Jen Varney is the President elect of MSLA and the Librarian at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School in Cambridge.
The beginning of the school year is stressful enough, even without the changes that a pandemic brings! Over the summer, many members were looking for resources and best practices for running and maintaining a school library within Covid-19 safety guidelines (and how to convince their administrations!). Therefore, during the week of August 10th, MSLA hosted a “Reopening Plan PLC.”
Alida Hanson is the Librarian at Weston High School, and
Co-Director, MSLA Professional Learning.
Why MSLA offers online PD
MSLA unequivocally denounces bias, racism, and hate of all kinds and is committed to examining our own practices so that we can be better allies and advocates for the Black community and for other marginalized groups. The vast majority of our members (and the library professional in general) are white women, who cannot be mirrors to or share a racial affinity with many of our students. Consider the rising proportion of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) in the US: In 2018, BIPOC were 40% of the US population, and by 2050 will be 60% (Poston and Sáenz). One of the ways we act on our beliefs is to offer professional development about anti-racism. MSLA has offered speakers and sessions at in-person MSLA conferences, like Debbie Irving and Andrea Pinkney Davis. Member feedback has always been “we want more.”
Patsy Divver is the School Librarian at Millis Middle/High School.
The Massachusetts Library System offered a workshop on “Youth Mental Health First Aid” this past month. I signed up for it, as a Professional Development opportunity. It was ‘free’ to me as I went through the Mass Library System, www.masslibsystem.org. (If you have not taken advantage of attending their workshops, make that another resolution!) This training was very worthwhile and, in light of the social and emotional concerns with our students, I strongly recommend it. In addition, it provides certification in Youth Mental Health First Aid USA which is valid for three years.
What does this training offer? The course was a full day (9 AM - 5 PM) and offered training on recognizing and assisting young people experiencing ‘mental health’ problems. This overview teaches the way to know the warning signs of such illnesses as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and possible signs of suicide intent. This is not a program for treating these issues, but an intense training in recognizing those signs and responding until help arrives.
Dr. Robin Cicchetti is the librarian at Concord-Carlisle Regional High SchooL
Last summer I was able to tick something off my librarian bucket list by attending the Teaching with Primary Sources Program at the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/teachers/tps/). The short version of the experience is that I loved it!
Our district Director of Teaching and Learning forwarded a promotional email she had received and we noticed that there was a new STEM program. She was supportive of my recruiting a team which was surprisingly easy. I attended a week for generalists and librarians, along with a physics teacher. The STEM week was attending by a biology and a chemistry teacher. This was truly a unique opportunity to work with disciplines that don’t typically have a lot of overlap at the high school level.
2017 brought the return of MSLA Twitter chats. The first was held on Tuesday, January 10th, on the topic of advocacy. Twitter chats are a great way for members to share ideas without having to go to an actual meeting. It is a virtual meet-up, or collaboration from the couch! The Twitter platform also makes it easy to share online resources and links. If you weren't able to join the chat last month, or want to revisit the resources shared, follow the link below to the archive of the January chat:
The month's Twitter chat was held on Wednesday, February 8th, on the topic of information literacy and fake news. To view the chat and the resources shared, follow the link below:
Mark your calendars -- the next Twitter chats will be held on Tuesday, March 14th and Wednesday, April 12th, both at 7:30 PM
Paige Rowse is the librarian at Needham High School.
As librarians, we are constantly on the lookout for the next best books to add to our collections. We attend events, register for webinars, take requests from our students and colleagues, and perhaps most importantly, peruse the latest issues of collection development publications. If you’ve ever browsed through the reviews of these magazines, you know they are written by librarians across the country just like you.
Rachel Bouhanda is a Librarian at Billerica Memorial High School in Billerica, MA
and a winner of the 2016 Super-Librarian award
In June of last school year 2014-2015, I was asked to join the planning team for a new endeavor called the Northeast Professional Educators Network (NPEN). NPEN is a multi-district organization that was formed to fill the need for high-quality professional development programs. The program focus is on low-incidence educators - PE/Health, Library, Technology Teachers, and Visual and Performing Arts. I wasn’t sure what to expect but, this sounded like a great opportunity. The first meeting I attended was held at the Merrimack Education Center in Topsfield. The day was spent brainstorming ideas for a professional development day to be given for other educators. In the morning I was the only Librarian and worked on the planning team with Technology teachers.
Jennifer Varney is the Librarian at the Hurley K-8 School in Boston
Becoming a licensed Library Teacher in Massachusetts can be a confusing, daunting process. As a result of receiving many queries and cries for help, MSLA and representatives from school library programs around the state have developed a document that provides an overview of the options and paths to licensure.
The document, “Library Teacher Licensure in Massachusetts,” can be found on MSLA’s website at http://www.maschoolibraries.org/uploads/5/7/2/2/57223027/librarylicensurema.pdf. The information was compiled by Carol Kelly, Lisa Estabrook, Donna Guerin, and Elaine Mokrzycki. MSLA Board members Carrie Tucker, Chani Craig, Jennifer Reed, and Jennifer Varney edited and formatted the information.
The document provides information on the following:
It is MSLA’s hope that having this information in one place will help clarify a confusing process. We hope you find it useful!
“I want my students to be lifelong learners.”
“I want students who love to learn! Students who learn because they want to know more, not just to earn a grade.”
How many time have I heard myself and other library teachers say these words or some variation thereof? Hundreds? Thousands, even? But we don’t always practice what we preach. Sometimes we are so busy educating others that our own learning stagnates and we don’t push ourselves to keep learning and honing our craft. The expansion of our own minds and practices takes a backseat to the needs of others. Sound familiar?
Don’t get me wrong. I run a K-12 school library, with all that entails. I know how busy we all are. I feel as though I’m pulled in many directions each day, usually without advance notice. I am no stranger to the feeling that if I have to add one more thing to my brain - one more item to my list of projects - my brain will have a quiet meltdown and cease to function in any meaningful way. These circumstances make it incredibly hard to find the time to work on personal learning, especially learning that’s not required or arranged by someone else.
Over the summer, I learned about the existence of digital badges. Specifically, I learned that YALSA, an organization that I trust and support, offers digital badges geared toward librarians who deal with youth. I was intrigued by the concept, wondering if this hybrid, learning at my own pace but structured by a recognized authority, might be worth my precious time.
If you have not yet been introduced to the concept of digital badges, they are essentially digital certificates of completion and mastery in a given subject area. The badge-awarding organization creates a set of criteria, lessons, or activities whose successful completion leads to the award of an online badge that learners can display on social media, store in a “digital backpack,” and show off on resumes. The Macarthur Foundation’s website defines them as, “an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.” Many businesses and industries now offer them. The idea is even gaining momentum with colleges and universities.
YALSA’s badges cover topics such as Administration; Communication, Marketing, and Outreach; and Leadership and Professionalism, among others. Each badge module is designed to be completed at your own pace. Once you’ve finished all the requirements according to the provided rubrics, you simply upload your work and mark it as complete. Your work is then rated not by YALSA, but by the community of fellow badge earners. This last feature I found off-putting at first, but upon reflection I decided that it added to the feeling of professional collegiality. After all, who better to help me reflect on my learning than those who also do my job? Once your work is accepted, your badge is awarded.
Today, I finished the requirements for the Leadership and Professionalism badge, which I chose as my first foray into this brave new world. I chose to begin with this badge for several reasons, chief among them being that it focuses on using social media to create a professional learning network (PLN) to support and enhance your own practice. This is of particular importance to me because I am the lone library worker in my charter school. In previous years I worked in a large urban district where the librarians were all in frequent communication. We all met for monthly meetings and held all day PD sessions during our district release days. We had each others’ backs. These days, though, I feel like I am an army of one. I find myself in charge of creating my own support network and my own learning opportunities.
For the L&P badge, the badge earner chooses several Twitter feeds to follow for a designated amount of time. The chosen feeds are required to be a mix of library-oriented and non-library-oriented feeds pertaining to some aspect of working with youth. The intent is to build a personalized, on-demand feed of ideas, support, and feedback. A virtual PLN.
Admittedly, there was a learning curve. I’ve used Twitter for years, but not in such a focused manner. I had to learn to let go of the idea that I would see every Tweet in my feed. I don’t get Tweets sent to my phone, so I’m not distracted by incoming messages every second of the day. I read when I have a moment, such as when I’m eating my lunch, and even then, I mostly just look over what’s current. Even though my librarian brain wants to know everything, I can’t go back and try to “catch up” with all that I’ve missed. That way lies insanity. Second, I found that I really needed some way to organize my feed. I used Tweetdeck, a Twitter aggregator, which allows me to create columns according to subject or hashtag. This way, I can focus on who and what is of interest to me at the time and not be distracted by the constant wash of background Tweets. Overall, I consider the work I did for this badge to be worth the effort. I made valuable connections and added so much to my librarian toolbox that I’m already using for myself and sharing with my staff.
Based on my initial experience, I have decided this is to be my personal challenge this year. I will complete the seven digital badges YALSA has to offer before the school year is over, and I’m challenging each of you in turn - not necessarily to complete these badges, but to remember to take time to nurture your own learning.
Though if you want to enter the badge challenge with me, you’d be welcome, of course. Happy learning!
Laura Luker is the Library Teacher at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School