Sarah Forfa is the School Librarian at West Springfield High School. She also serves on the MSLA Executive Board as Co-Director for the Western region and was the recipient of a 2018 President's Award.
How many times have you stood in front of a group of students at the beginning of a school year, and watched their eyes glaze over as soon as you begin your tried and true “Welcome to the Library” presentation? Orientations are an essential part of our work as school librarians. How can we expect students and faculty to take advantage of all our great resources if they aren’t properly introduced to the library? Although necessary, we all need to face the fact that traditional orientations aren’t always the most engaging of activities for us or our students. A poorly planned, boring, or overly detailed orientation has the potential to turn students off from the library in one fell swoop. In turn, we may come away from the experience feeling disheartened and disconnected from our students - which is the opposite of our goal. So the question becomes…. how can we make orientations more interesting and successful for everyone involved?
Zoe Keenan is the Library Media Specialist at Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield.
My school has struggled with summer reading for many years now. It’s been a pull and push from both the English Department, the Library and the Administration on expectations of what students should read, how they should be assessed on it, and what culminating event should we do to wrap up the program?!?!
When I started at my school three years ago, all three departments had separate ideas about what makes a successful summer reading program. The Administration wanted results and proof of assessment, the English department wanted students to read a wide variety of eclectic books and, as the new Librarian, I wanted students to enjoy reading again. I remember getting to know the students during my first year and asking them how they liked the summer reading book. Many hadn’t read it, since they knew from past years that there was no assessment to be passed in or graded. Of the handful who read it, mistakenly thinking they would be tested on it, only a few enjoyed it. I remember thinking that it was going to take some time and lots of effort to change this program around.
Liz Percy is the Librarian at Westwood High School
and received a 2018 Web Seal of Excellence Award.
Yearly, as high school librarians we assess our 9th grade students’ entry level research skills, and focus on advancing their competencies through their four years with us. Yet, after our students leave us they go on to the world of college research. What skills should we emphasize to get them ready for life after graduation?
In 2010, having always had an interest in the research continuum, I posted a message to the Infolit listserv, asking college librarians, “What do you see as your college freshmen’s strengths & weaknesses? How can I better prepare my high school students for college research?” Apparently, this struck a chord, and I got a barrage of replies.
Zoe Keenan is the Library Media Specialist at Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield.
I can’t tell you enough how important critical thinking skills are in this day and age. These skills apply to all aspects of life from reading the newspaper or watching TV to having a conversation. In this day and age, we need to evaluate the information in front of us and ask questions to find its relevance, reliability and to understand the deeper meaning behind the resource. Teaching these skills, though, can be challenging in a world where classes are measured by assessments and data driven. How do we assess critical thinking skills when the whole process is about thought patterns and analyzing how people think? How do we teach these skills when we only have 45 minutes with a class?
Allegra D'Ambruoso is the Library and Technology Director at Boston Arts Academy
and is a recipient of a 2017 MSLA President's Award.
Being a librarian is a thankless job; being a school librarian is even worse.
Reason 1: Early Mornings.
The school day starts anywhere from 7am until 9am; but of course, teachers (including you!) have to be there before classes start. This means that if your school starts at 8am, you should probably be there by 7:30 or 7:45 at the latest, or else students will be lined up outside your library door, impatiently waiting for you to show up and let them in. These kids will be the kids who need to print an assignment for their class that starts at 8 (“Well, Miss, you see, what happened was...”); or who simply must tell you about their newest break-up; or who want to get your advice on what color they should dye their hair next. These kids are often the most needy kids; you’ll often realize that they need snacks, breakfast, juice, gloves, and a hug. They’re some of the best kids to get to know. They’ll be willing to help you shelve books, talk about new books to order, and always know when you need a compliment to cheer you up (“Miss, did you cut your hair? It’s cuuuuuute!”). Accept that you are one of the reasons they come to school; that you might be the most understanding adult that they know; and realize that you are going to cry when they graduate.
Bethany Dunton is the Librarian at Auburn High School
and received a 2017 President's Award.
I am the librarian and National Honor Society (NHS) co-adviser at Auburn High School (AHS). As co-adviser to the NHS students for the past 10 years, I have received many requests for tutoring support. For years, tutoring was only considered to be an after school thing, which often conflicted with the availability of the NHS students. Usually the NHS students are the ones who are overbooked with activities, sports, and work, so, in reality, tutoring did not happen often. Additionally, it has only been within the past four years or so that AHS offers the daily 30 minute directed-study, which is critical to the success of the program.
What started out as my Professional Goal a few years ago has turned into a staple for the AHS students. Four years ago, I asked the NHS members if they would tutor during the directed-study period. This was purely optional, and still is to this day. The NHS students receive volunteer credit, and the students who wanted help would receive the extra support. That first year, we had a total of 75 partnerships. In my eyes, the program was a success from the start, and it has just grown from there. This school year, during the first trimester, we had 42 tutoring partnerships. (AHS is on a trimester schedule, so I track student usage of tutoring services by trimester.) The program is growing!
Zoe Keenan is the Library Media Specialist at Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield
One thing they do not teach you in library school is how to adjust your practice to fit the latest technology. It is the age of the Chromebook and I am meeting my match.
Chromebooks allow students to access the internet, explore databases and download eBooks, audiobooks and more. Our school has recently switched to a one-to-one program where every student has a Chromebook to use at school. This has been a wonderful step to teach all students technology skills and provide access to the internet for all of our students. Students can now access numerous learning tools for the classroom and resources without even stepping into the library. You now see my problem, right?
Our students grew up with technology, but that does not mean they use it responsibly or appropriately. Skills on using online tools, web searches and databases are key skills that need to be honed, but with Chromebooks being ever present, it is easy to assume that students already know these skills. Chromebooks can be a wonderful addition in the classroom, but teachers have to remember that this digital generation still needs to teach lessons on technology and research skills.
Margaret Schoen is a Library Teacher at Newton South High School
Our school system signed up for a new citation tool this year, NoodleTools. It’s been an interesting year as we’ve tried to convince our teachers to climb on board with a new tool while discovering its features and surprises ourselves.
Switching over to a new system was not entirely a choice - the company we had previously been working with was purchased, and we needed to find a new solution fast. So when we signed on to NoodleTools we knew we were getting something that did the basics of citations, but we’ve also discovered some tools and tricks that have been especially useful to our students.
Susan King and Paula Myers are Teacher-Librarians at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School
and recipients of a 2017 MSLA Web Seal of Excellence
We want to share a source evaluation tool that we developed along with two teachers from our school. Our moment of inspiration came during the excellent July 2015 workshop, Are You Research Ready? (facilitated by Pam Harland and Rachel Small). In discussing how the library taught evaluation, we explained to the teachers in the group that we did so as needed, sharing questions that students should consider or pointing them to websites that could help. But we librarians were interested in developing a more formalized system for teaching source evaluation at our school—one that teachers would be comfortable sharing in their classrooms.
We were aware of some tools and acronyms that other folks used and decided to build on that work to create another system. Our intent was not to reinvent the wheel; we were just being realistic about what our teachers would get on board with and be willing to share with students (much as students might like the CRAAP test acronym, we knew that some of our teachers would not go for that).
Every September the school nurse at our high school announces that we have a new student with serious, life threatening allergies and that no food will be allowed in any classroom. We wonder who this student is so we can be mindful. This student could go into anaphylactic shock in the library. I’ve practiced plunging an epi pen into an orange just like everyone else, but I do not want to do this in real life.
When the announcement is made, we acknowledge that we have not officially allowed food in the classrooms for years, yet every year we have food in the classrooms, the hallways, in the library, in staff offices. Administrators stock large urns with candy to lure students into their gingerbread houses. We’ve seen our principal walk down the hallway with the urn in his arms, a smile on his face. But, no more. This year it will be different. This year we mean it.
Deeth Ellis is a librarian at the Boston Latin School
and a winner of the 2016 Super Librarian award
Overview of Approach
As the librarian who works with the science department, my work to support and build collaborative projects with the science teachers has been multi-faceted. Some of the work has yielded successful collaborations and integration of essential skills into the student learning. However, a lot of my efforts have not yielded consistent results yet. The challenges are hard and require fundamental changes in collection development practices and information literacy skills to determine how the library can be relevant to students in science. My approach has been to look within Boston Latin to see what is being taught, talk about ideas and to build relationships with teachers as well as looking outside of the Boston Latin for new ideas. Within, I have looked at our print and digital collections, had many conversations with teachers, offered professional development, and pursued collaborations. Outside, I have attended a week-long Teaching with Primary Sources in Science workshop at the Library of Congress, presented at Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers, and reached out to higher education science librarians.
Pamela Vallee is a Librarian at Lunenburg High School in Lunenburg, MA
and a winner of a 2016 Super-Librarian Award
I realize it is difficult to capture what I do each day. Every morning before I leave my house, I open the library schedule to check which classes are coming and gauge what the day might bring. But as organized as I try to be, I never know who will need me. Some days I am tied to my desktop computer trying to answer research or technology questions or make important updates to the website. Some days I am literally running back and forth across the library trying to help two or more classes at the same time. Some days I feel like a traffic cop directing students to open tables or available computers. Some days I discover that I need to be an emergency substitute and absorb extra classes into the library. Some days I am in other parts of the school assisting teachers and students with technology problems. In addition to the daily demands, I just finished teaching my first online PD course and need to create the next one. And our current high school will be torn down in a couple of months, so I have been weeding, organizing, packing and planning for the move into the new building and need to pack up everything in the library soon.
Carrie Grimshaw is the Library Media Specialist at Leicester High School
and the recipient of a 2016 President's Award
As a Library Media Specialist for Leicester High School, I make myself invaluable to faculty, staff, and students by constantly striving to improve my school library program by being on the forefront of technology. As a technology leader in my high school, I attend workshops and teach best practices to faculty about Chromebooks and library updates, teach research database lessons to students, and create a fun place with interactive displays and makerspaces where students can hang out. Technology is a huge part of what school libraries are now and technology needs to be embraced in order for your school library to remain hub of your school community.
Karen Davidson-Heller is the Library Director at Malden Catholic High School
and a winner of a 2016 Web Seal of Excellence
When I began at Malden Catholic ten years ago as Library Director, it was a career change for me after numerous years working as a technical writer and graphic designer. With a nervous mix of excitement and terror, I embraced the challenges of working in a high school library. I immediately jumped into a number of projects, which included creating a new library website. The school’s proprietary software at the time was not very user friendly and internet-based tools were still in their infancy. However, the resulting website provided an updated look as well as easier access to the catalog and library databases for students and teachers. I knew an improved library website was essential to enhancing the library’s online presence, so I continued looking for tools that would help the school community in learning about and using the library’s resources.
Margaret Schoen is a Librarian at Newton South High School
Happy Poetry Month! We were about halfway through the month as I wrote this. If you still have the poetry bug, feel free to explore these new activities and projects in your library or bookmark this for future use. Here are some websites, apps, and other projects to help you use your tech tools to explore poetry with students.
Tricia London is the Library Director at the Avon Middle High School and a 2016 Super Librarian
We don’t have a Learning Commons in our school and that is by choice. We have a Library! The old vaudevillian, George M. Cohen once penned a song about his mother, Mary. But alas, that plain name “Mary” wasn’t good enough for “propriety and society” so it was changed to Marie. Back in the sixties, when I was in fourth grade, my school library was changed into to a Media Center. At the time I wasn’t quite sure what “media” was and I was concerned that the new Media Center mightn’t have the All of a Kind Family or the Little House Books I craved. Rest assured, all was well! Mr. Fisher, the Media Specialist, (not the Librarian to clarify,) just added a shelf of filmstrips and put a new sign over the door. In essence nothing had changed. Don’t get me wrong, change can be great, but change just for the sake of change isn’t always necessary
Cathy Collins is the Library Media Specialist at Sharon High School
The lights are dimmed as meditative nature sounds and gentle music drift through the air. I instruct all students to stand at the front of their mats, exhale and fold forward, symbolically shaking all stressful thoughts from their heads to the ground. I then proceed to lead the small group through a “power” yoga series of poses. A powerful 45-minute session follows of flowing yoga poses designed to build strength and flexibility while releasing tension and anxiety. One might think I am describing a yoga class on the beach in Maui. If only that were true! The view from the frosty windows of my high school library’s computer lab is instead one of a snowy New England courtyard, and Yoga Club has just ended for the day.