Forging Partnerships With Teen Tech Week

Last week I followed along on my own PLN with the great things that school librarians were doing for Teen Tech Week 2014. The theme of DIY @your library promoted the library as place to extend learning beyond the classroom for teens. It was great to see was how it facilitated differing partnerships between school librarians and teachers, students, parents, community, and the public library.

One example that really struck home with me was Norcross High School, where Buffy Hamilton and her colleagues provided a week of digital delights, both low and high tech, to engage many types of teens. You only have to watch a minute of the videos she posted to see students engaged in creative play to learn. They were there during their lunchtime to enjoy collaborative time with their peers, as well as learn along with their excellent school librarians.

As a finale for Teen Tech Week and a kickoff for their partnership with Gwinnett Public Library, members of the public library team brought over a 3D printer to share with the students. It was amazing to see the excitement and awe on these students’ faces and the thoughtful reflections they shared. Not only did the group of students coming to the library for Teen Tech week activities increase throughout the week, but also I am guessing that the word is getting out about the cool things going on in the library. This is going to be a partnership to watch in the future for great things to come.

Often school librarians question how to enact the technology leadership role in practice – this is a great example!

Partnering for Possibilities_ NHS Media Center, Gwinnett County Public Library, 3D Printing, and More | The Unquiet Librarian

Collaborative Spaces

This past weekend as I was preparing to teach my students about facilities and designing a school library learning environment I revisited the 7 Spaces of Learning and how these apply to the school library. These include: Secret Spaces, Group Spaces, Watching Spaces, Performing Spaces, Participation Spaces, Publishing Spaces, and Data Spaces.

Matt Locke first came up with the concept of the Six Spaces of Social Media and then Ewan McIntosh, a European expert in digital media for public services, and his team team added a seventh, Data Spaces. They have taken this idea of digital spaces -where we interact and with whom we interact with in each space and have defined what that would look like in a physical environment. Here is a 15 minute video explaining these thoughts:

The Seven Spaces of Technology in School Environments from NoTosh on Vimeo.

They have explored how education can harness these spaces to not only meet the needs if their current students and existing practices but as “influencers of future practice” by providing spaces for projects and learning in the future.

In class this week as we discussed meeting the needs of our learners it was interesting to see how the various modalities of learning including, independent study, peer tutoring, team collaborative work, one on one learning, lecture format/teacher centered, hands on project based learning, technology based learning, distance learning, research, presentation, performance, social, and emotional, seem to align with the 7 Spaces of Learning.

Collaborative and social learning are important aspects of 21st education and are prominent in the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner as well.  School libraries are becoming more and more places for teams to work together formally and informally, but the question  arises – are we providing students with the right environment where they can work and learn collaboratively?

And are we asking students for their input? See what happens when a third grade teachers asks her students to design their Secret Space.

Connecting for Advocacy

I had prepared some thoughts for posting this week, but after listening to a presentation at the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) conference yesterday I changed my mind. Yesterday morning in the School Library Media research SIG session Elizabeth Burns, a PhD student at Old Dominion University, presented her dissertation research on advocacy: Practitioner Perceptions of School Library Advocacy: A Pilot Study. Burns questions school librarians’ perception of advocacy, their experiences with advocacy in a school setting, and their preparation relating to advocacy. I think Burns gets to the heart of the matter in that there is a lack of definition of advocacy and very little research in this area. It reminds me of many concepts and ideas (such as my own research into “be a leader in technology integration”) that we as school librarians as taught and constantly reminded by AASL and ALA that we are “supposed to do” but are only given a vague definition or idea of what that entails.

You may ask what does this have to do with collaboration, but it has everything to do with collaboration. Advocacy has to do with making connections and partnerships with your stakeholders. And indeed it was this disconnect from stakeholders that emerged in Burms research. This is just a small facet of her wonderful and very timely research!

Her presentation left me with two big questions. For myself as an educator I have really been thinking about how I educate my students, future school librarians, on advocacy and how can I do a better job defining, giving real world examples, and stressing the importance of evidence. Also how do we as school librarians PROACTIVELY work to create these meaningful partnerships with the various stakeholder groups? Because as well all know when the cuts come it is already too late.

Shaking Things Up

So as I was reading Judy’s recent post on assessment I also saw this article pop up on my ScoopIt dashboard- Interactive Assessment for Learning.  This article describes a great idea that focuses on assessing one of the Common Core ELA Standards where students are required to use evidence from text to support their own assertions.

This teacher took a new approach to her teaching to integrate more technology in to her instruction and to her assessment as well. I love to see this type of thinking where this teacher identified a standard that her students struggled with year after year, despite repeated instruction – so she decided it was time to change things up.

As I reflect back on the instruction and assessments my students designed this past semester in my Instructional Role of the School Librarian course I am excited to see the engaging lessons and creative formative and summative assessments they came up with. Additionally their thoughtful reflections on how they could even make it better the next time they taught it was inspiring.

I believe all too often in teaching we settle into the way things have always been done. So as we reach the end of another year I always find it a good time for thinking back on what I have been teaching and to reflect – what’s been working, what hasn’t, and how can I shake things up to benefit our students.



Collaborating for Technology Integration

Recently I was reading one of the many blogs I read on a weekly basis and I saw this post on Edudemic (which is btw one of my favorites) reporting results from a study on how teachers love educational technology, but they still aren’t using it. This is one of the premises of my own research – that the school librarian is just the person to help out with this problem, so I was immediately interested. You can see the entire post here.

This quote from an elementary school teacher really resonated with me: “Teachers have so much stuff to do in a limited amount of time. If there was a resource available that would do some of the research leg-work that would be wonderful.” There is also additional data how teachers just do not have the time to look for and evaluate resources.

Well you do have a resource available to you (unless they have been eliminated, which is a whole other issue) to do the research leg-work – it is your school librarian!

I again see this as a great opportunity for school librarians to step up as technology leaders in their schools to address the needs of teachers. It is part of the job of the school librarian to stay current on new technologies and how to use them effectively in teaching and learning.

As I listened to presentations at the AASL Conference I heard many ways that some school librarians are working with teachers to integrate technology, yet it seems that many are not. So here are a couple of quick links from the conference to get you on your way to being this resource in your school:

 AASL Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2013

 AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning 2013

A Fresh Perspective – View from the Outside

My students in my Instructional Design and Development course have been spending the past month observing school librarians conducting instruction at various levels and on various topics. They also spent time interviewing the school librarian about what they observed and their collaborative practices. It has been interesting to see the varied experiences they have had. I also had a few students who have interests in other areas, such as academic and public, which brought a new dynamic and perspectives to the course.

Last night students shared a takeaway from their observation – things they saw that surprised them, things that worked, and things that didn’t work. I was especially glad to hear them talk about seeing practices they had read about and learned about in class in action. They commented on the importance of the school librarian knowing the school’s, the district’s, and/or the state’s curriculum and the difference this can make in what the school librarian is able to do in regards to collaboration and instruction. Several of them mentioned the importance of relationships they observed between school librarians and teachers and the sense of trust. Whereas the students that observed new school librarians noted that they were still trying to build these relationships necessary for collaboration. On the negative side of things I was sad to hear tales of librarians who were not collaborating at all, teaching lessons on AR, teaching “library skill” lessons, and just sitting there checking out books instead of working with students that obviously needed their help.

This is usually the first time most of these students have been into a school library since they were in school as K-12 students themselves and I am always interested in the fresh perspectives on practice that they return with. Several students commented that when they interviewed the school librarian about collaboration and instruction is became a type of self-reflection process for the librarian resulting in the school librarian questioning their own practices.

It makes me wonder how often do we really reflect on our own practices and take the viewpoint of what an outsider would see if they spent a day as a fly on the wall in our libraries.

The 12 Habits Of Highly Collaborative Organizations

As I have been working on my fall course which focuses on collaboration and the instructional role of the school librarian I have been reading a great deal of articles on this topic and one that popped up in my ScoopIt headlines about a month ago drew my interest. It was this post on Forbes called the 12 Habits of Highly Collaborative Organizations. While speaking from the business point of view I saw the parallels in these elements that could certainly be applied to school librarians. Additionally I like that it is from a leadership perspective and how we can get others to buy into collaboration.

1. Focusing on who benefits from the collaboration. I believe this is key when getting teachers to buy into collaboration – you have to stay focused on how their students will benefit from collaborating with you.

2. Strategy before technology. This is something we are all familiar with – the hottest newest technology being purchased with out any planning for implementation and use.  In the area of collaboration there is a wealth of new tools out there that can be used by school librarians, teachers, and students – but have a plan how will you use these tools, how will you teach teachers to use these tools and how can they be implemented and utilized in instruction to include students in collaborations.

3. Learn to get out of the way. Don’t stifle collaboration by enforcing too many rules and policies. Be open to spontaneous collaboration opportunities! The last thing a teacher wants to hear is oh yes we can work together on something but I’m going to need you to fill out this form and give me three days notice. Being flexible and fluid are characteristics of any good school librarian – collaboration opportunities may pop up at times you never expect them!

4. Listen to others! Educating children is a group effort and as the school librarian we are an important part of this process, but it is important to always remember that you are just a part – always listen to others and their ideas, suggestions, and feedback then integrate this into your planning and program.

5. Lead by example. As Empowering Learners (AASL, 2009) states school librarians should be leaders. Again I think by modeling good collaborative practices with other school librarians, administrators, and teachers we can help create a collaborative culture in our schools.

6. Integrate the flow of work. Teachers have a great deal on their plates and the last thing they want is “one more thing” they have to do. Make collaboration an integrated part of their curriculum and what they are already responsible for teaching. Show them that collaborating with you is not one more thing, but can help to ease their burden.

7. Create a supportive environment. Is your library a supportive environment for collaboration? Is it welcoming for teachers and are you approachable? Do you provide training for teachers to support them in their efforts with instruction? Do you provide an environment that encourages the use of new technologies for collaboration? Think about what sort of support and environment for learning that you provide as you start off this new school year.

8. Measure what matters. There are many things you can evaluate and measure about your school library program, but are you looking at what matters? Collaborative experiences and how they impact student learning is what matters  – not how many books were checked out or how many AR tests were taken. Are you measuring what matters?

9. Persistence! I tell my students that collaboration is an every day effort. It is not something that is going to come easily and does require work and building relationships with teachers. You will not experience success every time and you will not get every teacher to work with you, but you cannot be discouraged – you must be persistent and keep on reaching out to teachers.

10. Adapt and evolve. No two words are truer than these two words in describing school librarians. We have to adapt and evolve as the needs of our students change and as our profession as a whole evolves to stay current and relevant.  Also in collaborating, adapt to what works for the teachers in your schools and evolve to utilize the new collaboration tools. Stay up to date and current what is going on in the profession and the world of education – this will allow you to anticipate change and evolve too.

11. Collaboration benefits the user. In our case collaboration should benefit our students. We all have different skills and areas of expertise – when we collaborate we can give our students the best of what each person has to offer. Also we can collaborate with others outside of our buildings to bring in experts in all areas and it has become increasingly easier with technologies such as Sykpe and Google Hangout to bring experts from all over the world into our classrooms. Think bout collaborating on a larger scale – what experts can you tap to provide authentic learning experiences for your students?

12. Collaboration makes the world a better place! Collaboration is an essential element of the school librarian’s world and will most definitely make a difference in how you are able to do your job. It also makes life easier for teachers, they may not know it yet, but as soon as you show them they will see how collaborating to design instruction and co-teach required standards can make things better for them and their students. And finally it is all about the students and their success and they can only benefit from collaboration – whether it is between school librarians and teachers, school librarians and other school librarians, or even with experts from around the world.

As you forge through into this new school year think abut these 12 habits and question yourself and your own practices. Just writing this blog post made me think about my own practices and maybe how I am not doing all I can to create a highly collaborative learning environment for my own students and I have already begun brainstorming ideas on ways to work on this.


American Association of School Librarians. (2009). Empowering Learners: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago, IL: AASL.

Morgan, J. (July, 2013). 12 habits of highly collaborative organizations. Forbes. Retrieved from


International Collaboration

This summer has been all about travel and collaboration for me. A few years ago I develop an interest in school librarianship on an international basis and began to question if there were similarities and differences in the experiences and practices of school librarians in different countries. These questions have evolved into a research stream that has taken me from Europe to South America and allowed me to develop new partnerships too.

In my observations in Germany I did find that school librarians there are struggling with many of the same issues as we are here in the U.S., including some related to collaboration. The absence of collaboration practices was noted and many of the school librarians interviewed spoke of struggles with convincing teachers to collaborate and the importance of principal support for collaboration. Additionally, many of the school librarians interviewed talked about trying to institute “media literacy programs to teach their students how to be safe online,” but a lack of time was a problem because teachers would not dedicate time for this. Many commented that teachers only see the library “as a book place” and not as a “teaching place.” Also several of the school librarians interviewed commented that most people who are school librarians in Germany think this same way and do not recognize their own teaching role as a school librarian (Johnston, 2013).

I spent last week in Florianópolis, SC Brazil, attending the Brazilian Congress of Biblioteconomia (which is like the Brazilian equivalent of our ALA Annual Conference) with Dr. Lucy Santos Green from Georgia Southern University. As I listened to various presentations, I again heard many of these similar struggles with collaboration. In the days following the conference Dr. Santos Green and I visited several local schools to observe and interview the school librarians and yet again we heard the same issues related to collaboration.

Collaboration was definitely a theme that ran throughout the conference beginning with IFLA President Ingrid Parent speaking in the opening keynote address. Several of her comments resonated with me as she emphasized that collaboration must be a focus of librarianship and that by “working together at the national and international level we can be smarter, stronger, and louder.” I strongly believe that as school librarians around the world struggle with similar challenges, it is important to examine the work of school librarians on an international level and collaborate as professionals to develop strategies and a course of action for addressing our common problems.

IMG_6757Me, Carol Becker – our new Brazilian collaborator and friend, and Dr. Santos Green

Johnston, M. P. (2013). Investigating an international exchange of best practices between German and American teacher librarians. School Libraries Worldwide, 19(1).

Global Collaboration: CiSSL International Research Symposium


A few weeks ago I attended the Third International Research Symposium at Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CiSSL) in New Brunswick, NJ . The theme this year was Digital Youth, Inquiry, and the Future of the School Library … Research to Practice.

The focus question was: How can schools prepare to deliver a 21st century education for digital youth?

I always like to sit at a table with people I don’t know when I go to these types of conferences or workshops so that I meet new and exciting school librarians. I have met some of my now dearest friends and favorite co-collaborators that way. And the same was true for this event! I sat at a table with some wonderful school librarians and school library coordinators from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington. I experienced two full days of engaging and energized learning with this group. We brainstormed as a group on what we think schools should be doing to address the needs of today’s learners. Then we listened to a variety of speakers that included international guests, practitioners, and academics speak on their views, experiences, and research in this area.

Another focus of the conference was also to celebrate 10 years of CiSSL and 30 years of Dr. Carol Collier Kuhlthau’s research centering on the Information Search Process and Guided Inquiry.  Guided Inquiry serves as a framework that can give learners a foundation for developing deep knowledge and understanding. It was inspiring to hear Dr. Kuhlthau speak on how she developed the Information Search Process from observing real world students and their information needs and seeking processes. Also her daughter Leslie, who is also her co-author, spoke about bringing in the teacher’s point of view to this process and how they developed the Guided Inquiry Design book. Practitioners from across the globe including England, Sweden, and Australia shared how they were using the guided inquiry framework and new technologies to address the information needs of digital learners and learning in a variety of environments.

It was great to see the element of collaboration in each of these presentations – how school librarians and teachers were working together to create deeper learning experiences for kids. It was refreshing to see and hear about these experiences and to experience some good professional collaboration myself. I often find that I learn just as much from my colleagues through informal chatting as I do the formal presenters. It was a treat to get to talk with and share ideas with school librarians from across the globe. As we enter the summer, be sure to think about yourself and your own professional growth – what do you have planned to expand your thinking and grow your network?

School Library and Public Library Collaboration

As we were gathering articles for the 2013 March/April issue of Knowledge Quest one of the areas Ann Martin and I chose that we would like to highlight was the partnership between school and public libraries. And while I am sure there are great examples out there, I was amazed that this still seems to be an area where we as school librarians can grow.

In looking back through School Library Research there is really only one piece of research dealing with this partnership. In 2000 Fitzgibbons explored successful cooperative partnerships between school and public libraries, what these partnerships looked like and what factors have to be considered in forming these successful relationships.

This also came to mind as I reflected on the semester as it comes to a close. This semester in both of my courses, that are focused on school library topics, I had students who are not on the school library certification track enroll in each of these courses. I went from wondering why they were taking those courses to enjoying the different views and perspectives they brought to our class discussions. They in return expressed that they had learned more about what school librarians actually do and of course most of them were surprised at the many roles of the school librarian.

This experience made me wonder if we are perhaps not doing all that we could in preparing school librarians to encourage this partnership, and if maybe we are even hindering it’s development. I say this because all too often school librarians have take different classes from other MLIS students that are more specialized and needed for certification and even when they are in general MLIS classes you will often see groups for group work created by type of library focus. After this semester and seeing the great projects and ideas that came from the school library students working with the public and academic library students I will be encouraging these in the future. I think this type of learning experience can go further in promoting these relationships than hearing me say over and over again “you really should be partnering with your local public librarian.”

Fitzgibbons, S. A. (2000). School and public library relationships: Essential ingredients in implementing educational reforms and improving student learning. School Library Media Research, 3. Retrieved from

Image:”>Hands Holding Jigsaw</a> by Petr Kratochvil