An Advocacy Tool

I really want principals and administrators to see this. Some teachers and even librarians need it too–as a reminder or as inspiration. It would be awesome if SCASL could make one of these too.

Could you switch from public to school librarian?

I received this request today–contact from my blog. I probably should have titled it something else, like:

  • Shhh, I’m a Quiet Librarian
  • Quiet Jobs for Quiet Librarians
  • Unquiet vs Quiet Library Jobs

By martins.nunomiguel

Please read the request:

Hello, I have a MLS and my background is in public libraries. However I am considering changing to school libraries. I don’t feel like I’ve really found the best library fit for me-has not been easy. What are the things you enjoy about being a school librarian? What are the things that you don’t like as well? I was especially thinking of private schools since I believe the people would be more respectful. My personality-I’m very much an introvert and looking for someplace quiet/peaceful. I’ve considered getting into cataloging or acquisitions. This might be better for me. I found working with the public can sometimes be difficult. I’ve had experience as a children’s librarian and also reference. If you don’t mind my asking do you have suggestions on things I can do to help me to understand where would be a better fit for me?

By Kamil Porembiński

Now the request kind of took me off guard, and I was processing during a busy lunch!  After reflecting I’m not sure I answered all the questions asked, but did try to paint a picture of what it’s like working in my job as a high school librarian. Hee’s what I said.

In a school library,  you have to be willing to set perimeters (rules, expectations, etc.) and then consistently use them. You have to do this with students and teachers too. Otherwise they will walk all over you.

You have to promote your program, and come up with innovative and interesting ways to get students and teachers using the library. The library is a learning hub as well as a place to explore interests through a variety of mediums (books, papers, magazines, and yes, even computers and Internet )  Meanwhile you’re also teaching with and for classes. You teach a wide variety of topics, but work to include information literacy ( location and access of information, utilization of information, plagiarism, web evaluation, and much more.) You do a lot of curriculum related tasks, lesson planning, and even project design, helping teachers breath life into projects, increase rigor, and make the learning more authentic for students. There is quite a bit of project based learning going on in the school library realm. You need to teach them things their classrooms won’t teach, such as how to write the perfect essay. You must be patient with them as not everyone learns at the same speed and the same manner. You need to expose students to sites like Aim High Writing, which can be quite useful to them in the coming years and show them, how they can not only use this to get their work corrected, but how using such tools can also help improve the vocabulary.
You also have to push yourself to know about the new technologies, and try to find a way to implement them in a school setting, harnessing them for learning, which where today’s students are at. It’s about staying relevant to the students of today.  So you not only have to be up to sped on current and evolving technologies, but also the pedagogical  practice of teaching.
Another part of the job is promoting reading advocacy, and that is what most laypeople think–all we do is get kids reading. It’s an important part of our job, but most definitely not all there is to do. Along with reading advocacy comes the task of creating, managing, and maintaining an up to date, relevant collection. This is probably the hardest and most guilt ridden part of the job, as many schools have severely reduced or in many cases eliminated funding for library collections. Often this is a direct result of those decision makers seeing the Internet as an adequate replacement, when in fact this is far from the truth.  You must continuously provide newer resources, and evaluate those offered, ensuring they are still current, meet the needs of the curriculum, and are diverse in content. There is a very big difference in quantity vs quality in a collection.
There are also basic expectations that vary from school to school that most faculty and staff must take on. Consider morning duty, afternoon, duty, and yes even lunch duty. I have a “”homeroom” of students I am responsible for as well, though at my school we only meet every six weeks or so. All are asked to take leadership of or assist with the sponsorship of clubs and organizations (and this is in addition to the library responsibilities and does not include additional pay.)
In my teaching context, and yes the school library position is in the teaching context, I eat right here in the library daily, as I cannot close the library during lunch. We manage with the help of an assistant, but often our lunch is interrupted for service to patrons (students or teachers.) I could close the door and go to a lounge to eat, but I choose to offer uninterrupted service, which is why my lunches are often discarded half eaten, or ignored until very late in the afternoon. I just value the offered service of my program more than my need for a lunch break.
I love what I do and enjoy all of the challenges a school library position brings. The good I can say is that no two days are alike.  But that can sometimes be a bad thing. As far as whether a school position is a good fit for you, I dare not say. I’m skeptical that an introvert can do it well, but it’s hard to judge. You have to be strong for your program and market your skills. You have to let the decision makers know what your strong points are and really bring them to the table for the sake of learning, not only in the library but also for the school as a whole.
Sorry if I could not be of more help. I hope I’ve shed some practical light on this role as you contemplate a position. I am going to post this on my blog anonymously, and see if any of my readers can offer insights.
After rereading this, I realize I have only scratched the surface of what I do. I failed to include any reference to staff development and teaching/leading teachers as well as students. Nor did I include that working at other levels is vastly different. I left out the importance of connections and PLNs. I failed to mention personalized learning through these avenues as well. Quiet? I have yet to see it be quiet in the library—unless we are closed for testing, which I might add has also become an inherited responsibility as a direct result of working in a school setting.
So I now ask my readers to respond to some of the other questions I failed to answer. Thoughts??

Picture Attributions:


Weekly Photo Challenge #18 – Sexism.

Is E for Easy?

Today many of my SC library friends engaged in a healthy discussion about the books that have mostly pictures, are roughly 32 pages (give or take), and have been maligned by teachers as “easy.”

The conversation began with an innocent question:

If you are in an Intermediate school, 4th and 5th grade, do you have an Easy Book section with E on the spine?

Here are the takeaways from this crowd sourced “wonder.”

  • I had an E section but it was called Everybody Books.
  • We have a E “Everybody” section.  Many of these books are good read-alouds that support standards, especially science and social studies.
  • We call them “Everybody” books because they aren’t all that easy to read.  There are several picture books in our “E” section that have lexiles in the upper hundreds. I hate to call them “Easy” because they aren’t all that easy to read.  We call them “Everybody” because if you can’t read the words, you can enjoy the pictures.  Therefore “Everybody” can enjoy those books.
  • I use E for Everybody books  – if I were starting new, I would use P for picture. Picture books are NOT easy books – some of them are on 4th, 5th, 6th grade levels!
  • Very well stated! I totally agree with what you’ve said and that is how I promote my “E” section – easy is not part of the vocab here. And for what it’s worth, I despise the term “Chapter books”.  Makes me want to scream.  Why teachers use this when sending the kids to the Learning Commons is beyond my imagination.

Found on

All of these are fantastic support from some great SC voices. As a high school librarian, I want to add my support for these books as well. These books are a GREAT way to introduce a topic in any classroom or content area. They can be the perfect segue from topic to topic or activity to activity in any classroom. These books also tap into the inner creative side for some, and we all know there are plenty of students who do not respond to dry text, but will respond to stories or pictures that make connections, evoke feelings, and allow for the appreciation of literature, dramatic readings, and in its purest form, the appreciation of art. Just think of the possibilities too, as you prepare for Common Core, and providing varied texts and formats of information.

Levels can be misleading
It’s funny that this came up. Years ago when Lexile became all the rage, I had a teacher friend in my school ask if I would pull some 1100 level books for her. Her daughter had to have one the next day for her English class (at a neighboring elementary school) and hadn’t had the chance to get one. So I said I’d pull some together and they could come right after school together to browse through the books pulled. Imagine her shock and indignation when in the pile of books  there were a couple of picture books. She immediately tossed them aside, saying I needed to put them back, as her daughter would be in trouble if she brought such a book in. While the fifth grade daughter selected something more appropriate to what her teacher wanted, the mother, my colleague, was amazed at the variety of books that seemed to be from a wide range–> small books to thick books, easy books to longer works and even classics. But each book met her criteria of being in the lexile range requested. I demonstrated how to use our Destiny catalog to search Lexiles, and told her she could use the catalog to narrow down choices once in the Lexile range. I wanted the Mom/Teacher to take the book and teach the teacher a thing or two about Lexiles and vague assignments. Alas, she wouldn’t do it. But you rest assured she told everybody in our middle school about her experience with Lexiles.
A favorite
There are many I find favor in.  Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, Mo Willems, John Scieszka, and many more…these authors are found in my high school collection. And yes, many classified as Easy.
So without further adieu, here is one of my  favorites!! Actually, ANYTHING by Mark Teague.  I could list many, but I think I’ll just feature one that I have used before.

What can you address in a classroom with this book appropriate for high schoolers?
  • Different Points of View (reality vs. what we manifest in our minds)
  • Differing views through colors (Visual literacy/Art appreciation)
  • Imagination and perception
  • Letter writing  and audience
  • Newspaper article writing and audience

I’ll close with this reflection.  Just as we cannot judge books by their covers, this is a reality for levels too.  No matter the intended audience, the level may vary greatly. A book, despite a low level or lexile, might be the prefect choice for adding variety, providing choice, creating a mood, or modeling/demonstrating a concept. So don’t be dismissive of these well loved books just because they are labeled Easy..

Picture Attribution:
Morgan, John.  ”Caught Reading.”
14 November 2011.

A Red Box “Read Box” in the library!

Sometimes great ideas are of the simplest concepts.  This was shared with me recently, and so I asked permission to share it here on my blog.  I am so hoping to do this in my own high school library.  It was created by Jenny Cox, school librarian in the coastal area of our state,  Kensington Elementary School in Georgetown School District.


After bombarding her with questions about it, I decided to with permission use her response directly in my post. Here is the inspiration and “how to” straight from the source:


It is not my idea originally. I saw something similar on Pinterest and tweaked it to look more like a Red Box. The Pinterest post used a rolling cart.  I wasn’t crazy about how it looked so I used a bookshelf.   I had a small shelf in the media center set up with paperback chapter books that 3rd – 5th graders use to swap paperbacks that they personally own, one for one.  I keep what they bring, they keep what they take until they are ready to swap it again.  The old “swap shelf” didn’t really stand out and was used by a handful of students. So when I saw this idea on Pinterest, I thought I would try it. More students are swapping books now because the Read Box is more eye catching and placed right near the circulation desk.  I do require students to show me the paperback they bring in before switching so that I can make sure it is appropriate and not damaged, slightly worn is okay.  Sometimes, I let kids just take a book from the shelf if they don’t have any at home–that gets them started. Then they have one they can bring back for a swap. Once I had a student bring me his Bible and asked to swap it for a book because he didn’t have any paperback at home.  Of course, I gave him a book and gave him his Bible back too!

I used Scholastic dollars to purchase the initial set up “swap books.” I only use paperback chapter books for this.   I even have a few parents who come and swap for their children.  Teachers love it too!  My principal was super excited about it.

I just decorated a three shelf standard book shelf to look like a Red Box with red butcher paper.  I printed some book covers from Google Images, cut them out and taped them to the bottom to resemble Red Box movies.  Then added the caption “Save a dollar, read a book.”

I have had a ton of comments on my Read Box from anyone who comes through the media center! I also post on FB to request paperback books that any of my FB friend’s children might have outgrown or no longer want.

Hope this helps!


P.S.  I also have a swap shelf for teachers.  They bring novels and other reading materials that they are finished with and swap them out too.  This is in one of my smaller library rooms where I keep teacher materials.


Yes, Jenny, this helps a lot!  You have really set my mind in motion! I too have a free swap area ( a carousel with a sign) in my library. I keep it up for those students who for whatever reason need a book but have “library issues” (like fines, overdues, etc.)  The free swap is a “borrow on the honor system” set of paperbacks, and students can make a donation or borrow (and hopefully return) a title from the rack, no questions asked. We like it, and it helps those who really need a book be able to choose one. We also get donations from one of our high school clubs that do a book drive each year.  Maybe you can contact the local high school and see if they do a book drive or similar project with a club. It could be a source for some free books to add to your collection for this project.  Your answers were very helpful.  I may re-invent our carousel into a “ReadBox.”  

Not only that, I’m thinking THIS is a perfect mini-grant waiting to happen.  I’m on it! Thanks for sharing and graciously responding to my gazillion questions. I am so inspired!


Cross posted over at the SCASL Blog

Picture Attribution:

“ReadBox” by Jenny Cox. LMS, Kennsington Elementary, Georgetown School District.

Library March Madness Championship Week!

Our library book tournament has made it to the last round of our Library March Madness, with the finalist competing for DHS Library Book of the Year at Dorman High School. Vying for that title are two books in a single series, respectively book 1 and book 2.  Hunger Games, seeded at #6 matches up against Catching Fire, the #1 seed in our March Madness Tournament.

We hops students will drop by the library to cast finals votes this week.  We will be naming our champion THIS FRIDAY, March 29, 2013.



We are asking students to put their names on their  ballots, as there is a reward for owning votes.  The reward plan has not been completely decided yet, but for sure there will be a drawing based on ballots.  We will celebrate the winners of our March Madness Tournament perhaps the Friday we return from our Spring Break, April 12, 2013.


Can you name these “tweet” reads?

Our USC School of Library and Information Science school library intern Lori Willis-Richards created this awesome book display in our Dorman library during November. We are going to sponsor a contest in which our students must guess the books.

Want a taste? I don’t have all the pics, and we know we need to fix one, but here are a few. See if you can guess the popular YA Lit title.