Library Survey Results

Before the holiday break, my awesome principal recommended that all of the teachers take some time and have their students complete anonymous surveys to provide feedback on their class (questions ranged from teaching, relationships, classroom environment, respect, etc.). Being the great leader that he is, he lead by example and asked all of his teachers and staff complete similar surveys on him, giving feedback on our perceptions of the job he’s doing as an administrator.

I decided that I wanted to conduct a student survey for the library, too. At first, I considered just posting the link on Schoology and asking students to complete it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I may not get the amount or quality of feedback I wanted unless I had students complete the survey during a library visit. So for the first two weeks back from holiday break, I had students complete these surveys when they visited the library with their ELA classes. I have to say, it was completely worth my time to have all of this data and feedback to sift through. Here’s the survey I put together:

LibrarySurveyAnd here are the results:

I was very interested to not only see the overall results, but also to break them down by grade level. I was really happy with the results of the survey. It’s nice to know that the kids think I’m doing some things right! The students overwhelmingly feel like the library is a comfortable and welcoming place, and that I’m approachable and helpful — these are things that I work really hard to develop in the culture of our library.

Over the last several years, I have worked with my ELA teachers to find a schedule that works best for them. I know that many librarians feel very strongly about having a completely flexible schedule. I feel very strongly, though, about seeing and reaching every student in my school on a regular basis. So I have created a flex/fixed schedule that seems to be working well. I see 6th and 7th grade ELA classes every other week, and 8th grade every three weeks. But for almost 30% of the 8th graders, they aren’t able to visit frequently enough. Overall, though, this is a confirming thing for me in that I see how many of my students wouldn’t be visiting the library if I didn’t schedule time regularly with their ELA teachers…so this seems to be working out pretty well.

I wasn’t shocked by the results that show that most of our students don’t use our library catalog. The reasons for this, I believe, are: (1) genrefication makes browsing so much easier that students use the catalog less; (2) they ask me where a particular book is and I can tell them off the top of my head where it is since I know the collection so well; (3) I don’t spend much time teaching them to use the catalog, since I feel my time is better spent teaching other things. I’m going to continue to ponder on this point.

The results that most pleasantly surprised me: “Do you feel the lessons and activities during class library visits are helpful/informative?” Students had very positive feelings about the activities that we’ve done (from search strategies to digital citizenship activities to book speed dating), and they even left some positive feedback about this in the open ended questions.

I knew that the results to the genrefication questions were going to be extremely positive, but I’m very excited to have some numbers from this survey to be able to share on this topic! Our students love the organization of our library, and in the open ended questions many raved about this as well.

The open ended questions were by far my favorite. Although it takes a lot to go through hundreds of responses, there were some real gems in there! For the results shared above, I picked out some of the most frequently given or nicely put responses.

Giving this survey and spending time with the results has been a really powerful experience for me. Not only was it a way for me to evaluate my practice, but it was also a really great way to empower students and give them a voice.

If you would like to make/save yourself a copy of the Form that I created, click here.


November Thankfulness

November has probably been the most exciting, exhausting, and busiest month of my career to date. I’ve been a little off the grid for the last week or so, trying to recover and rest my brain a bit. Now it’s time to do a little reflecting to truly appreciate everything that’s happened this month…

ISLMA Keynote

I was so incredibly honored (okay, and a little bit nervous) when I was asked to give the Saturday keynote at the Illinois School Library Media Association annual conference. These folks put on a really great conference, and I’m so thrilled that I was able to be part of it! This was my first keynote and is a memory that I know I’ll treasure for the rest of my career. My keynote was “Examining the Sacred Cows of School Librarianship.” I had the chance to talk about many things near and dear to my heart — including a little about genrefication!

I also presented another session on my Favorite Tech Tools:

Other highlights from the conference include meeting Tim Green and Sharon Draper and having the chance to hear them speak!

Photo Nov 01, 9 46 12 PM  Photo Nov 02, 9 21 50 AM

And I made a quick visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which was amazing!

Photo Nov 02, 4 14 29 PM

CMS Book Fair


I went home just in time to meet my friends from Cavalier House Books to set up our book fair, which ran from November 4-7. I am so lucky to live near these guys, because they sure do put on an amazing fair! I did my first fair with them this spring, and it was one of the best things I did last year!


I’d been looking forward to AASL since the last conference in 2011! Not only did I get to see so many of my amazing library friends, I presented with many of them, too!


A Library in Every Pocket: Click the image above to see the wiki full of resources from this pre-conference and abbreviated encore session I presented with Gwyneth Jones, Michelle Luhtala, Shannon Miller, and Brenda Boyer.


AASL Best Apps: It was very exciting to be part of the committee that put together the 2013 (first ever!) AASL Best Apps for Teaching & Learning list, and at the conference we had lots of fun sharing that list! Click the image above to see the list!

Unconference: Even though I knew I was already pushing my limits with all of the presentations I was involved with presenting, when Joyce Valenza asks if you’re interested in helping with ANYTHING, you always say YES! I had a blast helping out at the AASL Unconference. There was such a great turn out, and so many great discussions took place!


Ditching Dewey: I had an absolute blast presenting with Shannon Miller, Sherry Gick, Kathy Burnette, and Megan Scott on genrefication! We even got a little shout-out from School Library Journal here!

I’m a National Board Certified Teacher!

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the results from my National Board portfolio and assessment submissions for MONTHS. I am so excited to have achieved certification in my first year of the process! Even though I don’t think I’ll see any monetary benefits from this from my state or district (I believe they made changes after I started the process that cut off funding  for those certifying after July 2013, but I haven’t really researched this since I was already in the process and didn’t want it to impact my motivation), I’m still quite proud of myself for this accomplishment!


So, that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing for the past month! I’m so thankful for my friends, family, and amazing PLN that have supported me through all of these exciting things that took place this month. And now, I’m thankful for a break from school and some time to relax!

Book Speed Dating

One of the most powerful things I can do for my students is work to promote reading for fun and helping students find books that they will enjoy. I feel like middle school is one of those key times in life where many students either take the path to become a life-long reader…or not. So I try to do as much as possible to talk to my students about what they’re reading and help them find books that will get them hooked!

One activity that I’ve found to be extremely successful this year is a round of “Book Speed Dating.” I know that this is an activity that many librarians have done for years…it’s tried and true for a reason!

Here’s how I’ve put together this activity:

  • I pulled books that I frequently recommend from 7 different genres and put them in boxes at each of my 7 tables. It exposes readers to new genres that they may not seek out on their own.
  • Students come in and decide on a ranking system they’ll use to rank the books they preview (scale of 1-10, five star ratings, etc.).
  • I set a timer (like the one projected on the screen) for five minutes. For the first 30 seconds, they can peruse the books in the box at their table and select a book. Then, they spend 4 minutes reading the book to see if it hooks them. With 30 seconds remaining, they make note of the title of the book and give it a ranking.
  • If at any time they find a book they want to check out, they can hold on to that book. All other books go back in the box, we rotate the boxes, and repeat this activity 4-5 times.


I always get great feedback from teachers and students with this activity…they love it! By the final round, about half of the students will typically have a book that they want to check out. And ALL of the students have spent some time with a book from a genre that’s outside of their typical reading comfort zone.

I did this several weeks ago with my 8th graders, and this week the 6th graders are having their turn. I especially like that I can customize the boxes for the classes/grades that I have visiting. And I LOVE that lots of book replenishing is needed after each class!

Do you do something similar to this? What other tried and true activities do you use for the love of reading?

Time to Connect!

We had such a fun week in the library, connecting our students with others in honor of Dot Day!



My students had a blast connecting with and learning from students in different parts of the world!

On Monday, my BFF Alaina Laperouse‘s (who just started her new blog!!) students connected with students of some of our dear friends Sherry Gick (in Indiana) and Matthew Winner (in Maryland).

On Tuesday morning, two of my classes had awesome hangouts with some of Sherry’s students, asking and answering questions about our schools and hometowns. That afternoon, a class of our 7th graders did a Mystery Skype with Diana Maliszewski‘s students in Toronto, Canada. After a very lucky guess, my students were able to figure out their location!

On Wednesday, we connected with another of Sherry’s classes. I mean, can I just say how much I LOVE Sherry and her students? By doing multiple Hangouts with her classes, I were able to learn a lot and come up with a format for these types of Hangouts that flow really well! And I loved having out students discover similarities between our libraries, like self check-out and a genrefied shelving arrangement! Of course, my students are ALWAYS jealous when they see others in “free dress” — meaning they don’t have to wear uniforms. And discussing school lunches is always a hot topic for middle schoolers!

Thursday was busy with Hangout/Skypes with three different schools: Kari Healy‘s students in Minnesota, Sherry’s students in Indiana, and another Mystery Skype with Diana’s students in Canada!

Friday was a staff development day, so students didn’t have school, which cut our “Dot Day” week a bit short. But this was one of those weeks that gets you pumped up and excited to see what the school year will bring! I am so excited to make more connections throughout this school year! Connecting virtually with other schools allows students the opportunity to overcome nerves and speak in front of their peers. With speaking and listening being a key element in the Common Core State Standards, I feel that these virtual connections will be more important and powerful than ever!

I’m definitely going to be looking for more opportunities to connect this year — Mystery Skypes, sharing book talks, making presentations, and just fun get to know you Q&A sessions — let me know if you’re looking for opportunities to connect too!

Dot Day!


So I’m jealous of all of the excitement going on with Dot Day and figure it’s time I got my students involved with this! I absolutely love my friend Matthew Winner’s idea of the trading cards (see here and here) and want to use that with my students! I also want to make some Google Hangout connections! I’m planning to share this video to introduce the students to The Dot by Peter Reynolds. Then I’m planning to have my students make three trading cards (one to trade with another student in their class, one to trade with a student in their grade but on the other team, and one to send to our friends that we connect with via Google Hangout). So do you want to hang out with us?

I’m looking for middle school classes to connect with on the following days/times:

Monday, September 16:
7:40-8:00 AM CST
9:20-9:40 AM CST
1:20-1:40 PM CST

Tuesday, September 17:
9:20-9:40 AM CST
1:20-1:40 PM CST

Wednesday, September 18:
7:40-8:00 AM CST
9:20-9:40 AM CST

Thursday, September 19:
7:40-8:00 AM CST
9:20-9:40 AM CST
1:20-1:40 PM CST

I can be somewhat flexible in the times if I need to, so please let me know if you’re interested!! If you’re interested in connecting, you can leave a message in the comments or use this Google Spreadsheet to put in your information so we can connect!

I hope to “see” some of you soon!!


I’ve been desperately craving the feeling of success this school year, but I’ve found it a bit more difficult to come by than usual. Everyone who has been through changes at their school know how difficult and trying the can be — even if they’re very positive changes like moving into a new facility and gaining new administrators that you love. Thankfully, I am currently enjoying a luxurious two week holiday break so I can recharge and reflect, then gear myself up for the second half of the school year.

During the chaotic four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, I was able to experience some of that success I’d been seeking. I’m an ideas kind of girl — I love an ambitious, sometimes out there idea/project/plan — but we all know those types of ideas don’t always work like we hope they will. It has to be implemented at the right time, with the right people involved. Definitely not as easy as it may sound.

I’ve been wanting to get our students blogging for YEARS. There aren’t many writing experiences that are more authentic and deep that we can offer our students than blogging. But blogging with students is a lot of work for all involved and you have to be committed to follow through with it. One of my awesome ELA teachers (who I was lucky enough to attend ISTE 2011 with in Philly) decided she was ready to get her students blogging. We got permission and made plans to have students blog through a book club/novel study unit. I wanted to be able to provide her with as much support as possible — this was the first time any students in our school would blog and we wanted it to be a success.

This was also my first genuine attempt at co-teaching a unit. I made a real effort to spend as much time as possible in her classroom each day. I also shared in the grading and conferencing on writing. It was definitely frustrating for me at times when I was deep in a great part of a lesson in her classroom and someone was trying to hunt me down because they needed something in the library. And I saw that if I had a clerk in the library I would be able to do a lot more of this type of thing, which is obviously so beneficial to the students and the teachers. I definitely want to do more of this type of thing, but finding a balance to make it work is not easy.

So, yeah. I feel like I’ve found success (YAY!) and I’m going to be REALLY reflecting on this unit over the next week as I write it up for one of my National Board entries. The big question is, how do you replicate projects like this? How do you pull off huge, long-term projects and/or co-teach on a unit (especially if you are the lone ranger in your library)?

Search Terms Lesson

I’m really excited to share a lesson over the next few days with my 7th grade students about how to make the best use of your search terms. After WEEKS of presenting introductory lessons to the new physical space (new library and it’s layout) and digital space (learning about how to use Schoology) to EVERY student in the school (that’s each lesson 42 times!!), I’m ready to start teaching something different! I asked one of the 7th grade teachers what a relevant topic would be for their students at this time, and she expressed that her students have been struggling when trying to conduct a web search. Guess what they want to do… They just want to type in their question verbatim and they are SHOCKED and CONFUSED when the response they want doesn’t appear in the first page.

So I started looking for lesson plans with ideas on how to teach this. Google has a whole series of lessons about searching, including a beginner lesson on picking the right search terms. Yes please!

I’m excited to have found these lesson resources. There’s so much great stuff out there, and I LOVE when I find something that fits my needs pretty well, which is exactly what happened with this. Apparently there are also “A Google A Day Challenges” that are little lessons created by Google to help students hone their search skills:

I’m definitely going to be sharing these with my teachers, as well as using some during library visits! This is something that our students (and if we’re being honest, many of our teachers) struggle with — and they need our help! Talk about a skill they’re going to need for the rest of their lives, this is definitely one of them!

I’m also going to share this cool infographic I found on Mashable about getting more out of your Google search:

I’m excited to see how these lessons play out. I hope that there will be lots of “Ooooohh, now I get it!” moments from my students this week as we have this discussion.

What tricks and tools do you use to teach your students how to conduct a Google search?

Duh! Common Sense Curriculum Rocks!

If you haven’t really looked at the Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum by Common Sense Media, you need to get on that. I’m passionate about advocating the need for students receive instruction that helps them to develop their digital literacy skills. But with my teachers having so much pressure put on them to raise test scores and cover their curriculum (I’m not touching that one today), asking them to add something else just seems cruel.

A few weeks ago, I really started digging into the curriculum that has been created by Common Sense Media. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I wanted to find a reasonable way to start integrating these ideas into the lives of my students. The 6-8 curriculum has a total of 28 lesson plans that are extremely well written and have lots of great discussions and activities laid out. SCORE! I talked to a few of my fabulous ELA teachers and they definitely see the worth in this, so we decided that the best way to go about this would probably be to incorporate activities in during their library visits. My long-term goal is to develop this into sets of lessons that integrate well into the content/concepts they are learning in ELA and split the lessons among the three grade levels. I’m not one to hammer myself down to some seriously structure schedule, but I think I will be able to work and tweak things so that over the course of their time with me, students will get to experience most of the lessons in this curriculum.

So I started going through the lessons, adapting them to make them my own, and creating slideshows to guide the discussions for each topic. The more I get into this curriculum, the more I love it. It’s so well done!

So I’ve been DYING to try out one of the lessons, and today was the day! I had two of my 6th grade ELA classes scheduled (the other two will come in tomorrow) and we covered the lesson called ‘Safe Talk Online.’ What an awesome day of conversation! It was so interesting to see how the kids reacted to the different scenarios. I was really surprised at how cautious they were about the idea of talking to people they don’t know online. It’s definitely been drilled into them to be safe, but I think more of these discussions will lead them to a way of reasoning that will make them smart about their interactions. I can’t wait to do more of these lessons — I think it’s really going to give me a feel for what our students need to learn about, be aware of, and get more exposure to in the world of digital citizenship and literacy.

Common Sense has free curriculums available for elementary, middle, and high school settings. You can also order the entire curriculum on a flash drive for $25. They have supplemental videos, activity materials and everything! Their stuff is all Creative Commons licensed, so I’m planning to post the presentations that I’m adapting onto SlideShare at some point soon. AWESOMENESS!!

Here’s one of their videos to give you an idea of what their curriculum is about:

September: Library Card Month

September is Library Card Month! I am blessed to live in a place with an incredible public library system. Not only did the East Baton Rouge Parish Library give me my first job through high school and college, but it also provides it’s patrons with TONS of AWESOME resources. They’re great about ordering books that you request, quickly sending books and materials from other branches, access to numerous databases, and even free downloads from Overdrive and Freegal Music. This is definitely stuff that my students (and teachers, for that matter) need to know about!

SO we are doing a big push for students to get and use library cards! I’ve covered the school with fliers and posters, ELA teachers are offering bonus points to students that show their library cards, and I’m encouraging students to send me pictures of them with their cards to feature in the library and on our Friday videos. FUN!

To get them excited and aware of all of this, I (of course) made a video:

I also have a little clip that they’ll be watching with a message from the librarian at our local library.

How are you promoting Library Card Month with your students?

Library Scavenger Hunt

I’m feeling guilty for being a blog slacker, but it’s been crazy with state testing and finishing this semester of grad school.

So I do have something quick to share. Doing a library scavenger hunt seems like a requirement. I haven’t done one before because, well, it seemed boring. Then the other day I had a thought. I’m obsessed with my Go Animate avatar. She’s the cutest thing EVER. My kids love her too. So I incorporated her into our hunt! I hid 25 little Tiffs (all in different poses) around the library. Students raced to find all of the little librarians and describe each location. The kids loved it! Fun times 🙂