One way that school librarians are responding to STEM/STEAM/STREAM is to house makerspaces in the physical space of the library. Involving students in hands-on opportunities to practice the creativity and critical thinking that can lead to innovation is a timely goal. In fact, and however, school librarians who have been effectively integrating technology tools into teaching and learning have been providing students many of these opportunities for decades.
The difference with today’s makerspace movement seems to be the emphasis on the types of tools students use in their making plus a greater emphasis on experimentation/trial and error rather than on creating final products to demonstrate learning. Some makerspaces operate in isolation from the classroom curriculum and could be described as “free play” centers that are neither constrained nor bounded by curriculum. These spaces may be facilitated by the school librarian working in isolation. Other makerspaces are integrated into the published curriculum and may be facilitated by a team of educators that includes the school librarian.
In Texas, Robin Stout, district-level Media Services and Emerging Technologies Supervisor (@BeanStout), Jody Rentfro, Emerging Technologies Specialist (@J_O_D_Y_R) and Leah Mann, Library Media Services Instructional Specialist (@LMannTxLib), are spear-heading an initiative in Lewisville Independent School District (#LISDlib). LISD school librarians are piloting a Mobile Transformation Lab that moves beyond traditional “making” to address STEM/STEAM through collaborative lessons based on content area standards and district curriculum.
The team partners with campus librarians, classroom teachers and members of the curriculum department in collaborative planning meetings. The group examines the essential questions for the curriculum topic and decides which technologies from the Mobile Transformation Lab will best support the learning. Jody and Leah bring the agreed-upon resources to campus and co-teach lessons with campus staff for an entire day. They also participate in planning extension or follow-up lessons with the campus group.
The Library Media Services and Emerging Technologies department offers an ever-growing repository of lessons from this project and tools to support librarians as they implement STEAMlabs with their students: http://hs.moodle.lisd.net/course/view.php?id=1010
This initiative has the potential to position school librarians as co-leaders in STEM/STEAM/STREAM learning. With an emphasis on collaborative classroom-library lesson plans, school librarians can achieve the hands-on creativity and critical thinking goals of makerspaces while school library programs remain at the center of their schools’ academic programs.
This is a makerspace strategy that is a win for students, classroom teachers, and school librarians, too.
Copyright-free Image by pippalou accessed from the Morguefile <http://bit.ly/1ccKDO1>.
My forty plus year career as a school librarian began at the Brookline (MA) Public Library, not by plan, but by happenstance. Call it kismet, fate, or just good luck, I stumbled upon what has become a lifelong passion for the essential role of school library programs in educational communities.
Totally green and wide-eyed, recently graduated from college, I needed a job-badly. Here I was on the front steps of the public library with no other good ideas for employment. It was a last ditch stop in a three month job search, and I was discouraged to say the least. My husband was a first year student at Boston College Law School, and I was a breadwinner without a paycheck. I remember clearly, as I looked at the imposing building, thinking to myself-maybe they need someone to shelve books.
After applying for teaching jobs in every suburb in the Boston area, and coming up empty, I had come to the conclusion that a career in education was not in my future. My freshly minted resume with an undergrad degree in American Studies and enough education courses qualified me as a certified secondary social studies or English teacher. My lack of experience or an advanced degree kept me at the bottom of the applicant pool. Not a cheerful picture-at least until that fateful day that I gathered up the courage to enter the library and ask if there were any job openings at all.
Right place, right time…
The twist of fate was amazing, and within minutes of my query, I was sent out to a local school library to interview for a position as a library assistant. At the time, the public library ran “branches” in all the local schools, something I had never imagined. They hired librarians and assistants, and provided funding and services to support collection development and instruction for community children in the schools. Books and other educational materials were ordered and processed through the central branch and delivered shelf ready. The school librarian met with classes for storytime and library skills instruction, and she needed someone to help her manage all the spinning plates. I was hired, and, as I looked around the wonderful facility, fully stocked with shelves of books, brightly decorated walls, and nooks for reading and learning, I was hooked. Somehow, I knew this opportunity would open my world beyond the confines of a classroom, and I was eager to jump in.
Break for a history lesson…
The timing of my adventures in school library land, coincided with the early years of the landmark ESEA Education Legislation (1965) that resulted from Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided funding for programs to expand and improve educational services for low income families, so that children would have increased opportunities for educational success in both urban and rural areas with concentrations of poverty. While school libraries were available in some schools across the nation, ESEA boosted the implementation of school libraries in a big way. Title II of that legislation provided funds for school library resources, textbooks, and other instructional materials, and gave impetus and funding for school libraries, especially in elementary schools. School libraries and professional librarians were needed to ensure equitable access to information and resources for literacy. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the demands for a cadre of specialized school librarians versed in library administration and pedagogy gave rise to an increase in advanced library and information science programs for that specialty. Standards for preparation for school library programs have continued to be developed and revised under The American Association of School Librarians, a division of ALA since 1951.
Riding the wave…
I will never forget the total immersion effect of those first few months in the school library-and they were paying me to be there! I felt like I had been given a special gift. There were so many books to read, skills to learn, decisions to make, and people to get to know, both students and faculty. My mentor librarian took me under her wing, and provided amazing professional development in all things “library.” By the end of the school year, I knew that I wanted to have my own library, so I began to take courses that would lead to the library media educator endorsement, a two year process. (Later, I went on to an advanced degree in cultural history and museology, and really learned to research!) In September, as I returned for my second year at the school, the administration of the school libraries was moved from the public library to the school district, and the library program was integrated into the mission of the school. For many, it may have been a minor distinction, but for me, the connection between public and school libraries will forever be strong.
And so, a few decades later…
Here I am, years later with experiences in a variety of school library situations, from preK through high school, and as a library educator at the graduate level, still excited about the best job in the whole school. In this profession, the learning never ends, and change is a constant. For those of us who relish creativity and change, and who honor the mission of equitable access for all learners, the school library will continue to be to go to place for learning in our schools. I’m so glad to have been along for the wild ride!
Image: Brookline Public Library
Spend an evening participating in #TLChat, or read the latest issue of Knowledge Quest, and it is easy to see how much has changed in our profession since many of us became school librarians. While the school library I spent time in as a K-12 student fostered my love for reading, and strengthened my research skills – goals of school library programs today – it did not have a single computer until well into the 90s. Accessing the internet did not happen for me until several years into my college studies. It would have never occurred to me to ask the school librarian to help me develop a video game for a technology competition, or help me put together my senior capstone portfolio. Now, those requests are received by school librarians on a daily basis.
I bring up this shift in the profession because it is what cemented my decision to become a school librarian. As a classroom teacher, I originally approached my school librarian to help me tackle literacy issues. I was in the habit of checking out as many, if not more, of the library books as my students, exchanging recommendations and favorites. I perceived her role as limited to helping students grow in reading for pleasure and reading for purpose.
One day, I discovered a website that I wanted to use with my students. Since the library was the only space that had a bank of computers, I approached her about bringing my students to the library. She surprised me with ideas for a creative and engaging lesson – much more than I had envisioned on my own! Over that year we worked together again and again to the benefit of my students and my own teaching. Those collaborations led to lunches and conversations on what it meant to be a school librarian. She was at the end of her career and she spoke eloquently about the need for new blood in the profession. She encouraged me to consider becoming a school librarian, citing my creativity and background as a music educator as advantages.
Upon entering the library science program, I noticed how much the profession was changing. This change was evident in the coursework, in conversations with new colleagues, and in my first time attending the state library conference. I knew that in this profession, I would never stop learning. In my first year as a school librarian, my principal asked me to take over the school yearbook and the school website. Years later, these new opportunities lead me to pursue a doctorate in Instructional Technology. Lucy from 1995 could have never imagined what a natural extension of school librarianship Instructional Technology turned out to be!
Today, I am privileged to be a school library educator, preparing future school library media specialists and instructional technologists to collaborate with classroom teachers – introducing them, as my mentor did years ago, to rich and engaging technology-enabled learning opportunities! I cannot wait to see where the profession takes me next!
Perhaps instead of a pool as the operative metaphor for jumping into blogging, the image should be a rocket launching into the blogosphere. Take your pick. Either way, joining the blog parade is an adventure, and according to our favorite love/hate resource, Wikipedia, “a new blog is being created every second of every minute of every hour of every day.” (Keen, 2008) There are many kinds of blogs populating the airwaves-or electromagnetic waves, and communication and interaction through digital writing, illustration, and reading have expanded our vision of publishing. We all have the means to be producers of information in a Web 3.0 world.
For school librarians, blogs have dual purposes in our practice, as Judi and Karla have already shown. Judi shared examples of award winning blogs created by school librarians to showcase and promote learning in their physical and virtual library spaces. The combination of creative design, vivid images, and engaging text are the hallmarks of an opportunity to deliver information to school communities and beyond, in a personal way. We all can learn from these models for effective communication that highlight evidence of an active, engaged school library program.
Karla shared how blogs, and other social media are an important contribution to her professional learning as part of her PLN. She recommended ways to get started following bloggers who are writing and sharing information about topics and issues that are critical for professional school librarianship.
School librarians depend on multiple sources of information to remain current. Along with the standard print publications, many publishers are featuring blogs on their websites to increase exposure to ideas and information in an immediate way. School Library Journal, Knowledge Quest, Booklist Reader, VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) have bloggers who are on top of current trends.
Interactivity in Web 2.0 and Web 3.0, has generated a fire hose of information, and that includes bloggers of all descriptions. When you want just a sip of the information waters, you can control your own PLN. Try setting up an RSS feed through sites like Feedly, and Feedspot, or a number of others. You can link your favorite blogs, websites, or other social media sites to the account, and you will have only one spot to visit to catch up on your reading. Most blogs allow readers to subscribe to the blog through email, so that you can get notices from the blogger when a new post has been published. That works well, unless there are multiple posts each day, then you may find your email overflowing!
For those of you who would like to venture into starting a blog for your school library, or to set up a forum to connect with other professionals to discuss contemporary issues, take some time to establish your own criteria and purpose for publishing your own work. View multiple blogs to see which ones are exemplars that you would want to emulate. Both Judi and Karla suggested a few places to begin your search. This should not be an impulse decision, but one for consideration and reflection. Commitment to ongoing and timely publishing is a key to successful blogging, along with nurturing and tending the links and topics.
Explore several blog platforms before you choose one to jump into. Blog platforms have tutorials, and templates that will help you get going, but the primary focus should be on the clarity of the purpose for your work. Why is a blog important to your school library program? Who is your audience? Why do you want to connect with other interested professionals? How will you maintain the content of the blog? How will you use the blog as a bridge to other social media sites?
Jump start to blogging: Dear Blogger-a blog about blogging…
Do you have a favorite platform to share? Talk to us….
Take the plunge!
Links to websites:
School Library Journal: http://www.slj.com/
Knowledge Quest: http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/
Dear Blogger: http://www.dearblogger.org/blogger-or-wordpress-better
Keen, Andrew (2008). The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture. New York: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. Web. 24 Jan. 2016 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog>
Judy Kaplan Collection
- 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: http://librarylearners.com/tl-blogs-by-state/
- 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.
In the late 80s, my family immigrated to the United States. It was the beginning of my 7th grade year and still stand out in my memory as a lonely and difficult time. Two spaces became havens for me: the middle school choir room and the school library. It is no wonder that I eventually became a music teacher and then a school librarian – that is how powerful of an impact a welcoming educator can make on a child. In previous blog posts, BACC bloggers focused on creating a collection that reflects cultural and global diversity. To close out this month’s topic, I’d like to focus on a group of children who are not always welcomed or reflected in our collections.
One group of teens that struggle to feel included, and a group many of us feel unprepared to serve, are LGBTQ youth: “With 82 percent of LGBTQ students reporting verbal harassment, among other forms of bullying, according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) 2011 School Climate Report, finding a space to feel safe may be particularly crucial for these students” (SLJ Post). As you develop your library programs and collections, consider ways you can be an unofficial refuge, a safe space for ALL students. Here are excellent resources to help you get started;
Happy 2016 Everyone!
In early December, Judi Moreillon introduced our focus for the month-diversity and inclusion in school library programs. She shared a number of excellent resources for building school library collections that support the cultural background and interests of students, and also represent perspectives from the broader global world through literature. Global literature provides a platform for understanding the humanity that connects all cultures.
Last week Karla Collins reminded us in her post that we have to recognize and remove barriers that inhibit equitable access to resources and school library learning spaces for a range of diverse learners. We need to look at our spaces and collections with fresh eyes as the student demographics continue to change in our schools, if indeed, we are to transform learning for all who come through our doors.
Let us reflect on the wonder and possibility of our educational system that is open to all, and to celebrate the opportunities that exist for the future. Every school is unique, and reflects the hopes and dreams of the local community, from rural areas to suburban and urban neighborhoods. “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” comes from an African proverb, meaning that a child’s upbringing, or education, is the responsibility of the community, and the message is even more relevant in contemporary times.
Continuing with the December theme, I invite you to come along with me to visit a school here in Northern Vermont to see what diversity and inclusion in a school library looks like here.
C.P. Smith School is a Grades K-5 school of approximately 260 students, located in a Burlington neighborhood that represents a cross section of learners from diverse cultural and and economic backgrounds. Burlington and the surrounding area have welcomed new immigrants and refugees for many years, and at least 40 different languages are spoken in homes throughout the city. Students and their families are welcomed in the schools, and have achieved academic success over time.
From the school website:
Since 1959, we have worked hard to build a learning community that is respectful, responsible, and safe for all who come through our doors. We believe we offer equal amounts of academic rigor and joy, as numerous activities and events occur throughout the year at the classroom and whole-school levels to celebrate learning across cultures. We serve a diverse population of students and strive to make sure each one becomes an inquisitive learner and contributing citizen. We engage parents and guardians as vital partners in the education of their children and actively seek ways to reach out to the larger community, as well.
The Ellie B. McNamara School Library reflects that mission also, and it is a hub of classroom and school wide activities. On the day I visited, Sharon Hayes, the Library Media Specialist/Tech Integrationist had helped organize a poetry residency with the poet Ted Scheu. He was leading poetry workshops in classrooms all day, and lunching with poets in the library. Parents volunteers were helping with activities.
In the meantime, the computer lab was buzzing with groups of students jazzed with the Hour of Code activities that Sharon had planned. The flexible learning space in the library accommodated varied visitors, from students looking for reading books to parents chatting at a table in a corner.
The collection has been genrefied somewhat to reflect the range of reading levels and interests of students who come from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Sharon asks for student and teacher input for building the collection. Novice readers can access nonfiction books in baskets that have visual clues for topics such as animals, weather, and so on. Signage helps students find favorite authors and series books.
A set of Chromebooks are new to the school, and Sharon is looking to expand access to technology for students who might not have access to computers at home. Some children have multiple devices, and some have few, or none. Ereaders are desirable for students who are working to improve reading skills, and they provide privacy for students. Equitable access to technology is critical for all, and schools must fill that need, so Sharon is writing grants to increase capacity for her students.
Sharon enjoys the diversity of the students, and her goal is for them to be independent and successful readers and learners. She encourages them to turn to each other for help, to be problem solvers, and to take risks and make mistakes. The library space is an integral spot for learning after school also. The after school program is welcome to use the facility and the resources, and it provides a safe and comfortable place for children who have to stay until parents are finished with the workday. It is truly a space that reflects the community values of the school.
As I left for the day, the principal came out to say farewell and to be sure to come again. I’m sure I will, too.
“C.P.Smith Elementary School.” C.P.Smith Elementary School – Index. 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2015. <http://smith.bsdvt.org/>.
Hayes, Sharon. “Welcome to Our Library.” Ellie B. McNamara Memorial Library. 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2015. <http://cpsmithschoollibrary.blogspot.com/>.
Healey, Rev. Joseph G., M.M. “African Proverb of the Month, Nov. 1998: ‘It Takes a Whole Village to Raise a Child.’ “ 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2015. <http://www.afriprov.org/african-proverb-of-the-month/23-1998proverbs/137-november-1998-proverb.html>.
Photos: Judy Kaplan Collection
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).
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.