Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This far in...

A milestone: I'm halfway to retirement (!), and I have few observations this far into "Education the Profession"....

The size of a school may be the single most important factor determining student success

Well, not the only one, but ...the only school system in Alabama that regularly bests us is larger, but has zero poverty. We have thirty percent free and reduced-price lunch...but we are a third its size. And the school system where I work is truly ideal in that most adults know most students. And our guidance counselors hand-schedule classes. And the classes are tiny. And it works.

In a decade, my last school grew from 800 students to 1500. I spent some time working on a U. S. Department of Ed Smaller Learning Communities grant, a program predicated on creating learning environments of optimal size, which gets at the affective aspects of learning. Sure, the lure of the big and economies of scale are tempting. At 1000 students, high schools in Alabama are allocated a third state-funded guidance unit, a third assistant principal, and funding for a second librarian. But I don't think more people is the answer.

Social services creep is real

And I thought attendance robocalls were creepy... things we have now we didn't have when I started teaching: school nurses, school resource officers. Heck, there are even nurses required to be on every field trip. But it begs the question, what is the role of school?

Obsolescence is often used like a weapon with school librarians, as with librarians in all settings

With the Internet and Wikipedia, who needs a building filled with dusty old books, right? I believe the faculty should be dazzled with your librarian skills, soft skills as well as technology integration and information sources. Show them your hard work. And help teachers get started with the tools that meet their expressed needs. If you can't do that...there's not too much hope for you.

Advance some radical thoughts about technology

Virtual field trips are not field trips, elearning is not learning, current assessment systems are ridiculous. It boils down to the fact that demonstrating the mastery of standards is simply not the same as experiential learning. So let's get back to learning, constructivist, project-based learning. It's what will stick with them.

I should never be the youngest person at the table

I'm excited for more millennial school leaders and their out-of-the-box thinking. I like it. This year, I've shifted to a different way of thinking about hardware... educational technology as an ongoing expenditure, not a one-shot investment. When you really look at the total cost of ownership, it becomes apparent why education likes Mac -- that overpriced, idiot-proofed, walled garden. It shifts costs from manpower to hardware, and Mac even amortizes hardware through leasing. It's access versus ownership, that generational tension again, but I use a nine year old laptop, so I'm definitely not the one to ask...

I love this work, especially watching our seniors graduate and go on to bigger things.

Friday, May 23, 2014

In the midst of one crazy month

I haven't had time to catch my breath since the Alabama Library Association conference wrapped last month. I was immediately thrust into administering the AP tests. We gave lots of them this year, so it was pretty much nonstop, with lots of makeup exams (and a makeup for a makeup, still to come). I really don't mind this, as ours is a small faculty, the test administration does not use the library space, and I like the opportunity to be kind and hopefully ease the stress of the students testing. I have been working on being soothing and trying to calm them, trying to modulate my voice to that end.

In the meantime, the library has been open with various substitutes. While that's not ideal, at least it makes the facility and the collection available to students. I worry that, in many schools, the library as space is going to get repurposed as a computer-based lab, the way AR once took over so many libraries as spaces. I know high school librarians in other states who have described this happening. But I think my school appreciates the role that the library and the librarians serve in supporting student learning. We definitely hear about it when we are away.

In the meantime, I keep looking around our library in the vocational building. Part of the drop ceiling got soaked and fell in last month, and the solution was to cover a bank of bookshelves with heavy duty plastic and rope off that area with caution tape. It hasn't leaked again, but the custodians don't want to remove the tarps yet, "just in case." Now the latest timeline says we won't be able to move into the new space until August 1, but one of the other buildings will be moving into ours in the meantime, so we have to box everything up. It's daunting, to say the least.

Not that I don't have things planned for next month: the state school library association conference, the state ed tech conference, some workshops, then a whole week in Las Vegas for ALA Annual.  Yeah, more on all that after I've boxed up the library.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Trompe l'oeil

I'd been wanting to read Maggie and Me, Damian Barr's memoir of growing up in the shadow of the Ravenscraig Steelworks. And I was thrilled with the trompe l'oeil dog-eared and tea stained cover...

But I soon realized all copies didn't look like mine.

So I got an ARC, through Royal Mail.

It's a great read, Damian growing up with a strange affinity for Margaret Thatcher, who changed this Scottish family's existence in myriad ways.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Copyright is dead"

...or so said a public library director at ALLA last month during Jason Griffey's presentation.

I was still thinking about that when a student told me she started reading The Fault in Our Stars online, only to find it had "disappeared."

Then I read this brilliant piece, which nails how so many of us, and our patrons, are living -- "How many times a day do you violate copyright and not even think about it?"

If you want more proof that we librarians are clinging to a relic of outdated system, check out
David Lee King's nefarious ideas.

Seriously, our patrons don't care about copyright. Does caring about it mean we won't be meeting their information needs?

Friday, May 2, 2014

My library HAS a diversity policy for the collection. Does yours?

There's this whole #weneeddiversebooks thing going on about needing more representations of people of all shades and stripes in kidlit, spearheaded by some  of our smart thought leaders. We know the kidlit world can be a overwhelmingly white, straight, Christian place, especially if you're not careful to be inclusive in your selection.

When I came to my current school, I was concerned that I was going to be working with a more homogenous group of kids. But it wasn't even *that* homogenous, and there was the loveliest thing built into our library policies specifying that, even though the community was demographically rather similar, we had the role of promoting diversity through the collection. When we got together to align all our policies across the district last year, we were sure to preserve that sentiment.

Here's the relevant passage:

from Selection Criteria for Library Media Materials....
Reflective of the pluralistic nature of a global society
Library media materials should provide a global perspective and promote diversity as a positive attribute of our society. It is important to include materials by authors and illustrators from many cultures.
Free of bias and stereotype
Materials should reflect the basic humanity of all people and be free of ideological bias. Library materials concerning religious, social, and political content should inform rather than indoctrinate.
Representative of multiple viewpoints on controversial subjects
Students have the right to information concerning controversial issues. Through access to a variety of resources, students will acquire the knowledge base to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. The school library media center provides free and equitable access to a balanced body of information. 
Not that I wouldn't want more diverse stuff to order...USBBY really helps with that. And the pictures from the Oakland PL tumblr will melt your heart...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What a feeling

Almost a week later, I'm only now getting over our state conference. I hosted, presided, and also presented. Here's the slidedeck for the presentation on Metaliteracy that Carolyn Starkey and I gave last Wednesday morning.

And for the record, I always want to present at the outset of a conference...even after the late-ish "welcome event," it was so much better than fiddling with it the whole time.

Friday morning, I took the oath of office and received the Association gavel, so I'm officially the point-person for our state's ALA affiliate.

I can't thank all of the terrific people on the conference committee enough. And we're planning even better things for next year...

I spent the weekend crashed out with Maeve Binchy's Chestnut Street, than I have the school year to wrap up and a library to move into our terrific new digs.