Thursday, July 30, 2015

It's Not Too Late To Send That Annual Report!

Last year, I wrote an article about the importance of annual library reporting to school administrators. I have tried to send some form of an annual report each of the seven years I have served as a school library media specialist. Remember that your bosses are viewing data constantly. Principals and superintendents see value in budgets, test scores, student enrollment numbers, and even faculty absence statistics. When you send a report to them, it gives a snapshot of what you are doing in the library. Many people tend to think this is a waste of their time, but I disagree. Many times over the past seven years, I have had both superintendents and principals talk about our statistics. They remember these numbers because the statistics reflect usage of many different services. This gives a return on their investment! If you don't share these numbers with them, how will they know?

I converted our annual report to a .JPG file, so I could easily display it here on the blog page. (If it is hard to read, go here for the .PDF document.) We like to share our circulation statistics from both facilities in the high school complex. We also include textbooks since that is a substantial part of our services. In addition, we show technology work orders that we submit (tracked in our SysAid work order system). There is an entry to show how many days our libraries were reserved and how many students signed in/ out of the library during the school day. We also added our social media outreach this year since it is one of our many services.

The numbers reflect that both library facilities are very active. The West End Library didn't have as many reservations this year due to our PARCC testing support for roughly 9-10 weeks. I decided to share this in the report by adding a PARCC support statistic. This was still a library service! We simply redirected our services based on the needs of the school learning community.

There are many ways to share reports to administrators. We try to keep ours to one page each year. Remember that administrators are very busy with numerous responsibilities and their time is precious. We feel that if we keep it to one brief page, they might actually have time to read it! This format has worked well for us at Lakeside High School. I hope that you will consider sharing your statistics with school administrators, teachers, students, and parents. It will change the way they view what you do!

How I used Microsoft Sway to create our 2016 annual report.

Go here for the 2014 article on library annual reporting. (It has a link to Joyce Valenza's awesome 2013 library annual report!)

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Google Hangout With Four Spanish Classes In The Library

The last quarter of this year was full of PARCC testing. It was a challenge to have our usual library collaborative programs due to the library being used as a testing center. However, Mr. Brian Johnson, Library Media Specialist at Springdale Junior High and I managed to squeeze in one last Google Hangout before the school year ended. Last year we successfully started these Hangouts with our two schools. Brian appropriately named them "Lakeside Squared" since both of our schools bear the name Lakeside even though they are located more than 200 miles apart. We had been messaging each other for weeks trying to come up with something unique to bring our two schools together. We finally settled on bringing Spanish classes into our libraries for the Hangout.

Springdale students peform their Telenovelas for us
The goal was for the Springdale Spanish classes to share their Telenovelas (brief dramatic skits) via webcam. Over the course of our messaging and planning, it developed into both of our schools sharing followed by a question and answer session. I was excited about this event since it would give students at both schools a chance to communicate in Spanish outside each of the schools walls using technology!

We were able to connect with no problems on the day of the event. Springdale Lakeside's students shared several Telenovelas. Our students enjoyed each presentation. Most of our students had never connected via webcam with another school, so it was a very new experience for them.

Our students performed for the distant visitors with no problems. During the humorous portions, it was fun to hear the Springdale students laughing over our library speakers.

Our students peform a Telenovela for Springdale students via webcam
The last part of the activity had students asking each other questions in Spanish. It seemed a bit awkward at first (due to the large number of students in both libraries). It quickly became more comfortable for students as the event progressed.

For our Spanish teachers, this seemed to open a whole new world of opportunities and ideas. I am grateful to Mrs. Patricia Epperhart and Mr. Stephen Fryar for bringing their Spanish classes to participate in this wonderful event! I'm also thankful to have a colleague like Mr. Brian Johnson who is always ready to step outside of his comfort zone to take risks for our students! Hopefully, we will have a similar event next year. I would love to use this technology to build an authentic learning experience for our students.

Go here for a description of our first Lakeside Squared Google Hangout.

Go here to see how we connected with a local school for a library collaboration based on a biography!

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

So You Are a New School Librarian... Now What?

I remember taking my first school library job in the summer of 2008. When I arrived at the school in July to begin working, I quickly realized I had no idea where to start!

Even after doing this job for 7 years, I still have to remind myself what needs to be accomplished in the summer before everyone gets back on campus. I hope this will help you see some of the steps you need to think about as you prepare for a successful school year from the library media center.

Most of the July "to-do" list is really all the items that I renew or order during the summer months. The first things I always think of are the periodicals, journals, and newspaper subscriptions we take. I make a list of those, and I usually call or email the local and state newspapers to check pricing (if I haven't received a renewal notice in the mail). Most districts require that you fill out a Purchase Order request before you can make purchases for your library. When you talk to your building administration, be sure to find out their procedures for making purchases. Some districts have digital forms while others use paper forms. They will most likely cover this in your new employee orientation. If you are transitioning from the classroom, you have probably never filled out a Purchase Order request; so don't sweat it. Administrators or your school secretary will help you with this transition.You will be making lots of purchases from the school library, so you will be a pro very quickly! If you have a specific budget, put that amount in an Excel spreadsheet; and be sure to keep up with your expenditures over the year.

For periodical renewals, I have always used a jobber or a subscription service. Hopefully, you can use the same service the previous librarian used. If they didn't, I strongly recommend using a jobber like EBSCO for magazine subscriptions! They will handle all the titles, and you pay one price! When magazine renewal cards come in the mail, you can ignore them since the jobber takes care of it all!

This is also a good time to find out if there are any subscription databases or online encyclopedias that the previous librarian purchased. For instance, we subscribe annually to Britannica School and two of the Gale databases. I put reminders in my summer "to-do" folder to renew these important resources.

We are provided a whole host of online databases and tools through the Arkansas State Library. Your state will probably have a similar program that provides access to several online databases (like ProQuest or EBSCO) and encyclopedias (like World Book or Britannica School). July is a great time to find out if there is anything you need to do to keep any state provided access. Also, July is a great time for making flyers, digital documents, links, and tutorials for your selection of database resources.

Find and connect with other local librarians that are active in your state school library organizations. These will be the most informed individuals that can help you get started. Most of the time, these motivated folks will take you "under their wing" and mentor you! In addition, become a member of your state school library organizations. In Arkansas we have the Arkansas Association of School Librarians, Arkansas Association of Instructional Media, and the Arkansas Library Association. You will have similar organizations in your state, and they will be full of helpful individuals. We have a very helpful and active listserv in the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media. Everyone on the listserv is anxious to help their colleagues when questions arise. Your state will probably have a similar resource. I strongly recommend this since you will have lots of questions throughout the year. Also, be sure to catch any summer school library conferences to learn the latest trends and to network with others!

Remember to order supplies. You will need book tape, label protectors, labels for bar codes you will print, laminating film (if that is your responsibility), bookmarks (have students help you pick these if possible), promotional posters, etc. I have always used Demco and Quill for most library supplies.

If you have questions about new books, I like Goodreads and Titlewave for trending titles and reviews. We also subscribe to Junior Library Guild. This subscription service will send you trending titles each month if you don't always have time to make your own selections. Next, you will want to get to know your collection, I always choose to start with the fiction section since the first student customers will have an interest in that area! Read everything you can! I still look at non-fiction as time permits. Most familiarization with non-fiction has always happened on the job for me, as I help students with specific topics using the OPAC. You will learn the collection over time.

You will want to familiarize yourself with the library automation system. Figure out how to add new books and print bar codes. Also, knowing how to check out and check in materials will be key. Have another librarian in your district show you these procedures. In addition, learn how to run a collection analysis. Your automation software may do this, or you can export your MARC records and submit them to Titlewise. Titlewise collection analysis reports will allow you to see the average age of your collection, your total number of records, and summaries of Dewey numbers/ categories. I run one of these reports annually.

Look at your district library procedures, selection policy, and challenge policy to get familiar with how things work. July is good time to think about any changes you want to make in library procedures and expectations. Make welcoming signs and promotional materials. Begin planning a big event for your open house night. In the past we have popped popcorn and had student musicians perform! Students loved it!

Schedule a meeting with your student council, and ask them how you can best serve the student body. Ask them their opinions about programming and new books.You will be surprised what that first impression might do for you and the library program.

I've found that the school secretaries typically know which teachers use the library the most. Find out who those teachers are, and meet with them. Consider having coffee and/ or snacks in the library when they visit. Make them feel welcome! Get them to talk about themselves and how they have used the library in the past. I recommend doing this for any regular library users just to break the ice before school starts so you can begin forming partnerships. Just listening to them talk will be a great investment!

Plan a first of the year theme and decorate (we try to do this monthly). We have had a super hero theme, a rock & roll theme (with inflatable guitars), a city theme, and many others through the years. Students and teachers love it!

I thought this article would be very brief, but it has turned out to be quite lengthy. As a recap, remember to:

  • Renew subscriptions when you begin work
  • Find out your budget and keep up with spending
  • Connect with other motivated librarians
  • Join state library organizations 
  • Order supplies
  • Order new books
  • Learn the collection (this never ends)
  • Learn your automation system
  • Perform a collection analysis
  • Read your district policies
  • Meet the student leadership
  • Meet teachers that use the library
  • Plan an open house event
  • Plan themes throughout the year

I also strongly recommend becoming active on Twitter. I like following these hashtags for library and technology information: #tlchat, #txlchat, #iowatl, #edtech, #edtechchat. Look below for my article on using Twitter and becoming a connected educator!

I hope this article has helped you make a plan for your first year as you start in the summer. You will be successful! Good luck on your new adventure! Librarianship has been a very rewarding job for me and countless others! Welcome to the best career in public school.... and anywhere!

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