Adapting service strategies and the library collection to meet the needs of young adult patrons in a school setting.
What are the best resources?
What are the best practices for delivery of services?
There are no unequivocal answers. 35 librarians will give you 35 answers.
Then, how are decisions made?
It’s pretty much a balancing act.
A school library is like a little business. You have products (books) and services (help finding and using resources). You pay bills, keep within a budget, order books and non-books, fix stuff, pick up stuff and even take out the trash sometimes.
Add in: meet and greet with 520 students. As many as 100 per hour.
Add in: meeting and collaborating with faculty.
And, tailoring the collection for both personal needs (being an adolescent) and academic needs (getting stuff done for class).
But also, instruct in ways to avoid plagiarism, find good sources, use stuff ethically, consider copyright.
Do all of this in a constantly changing environment, technologically speaking.
Throw in keeping good relations with volunteers, parents and administration and you have the makings of a balancing act.
Know your environment.
Who are your students?
Boys, girls or co-ed?
What grade level? K-8? Middle School? High School?
Religious school? Private school? Public School? Special School (eg. High School for the Arts?)
How is your role defined?
Will you be expected to collect, organize and catalog?
Will you be expected to work collaboratively with faculty in developing research projects and writing assignments that involve research?
Will you help students create multi-media creative projects?
What are your administrator’s expectations?
Are they cutting-edge, pro-technology?
Or stuck in the 1950s?
Do they support your vision (or even know what your vision is?) (Do they know what you do every day?)
What are your expectations?
Who, exactly, are your stakeholders? Who do you serve?
Teachers? Students? Staff? Board of Trustees?
Get involved in “the network”
Listserves, blogs, wikis, Nings,
associations (ALA, CSLA, BAISL)
Develop your collection
Find out about trends in curriculum
(eg. History and movement toward experts and primary sources and away from encyclopedias)
What’s new (and sustainable) in technology
Changes in educational philosophy
Copyright, fair use,
plagiarism (avoiding it, policies about)
And all manner of questions (and answers) about best practices and resources
Resources, links: at the end of this post.
Once you know what is appropriate for your setting:
Look at reviews
Start a book club (interest driven and exchange of ideas)
Look at other librarian’s blogs
Websites with teen reviews (and teen writing)
Non-fiction: need both interest driven reading (hobby, career) and life topics.
Consider each fiction genre: realistic fiction, horror, mystery, memoir, science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy.
Find out what the student, faculty and staff needs are. “What would make your life/job easier?”
Get the word out that you are there to help. “You dream it, we do it.”
Get your sound bite ready: you have 30 seconds
Communicate actively with Administration: send articles, studies, anecdotes (sparingly)
Get students involved
Advantages: they are passionate
They are in the moment of being students and they know what they need
Market your library
Show up at events
Tutorials: make ‘em or “borrow” them
Target groups: LIBguides
Be approachable (get out from behind the desk)
New is fun. QR tags
Join stuff. Groups. Go to local meetings. Just ask.
LM_Net (all purpose school librarian’s group)
CALIBk12 (another school librarian listserve with good advice and suggestions)
BAISL (independent librarian’s group, active and interesting -can get digest of listserve)
Blue Skunk Blog Doug Johnson
Librarian in Black Sarah Houghton-Jan
Associations with good (or great) conferences, workshops and materials:
American Library Association (coming to Anaheim in June 2012)
AASL – the school librarian’s division of the American Library Association
California School Librarian’s Association (coming to Pasadena this November!)
Pasadena City College: sponsors a local librarian’s group
ALA’s teens top picks from YALSA (chosen by teens)
Printz Award from ALA (literary excellence in young adult literature)
Best Fiction for Young Adults from ALA
Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson: See Sally research: Evolving Notions of Information literacy
This is a lovely cerquita in Durfort. It is a short walk from Gwen’s studio and home, La Cascade in France. It was peaceful walking along the footpaths. There was a sense of community and family that was comforting: notes and sentiments to loved ones graced many of the markers. There was also a sense of continuity; here were marked the accomplishments of the past-lives lived and appreciated. In the present, visitors respectfully tour the tiny cemetery and take their own thoughts away from the experience. Not creepy or morbid in the least.
What is chilling is this: although I have always believed libraries embody continuity, we are entering troubled times. The City of Camarillo has given the running of the public library to a private company. And so has the city of Santa Clarita. Troubling, yes. But what stung me, and continues to sting, are the remarks by chief executive, Frank Pezzanite of L.S.S.I., who believes the success of libraries is linked to a notion that they are “sacred,” despite librarian’s ability to “go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement.” Pezzanite is out to trim the fat from libraries, and his company does this through cost cutting measures (so, just in case you are wondering, L.S.S.I. only contracts with cities for labor, so cost cutting measures = cutting employees – librarians, are you listening?)
Perhaps the good will of libraries (and librarans) is eroding. Many needs and not enough funding make for strident conversations about what is necessary, what is right. And while cost-cutting has become a familiar word, and might sound like sweet music to City Managers and Administrators, the overall goal of an educated populace, comprised of life-long learners poised to make decisions relevant and informed regarding their lives and the lives of others seems so . . .important, it just may be time for librarians to show others what they do. So, what’s an angst-ridden librarian to do? Two things: 1. Advocacy, and; 2. Visibility.
“Papa! No working! No work!” an exasperated Zack exclaims.
His stuffed bear, dizzy from its recent shaking, refuses to produce technology.
Zack has expectations. And they’re based in technology. Deeply seated expectations: movement, light, sound, even voice recognition. He’s come to expect it. And this stuffed piece of quasi realistic bear is falling short of the mark. Patiently, his dad explains, “Zack, it’s a stuffed animal. It doesn’t do anything.” A pause. Then, “Papa – not working!”
What is the value of technology? Can we only assess value when the technology is missing (or not working properly)? I share Zack’s exasperation. There is a bit of Wi-Fi saturation at school, and at home. Devices that responded as quickly as I could type are now lagging.
It feels like the rapid expansion of technical complexity is folding in on itself – making mischief among the devices.
Complexity is wondrous. It can be as captivating as the patterning of a barrel cactus bloom. With layers of symmetry inviting your speculations about geometry.
And equally challenging.
I know one thing though: I want to go forward.
Like Zack, I have expectations.
Unfortunately, there is still no worst book. Because the book I was certain was the worst, now has a different place in the ranking queue.
In the middle of explaining why I detested this book, I realized I had been blinded by my own prejudices and puritanical sensibilities. I missed appreciating the lyrical language of the book, the dimensionality of the characters and the exquisite timing of the action. I sought a conversation with one of our students, whose opinion I respect.
She gracefully recounted the reasons she valued the book. What struck me was the way she summarized the essence of the plot: “it is about what happens to people’s souls,” she remarked. Had we read the same book?
So I sat down and re-read the book.
And I discovered I had missed the point entirely. A precious gem had been cast aside for transgressions that I had imposed on it. It was good to get a second chance to appreciate this book.
I’ve enjoyed reading your posts about your worst book, talking with my co-librarians at school and to faculty, friends and family. We’ve wandered through quite a lot of territory; including psychology and philosophy. It’s been chewy, spicy, delicately fragile and richly textured. Listening to your explanations I’ve been invited into your world, and I’m grateful for your trust.
Today was a magical day. Almost as good as the farmer’s market in Revel, finding ourselves in medieval Lautrec or dining al fresco at Le Cafe Plum.
Our school librarian’s blog was publicized (in a most amazing and professional manner) and received a flurry of comments. And we interviewed 7th grade teachers and learned about mouthwateringly beautiful assignments – from learning to sing and breathe around stress, to discovering how math works by measuring the wind – to clusters of students creating a video response to the parental query, “How was school today?” and more . . . history students creating and curating an exhibit , “How it happened that we ended up in Los Angeles,” with maps, artifacts and oral histories of family members.
If I could run clips from the reel of today’s interviews, you’d see unabashed passion, unbridled enthusiasm and genuine affection for the students. It was immeasurably satisfying.
I learned that teachers are helping our students learn to make connections beyond themselves, in an engaging, unconstricted way. And that’s a pretty cool take-away from today.
On the best of days, Beatle sees about 4 hours of consciousness. On most days, he listens patiently to any rants I have brewing. Today he listened to me deconstruct the appeal of literature. The next book display at our library is going to have the tag line, “the worst book I ever read.” Our Middle School Advisors are going to write a sentence or two – a mini book review – to go with their personal worst book. A little fodder for conversation about books and book genres and what constitutes worst. And, by comparison: best.
So I thought about the book that made me the maddest. And why. I was incensed by the choices the main character made: bad choices. Bad after bad, after bad. And then some. No, that wasn’t the worst book.
What about that “memoir” of a famous chef, liberally peppered with words my mother wouldn’t say? Does that even count as literature? Yet, parts of that book made me laugh out loud. Was that the worst?
I decided to ask our resident English major about worst. The measure of a book’s appeal is its ability to resonate with the reader, Joe responded. You can hate a book because its connection with you is disturbing or too emotional, but that doesn’t make it the worst book. You can love a book that is pure fluff, that wouldn’t even vaguely be considered good literature, but you wouldn’t count that as the worst book. For Joe, the measure of worst is a book that doesn’t connect.
Still, I haven’t settled on a worst book. And, I’m mighty interested to see what our group will select. And why.