Resource Sharing with Non-profit Agencies

icon_teamAssets-based community development is a way of thinking about how libraries can embed their work within their community rather than waiting for the community to walk through their doors. School librarians who consistently reach outside the walls of the library to integrate resources found in the community can increase the real-world relevance of their cotaught lessons. They can go the extra step to build collaborative partnerships that take the literacy learning expertise of the school librarian and resources of the school library program out into the community.

Situating their inquiry in the real world of their community can increase students’ motivation and help ensure that the questions they ask are authentic, real-world questions. This can also help learners identify a target audience that will actually care about their findings. Engaging in this level of “professional” work may be most important for high school students who are considering their workforce and educational options after graduation.

With ubiquitous Web-based information, students (most?) often search for non-print resources when conducting inquiry projects. Non-profit and governmental agencies that publish online information can be a rich source of data for students, particularly secondary students who seek to learn more about their communities as they pursue topics of personal interest. School librarians can assist students and teachers by connecting them with resources in the community with which they are unfamiliar.

For example, in a course in human geography, high school students may be asked to explore various aspects of their community. Non-profit agencies such as chapters of the United Way regularly gather data on demographics, income levels and economic opportunities, education attainment, physical and mental health, and other aspects of their immediate community. School librarians can create pathfinders to support students’ learning as they learn more about the community in which their inquiry questions are situated.

Here is a sample pathfinder I created for the Denton (Texas) Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning project: It includes links to data from the Denton Chapter of the United Way as well as “Engage Denton,” an online community forum, and nationwide resources that collect data on U.S. communities.

Depending on students’ inquiry questions, all types of community agencies may be able to provide information. A school librarian who has connections in the community may help individual or small groups of students connect to experts and data that may not otherwise be known or available to them. In the process, community agencies learn more about the learning in which students are engaged. This knowledge can lead to stronger connections, collaborative projects, and can also build school library advocates.

As David Lankes argues, “it is time for a new librarianship, one centered on learning and knowledge, not on books and materials, where the community is the collection, and we spend much more time in connection development instead of collection development” (9). Bringing the resources of the community into students’ learning and students’ learning into the community are places to begin “connection development.”

Works Cited

Denton Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning. Sept. 2012. Wikispaces. Web. 04 Dec. 2014 <>.

Lankes, R. David. The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Print.

Image Credit: Prawny. “Icons-icon-team.jpg.” Morguefile. Web 01 Dec. 2014 <>.

Resource Sharing with Non-school Libraries

public_library_sizedWhen budgets are tight and curriculum is in constant flux, school librarians can be hard-pressed to purchase and provide all of the resources students and teachers need to be successful. In most school districts, school librarians practice interlibrary loan with their colleagues. This can be problematic. For example, when districts follow a pacing calendar that requires, for example, that all fifth-grade students will be conducting U.S. state studies at the same time of the year, district resources will be in short supply. School librarians who serve with classroom teachers who engage students in student-initiated inquiry projects can also find it difficult to meet all of the information needs of individual learners.

The wise school librarian will have strong relationships with public or academic librarians in the community. Being on a first-name basis with these colleagues can increase a school librarian’s success at filling the gaps in the school library collection on an as-needed basis. For print resources, interlibrary loan with institutions outside the school district can increase students’ and teachers’ access. In addition, knowing the electronic resources available to students who hold public or academic library cards can help the school librarian and collaborating classroom teachers expand the options for learners.

Some academic, public, and special libraries have specialized resources that can support student learning. Archives, history, and genealogy collections, more and more of them digitized, can be treasure troves for student inquirers. Encouraging youth to take advantage of these resources helps build broader literacy support for their learning. Students will be familiar with the resources available from other libraries and may be more likely to use them once they no longer have access to a school library.

Non-school libraries may have unique resources that can help students explore local interest topics. For example, the Denton (Texas) Public Library produces a TV show called “Library Larry’s Big Day.” In addition to being aired on a local station, episodes are available on YouTube. School librarians and collaborating classroom teachers can guide students to access the videos which include visits to the Denton Community Market, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and other locations of local interest.

The more school librarians work with librarians who serve in other types of libraries the greater our chances of creating a lifelong literacy pathway for preK-12 students. Resource sharing can lead to collaborative activities that further strengthen literacy in our shared communities. If our mission is to serve the information needs of students, school librarians can make connections and build relationships with other library institutions to support learning today and pave the way for future learning for children and youth.

Works Cited

Denton Public Library. Library Larry’s Big Day. Web. 01 Dec. 2014. <>.

Image Credit: Emily Fowler Branch, Denton (Texas) Public Library, by Judi Moreillon

Beyond the Choir


Are we just preaching to the choir?  Collaboration, co-teaching, information and digital literacy, technology integration, deep Web… ideas we have explored from month to month here in the BaCC Blog. Social media provides an opportunity to reach audiences who have similar interests, but it also opens opportunities to connect with folks who may not know what they don’t know.  For those of us who have been immersed in the education world, specifically from a library POV, we tend to communicate in terms and concepts that make sense to us, but maybe not to others.   Dare I say that we are a bit insular…  and maybe we need to rethink how we can frame our conversations in real world vocabulary that demystifies the work we do.

This epiphany moment occurred to me as I was collaborating with a group of school, public, and academic librarians who were grappling with the wording of a proclamation to send to the governor of Vermont to sign about Information Literacy Awareness Month in October. The NFIL (National Forum on Information Literacy) is organizing and encouraging all states to join the parade and focus on information literacy as a critical component for lifelong learning and digital citizenship.  We know that this is true, but in the general public, who has information literacy on the radar?  And what the heck is digital citizenship?

As we struggled with the wordsmithing, we realized that we could not assume that our target audience (everyone in the state) had any idea what we were talking about.  So we went back to square one-a definition of information literacy, and we articulated it in commonsense language-what it is and what allows learners to do.  Of course, we added how libraries were  involved as physical and virtual spaces for promoting information literacy, too. Speak plainly-this is how we can move the needle on a common understanding of the big ideas that all citizens can embrace and support.

Not only do we have to define our terms and concepts, but we have to show and model what we mean.  That’s another strong suit for social media platforms such as flickr, googlesites, Pinterest, Scoopit!, Twitter, YouTube, and so many others. In Vermont, we want to show examples of information and digital literacy in action, so the Vermont Department of Libraries is curating a site that will showcase what is happening in schools and libraries throughout the state as a public awareness campaign. Instagram @your library! What is happening in your state?

October is also Connected Educator Month-for several years running. “Helping Educators Survive in a Connected World,” is the tag line.  Here is another opportunity to connect with an expanded choir, if you have not discovered this valuable resource already.  What is a connected educator, you might ask? How can you be a connected educator, if you are not already? Are you talking the connected educator talk and walking the connected educator walk? Check out the website to learn more.  Organizations that support the ideas and goals of the Connected Educator crowd source professional development  ideas and best practices for connected learning across all content areas and the world. There’s an impressive list of contributors and supporters from a range of organizations-both business and professional. (I was surprised to note the absence of AASL, though.)  Each day during the month of October there are opportunities to network and participate with others who are finding new ways to embrace the potential for technology innovations to impact personal learning and teaching.  Spend some time exploring the website and especially the Connected Educator Starter Kit (free pdf download).   Here is a forum to find people and experiences that will expand your own toolbox of ideas, and opportunities to lend your voice from the library media world.

October is a time for choir practice in a connected world. What shall we sing about today? Loud and strong!


Connected Educators. Website.

National Forum on Information Literacy. Website.

Image: Microsoft ClipArt




Happy New Year!



Here we are already to embark on the 15th year of the 21st Century-hard to believe as it is.  Here are some random thoughts:



  • Children born in 2000 will be entering high school this year.  Are we preparing them to be innovators and explorers of the future, or are we preparing them to take tests?
  • Wikipedia is 13 years old on January 15, 2014.
  • Facebook and Twitter have been around since 2004 and 2006, respectively.
  • NCLB had a target of 2014 for all students to be reading on level by third grade. What happened with that?
  • When do we stop talking about 21st Century skills?
  • Is collaboration a worn out word or just getting started?

Traditionally, the beginning of a new year gives us an opportunity to take stock and aspire to new goals, but with all these random thoughts bouncing around inside my head, I have found it a bit challenging to get a grip on goals for a profession (education/librarianship) that is undergoing a paradigm shift.  As a result, I choose to look at small steps we have to take to accommodate and embrace change. If we do not, we will be left in the proverbial dust.  School librarianship is poised to take off or crash and burn depending on our own leadership at the local, state, and national levels.  We all have to step up and lead by example, not just wait for the “RIGHT TIME.” The time is now.  Here are some baby steps we can all take:

  • Collaboration is multifaceted and layered, and not dead!  Find your level of comfort and make connections in your school or community-physically and virtually. Collaboration is a hot educational buzz word, and teacher librarians are resident experts in schools.  Just do it!
  • Show and tell about what you do.  Most people don’t understand all the hats you wear in your job.  Social media is a key to getting the word out.  Find a new audience. Don’t just preach to the choir. Create a brand for yourself and your school library.
  • Rewrite your job description based on AASL recommendations, and share it with your administrators.  Make sure that your evaluation system matches your job, too.
  • Believe in the collective capacity of groups of like-minded individuals.  Together we can.  Engage your colleagues, your students, your parents in projects that create change.  Build that culture of collaboration that supports an exchange of ideas and learning.
  • Continuously reflect on what’s working and what’s not. Find the “pockets of excellence.”  Be flexible and nimble, and ready to change course if need be. Remember, it’s about kids and learning.

In 2014, I challenge you to take just one of these small steps to guide your year as a teacher librarian.  I will be working on many of them, too, as I support pre-service teacher librarians and librarians in practice in my role as a library educator.  I’m excited about all the possibilities and the enthusiasm that I see every day in the field.  Together we can!  Have a great year!




Are Teacher Librarians Foodies?

As I was reading Sue Kimmel’s latest article in the September/October Knowledge Quest (2013), it occurred to me that food, or imagery about food and food preparation epitomize the work that we do as teacher librarians.  No kidding, think about it. We relate to the underlying axiom that plentiful, tasty food is a pleasurable experience for all humans.  Food, especially chocolate, can break down barriers and open up social interactions that lead to meaningful understandings and relationships.    What we offer in the school library program is access to food for the brain, and a place to partake of those yummy morsels in a social setting.  Am I being too corny???

Joking aside, Sue’s message from “Pass the Chocolate-Planning with Teachers,” paints a picture of a successful sustained plan for collaboration with colleagues in the elementary school where she was a school librarian.  In regularly scheduled planning meetings in the school library, the team of teachers and librarian came together to talk and plan instructional opportunities for their students.  She explains the year long experience, and the various processes that can serve as a model for other school librarians who are looking for fresh ideas for expanding collaboration in their schools.

Central to the planning process, which produced patterns of activity which she labels-orienting, coordinating, making connections, and making sense-was an observed activity that she calls “drifting.”  “Drifting might be considered off task, but it represents one of the ways that team members get to know each other when personal or family information is shared.”(49)    That happened when someone would say, “pass the chocolate.”  Social bonds and commitment to the group are important keys to moving the planning forward. Food and humor provide a respite from the mental hard work of planning, and a time to drift off topic before refocusing on the task at hand.

In this hectic, data driven world of education, it is refreshing to remember that we have to take time to drift.  Our students need this time, too.  Deep, real learning is hard work. When I see teachers and students who are scheduled by the minute, I wonder if we are not taking enough time to reflect on learning for either group.  Social interaction, with or without food builds community and leads to shared experience for learning.

I used to tell students in my school library, “Look around you. Think about this place as a candy store for your brain.  Sample all the different flavors and have a feast.”  As most school librarians, I always had M & M’s or something to share in my office, too.  Monthly faculty pot luck breakfasts or lunches happened in the library media center, and opportunities to build community and collaboration often resulted from them.  I have to admit, I have always been a foodie.

And remember what Joyce Valenza has been saying for years, “Think of the library as more of a kitchen than a grocery store…”  See what I mean, fellow foodies!


Kimmel, Sue. 2013. “”Pass the Chocolate: Planning with Teachers.” Knowledge Quest.  42 (1) : 48-51. (accessed Oct. 27, 2013)

Microsoft Clipart

Building a Culture of Caring

ReadyAndWaitingForYou_Cover_Web_sizedI am reading 2013 AASA National Superintendent of the Year Mark A. Edwards’ book Every Child, Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement (2014) which I received courtesy of the publisher at last week’s ALA Conference in Chicago. With Dr. Edwards’ leadership, Mooresville (NC) Graded School District educators and staff have embraced a “culture of caring” to guarantee that all members of the district, young people and adults alike, experience a loving community that works hard to ensure their success.

In his book, Dr. Edwards lists several factors that contribute to the cultural conditions for caring:

  • A commitment to every individual;
  • Committed leadership at all levels;
  • Communication of caring expectations in meetings and professional goals;
  • Ongoing appreciation of individuals and teams;
  • Involvement of every employee in the mission of learning;
  • Management of negative elements;
  • Participatory decision making at all levels to ensure buy-in;
  • And laughter and fun as cultural norms (29-30).

One aspect of this culture is honoring teachers. In a day and age when educators are frequently identified as “the problem” in education and blamed for the low achievement that can result from poverty and other factors, it is encouraging to know there are enlightened administrators who are honoring teachers’ work daily and show care and concern for their well-being as well as expecting positive results in terms of student learning.

While reading this section of Dr. Edwards’ book, I cannot help but make the connection to our soon-to-be released children’s picture book Ready and Waiting for You (Moreillon/Stock, Eerdmans, 2013). I dedicated this book to the “caring educators around the world who joyfully open the doors to learning” for children. Just as every individual in the Mooresville Graded School District experiences the socio-emotional and cognitive conditions for success, illustrator Catherine Stock and I hope that every child entering kindergarten or every young child moving to a new school will be welcomed into the world of schooling by caring educators. Our book will be available in August.

You can view Eerdmans’ book trailer for Ready and Waiting for You at:


Edwards, Mark A. 2014. Every Child, Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement. Boston: Pearson.

Moreillon, Judi. 2013. Ready and Waiting for You. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

A Village for Summer Reading

DSCN0324Dreaming of summer vacation?  We all do, but summer break for some students may mean they will come back in the fall at a disadvantage.  When the final bell signals the end of the school year, teachers, school and public librarians, parents, community members, and administrators should have a plan in place to support readers during the two month hiatus.  Remember the adage, “it takes a village…” Collaboration between all these groups should promote access to reading materials even while school is not is session, and research shows that children benefit from having books in the home.  Richard Allington, reading researcher and consultant, is the co-author of a new book, Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Achievement Reading Gap (Teachers College and International Reading Association, 2013).  In a recent SLJ blog, Curriculum Connections, (Eames, June 4, 2013) Allington answers questions and offers ideas for making a difference, and shows how all the stakeholders can collaborate for student success.  Be sure to put this book on your summer reading list!

In order to ensure that all children have opportunities to maintain literacy skills and fluency, we may need to change our school policies about materials that are usually locked away during the summer, and to find other creative ways to make sure books get into the hands of those kids who need them most, even if we risk losing some resources.

This is a topic of conversation that surfaces in school library circles in late spring-early summer.  Here are some ideas that have appeared recently within a variety listservs, blogs, and twitter.

  • Students are allowed to check out a certain number of books for the summer, returning them in the fall.
  • Genres of books are loaned to the public library for summer circulation.
  • Promotion of public library spaces, programs, and collections. Students get public library cards before they leave for the summer.  Some classes visit local public library, are introduced to librarians and programs for youth.
  • Some school libraries are open to students, parents, teachers for self selection and self checkout when the building is open, even if the teacher librarian is not there.
  • Summer reading blogs/social media sites for students offer a virtual space for sharing ideas and thoughts about books and other materials.
  • Newsletters and suggested reading lists (print and electronic) inform students, teachers, parents, administrators, and community members about summer reading.
  • Joint programs between school and public librarians are funded by grants.
  • Joint programs with local social support networks for children, such as Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, YM/YWCAs, etc.
  • Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods, grocery stores, malls, etc.

And just for fun, here a couple of examples of what’s happening here in Vermont:

Beth Redford, school librarian at the Richmond (VT) Elementary School has a book bag program for all her students, K-4.  They are allowed to select ten books to take home for the summer.  Kids are really excited to participate.

Steve Madden, school librarian at the Camel’s Hump Middle School in Richmond, VT, has collaborated with the Vermont Department of Libraries and the Children’s Literacy Foundation, to write grants to construct and supply book collections for the Bolton Little Free Libraries.  Based on the Little Free Libraries in Wisconsin and elsewhere, book collections are set up in small enclosed bookcases in areas of Bolton, a town with no public library. Steve continues to refresh the collections that operate on the trust system.  His bike is set up for summer deliveries, too.  Little Free Libraries have sprouted up in lots of places in Vermont.  Is there one in your neighborhood? Would you like to start one?

What’s on your summer reading list?           


Allington, R. and McGill-Franzen, A. (2013) Summer reading: Closing the rich/poor achievement gap. New York: Teachers College Press.

CLiF stocks little free libraries in Bolton, VT. (2012, July 3). Inspire kids! Children’s Literacy Foundation blog.  (Blog). Retrieved from

Eames, A. (2013, June 4)  Summer reading: closing the rich/poor achievement gap/ An educator responds to questions. Curriculum Connections  SLJ blog.  (Blog). Retrieved from

Kelley, Kevin. (2013, June 12). At Vermont’s little free libraries, books aren’t going away. Seven Days online. (Blog).  Retrieved from

Little Free Library website. (2013, June 24)  Retrieved from

Redford, Beth. (2013, June 10) RES newsletter.  (Blog)  Retrieved from: