New Leaf in Learning Reflection

I was able to spend this past Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at Follett’s New Leaf in Learning Conference in Schaumburg, Illinois. Back in the fall when Follett invited Tamara Cox and I to present on their Next Generation Library track, I was stoked at the opportunity to meet my friend face to face.

I was so very excited when I landed in Chicago and met up with Tamara at the airport to head to the conference hotel in Schaumburg. So the two southern girls took a crazy cab ride through the big city and arrived at the beautiful hotel and conference center. After getting checked in and finding some lunch, it was time for the opening keynote by Kevin Honeycutt. This keynote ended up being one of the highlights of the conference for me and I can’t wait for the virtual conference to go live next month so I can go back and watch his keynote again.

On Thursday morning, we enjoyed some great sessions, including “Leadership 2.0” by Eric Sheninger. Eric has been one of my Twitter crushes for quite some time now. I’d heard him speak virtually before, but it was great to hear him in person. I had to refrain from shouting out an “AMEN!” at a couple of points during his session, but I did control myself. Although I couldn’t NOT get a picture at the end. I may have made him a bit uncomfortable, but I’m sure that many of you know how it is when you meet someone that you’ve followed and respected for so long.

We had a fabulous lunch (and breakfast, too! I forgot to tell you about all of the great food at this conference…it was outrageous!), we got to listen to Shannon Miller‘s session on being the change you want to see. I’m always so jealous when I hear people like Eric and Shannon speak because I so desperately want to get my school to the level that their schools are already.

Next, it was time for Tamara and I to share our first session, “Be a Next Gen Librarian TODAY!”


We were giddy by the fact that we had a packed house! We started rocking and rolling through out 70+ slides revolving around the 13 virtues of a next gen librarian. I think what everyone liked best about the things we shared was that there were lots of ideas that they could take back and apply immediately. Here are the slides from our presentation, and we added links here as well.

We were so pumped up after the great presentation! We had some great conversations after and people were definitely intrigued by some of the things we shared (nontraditional shelving, anyone?).

Since we were so close to Chicago, a city that neither Tamara nor I had visited before, we decided to take the train into the city for the evening. Some of the video I shared in my last post was our trip into the city, so check that out. We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather while we explored the city. And we mastered the train, which I was quite proud of!

Another great breakfast on Friday morning — bacon, eggs, fruit, hash browns, yes please! — we geared up for our second session on “Embedded Librarianship.”

We were able to share about the different places where embedded librarians should make themselves seen and heard. Again, we had a really good response from the audience and had a great time presenting together! I think that Tamara and I made a great team and I will definitely look forward to more opportunities to present with my dear friend!

Now, being the devoted middle school librarians that we are, we NEEDED to see the Hunger Games before we hopped our flights back home. AMAZING! It was such a great end to our time together and a great trip!


White House Petition for School Libraries

Come on people. What the heck is going on here? It’s time to pull ourselves together.

Joyce Valenza, Jennifer LaGarde and Gwyneth Jones have posted about it. We know that properly staffed and stocked school libraries really do make a difference in the lives of students. I’m not rehashing all of that, because – DUH! – we already know that. Despite this, the flippin’ petition still doesn’t have enough signatures. It’s time to get it together, people!!

This is what we are going to do: set up a petition station at your big Thanksgiving bash. I will be taking my laptop with this cute little sign I made and STRONGLY encourage every single person there to sign the petition:

PDF Here: SupportLibraries

I invite you to print it out and do the same. You could also use this QR code and have people get to the petition that way:

I think that setting up a station and having people do it right then and there would be the most effective way to make this happen. And we have GOT to make this happen!

If you plan to join in and set up a station at your holiday dinner, leave a comment! PLEASE! I’m begging you…let’s make this happen!

EDIT: Here’s the link to the petition!

Obsessed with Decorations!

I’m a big believer in decorating in the library. I don’t care if you have a moldy, musty, ancient room with ceiling tiles falling in (because I do!!) — you can still make the place cute. It’s not superficial, it’s an important part of making your library a comfortable, welcoming place. This is why I went crazy decorating when I moved into my current position.

So guess what else: I think decorating for holidays is pretty important, too. Yep, I’m out of control. But the kids love it, so that makes it all okay 🙂

For November, I created a “Thankful Door” where students and teachers could grab a marker and share something that they were thankful for this year. I broke out the Cricut and cut out some Thanksgiving cuteness to add to the door. I also broke out the leaves from last fall (I laminated them!) that I brought home from my North Carolina trip. Check out our Thankful Door:


ANNOYANCE: The stores apparently  think that Thanksgiving isn’t uber important in terms of decorations. They completely skipped from Halloween decorations to Christmas! The only things I managed to find were this goofy little turkey man to sit on the circulation desk and this little fall themed basket arrangement. Next year I WILL have a cornucopia. It’s essential!


Before I left on Friday, I went ahead and took down the fall decorations. My wonderful mom dropped off my Christmas tree and some of the kids were dying to set it up.


Since I’m at the middle school now, I (and by “I”, I mean mom) had to make new book ornaments with my kids’ favorite books (see my old elementary tree here). Have I mentioned that my mom is the best?? She is! After we got out of school on Friday (early dismissal for the holiday…SCORE!) we rolled on over to Hobby Lobby for some more Christmas decorations. Then we went up this afternoon to put everything up. Check it out:


We went with the BIG lights. And some nice touches of pink…

Yes, I like to be over-the-top. Don’t hate! 🙂

CMS Library’s Limited Time Offer!

This is the title of an email I sent to my teachers today. I’ve done an obscene amount of weeding in the fiction section and I’m trying to give away as many of the books as I can to classroom libraries. In hopes of enticing teachers to take books, I sent this infomercial style email. The teachers got a laugh out of it, so I thought I’d share it:

Teachers —
I know that you are all VERY excited about testing next week. Especially since you are going to have the incredible opportunity to spend some quality time with your homeroom students. Some of your students are going to have a nice chunk of time to do some reading after completing their tests. I would like to think that ALL of our precious darlings are going to have a library book that they are already engrossed in and can’t wait to read. Sadly, I know this won’t be the case. In fact, there may even be a child that gives you that deer-in-headlights stare when you ask where their book is.
THANKFULLY, I have the solution to this annoying little problem. I have plenty of give away books that you can have for those times when your students have somehow managed to not have a book on hand!
Now I know you are busy and the last think you are thinking about is running to the library to get some of these books. Lucky for you, I’m willing to deliver! Let me know about how many books you would like for your classroom library, and my workers will deliver them to you classroom. What a great deal, right?
If you respond to this email with the number of books you would like, you can expect your delivery within the next day or two. And if you’d like, I can even throw in a free set of encyclopedias!
Don’t delay! You won’t want to be faced with a lack-of-books situation next week!
Your librarian,
Tiff 🙂

The Google Apps Revolution

I love Google. People get all bitter because Google is so successful and, well, HUGE. I’m not bitter. Especially since I really want my district to take advantage of Google Apps for Education. I’ve been wanting this for a while now, but wasn’t sure how to go about starting this movement. I use Google Docs (particularly the forms feature) for everything. Recently, my teachers started using Google Docs for it’s collaborative features and they love it too! SCORE!

So this week, some things went down, we got our feathers ruffled, and I was able to pool some teachers together to get something started to try for change. After a meeting and some valuable conversations, there is a group of us that are hoping for the opportunity to get access to Google Apps for our teachers and students. How great would that be?!

This is all still in the very early stages. I am hopeful that we will be able to help our district move forward so that we can prepare our students in ways that they deserve. I work with unbelievable teachers — they could teach effectively with zero resources. However, they deserve the opportunity to teach in completely innovative ways, and I want to help them get there.

So this post is sort of vague and hopeful, but I felt like I should document where things stand right now.

Also, if you have resources that you think would be helpful (pros/cons to using Google Apps for Education OR anything that could provide a similar alternative), I would be extremely appreciative!



This was an incredible week! I had more classes booked than I have any other week so far, which made me immensely happy. But the best part was that the visiting classes weren’t just doing library circulation and rolling out…teachers had me introducing their students to tech tools that I shared at the petting zoo and they want to use in their classes! SUCCESS!

Voki is a big hit, since it’s so quick and easy to use. Our 8th grade ELA classes have been working on their poetry unit, so several teachers are using Voki to have students create avatars to read their original poetry. One class completed their Voki’s with me in the library, and we had a blast! They had so much fun creating their avatars and using the text-to-speech option to have their poem read by their characters. They were so proud of and impressed with their finished products!

I also had one of my favorite teachers (that will be my roommate for ISTE!) come with her class to the library computer lab to create Go Animate cartoons using their vocabulary words. With a little more practice, they will definitely get the hang of using Go Animate and I know they will create more great cartoons!

I have four days of science classes scheduled for Glogster projects next week, too.

That’s a whole lot going on, right? It’s what I’ve dreamed of! I knew I needed to start keeping up with these great products that our students were creating with these awesome (FREE!) tech tools, so I created a new wiki. I’m wiki crazy, so sue me. I’ve professed my love for Wikispaces over and over, and I will continue to do so. This latest wiki will serve as a place to display and store examples of our students awesome web creations. You can check it out here, on the CMS Student Work wiki. I’ve already put a few samples under the Voki and Go Animate pages.

There was lots to be proud of this week. I’m proud of and grateful for my coworkers who are embracing my craziness and jumping on board so quickly. I’m proud of our students for the work they’re doing and the creating they will continue to do. I know that even more success is in our future.

Library Petting Zoo

Happy Birthday to ME! Yes, I scheduled my “Library Petting Zoo” on my 26th birthday…because I wanted it to be like a party! And it was! It was such a great day.

The original date for this was set for last Friday, but a “snow” day (there was not even a hint of snow, but it was cold) put a stop to that. So I rescheduled. I totally stole this idea from the awesome E-literate Librarian, whose blog I adore. When I read about her Petting Zoo, I knew I had to do this! Everyone was intrigued by the name. And then they reminded teachers on the morning announcements, so all the kids thought there were going to be actual animals in the library. I know I’m crazy, but they must think I’m COMPLETELY nuts (and I’m okay with that). I had quite a few laughs over their reactions.

I got lots of birthday love from both teachers and students, and my mom even made great snacks for me to share with visiting teachers. I really wanted to draw them in because I’m desperately trying to drum up library business! They all know that I’m a techno-geek, but today they got a real taste of what I’m into. I think some great collaborative projects are going to come out of conversations and ideas shared in the library today, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I had to have some animals in my zoo, so I kept this Glog up on my projector all day. All of the animals were animated, so it was very cute!

I just got in some great content-related graphic novels that I ordered from Scholastic with our Book Fair profits, so I put those out on display.

I had four stations set up with laptops and my tutorial comics with four fun, easy, free, teacher-friendly tech tools. We “petted” with Glogster, Animoto, Voki, and Mixbook. The first three have great resources and areas specifically for educators. I’m looking forward to working with the teachers on projects featuring these tools. I already lined up a poetry project using Voki and a project on the rock cycle using Glogster. YEA!!! Although I’m not a Mixbook expert, I used that one because I could “sell” it to everyone — including any non-instructional staff that stopped in. I have a feeling several grandmas will be using Mixbook to make a brag book.

All of the resources, links, and comic tutorials I created are here on my presentation wiki. Feel free to use and share!

I also had our available Flips and digital cameras out to pet and remind teachers that they are available for them to use.

The cake balls and king cakes provided by my wonderful mom (and #1 volunteer) didn’t hurt, either!

Several teachers mentioned that they would be interested in having more activities like this and other more in-depth sessions over the summer. YEAH!! I’m pumped! I love my job and I’m so excited about what’s to come 🙂

Cathartic Weeding

I’m still adjusting to the different pace in my new position. After a few years of running on HIGH all the time, it’s taking more than a little getting used to. Also, there’s fact that it’s past the middle of the year, teachers are feeling overwhelmingly busy, and state testing dates are quickly approaching. So they aren’t exactly beating down the library door. The good thing is that I’m really getting a chance to make my changes and do my version of weeding. This library will be moving to a new school within the next year or so, and I don’t want to pack up and move the old junk. The librarian before me inherited a overwhelmingly junked up collection and did quite a lot of weeding (for which I am extremely grateful!).

cc photo by Rishabh Mishra (possible248)

I’m a pretty hardcore weeder, though. I actually attended middle school at CMS myself quite a few years ago, and I was even a student library worker there. There’s an embarrassing amount of material that was there when I was a student there. Heck, there are quite a few encyclopedias from before I was born. So a couple of things have happened in this world since I was born, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought. And, oh yeah, we have World Book Online now, along with quite a few databases that can give the same (but actually current) information. Needless to say, I’m getting rid of A LOT of outdated reference material. I actually feel guilty about this weeding, just because of the sheer bulk of it. I’ve also started going through the fiction section. Books that haven’t been touched since my district broke apart from another district 3.5 years ago. Books with weird looking, outdated technology or sci-fi things on the cover. No 13 year old in 2011 and beyond will consider reading this stuff. I should be able to donate a lot of it to the classrooms. The remainder will have to find its final resting place elsewhere.

So, friends, when did you finally let go of your old, dusty, outdated encyclopedias? Anyone else inherit a library with a similar collection? Are you like me, looking to keep up your collection by making sure it’s fresh (and not dated and moldy)? Weeding can be, overwhelming, stressful, and cathartic all at the same time…but it’s definitely a good thing!

Sarah's Key and The Glass Castle

Sunday was meeting day for a monthly book club that I participate in with some amazing ladies. Since it’s summer, we decided to read two books. They were both a little heavy, to say the least, and I think we’ll be sticking with just one at a time for a while. So here’s what we thought…

First, we discussed Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. This fiction book tells the story of what took place in France at the Vélodrome d’Hiver during WWII. I had never heard of this tragic event in which French police and military rounded up their own people — Jews living in Paris — held them in unimaginable conditions, then sent them away to be killed. This story was told from two view-points: Sarah, a young Jewish girl who lived through this nightmare, and Julia, a modern day reporter writing a piece for the 60th anniversary of the tragedy. I thought this story was very well written, although somewhat predictable. This is such a powerful piece for historical fiction, and my group was amazed at how well developed the character of Sarah was. We were all so attached to her and devastated by the events of her life. Many in the group found Julia to be a less likable character. However, I saw much of myself in her character, particularly her tendency to become obsessive and completely absorbed in a project. It would have been nice to get one more snippet from Sarah’s point of view at the end of the story, but the overall consensus was that the ending was a good fit.

Our other book was The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. This book was tragic and incredible. It’s so shocking, I think I read the entire thing with my jaw on the floor. This memoir tells the story of the author’s unstable, neglected childhood. In our discussion, we marveled at the constant stream of events that took place and the number of times we said, “Oh my God. You just can’t make this stuff up.” We found it really interesting that the tone of the book, despite the horror of its contents, was not at all resentful or depressing. It lead into a discussion on how we all have a soft spot for our families, even when crazy things happen, so we could all sort of relate Wells’ view on the situation. The family dynamics made for some interesting discussion, and we tried to look at all of the characters from multiple points of view.

It was such a great meeting! I so love my book club.

On a blogging note — I’ve really been thinking about my blogging and the fact that this blog is not extremely focused. I love blogging about my adult book club, but it feels a little out of place with the rest of my content. What do you think? I could start a separate blog for the book club, I guess, but I’m not sure how I feel about that. Thoughts?