It’s been a while…

It seems that I’m emerging from my mid-career burnout, post-COVID slump. It’s been two years since my last post, and long before then I was feeling a certain kind of way about things. While I still really loved my work and especially my school, I was just feeling tired and uninspired for a number of years. This school year has been the best start I’ve had in a long time, and we have so much positive momentum going right now that I’m actually feeling inspired to write and share. Or maybe it’s just a new wave to ride. Years 1 to 5 in the library had a pretty significant learning curve. Years 6 to 11 were incredibly busy and productive, with lots of involvement in professional organizations, school leadership, and presenting. Years 12 to 15 required me to take some steps back to improve my focus and perspective — COVID forced us all to have a bit of a reset. This start to my 16th year in the library, which is also my 8th year in my current school, has just felt right again.

Without a doubt, successful collaborations are the thing that has allowed me to get back to this right headspace and mindset. I feel like I need to revive this blog to share resources and projects that are working well for us. We share a space with our Academic Resource Center (formerly the Writing Center) and our shared ability to broadly support our students and teachers has opened up so many doors for collaboration. The idea that the library is for everyone really does ring true, and we are working on collaborations this year with all of the different subject area departments! Here’s what we were able to accomplish just in the first quarter:

A personal goal of mine rolling into this year was to improve our library’s social media presence. Before the school year started, I made myself a schedule and set calendar reminders for everything from posting #TikTokTuesdays and #FirstLinesFridays to updating our book displays and chalk art monthly. So far, I’m sticking to the plan and it’s paying off! A student told me that the library TikTok eats, so basically I’ve won at life. Here’s one I made of a library display swap out:

I’m posting an inspirational message or quote every #MotivationMonday, too:

I’m trying to build out extra content to have at the ready on days where I’m not as swamped so I can keep up with my posting schedule on TikTok and Instagram. We are slowly but surely building our following from students, and we definitely have some of our regular viewers that we really appreciate! And we have some alums who love following our library, too, so it’s always fun to see them pop up in our likes and views. The social media presence is definitely feeling like a win this year — even if our viewership is still on the small side!

Can little things have a big impact? Yes DEFINITELY

This post isn’t about any great, inspiring big idea. Instead, it’s about how sometimes little things can be big in that they help us build relationships and spark conversations with our students.

Our circulation desk, the massive monstrosity that it is, sits right in the middle of the first floor of our library. We are positioned so that we are the first thing everyone sees when they walk into our space. I’ve posted about how I updated our circulation desk with chalk paint, which gave it a fresh look. I usually do the seasonal updating on the chalk art. I invite students to give it a try, but it’s a little time consuming and frustrating, they often find. It’s a great conversation piece, even though people often find themselves “chalked” after leaning on the desk during a conversation with us!

We’ve acquired a collection of other fun things that live at the circulation desk that serve as conversation starters. When I ordered our essential oil diffuser over a year ago, I told my partner in crime, “I don’t think this will change our life or anything, but it could be interesting.” A year later, I think she would tell people that it did, in fact, change our lives! We have some students who love taking turns selecting our oils for the day. After reading up on the effects of different scents, we usually aim for things that will evoke calm and focus — a lot of lavender and peppermint defusing in the library! We do get lots of compliments on how nice it smells in here, and many of our frequent visitors try to guess the oils of the day. Fun stuff!

Another fun toy we have available on our desk is the Magic 8 Ball. Although not completely reliable, our students like to consult it about upcoming tests and assignments. I asked the Magic 8 Ball if little things can have a big impact…and here’s my response (after only two tries)!

Finally, our newest addition, that actually has a bit of academic weight, is our word of the week display. The board we use was a gift last year from one of our graduating advisory students, which makes it even more special! Students are invited to recommend words, and we have quite a collection going for words requested for future use. On the back of our display board,  we tape a page with the pronunciation, part of speech, definition, word origin, interesting facts, and use in a sentence. Want proof that our students are really into this word of the week thing? Last Monday morning at 7:35 AM I had a student ask me why I hadn’t updated from last week’s word yet. Needless to say, I did not make the same mistake this week! After several weeks of posting, it’s fun to see how many students are remembering and using the words from week to week. We are also having some really interesting conversations throughout the week with students about the word selections.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that keep life in the library interesting!

What fun, silly, or weird things do you have in your library that are really relationship builders in disguise?


Banned Books Week Display

One of the things I love about working with 6-12 grades is that I have such a large range of books to highlight during Banned Books Week!

Look here for resources from ALA on Banned Books Week.

Last year, I made these really cute banners for Banned Books Week, which I reused this year, along with excessive amounts of caution tape.

I followed this tutorial to print on sticky notes. I printed the blurbs from ALA’s annual bibliographies on Frequently Challenged or Banned Books on the stickies to give students more information. For a few of them, I wrote some of the key phrases describing their challenge/ban on a paper bag to make the display more interactive.

Students are always interested to learn more about books that have been banned or challenged. This is one of my favorite displays of the year!

Chalkboard Paint Circ Desk & Word Cloud

In between trips (because summer is all about travel, right?), I’ve been working in my new library to get ready for next school year. In addition to weeding and genrefying the fiction collection, I also had a few aesthetic projects in mind. I feel like there has to be some visible change in a space to get students excited about other changes. Back in 2010 I did some mid-year updates at the old CMS and summer of 2012 was a decorating frenzy as we moved into the new CMS.

Here’s the view of the circulation desk walking in before we started anything:

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I wanted to do something fun with the HUGE circulation desk staring you in the face when you walk into the library.

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Valspar makes this cool Tintable Chalkboard Paint that you can get in tons of colors! The guy at the hardware store recommended that we print with a bonding primer.

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After two coats of the primer, we were ready for color!

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The blue is one of our school colors and the green matches some of the furniture and gives a fun pop of color. Again, the paint took two good coats plus more touch up. We let it sit for several days so it would be fully cured. Then we primed the surface by coloring the entire surface. This was messy and made the surface not look perfect and clean like it does above, but otherwise when you start drawing on the surface, you’ll have ghost shadows of old designs. I read this blog post on Ella Claire Inspired by Vintage Charm to better understand this chalkboard paint situation.

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After it was all cured and primed, my mom and I got to play around with the chalk!

Another fun project was the library word cloud. I love using vinyl to create word clouds and wall quotes, but the area where I wanted to hang this was a little high. Instead of applying the vinyl directly to the wall, we bought a canvas and applied the vinyl to it. I was really happy with the result!

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You can see it below hanging in it’s proper place.

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I’m feeling good about the changes we’re making in the new library. As always, it will be a work in progress for quite some time. I’m very excited about the upcoming school year!

Library Wall Quotes

Three years ago during July of 2012, I posted about our library wall quotes and word cloud that I put up when we moved into the new library. Just three years later, and I felt like it was time for a change.

For the past several years, the library has been decked out in neon colors and zebra print, which I loved and has been a lot of fun. A few things lead me to the decision to redecorate the library. First, I was lucky enough to hear Erin Klein speak at the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media conference this spring. Erin also did a TL Virtual Cafe webinar on Classroom Cribs. She talks a lot about creating an inviting space where all students feel welcome and comfortable. Although my students absolutely loved our library as it was, I knew that I could do more to make it more appealing to both genders and not so “girly.” I’m also currently reading Dave Burgess’ book Teach Like a Pirate. He talks a great deal about incorporating your passions into your teaching practice as much as possible. I took inspiration from both of these awesome educators and decided to revamp the library with a travel theme — anyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about travel. Plus reading and travel are a perfect pairing, don’t you think?

So now for the part that everyone’s curious about — “How did you do those awesome wall quotes?!”

Our PTO purchased a Cricut Expression machine years ago. I used it the first time we put up quotes. It is great for cutting vinyl and crafting with card stock.

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Purchasing a USB cable and downloading Cricut Craft Room saved me a lot of time in the layout and cutting process, but this is still VERY time consuming. I brought the machine home and cut out the quotes over the course of about a week — and I spent MANY hours working on it during that time.

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I prefer to use the 12×24 mat and order sheets of vinyl that size from They have a large selection of colors and I’ve been more than pleased every time I order from them.

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In the picture above, you can see that blade of the Cricut wasn’t set very deep — it didn’t cut through the backing, just the vinyl. When I cut out the quotes, I had it cut deeper so I could lay out the quotes and make sure none of the letters are missing.

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It’s kind of crazy how trying to fit as many letters as possible on a sheet and make sure you end up with all of the right words and punctuation can blow your mind!

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I’ve purchased the vinyl transfer paper before, but never actually used it. Instead, we invested in this handy little laser level. We use 3M Command Strips to stick it to the wall and shoot a line.

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Then the letters go up one by one.

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They peel back up from the wall pretty easily without tearing if you have to adjust them…which you will. Often.

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I spent pretty much an entire day up on the ladder putting up the quotes with the help of my awesome mom. I’m so happy with how they all turned out!

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I went with these five travel and reading themed quotes…I love each one of them dearly and hope they will speak to my students, too.

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We even changed some of the font and color of the words in the word cloud above the circulation desk.

The finishing touches on the rest of the space are still underway and I can’t wait to post again soon with the rest of the details!

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!

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

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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!

Who is your book crush?

This idea was seen and immediately stolen from my library BFF Tamara Cox, see her post here!


We are having a blast sharing our book crushes in honor of Valentine’s Day! Both teachers and students are sharing who their ultimate book crush is — you can see mine below! It’s interesting to see how many of my girls share the same book crushes as me (meaning I’ve pushed my favorite books on them and they loved them as much as I did)!

This is my book crush:


Some of our other favorites include:

  • Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games by Susanne Collins
  • Wolf from Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  • St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Jacob from Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

…just to name a few!

And here’s the template I’ve created for the slips to fill out for your book crush:

Book Crush by librariantiff

So I have to ask…who is YOUR book crush?

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? 🙂