.
    • Offer to co-teach a lesson using the resource. This will take the pressure off the teacher since you will be there to share the new resource with the students.
  • Share general tools and resources with the entire faculty. Ask for a 5-minute spot at the beginning of each faculty meeting to share one or two new resources.
    • Use this time for sharing general resources and productivity tips. Make sure there is something that would be helpful to everyone.
    • Make it fun and interactive. For example, use Poll Everywhere to have all teachers vote on the treat you will provide in the library one day the following week. Give them a chance to share quick ideas of how the tool can be used in their classroom. You get to show them the tool, they get to use it, and they come into the library the next week for a special treat.
  • Know the curriculum. Nothing goes further than knowing what the teachers are teaching. Take the time to make a curriculum chart for the whole school, not just the core classes. What is being taught in the elective courses? What skills do they cover in PE? As the librarian, you can see the big picture and the connections across disciplines.
    • Make room on your chart to write in new resources as you find them. It is easy to lose track of all of the new apps and resources, so make a note. Then share them with the teachers when you know they will need them.

Get ready to be the lighthouse and guide the teachers to the resources when they need them.

On Thursday I will share some great free resources and tools that I have found recently that will help you extend your reach beyond the library walls.


Collins, K. B. (2012). Resource provisions of a high school library collection. School Library Research, 15. Retrieved from:

Lighthouse picture from Pixabay, in public domain.

Color in the Library – Do they see what I think they see?

I am a relatively new researcher, and I tend to base my research interests on topics with a personal connection to me and my experiences. Two of my three boys and both of my older brothers have color vision deficiencies (aka – colorblindness). They are not alone. In fact, 8-10% of the male population has some form of color vision deficiency (CVD). Statistically speaking, there could be at least one child in every classroom who does not differentiate between colors like someone with normal color vision. To add to the confusion, it is not common for children with CVD to know they see things differently and CVD is not considered a disability for which students would receive accommodations.

Why is this important to school librarians?

Think about how color is used in your library. Color might provide information.

  • Do you use a color-coding system to label the reading levels or genres of your books?  If so, you are using color as a symbol for the reading level, providing information for the library user through the color alone. However, if a number of your students cannot differentiate between the colors, they are missing the information. The simple solution is to provide the information in an additional way, such as writing the reading level number on the label.
  • Do you organize things in your library based on color? As an elementary school librarian, I dismissed students to check out books by colors they were wearing – “If you are wearing green, you may check out books.” I wonder how many students did not know they were wearing green?
  • Do you use color-coded maps in your library instruction? Students with CVD may not be able to determine the color codes on the maps. Add another indicator, such as a pattern, to the map sections. Suddenly, the color does not limit these students from joining in the activity.

Color might be used aesthetically.

  • Do you use color in your library to make the environment more attractive and welcoming? Great! For most of the library users, the color matters and helps to create the environment you intend. Aesthetic use of color does not provide information, and therefore does not serve as a stumbling block for those with CVD.
  • Be sure you use high contrast on your signage. For example, choose a light background with dark letters (or vice-versa). Avoid color combinations that are difficult to differentiate, such as red/green, blue/purple, brown/orange. Here is a great blog post about the use of color in advertising that gives you a good idea of colors that might be difficult or confusing:
  • Allow students to choose colors that look good to them. Does it matter what color the student uses to draw or highlight? If the color does matter, provide markers or crayons that are clearly labeled with the color name. My boys refused to use any crayons that did not say “blue” or “red.” They wanted to be sure they were using the right color. Creative color names on some crayons were lost on my children.

If children are not aware they have CVD, how are educators to prepare?

  • Design your library space and library instruction to be accessible to all learners. Anticipate that there will be some students with CVD or other vision issues and create a your space and instruction to be usable by all. Universal Design for Learning is a way to prepare for all learners:
  • Talk to the school nurse, the classroom teacher, and special educators to find out about the needs of students. Go to them if you suspect a child might be having difficulties and keep the lines of communication open.

To read more about my research related to what elementary school librarians know and believe about color vision deficiencies:

For more information about color vision deficiencies, check out some of these websites: – A foundation in the UK dedicated to raising awareness of color vision deficiencies. The video clip above is from this website. – A short interview with an adult with color vision deficiencies. This is a brilliantly done look into what it is like to see colors differently. – Helpful tips for teachers, parents, and school nurses. – Done by leading researchers into color vision. “The Basics” link has two presentations with great visual examples.

Do you have any experiences with color vision deficiencies? Share them in the comments section.