Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Making the NATIONAL Connection

Note to self….Be SURE to attend the 2009 AASL Charlotte, NC. It’s hard to measure the growth professionally, but there has to be a Dewey number for the experience of being a part of a national conference. Perhaps a 001.94 for “Mysteries”…..or, 978 for “Westward Expansion”…..or even 370.1 for “Education”, par excellence. Without a doubt, attending a national conference is in a class all by itself.

We ate well, but we connected even better. For instance, I attended a breakfast to honor the new AASL president, Sara Kelly Johns. At my table were school librarians from Connecticut and Hawaii. Another morning at the H.W. Wilson breakfast, I had chatted with library teachers from Illinois, California and Nevada. At receptions at the Nevada Art Museum and the Automobile Museum, I enjoyed my discussions with librarians from Vermont, New Jersey, and California. In so many ways, we are so much alike, but we also have so much to share and compare.

Connecting with vendors and viewing new products makes national conferences exciting and profitable. In an earlier post, I mentioned that I learned of the “core collection” for graphic novels from H.W. Wilson. Or, how about the development that Gale is going Google. Yes, they are now putting some of their database content out for the web crawlers. The whole idea is that they want to compete with the Wikipedia phenomenon and go to where the researchers are – on Google. The “catch” is that in order to read more of the Gale content, researchers will need to login to their database account. I guess that I will need to re-think my teaching that databases are part of the “Invisible Web”. Being on the cutting edge of our profession is both exciting and important for a quickly-evolving field.

Vendors are anxious to connect with us, too. The national conference is a chance to try ideas out on us and get our opinions. For filling out a survey on proposed publications for ABC-CLIO, they gave me a terrific reference book. One of the sponsors of the special vendor hall activity, NetTrekker, sent me a trial subscription. I had never used the product, but I tried it this week for a World War I project. The teacher and students were "wowed". For attending a focus group for the Gale/Cengage company, they treated me to a “working lunch” and then dinner at a restaurant.

I was quite surprised when the organizer for the Gale focus group explained that she was excited that I accepted the invitation to attend the session. It turns out that my school is among the “biggest users” of the Gale databases in the country. Who knew? The Gale project managers were listening and taking notes when I explained how I get my students to use the databases for their projects. I was impressed at how much vendors value the comments of all school librarians and how important our feedback is for their product development.

It goes without saying that MSLA has benefited from its connections to the national level. Our state conference has incorporated many ideas from the national conferences. Also, the speakers we have brought to Massachusetts are often "great finds" from the AASL and ALA conferences.

At a national conference, we’re one of many instead of being the only one in our building. There is comfort in numbers and strength in joining forces. Circle November 4-8, 2009 on your calendar and chart your path to Charlotte North Carolina!

Monday, November 05, 2007

New AASL Standards Unveiled in Reno

The new AASL Standards were unveiled at Reno, and each conference attendee received a copy. Initially, there is a section of common beliefs that include:
  • "Reading is a window to the world.
  • Inquiry provides a framework for learning.
  • Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught.
  • Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs.
  • Equitable access is a key component for education.
  • The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed.
  • The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
  • Learning has a social context.
  • School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills."

The standards are then outlined, along with the necessary skills, actions, responsibilities, self-assessment strategies, and key questions. The four standards require learners to use skills, resources, and tools to:

  • "Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.
  • Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.
  • Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.
  • Pursue personal and aesthetic growth."

The standards can be downloaded at http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards

For more information about this new document and how it meshes with our new MSLA standards, attend our MSLA Conference at Sturbridge. There, Sara Kelly Johns, President of AASL, and Valerie Diggs, chairman of MSLA's standards committee, will be conducting a concurrent session from 3:10 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. to discuss the issue. Don't miss this important opportunity for sharing and discussion. It would be helpful to download a copy and read it before coming to Sturbridge.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Getting Graphic: A Hero's Welcome

"So, whadja get?" Students at my school love graphic novels...and were anxiously awaiting my return to see the new books I brought back from the AASL Reno conference. They were not disappointed to hear that I had a "good haul".

Of course, I also learned that we need to re-think our cataloging of graphic novels, and that there are many new types of graphic novels, and that the ratings are somewhat new and that......so, just get the books on the shelves!!!

Seriously, I feel like the hero arriving home, laden with booty. Yes, I did purchase a number of hot-off-the-press reference books and managed to get galley copies of novels, but it's the graphic novels that generate the excitement.

When I attended the H.W.Wilson breakfast, I learned that there is now a "core collection" of graphic novels. What that signals to me, loud and clear, is that graphic novels are not a passing phenomenon and that we need to go about our collection development purposefully rather than by chance.

Knowing that my personal experience in graphic novels is lacking, I sought out help in the vendor hall. I was able to make an excellent connection with John Shableski of Diamond Comics http://bookshelf.diamondcomics.com Their "magalog" is a combination magazine and catalog that is an excellent resource. Besides articles and testimonials, the magalog offers lists of recommended titles. (The website offers detailed descriptions, cover pics and groupings by genre and age groups.) I will be signing up for their e-newsletter on their website.

Graphic novels are here to stay, and the phenomenon is far more than the "manga" books. At the Diamond Comics booth, I was able to flip through the new Stephen King graphic novel -- full color and beautifully laid out. Many of the "classics" are available in graphic format and the appeal to the reluctant reader is unmistakable. At another graphic novel vendor's booth, I made what I considered to be an amazing discovery: a book with words, paragraph form. The vendor explained that some of the manga books have been published in prose format and have the same characters and series themes. Who knew?

At the AASL Reno conference, I know that I went to the frontier of graphic novels and have glimpsed the future. Now, to get my knowledge, cataloging practices and collection development up to speed.....and, get those books on the shelf, NOW!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Making an Impact @ Your School Board Meeting

School librarians Rose Luna and Margaux DelGuidice made not only an impact on their school board, but a big hit at AASL in Reno! Their presentation was informative, well-organized, and just delightful. Both Rose and Margaux exemplify hard work, perseverance, and an upbeat attitude. Rather than complain and whine about the difficult and bleak state of the school libraries in Freeport, New York. They are high school librarians who led the charge for their district in making their voices heard through a reasonable and well-documented presentation to the Freeport School Board. The goals of the library media program in which they work are as follows:

  • Cultivating Information Literacy Skills in students and staff
  • Attaining higher levels of student achievement
These goals where highlighted in their presentation to the school board, as well as the four roles of the Library Media Specialist as stated in Information Power: Teachers, Instructional Partners, Information Specialists, and program Managers. During the presentation, Rose and Margaux highlighted the collaborative measures in place, both when working with staff as well as the staff at the public library. They also sighted two of the Lance studies showing that student achievement increases with the presence of a strong library program, fully staffed and funded.

Their presentation, conducted near the end of 2005 was a hit in Freeport. Rose and Margaux garnered the attention of the school board, making not only the physical facilities better, but also improving the book-buying budget and the library program as a whole.

These two creative and energetic librarians used their leadership and presentation skills to create a wonderful and informative presentation for their school board. It has paid of in numerous ways, the message being: exhaust all avenues before becoming discouraged about the district you work in - and try hard to improve your own situations.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Project-based Learning Is for Everyone

On Friday, I attended a session entitled "Project-based Learning: How High School Librarians Impact School Reform," offered by the "cybrarians" from Kapolei High School on Oahu, Hawaii. It provided an overview of the planning process that is necessary before project-based learning (PBL) assignments can be undertaken by students. Without thorough and careful collaborative planning by the librarian and content area teacher, the PBL assignment will not provide the students with the learning opportunities and support that will lead to successful learning and achievement. Identification of student outcomes, benchmarks, and timelines, and appropriate development of the research process, essential questions, and meaningful assessment are all integral parts of the collaborative planning process that will encourage and nurture student ownership in his or her learning. Hopefully, the experience will result in students who will become lifelong learners who will attain their personal learning goals.

Yes, collaboration is the name of the game for library media specialists. Without it, students will not become information literate, and the library media program will fail to become an integral part of the students' learning experiences. "Grunt work" is what I call the collaborative planning and preparation that must be done before the students even enter the media center to begin work on their projects. That planning process can be difficult, complex, and time-consuming, but is absolutely necessary for students to have successful learning opportunities that will lead to academic achievement. The students at Kapolei High School are now reaping the rewards of that investment.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Public Park for Your Brain

The closing session of the conference featured the founder of Blackplanet.com, Omar Wasow.

Before Wasow spoke, Julie Walker, the Executive Director of AASL and Ann Martin, AASL President-Elect, gave an overview of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which is the subject of speaker Charles Fadel's presentation at the MSLA conference on November 11th.

The realities of the new global economy require that students be critical thinkers and problem solvers, globally aware, self-directed, good collaborators, and effective communicators. P21's Skills Framework includes themes that must be infused throughout all the core subjects:

  • Global awareness
  • Financial/economic literacy
  • Civic literacy
  • Health literacy
  • Learning and innovation skills, which include Information and Media Literacy
On November 7th, the Partnership will unveil Route21, an online one-stop-shop for 21st century skills-related information and resources. The site will answer the question "What are 21st Century Skills?" and showcase standards, assessments, professional development, and teaching and learning resources. It will provide examples, models, best practices, and a user-generated database of resources for teaching 21st century skills. School librarians are invited to add content and tags on the Route21 site.

Next, Carl Harvey, conference co-chair, introduced Omar Wasow, who spoke about How Libraries Can Thrive in the Age of Google. He argued that school libraries must inform as well as transform.

  • Libraries can continue to be successful by focusing on their unique strengths and core values
  • Libraries must emphasize their distinct qualities as places to learn critical thinking and research skills and for individuals and groups to work and reflect amid fewer distractions

Wasow counseled that libraries must evolve from Service to Transformation. Being in a library can be as important to students as the information available in it. Two key steps to transformation:

  • The physical experience must get better for individuals and groups who want to study together
  • School libraries need to shift from primarily offering a service to helping others self-serve so that everyone can acquire the skills of a librarian

How does a library transform? The desired product is a changed person who:

  • can better navigate oceans of information as a result of assistance and training
  • has made progress on a vital task by finding peace from the hubbub outside
  • has been energized about exciting ideas

Wasow challenged school librarians to envision what an MLIS-style curriculum would look like for grades K-12. How can school library programs become more tightly integrated into what kids learn? He contended that to succeed, school libraries must embrace the idea that they are Temples of Thought, containing not just published ideas, but living thoughts - a public park for your brain. They should be both sacred and worldly, fighting to democratize access to information.

The Action is Non Stop!!!

Reno is an amazing city seemingly dropped into a bowl of desert sand with mountain edges. Known as the "Biggest Little City in the World" it is a combination of awesome natural beauty, Times Square neon lights and friendly people.

I am amazed at the overwhelming number of attendees here from Massachusetts and the east. It was a long trip but well worth the time and effort to get here. The conference has been excellent, well planned and organized, much variety and offering fabulous opportunities for networking with the top practitioners and resource providers in the U.S.

The theme that has stayed with me throughout this week has been from Dan Pink's speech at the Opening Session. We all need to remember we are educating our students for "their futures NOT our past." Knowing that in 2 weeks our own conference theme is School Libraries in a 2.0 World, I am looking for the ways I can do just that, educate my students for their future knowing my own education is from a different time! I know that my colleagues are of a similar background while the children we teach are digital natives and thinkers who's brains function in different and interesting ways and who need to be creative thinkers and innovators to be successful in their future...That is a TALL order!!

The best way, maybe the only way we can succeed at our mission is to stay informed and be the cutting edge resource for our schools. If you are "on the fence" about attending our annual conference just remember, YOU are the only true advocate for your own job in your school. Your professional organization is your best source of professional development to stay on top of latest initiatives and cutting edge resources. Your membership provides you advocacy and representation in times of need. I am very excited to be bringing back to you our new national information literacy standards, hot off the press and released here in Reno for the first time. Join me with AASL President Sarah Kelly Johns, Chris Harris, Allison Zmuda, Meredith Farkas and other 2.0 innovators at our conference....
Get your hands on the new standards, Scholastic's third and latest release of School Libraries Work AND....the hottest release for Massachusetts' school library teachers and technology professionals....the first ever joint statement of the Massachusetts School Library Association and MassCUE!!! Make an investment in your future, I promise you will not regret the decision. Sandy :-)