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.

May: the educator’s most challenging month of the year

May is here and that means most students (and many teachers too) are looking forward to summer break.  Our last day of the regular school year is May 31. I love that we are out before June arrives (well, not me, as I have ten more days to go beyond teacher workdays.)

Earning our paycheck…and break
No matter. It’s still a very tough time of the year to engage students. I frequently tell my colleagues we really earn our paycheck from just a few days during the school year: first day, each day before a long break, and the last few weeks of school. These are the days that really good educators separate themselves from the ones who perhaps made the wrong career choice or need to retire. So how will you fill the remaining days of the school year?

Again I say, those who can engage their students this time of year clearly are jam up teachers and educators. Which brings me to our summer reading kick off.  

Library Engagement
Unfortunately, we will stop circulating books this year on May 14. With 14 more school days, and all books being due May 21, this will be a challenge for those who are readers and USE the library. Oh, of course, we’ll make exceptions for our regulars. We know who they are–know them by name. Last week, on April 30 we had a drop-in catered breakfast for our top circulating students. These are the kids who check-out all year long and support (and probably drive) our reading programs. We had BoJangles biscuits and fellowship around books that morning from 7:30 – 8:20, the bell to begin first block. Each student selected a free book from a stock of probably 100 we had accumulated this year from Atlantis, a paperback subscription service we use. For those who stressed over their free book decision, I admit I let them take more than one. This is about knowing your students and which are really avid readers. And a reader is always extremely happy when rewarded with free books.

Summer Reading 

Ruta Sepetys signing my book at #TXLA13

Our school also promotes summer reading. Our English department annually sends a letter home for summer break reminding students of their upcoming English course “required reading.” While their lists are still under construction, there is always a mix of popular fictions and classics. There are also nonfiction options for the students who are not fans of fiction. This year’s rising tenth graders are being asked to read Ruta Sepetys‘ book Between Shades of Grey in preparation for her visit in September.  We are delighted, as that is one of the books on our South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominee list! Each summer we promote the reading of these books. I have  summer reading kick-off contest in place. I need some ideas for how to engage our readers over the summer. Send them my way if you have some.

Let the Summer Reading Begin
Just in case you’re curious, here’s our summer reading kick-off contest.

2013 DHS Summer Reading Kick-off!

DO Judge a Book by its Cover
2013 Summer Reading Kick-off Contest

  • WHO?  Sophomores and Juniors
  • WHEN?  May 13-24, 2013

Summer Prize Pack:

Book of your choice from the DHS summer reading list and a lunch date package valued at $25 (so you and a friend can have lunch and discuss the summer read!)



The library is displaying the nominated Teen Books that are in the running for YALSA’s Teen Top Ten! Before reading any of them, we invite students to come in and literally judge the books by their cover. Enter your votes IN THE LIBRARY. Vote daily!!
  • Do NOT vote for your favorite book
  • Do NOT vote for a book because you like that author.
  • Pretend you’ve read none of these.
  • Vote for the book whose design alone would entice you the most to read the book.
Simple as that! Voting takes place from May 13-24 lunchtime. All students who voted for the title with the most votes go in a drawing, so it’s really important to put your name and DATE on your ballot. Students may vote once a day each day of the contest. The drawing will be done live on the PM Announcements Friday, May 24.
Want to know more about the titles in our contest? Click here to read about them.  The “projeqt” below shows the covers.  Let the “judging” begin.



Found on

Yalsa Top Ten Logo:

Ruta Sepetys: Picture from my own Flickr stream (licensed CC)

Will etiquette lessons work?

My friend Frank Baker posted this on our SCASL listserv recently and included a link to this article:

With the increased popularity of social media have come more bullying, cheating and privacy concerns. Now, some are questioning whether schools — where students learn many lessons in morality — should include social media etiquette as part of the curriculum. Some, however, say teachers already have too much on their plates and that it is the responsibility of families to teach students moral and ethical lessons.


Follow me on Twitter @fbaker 
Friend Media Literacy Clearinghouse on Facebook
A response was soon after expressing what I interpreted as maybe fear and perhaps anger at school librarians being overlooked as a source for teaching the very core of media literacy, specifically media etiquette, safety, and more.  In a sense, this is a standard of ours–>ethical use of resources–even electronic ones, so does indeed fall into our job description.


Now I am not so immune to such feelings myself, and on more than one occasion I’ve had my own knee-jerk response to being ignored or left out when it comes to curriculum decisions.  But I do think if a school or school district does not turn to their librarians when a need like this arises, then it’s our own fault.  Here is how I responded to the thread:

It is [our job] if we are proactive about it. Today’s  teacher librarian must educate the masses about what we bring to the table. If those powers that be don’t know we can bring this to the curriculum table, we will continue to be left out. A good start might be sharing this very article with admin and other colleagues in your school as a conversation starter to a collegial discussion. I just don’t think many admin realize what we offer, and that is our own fault.

Now that I’ve had some time to really digest this, I want to add to that statement.  One truth I learned a long time ago about teaching is that everyone needs to have a personal investment in the tasks at hand so the goals and objectives can be achieved. This is true in  any curriculum area, and I especially learned this when trying to use technology integration.  Kids don’t take to it when it is “schooly.” Many actually turn away. This is one reason I  have not really pushed hard for students to blog or tweet with me around school or curriculum concepts.  If it is made “schooly,” it becomes an isolated lesson that doesn’t always carry over into personalized learning. It becomes a means to an end, a hoop to get through. The challenge is to make students WANT to participate in these tools in a school setting. Just having students blog does not make them 21st century learners. A vision must be cast in the setting that students wil buy into. Then and only then is using social networking or educational web 2.0 tools a viable avenue to integrate etiquette lessons and ethical use conversations.  This is why “character education” programs don’t stick, even though schools still very much do them..


So the real challenge is how do we bring into a lesson ethical use of social media without 1) turning it schooly and making it an isolated lesson that won’t stick, and 2) make the powers that be understand these lessons should be fully integrated throughout the curriculum and therefore more likely to be meaningful to students?


Instead of teacher librarians focusing on being left out of this decision making process, let’s be a catalyst for collegial conversations around the topic, which just might make those decision makers see that teacher librarians are much more than collection development specialists and reading advocates. Bonus, we become sought after for thoughts and ideas for improving a variety of instructional units, and we model effective integration  (which could also include ethical lessons and etiquette.)


Picture Attribution:
Huynh, Tommy. “Sneaky Messages.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 1 Aug. 2007. Web. 05 Jan. 2013  <>.


Guest Post: Lori Willis-Richards, Intern

When Mrs. Nelson asked if I wanted to write a blog post for her blog Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts I was a little unsure.  I mean the title of her blog is Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts and I was not sure I actually had anything to say worthy of being labeled a “professional thought.” However, I started thinking about what I do know, and one of the things I currently know a whole lot about is being a School Media Specialist intern, so this I what I have decided to blog about.


I have enjoyed my time as Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Dillard’s intern so much and I really wish I could stay on forever.  DHS has a top-notch library program and I have learned so much during my short internship there. There is something to be said for being able to put into application the theories and ideals I learned about as a USC-SLIS student.  There really is no greater teacher than real world experience!


I know a lot of the people that read Cathy’s blog are already established media specialists, and this is why I want to take a short moment of your time for a public services message of sorts, don’t worry I wont take that long.  I just want to say if you are a great media specialist (and of course you are if you are reading this blog!) please think about hosting an intern.  It will be a great learning experience for your intern and I hope for you as well.  You will really be doing your profession a world of good, because you will be able to mold these young professionals into the kind of media specialist you want representing your field. So it really is a win-win. We get experience; you get to influence.  So please host an intern if you are ever asked or contact your local university and let then know you are willing to host an intern in the future.


P.S.  I do think working at DHS was fun!

WEEDED: Book Art on Display

Last year I convinced one of our art teachers to take on a sculpting project using weeded books.  We were all (library staff, administrators, art department and students) very pleased with the outcome of those weeded book art sculptures.  I didn’t even have to ask this year. The art teacher let me know right away at the beginning of the year that she wanted our discarded books that no other teachers seemed to want.

Already these weeded books are making their way back to the library as sculptures, and again we are all amazed.  These are the first three though there are more in the works coming.  These are the completed ones.  I will share when the rest find their way to the library. I’m really excited about the proposed tribute to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

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.


Today live from Seattle, WA where the American Library Association‘s Midwinter conference was coming to a close today, a live webcast of the ALA Youth Media Awards was broadcast for anyone who wanted to tune in. EXCITING! This was the part of the conference that announces all the annual youth book awards (and assorted other media based on books) is announced. Some like to refer to it as the “Oscars” for children and youth book lovers.

So, yeah, today was a “nerdfest” of sorts for book lovers, and DHS librarians were entranced in listening live as well. It was exciting not only to hear the announced titles of the winners and honor books live (the Honor designation sort of means a second place shared by as many as eight books.) I actually guessed the Newbery title: “The One and Only Ivan,” written by Katherine Applegate, is the 2013 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.

Want to see the complete list of winners and honor books? CLICK HERE

Here are the titles from the list that my school, Dorman High School, has in its collection:

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:
(Honor) “Ellen’s Broom,” illustrated by Daniel Minter, written by Kelly Starling Lyons and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults
(Honor) “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein, published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group;
(Honor) “Dodger” by Terry Pratchett, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers;

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience:
The teen (ages 13-18) award winner is “Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am,” written by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children as well as YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
(Honor for both lists) “Titanic: Voices from the Disaster,” written by Deborah Hopkinson and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience:
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard,” written by Lesléa Newman and published by Candlewick Press;

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens:
Seraphina,” written by Rachel Hartman, is the 2013 Morris Award winner. The book is published by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
We have two of the four other books were finalists for the award:
Love and Other Perishable Items,” written by Laura Buzo, published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.;
After the Snow,” written by S. D. Crockett, published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults:
(Honor) “Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different,” written by Karen Blumenthal, published by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group;

Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States:“The Fault in Our Stars,” produced by Brilliance Audio, is the 2013 Odyssey Award winner. The book is written by John Green and narrated by Kate Rudd. Side Note: While we don’t have this audio book, it did win an audio book category, and it’s an extremely popular print book at DHS.