Book Challenge Update

We are back to school and I’m so excited to have kicked off the January & February Book Challenge! As promised, here are some more resources:

Video to introduce students to the challenge:

Flier to post around school:

JanuaryFebruaryBookChallenge Flier by librariantiff

Book Challenge Reading Log:

  January February Book Challenge Reading Log by   librariantiff

I’m still undecided about how I’m going to do prizes. So far I’ve just told students that more info on prizes is still to be announced! I’m hoping that I can get a few local businesses to make some donations, like gift cards to the frozen yogurt shop and such. And maybe a Coke float party or something for students who reach a certain number of points. Like I said, I’m still thinking about that and trying to gauge how I think it’s going to play out a little before I lock myself into some prize scheme. 🙂

I’m very excited about using a Schoology group to communicate with participants — I can’t wait until our first “check-in” to see what the students are reading for the different tasks! I’m hoping that a lot of great recommendations will come of this!


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)?

2012 Edublog Nominations

I’m skidding in here last minute to post my Edublog Nominations. And I’m posting from my parents weird computer, so please disregard any typos. Without taking the time to  blather on, here  are my nominations:

Best Individual Blog: Joyce Valenza’s Never Ending Search –

Best Group Blog: Nerdy Book Club –

Best Ed Tech/Resource Sharing Blog: Richard Byrne –

Best Library/Librarian Blog: Gwyneth Jones –

Most Influential Blog Post: Tamara Cox/Common Core: Love it or Hate it? –

Best Twitter Hashtag: #tlchat

Best Individual Tweeter: Nikki Robertson –

Best Free Web Tool: Schoology –

Best PD/Unconference/Webinar Series: TL Virtual Cafe –

Best Mobile App: Dropbox –

Best Use of a Social Network: Choose Kind –

I love my PLN and look forward to learning about new folks from these Edublog Awards like I always do!

Nothing like the scent of a new book…

I’m sure this won’t come as a shock to anyone, but I’m obsessed with new books. I’m deeply devoted to Perma-Bound books — nothing gets me like the fresh scent of that polyvinyl adhesive holding together those beautiful, shiny covers with their laminated polyester coating. And on the rare occasion that that one of my Perma-Bound copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix starts to come un-bound, I shoot them an email and they send me a fresh one. I’m quite upset when a book isn’t available in Perma-Bound. Nothing quite compares to opening boxes from a shipment from my beloved Perma-Bound.

Nothing except an awesome bargain-packed trip to Books-A-Million. I love my BAM! My BFF (fellow bookworm and ELA teacher at my school) and I love to hit up our local BAM! and dig through the bargain book section.  Here’s some photographic evidence from one of our more lucrative trips:

Very rarely am I able to bring myself to pay full price for a book from here. Well, I don’t actually have to pay full price because they give us an AWESOME 20% off for purchases for school. And there’s the occasional new release or hot cover that I just can’t leave without. But what gets me REALLY giddy is when I leave with two heavy bags of books for less than $40. The number of (mostly hardcover!!) books that I score from them for less than $4 is pretty amazing. Copies of “I Am Number Four”, “Heist Society”, and “The Summer I Turned Pretty” are just a few of my recent finds that left me doing a jig as I exit the store with the beautiful new books!

Regular visits to the book store also keep me aware of what’s hot and what’s new — definitely important as I try to stretch my ever-shrinking budget to get the most bang for the buck. And, honestly, that’s what it’s all about — doing the best I can to get the best possible books in the hands of my students!

What are your tricks for stocking your library shelves?

Back to School Update

Wow, it’s September! August really flew by — it was crazy, hectic, and sometimes overwhelming as we kicked off the school year and settled into our new building. I can definitely say that I’m looking forward to many years of STAYING PUT and not having to move or re-arrange or anything else of that nature! I’m definitely in love with my new home sweet home!

I’ve also had an unexpected week off work with Hurricane Isaac blowing through town. I’m definitely ready for Tuesday to get here so I can get back to the library and into the routine that I’ve so desperately been craving.

I’ve been getting loads of questions lately about our library’s nontraditional shelving, and I really need to do a thorough post on the steps I took and all. But today is not the day for that. I will share my signage for the categories I’ve used, though! I created these using Creative Commons images from, the WordFoto app, Comic Life, and Photoshop. I’ve posted them all on Flickr with a Creative Commons Share Alike license, so feel free to use them in your own library if you like them!

I’ve also committed to a new challenge for myself for this school year. I will be working on my National Board Certification!! My library twin and bestie Tamara Cox is working on hers as well, and I’m already SO THANKFUL for the support and drive that she is giving me! I can already see how this process is going to really push me to examine and improve my practice as a librarian.

And now for an exciting announcement…

I am SO looking forward to September 10th! Last year I was honored and GIDDY to be asked by the fantabulous Gwyneth Jones to join her in presenting a TL Virtual Cafe Back to School Special! This year, the amazing Jennifer LaGarde is joining us for what is sure to be an AWESOME hour packed full of ideas and excitement to get you pumped up for a great year! I’m so excited to join these two lovely ladies in kicking off what is going to be an information packed year of top notch webinars from the TL Virtual Cafe! Hope to see you all there!


New Library Tour

Here’s an impromptu tour of the new library. Sorry that it’s so spastic, I wanted to video something really quickly but didn’t have time to plan anything. Please don’t judge my video creation skills on this! I thought I would still share it, though, to give you all a better idea of how things are coming along overall.

And here’s a few photos of my latest project, also. Our school is implementing the Leader in Me program, which is based on Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Each room in our school is going to display the seven habits, and this is how I decided to display them in the library:

I bought eight 10×8 canvases that were on sale at Hobby Lobby. I cut out the letters using scrap vinyl from my other projects and put them down on the canvas. Mom painted over them with some acrylic paint we had used for another project, then peeled off the vinyl letters after it dried. We did a little touch up with a white paint pen, but I think they came out looking quite nice! The lime green is a little hard to read at a distance or at a certain angle, but I like it anyway.


I told my principal that I need school to start so I can stop having these brilliant project ideas that have been consuming my life for the past two months!! I’m very proud of the way that the library is looking, now it’s time to get some kids in there!


Word Cloud… YES please :)

I recently posted photos of the amazing quotes that we’ve added to the stunning new library. The only place where I needed *something* was above the circulation desk area. Mom requested that I pick another quote and make it a short one (we’ve kind of had enough of sticking vinyl…). Of course, I’ve got to be difficult. Lying in bed two nights ago, I had the brainstorm to use that space for a word cloud. Not simple, but potentially awesome. Yesterday morning, I made a list of words I wanted included and assigned them each a size (XL=10”, L=7”, M=5”, S=3”).Then I started cutting on the Cricut machine, which takes longer than you would think. MI varied colors and thickness and crossed my fingers that it would fit together like a nice puzzle. Mom came up to the library yesterday afternoon and we got out the laser level again and got those fancy words up there! It was a long and frustrating day, but THIS LOOKS AMAZING! I think it may be the showpiece of the library! What do you think? 🙂

New Library Quotes

I’ve been back from my California extravaganza for a week now, and my world has been revolving around moving into the new library. Things are getting unpacked and the library is starting to look cute. I mean… if you know me, you know that CUTE is a major priority 🙂

A huge project that we’ve been tackling right off is putting up the new wall quotes. I loved my wall quotes at the old library and knew I wanted to do something similar in the new school. The old ones we painted using stencils, but obviously there is no painting these brand new walls! We have a Cricuit machine at school and I purchased some vinyl sheets and spent quite a bit of time cutting out the five quotes I decided on. I recruited help from my amazing mom and awesome friend BJ, and we got to sticking! Thanks ladies, I couldn’t do it without you!



How the heck are we getting these letters on straight? Mom got a laser level that sticks to the wall. Genius!

So here are the five quotes that are now hanging out in the beautiful new library (colors: teal, pink, blue, purple, green):





And here are the two decorative arrangements that are in front of the huge windows:


There’s still lots of work to be done and many more blogs posts to come, but I’m so proud of how things are coming along!

ISTE Reflection

I’m going to try to reflect on my experience at ISTE in San Diego, but I know I’m not going to do it justice. It was incredible. This was my third ISTE Conference and it is an experience I feel like I need each year to recharge my batteries and get excited for the next school year. Although the idea of being “recharged” is difficult to grasp because I ran myself ragged at the conference this year. I just couldn’t make myself stop or slow down for silly things like sleeping and eating, there was just too much to do! Next year, I have to do a better job of giving myself time to chill and reflect.

So this year, my BFF and 6th grade ELA teacher at my school (@alaperouse) was the victim of being sucked into my ISTE and ed tech obsession. We decided to turn the conference trip into a marathon and spent a few days before and after the conference seeing San Diego and San Francisco. She was excited about the trip and curious about the conference. She’s my BFF so she knows how much my life revolves around Twitter, blogging, and the ed tech world. Since the conference, she’s a convert! Now Alaina is building her own PLN and we are making plans for some cool projects this school year. I’ve been lucky enough to have a different teacher come along with me to ISTE each year and I think that it’s really added a lot of value for me, this year especially.

So I’m going to try and give a recap of the conference. Before the conference, I was able to attend the Leadership Symposium and attend a break-out session on Moving Beyond from Textbooks — lots of great resources in this LiveBinder.

Sunday afternoon I helped set up for the SIGMS table at the SIG Fair. I love our SIG, one of the best and busiest I think, and it’s been a great year for me serving as Vice Chair.



I was able to meet so many great members of my PLN at the Fair and see many of my beloved library friends! Before the opening keynote, the cast of ISTE Hollywood Squares met up and cut up…err…planned for our session. I still can’t believe I was part of that group, what a blast! I watched the Opening Keynote from the Bloggers Cafe, but you can see it here:

Then, Alaina and I rushed back to our hotel to get ready for the AWESOME Edubros Party 🙂


Monday morning started with the SIGMS Playground, which is always SO much fun as always! After, I glanced at the planner and saw Lisa Parisi’s session on Making Connections with Blogging was about to begin. That was the PERFECT opportunity to have Alaina see how much her students NEED to be blogging. SUCCESS! It was a great session with amazing ideas and I can’t wait to see what will come of it for our students. I also attended sessions by Adam Bellow and Chris Lehmann, both amazing speakers who shared the great things they are doing. Monday night was the SIGMS Reception sponsored by ProQuest, which was a great chance to hang out with awesome library friends!

Tuesday morning I went to breakfast with other educators from my district attending the conference at the beautiful Hotel Del Coronado. I attended Kathy Shrock’s session on Literacy in the Digital Age, then got ready for the SIGMS Forum. Steve Hargadon was the main speaker, discussing social media in schools and libraries. Joquetta Johnson and I spoke of the ways that we are using social media in our schools (SO MUCH FUN!), and Jason Epstein, Marie Slim, Jane Lofton, and Peggy George shared cool tools like Pinterest, Celly, Tricider, and Symbaloo. Sharing at the Forum was a great experience! And the session is also available through ISTE’s Video On Demand!

My favorite session was Wednesday morning’s SIGMS Breakfast. Not only was I presented as SIGMS President-Elect (I’m so excited to be part of the new re-structuring of SIGMS leadership!) but we had an amazing presentation by Alan November. I mean, PREACH IT! CIPA, information access, filtering policies, the roles of librarians, search personalization by Google, and so much more! I can’t wait to listen to the Video On Demand of this session again so I can yell “AMEN!” and “THAT’S RIGHT!” over and over.

I wrapped up the conference with the craziest, most out-the-box session at the conference, which I happened to be part of…Hollywood Squares! I think most of the audience appreciated our humor and enjoyed the session as a fun way to end their time at ISTE. I know I had fun playing Lady GaGa!



Love me some Nick Provenzano and Gwyneth Jones!!

After the session, there was time for one last dinner in San Diego. Alaina and I were able to share it with some of our #isteBFFs, Matthew Winner, Cheryl Steighner, Ryan Patterson, and Ilona Brennick!

So now I’m home and recovering from that incredible trip. I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to connect with so many amazing educators from around the world. You all inspire me daily and drive me to constantly want to better myself as an educator.

I <3 #ISTE12!

ISTE 2012 Conference Tips

If you’re looking for the conference tips, scroll down a bit. Up first is a little update of the last few weeks!

Am I REALLY three weeks into summer?

The first week after the end of school was busy leading up to my brother and new wife’s wedding. It was a beautiful plantation wedding:


My mom and I spent the following week at the beach, recovering from the exhausting wedding festivities!

I got in some good reading time, but I spent most of the week coughing. I finally went to the doctor when I got home this week, and it turns out it’s developed into bronchitis. No fun, but I’m on the mend (I hope, anyway).

This Monday morning, I got the call that the movers were bringing the library books from the old school to the new school. So I got my coughing self off the couch and got over to the new school to supervise the moving of the books!



There’s still an enormous amount of work to be done, but I won’t be able to get back into the school and really get to work until I get home from my big California trip in the beginning of July.

Which means… our beloved ISTE Conference is coming up soon!

I’ll be getting on a plane to head to San Diego a week from today! This will be my third year in attendance and I’m looking forward to it even more than ever before.

I was so excited to have the opportunity to write a piece about the conference for School Library Journal called ISTE or Bust (part of the article ‘Best in the West‘) — I consider myself to be somebody now that I’m in print! They even did a caricature of me for the article!! You can read the article here.


To say this excites me is the understatement of the century! 

I’ve been asked several times about tips that I would share with a first time ISTE attendee. I think that ISTE is unlike any other conference (at least unlike any other I’ve attended). It’s MASSIVE. It’s incredibly overwhelming. There’s no way that you can see and do it all. But there’s so much to see and do, that you want to make sure you take advantage of your time as much as possible and savor every minute!

Now if you’re looking for packing tips, check out the amazing Gwyneth Jones at her Daring Librarian blog. She’s got that covered! I’m just going to ramble a bit about the things that I do to prepare myself for one of my FAVORITE professional experiences of the year.

Tip 1: Use the Conference Planner! I love the ISTE Conference Planner because it’s so thorough, organized, and easy to search. Fill it up and give yourself some options. Download the app (available now!) and keep using it throughout the conference instead of lugging around a conference book. While you’re at it, join the Conference Ning and make even more connections. Not sure what sessions to attend but want to see the best of the best? Use the SIG Picks to get some suggestions for sessions that are sure to blow you away. Make sure you add these sessions that are not to be missed (according to yours truly, anyway):

Tip 2: Get on Twitter and use the #ISTE12 hashtag! I cannot imagine going to ISTE and not being active on Twitter. There’s so much rich conversation and valuable connections that take place in that Twitter stream. There’s so much going on throughout the entire conference and it’s a great way to keep up with as many of those things as possible. Not able to make the conference? THIS is your chance to get involved and reap the benefits of such a conference from the comfort of your own home.

Tip 3: Bring business cards! There are so many opportunities to connect with new educators from all over the world. With so much creativity flowing around, there are great ideas all over the place and so many chances for collaborations to be born. Being able to pass along a business card with your contact info is quite handy. And of course, it has to be cute! My new box of Moo Mini Cards should be arriving in the mail any day now 🙂

  I <3 Moo Minis!

Tip 4: Party Time! Obviously there’s lots of sessions to attend and things to do that you are going to line up using your conference planner. That alone is enough to keep you busy and run you ragged for the duration of the conference. Don’t fill your schedule to the point where you miss out on chances for conversations and for FUN! Don’t be afraid to skip a session to go to lunch with new peeps. Spend some time hanging out at the Newbie Lounge, Blogger’s Cafe, and Social Butterfly Lounge. After hours, plan to hit up some of the fun social events, such as the EdTech Karaoke Rooftop Party. There will be more options than you can possibly attend, but use Twitter and the #ISTE12 hashtag to see where the fun is happening!

Tip 5: Document your adventure! Obviously, you are going to want to keep notes on the sessions you attend and the people you meet. Evernote is a great note taking tool out there for you to use. Perhaps you want to bring along your LiveScribe pen. However you decide to keep your notes, do your best to keep them organized so you can really use them after you get home. Note taking isn’t enough, though! Take lots of pictures and post them on Flickr. Join the masses that will be blogging about ISTE12. As usual, I plan to keep a video journal of my experience and will be posting away here on my blog!

I’m looking so very forward to ISTE this year! If you are going, what are you looking forward to the most? Make sure to look for me there and please say HI! or send me a Tweet and let’s meet up. I can’t wait to meet more members of my PLN face to face 🙂