Operation Weed & Genrefy

Last week at CMS was a very emotional week. The last day for students was Wednesday and teachers wrapped up their year with the annual crawfish boil celebration on Friday. I’m thankful that I’ve attended all 9 of the CCSS end of the year crawfish boils so far and I’m sad to part ways with a district that I love.

After a very busy weekend, I started my summer with a quiet (okay, I did crank up the music since I was by myself) and very busy Memorial Day Monday at Episcopal in my new library.

I have the very ambitious goal of starting off the new school year with the fiction section fully weeded and genrefied. With the amount of traveling I’m doing this summer, this is a lofty goal. After two full days of hard work, I’m exhausted but optimistic.

Here are some pictures I snapped yesterday, before I got started and then during my initial steps of weeding and genrefication.

Like I said…I’m tired after two full, nonstop days of work. But I still wanted to share some early thoughts in my second library to genrefy.

I do have to say, this is easier the second time around. A massive weeding of a new to you/older library collection is daunting. I’m trying to take this project on much more quickly than I did the first time, and that definitely adds to the stress level. I do have to say, though, it’s manageable when you approach with the idea of weeding when “books that haven’t moved since I graduated from high school are GONE…books that haven’t moved since before I was born are WAY gone.” None the less, it’s daunting to cull such a large collection so quickly…but definitely possible and not unreasonable!

It’s also easier to genre tag when I’ve been there/done that. I’m going to write in greater detail later about the details of selecting genres, as that’s something I’m asked about frequently. Knowing my previous collection as well as I did, I’ve been able to draw on that knowledge as I work with and get to know this new collection.

I have two more busy days ahead of me before I leave this Friday on my annual road trip with my BFF. I’m so thankful that my #1 volunteer (my mom) is helping to push me through this project. I am so excited to see this project through and keep working towards an amazing start to the 16-17 school year. Stay tuned for the next update!

Passing the Torch

Dear new CMS librarian,

You’re going to love it here. This school, this library, these students, these teachers…it truly is an amazing place to work and I hope that you’re as happy and fulfilled here as I have been these past five and a half years.

I’m going to go ahead and apologize now — there will be things in this library that make you wonder about me. You’ll wonder WHAT I was thinking, why did I decide to do this that way, why didn’t I make such and such a bigger priority. As someone who has taken over two libraries already in my career (and as I move on to another), I know these things will cross your mind. Just know (like I always have about those that came before me) that I tried my best and did as much as I could as best I could. A librarian’s work is never done. The library is never perfect. There are always unfinished projects (I’ll tell you about those later). Just know that everything I’ve done here, every choice I made, was driven by a desire to make this space the best possible environment for my students and teachers. I tried not to make this library about me (okay…the pink book cart was definitely about me…it’s an exception, though), I’ve always wanted it to be about the kids.

Over the years I’ve learned that relationships are what make or break a school library program. The great thing about this school is that strong, working relationships are expected — they are the rule, not the exception. The teachers here (especially the ELA teachers) will expect you to be one of their go-to people. This is not an easy thing to establish, so I hope you will love it…and run with it! Spend time getting to know the faculty members here — they are a great group. They’re willing to try new things and let the librarian be their partner in teaching. Take full advantage of this and don’t allow it to change.

Students at CMS are READERS. You will have some great book conversations with students and it will be amazing. Get to know the collection, get to know the students, and help get books in the right hands. This library is NOT full of pristine books on tidy shelves. Once the school year gets cranked up, the shelves don’t look super full and the books look more and more worn…but it’s because they’re reading, so it’s a win.

One of the things I’m most proud of in this library is the organization of the books — known lovingly as genrefication. The fact that my spell check recognizes it now as a word is a testament to how passionate I am about it. Ditching Dewey was never about me — it was about the students. They’re able to find the books they’re looking for easily. This layout is based on the idea of browsing. The signage is key (as are the stickers). In this space, students are able to find their reading “home”, explore new interests, pair fiction with nonfiction, discover new authors and series. They use the word genre often (and they understand it). I’m sure it will take a bit of getting used to, but I HOPE that you will love it as much as I do, as much as the kids do.

Self check-out is another big way that I’ve made this library “theirs.” Students definitely feel more ownership of the library when they’re in charge of checking in and out their own books. Maybe even more importantly, it freed me from the circulation desk. Instead of constantly running to the desk to check out books for students, I’ve been able to teach classes and work one-on-one with students while the library remains open for others to be able to check out and return books as needed. Sure, I know we lose a few books due to this process throughout the year (although I’d also argue that we were losing books before, too, when I was too busy to watch over the circulation desk). Ultimately, this helped me to accomplish the goal of making the library constantly available for book business while I could still work to be an instructional partner for the teachers. The biggest key to self check out success is PROCEDURE, PROCEDURE, PROCEDURE.

The best thing about the library — and about teaching middle school — is that every day is different. There’s never a dull moment, there’s always something to be done. Enjoy what you do and laugh often. Take time on a regular basis to reflect on your successes (and your failures). Set goals to continue to push this library and this school on to bigger and better things. You’re going to be great at this, and you’re going to love it here.

All the best,

Tiffany Whitehead

 

P.S. – In addition to the MANY files on the flash drive I have for you (and lots of reflections/resources are on my blog as well), I thought these things would be informative:

Change ahead!

ChangeJFK

I am thrilled to finally share the news of a big change that is on the horizon. Next school year, I will be the upper and middle school librarian at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. Friends and family who know me well have been a bit shocked by this news, as they know how much I LOVE my students, faculty, and library at Central Middle. It was a difficult decision for me, but in the end I knew this was an opportunity that I would regret passing up. Change pushes us out of our comfort zones and forces us to grow and adapt. I am anxiously anticipating the professional growth that I will experience in the coming years as I work with the incredible students and faculty at Episcopal.

As eager as I am for this new adventure, it is bittersweet. During my five and a half years at CMS (and nine years in the Central Community School District), the library program, the reading culture at our school, and the use of technology have come so far. Genrefying our library has helped increase circulation tremendously and self check-out has given the ownership of this space over to the students. I’ve developed relationships and professional partnerships with so many of the amazing faculty members here, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support, encouragement, and willingness to work with their crazy librarian. Of course it’s going to be difficult to leave behind my students that I’ve made connections with through our mutual love of reading. I am so proud of the library and school that I’m leaving behind, and I know that there are many great things ahead for the library, school, and entire district in Central.

The next year will be an exciting one — full of changes and new experiences. I’m looking forward to building relationships with a new faculty and group of students. I will be working with students in grades 6-12, so high school will be a new adventure for me. There are already some great projects in the works for next year that I’m looking forward to — I know it’s going to be a great year and I can’t wait to share all about it. Bringing my past library experiences and knowledge to a new setting is going to be a lot of fun!

Look for many blog posts as I make the transition (and start the process of genrefying another library)!

Dominate Music Video

I know that all educators have strong feelings about standardized testing. No matter how we feel about the upcoming test (and I will say I’m thankful that this year we’re spending FAR less days testing!), our CMS faculty tries their hardest to make the best of the situation. Every year for the past four years, we’ve released a teacher music video immediately before testing. I’m so excited to share this year’s video…and revisit our previous ones as well!

I’ve served as the main planner, videographer, and editor for our videos for the past several years. This year, I passed the torch along to our awesome speech teacher, Leslie Pierce. She did such a great job pulling this together, along with the help of my BFF and ELA teacher, Alaina Laperouse, and our band teacher, Thomas Huckaby.

They rewrote and recorded a version of Rihanna’s Desperado…our version is called Dominate. Check it out:

We want the world to see this video (and how awesome our CMS teachers are)…so please share it out! We REALLY would love for Rihanna to see it!!

And just for fun…here are our videos from the past several years:

2015 – Shake It Off

2014 – Happy

2013 – Harlem Shake

I love this tradition so much! It helps us bond as a faculty and make GREAT memories…and of course laugh at ourselves and have fun. We are middle school teachers, after all!

Do you have an awesome, fun teacher tradition at your school?

Why is broken okay?

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In my school (and also in the four other schools in my district), the Internet has been going down regularly for four weeks. Every day (except for one lucky and glorious day) for these past weeks, the Internet has been down more than it’s been up. Things that are housed on our own servers (such as internal email and thankfully Destiny, our library management system) have stayed functional most of the time. The wifi, though, is down most of the time. Did I mention that we’re a 1:1 school? For weeks, our students have been carrying around their laptops, hoping they might work for a very short time during the course of the day.

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Those of you in schools can imagine the chaos this creates in learning, teaching, planning, collaborating, grading, communicating, and every other aspect of school life. Those of you not in the field of education are probably scratching your heads, thinking, “How is this even possible?” In the corporate world, this would not happen. Plain and simple. I’m married to an IT guy, and I know that if this happened in his office, he would have been out of a job weeks ago. The company would have immediately done whatever it took, brought in outside resources to fix things, and return to business as usual.

Why is it okay in education? Why is it okay for our students and our teachers? We are constantly hearing stories about terrible conditions in schools, about lack of funding and lack of resources. We’re also seeing great teachers leave the profession because of the conditions, the frustrations, the general lack of respect — and you honestly can’t blame them. Obviously, I don’t have the solution, but something’s got to give. Unfortunately, I can’t even get an answer as to why our Internet keeps going down after four weeks. And it’s really not okay.

The Sting of Rejection

I’ve been struggling with the idea of writing this post. I don’t want to come across as a complainer…I am incredibly blessed to have a career I love, and I feel that my hard work and commitment to my profession has paid off tremendously in the past few years. We all go through slumps at some point, and I feel like I’ve been having one these past few months. As I reflect on what it feels like to not have the success that I’m always striving for, I think about what it feels like for our students. When you try so hard, give something everything you’ve got, and then come up short, it’s hard to stay positive.

Often as educators, we don’t put ourselves out there and apply for grants/awards/etc. because we might not get it. And when you don’t, it stinks! It hurts! It’s upsetting!

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This year, we submitted our entry for the Follett Challenge and worked our tails off to promote our entry. We were so close! If we had been just a few spots higher in the voting, we would have won something. But we didn’t. I gave it my all, but that wasn’t enough in this case. We put together a great video and it was great publicity for our library program, but that doesn’t help with the sting of not winning. This was our second time entering the Follett Challenge.

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My best friend (who is also an ELA teacher at my school) and I wrote a Fund for Teachers grant this year. For almost two months, we stayed after school for 30-60 minutes most days of the week to research and write our grant. We put so much time, effort, and energy into writing this and were so pleased with what we submitted. We wrote this grant because we got an email about the seven submissions that were funded from our state the previous year, and they were seeking more entries from our area. We were very hopeful and anxiously awaited the email that would let us know if we were funded. Alaina and I travel together every summer and were excited about the opportunity to travel and put together an awesome cross-curricular unit with the help of this grant. We didn’t make other travel plans for this summer, because we knew if we got the grant we wouldn’t be taking another trip. When we got this rejection letter and found out that only two projects were funded from our state, we were heartbroken.

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Last year, I was selected as one of ISTE’s 2014 Emerging Leaders…an incredible honor. I thought I would apply one last time (this was my third year applying) for the Outstanding Young Educator award. I’ve been very involved with the Librarians Network with ISTE for years. Our group is large and very active, so I really wanted to see a librarian recognized for one of ISTE’s big awards. Even when you aren’t surprised or devastated by a rejection, it still doesn’t feel great.

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This one stings the most! Two years ago in Hartford at AASL, was part of four awesome, packed out presentations. It was overwhelming to do so many presentations at a big conference, so I only submitted one proposal for AASL in Columbus. I thought it was a great session proposal and it included some of my library friends that I love and respect the most in our TL community. I’m so disappointed that I won’t be presenting in Columbus this fall. AASL is my absolute favorite conference and speaking is one of my favorite things to do (especially with a group of other awesome library leaders), and I’m beyond bummed that it won’t be happening this year.

I think it’s important to be thoughtful and reflective at a time when pushing on and dusting yourself off just doesn’t feel so easy. At times like this, do I feel like I want to back off a bit and quit trying so hard? You bet I do. But what kind of example does that set for my students? How many of them feel like this all the time? They try so hard, put in their best effort, but they still fall short. How can we encourage those students to keep trying? So while I’ve experienced this feeling of not quite making it several times in the past few months, I’m trying to use it to gain some perspective. Relate this experience to my students so I can better connect with and encourage them. And most importantly…I’m going to keep trying and putting myself out there because that’s what I want them to do.

 

Nesting

So I’ve survived my first official week as a middle school librarian!

This was exam week at my school, so there wasn’t too much activity in the library. I’m anxious to start working with and getting to know the students, but it really was nice for me to have a quiet week to finish my “nesting.” I also had some time to really explore some of the features of Destiny that I haven’t used before. I discovered Destiny Quest, which has an awesome interface and allows students to not only search the library collection, but to read and write reviews, recommend books to friends, and put books on hold. I am really looking forward to sharing this resource with my students and teaching them to use all of the cool features. Definitely more to come on this!

I thought that the library needed some fun puzzles that the students would enjoy. My mom gave me these two for Christmas:

At first the kids just kind of stood there and looked at them. Which of course cracked me up. I guess they thought I’d put puzzles out on the circulation desk just to tease them? They obviously don’t know me yet! So after I talked a few of them into giving it a shot, they became quite popular and I even had a few come in during lunch to give these puzzles a try.

I also got a Diary of a Wimpy Kid jigsaw puzzle. I found this cool felt mat that came with a tube and straps so I can roll it up without messing up the puzzle if I need to. After the reluctance to try the maze puzzles, I had my library workers get this one started. A few kids that came in during lunch also tried this one out. I think this is going to be a hit!

I’ve been toying with the idea of shelving fiction by genre once we get into the new library. Regardless of if I do that or not, I knew I wanted to at least tag the books by genre so the students could browse the shelves for genres more easily. I ordered color-tinted label protectors and have started tagging the books:

Orange – Series

Light Blue – Realistic Fiction

Dark Blue – Sports

Pink – Romance

Yellow – Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Green – Mystery/Suspense/Horror

I’m also thinking I need to add a color for historical fiction, and maybe one for classics. I think the series tags are going to be particularly useful for students.

This is also giving me a chance to get to know the collection and do some weeding. The librarian before me did a lot of weeding, but there’s still so much that I just don’t see as anything the students would want to check out. Plus there are some titles that we have with serious multiple copy overkill. I knew my elementary school collection so well, there were few times that I even needed to use the catalog. Although this collection is much bigger, I know I won’t be happy until I’m extremely familiar with it. Which is why I’ve decided to take on this project right away.

We’re off on Monday, but we’ll kick of the new semester on Tuesday with LYRCA (our state book award) voting! It’s an event I love, giving students the opportunity to vote on real voting machines. We have about 140 students participating. So I’m looking forward to another great week!

My Week in Transition

This was an exhausting, emotionally draining week for me. The retiring middle school librarian had a substitute this week in the library, but she did spend a bit of time early in the week cleaning out and packing up. My replacement at the elementary library started on Monday. I spent the week in limbo — mornings at the middle school and afternoons at the elementary school. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do this. It allowed me the chance to tie up my loose ends at the elementary school and get myself situated at the middle school.

Being the techno-geek that I am, I made some changes to scheduling and morning routines at the middle school by infusing technology. I went crazy with the Google forms and I’m loving it! Mornings at the CMS library are very busy. Thankfully, there are several awesome teachers who have library duty to help out. Not only do students flock in to study, use the computers or printer/copier, return/check-out books, etc. but the library also takes care of selling temporary and replacement ID cards. These forms are now being used for students to sign in:

The ID Business form has been especially successful since the ID station is in the computer lab and the spreadsheet can be pulled up at that station so the names pop up as they are entered.

I went round and round trying to decide how I wanted to do scheduling. I needed to keep up with scheduling for the main area of the library, library lab, and 4 mobile labs available for check-out. Nan from Rhinelander High School shared her format for digital scheduling, and I loved it! You can check out here site here. So I took her idea and ran with it:

You can go here to see my live form with the Google calendars below. I think once the teachers get used to filling out the form, they’ll really like the ability to schedule whenever they want from where ever they are. I’m going to be looking to drum up some business and do some collaborative projects. Exciting times ahead!

As tough as this week was, I really felt the love at both schools. CMS is very happy to have me back and they have made me feel so welcome. TES let me know how much I’ll be missed, which really made me feel good and made it hard to leave at the same time.

So here’s to the next phase of my library career! I can’t wait to see what it holds.

Middle School, here I come!

BEWARE: This post is basically my excitement bubbling over…side-bar notes in (parenthesis) and exclamations !!! are abundant.

It’s been a busy week decorating and snazzing things up at my new (to me, it’s really old and smelly) middle school library! When this opportunity first came about, I wasn’t planning on making any changes since we’re (supposed to be) moving into a brand new school (HOLLA!) for January 2012. The building that we are currently in is ancient, falling apart, and pretty much full of asbestos and mold. (In fact, it is the middle school that I attended in 6-8 grades. I was even a student library worker there, so this is really like coming home.) Since the school is so icky and old, plans for a new school have been in the works for a while and it’s FINALLY coming to fruition.

So despite the fact that we’ll be moving to a new school in the very near future, I couldn’t keep myself from doing a little sprucing up. I mean, I’m going to be spending the majority of my waking hours there. Most of the things can come with us to the new school. And I went with trendy — zebra print, bright blue, neon green, and pink. So do ya wanna see it?? Here are some pictures:

The wood on the front of the circulation desk had seen better days (and those days were long ago), so we covered it with this cute green fabric. Spray adhesive is AWESOME! We also added some little circle mirrors from Hobby Lobby. And of course, I had to put up my favorite Go!Animate characters who will be appearing in lots of videos…I’ll be able to change their word bubbles frequently.

There were some pictures and columns already in the library. We spray painted the frames and columns. The zebra in the picture is fabric and the letters I cut out from scrapbook paper. I think this came out SO CUTE! 🙂

We stenciled some great quotes about books and reading:

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” -Richard Steele

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” -Margaret Fuller

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” -Earnest Hemingway

“A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.” -H.W. Beecher

“Books can be dangerous. Some should be labeled: ‘This could change your life.'” -Helen Exley

Quite a few hours went into the stenciling, and I REALLY appreciate all of the help from my mom and friend BJ. They are the best volunteers I have (not just to this, but for everything) and I am so thankful for everything they do.

And those curtains are really shower curtains that I found on sale at Big Lots — SCORE!

There was a cheesy poster (sorry, Marie) to mark the Student Publication Center, so we stenciled there, too.

I’m really proud of myself for putting together the great zebra chair my mom got for me! And the lamp…isn’t it groovy?

I’m so excited and ready to get back to school and see the reactions from students and teachers. Hope the reaction is a good one! I know that they will miss the retiring librarian. She’s one of my mentors and a wonderfully sweet, patient, and compassionate woman. They’ll be getting something a little bit different with me (HA!) but I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have in store.

If you are impressed with my (and mom’s) mad decorating skillz, leave me some love (as in a comment)!

A different kind of reflection.

While completing my undergrad program, I hated writing reflections. We were forced to “reflect” on everything, meaning we wrote a page or two of complete and total bull in order to appease our professors. Upon graduation, I looked forward to no longer having to “reflect.” My crew even put a snide reflection comment on our graduation t-shirts. Yet here I am, well over a year into writing this blog, and I am reflecting on my practices at least once a week. I do this because my internalized reflections are so constant that I need to put them into writing on a regular basis.

Lots of my favorite bloggers are writing posts in which they reflect on the past year and look forward to 2011. At this point, that would be very difficult for me to do because there is so much impending change with the start of the new year. So please excuse these scattered and possibly random ramblings.

First of all, I really wish I was one of those rock star bloggers who craft these really moving, thought provoking posts that really push your thinking. But I don’t, and honestly think that this point I can’t. I’m still in the infant stage of my career — I’m 25 years old and in my third year of librarianship, for crying out loud! I’m still a kid, geez. And I’m completely proud of what I accomplished in my 2.5 years at my fabulous elementary school. I may not have done things that genuinely flow with or push the limits of the changing shape of our profession, but I can honestly say that I built a pretty strong program that served my kiddos and fulfilled their reading needs. It’s something to be proud of, and I am.

The time to reflect on and appreciate my time spent with 2nd and 3rd graders was very brief. I’ve been in a frenzy of brainstorming and planning for my new middle school library position. I am very hopeful that this position will give me the opportunity to push my limits and become the change agent that I dream of being. But for now, I have to start with baby steps to make changes to the program so I can make it my own. Looking forward, I’m so unbelievably excited about the opportunities and challenges that await.

Even though this end of the year reflection is different, scattered, short, and a probably incomplete, it is an accurate representation of the place where I am at this moment in time. And isn’t that basically what a reflection should be?