Michael Caligiuri is the school librarian at the Florence Sawyer School in Bolton, and a recipient of a 2020 MSLA Super Librarian Award.
Alphabet books have been around for a long time. The first hornbooks designed to teach students the alphabet can be traced back to the 15th century. Alphabet books have come a long way since, “In Adam’s Fall/we sinned all.” I teach in a K-8 school where, in normal times, kids attend a library class once a week. Of all the alphabet books on my shelves, there are a few I read with classes every year and they never get old. They are among my most engaging read alouds.
Anita Cellucci is the Library Teacher at Westborough High School and K-12 Department Head for Libraries at WPS,
and a 2020 recipient of the Peggy Hallisey Lifetime Achievement award.
Michelle Raszl is the Librarian at Mt Everett Regional School (6-12) in Sheffield, MA (Berkshire County).
"As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears." - Rumi
Our small, rural, predominantly white school district in Western Massachusetts has its share of racist and homophobic incidents. And like many other educators, I took these on headfirst, trying to find some common moral ground with students, trying to appeal to their humanity before referring them to the Dean. And then Covid happened. And our ongoing social uprising. For summer enrichment I organized a Community Read of Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi and the remix Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds. Concurrently, I was approached by a couple of students who were disgusted by the injustices that they had been seeing perpetrated across our country and dismayed by curricula that neglected to represent the full scope of American perspectives.
Callie Graham is the Teacher Librarian at Burlington High School
and a 2020 recipient of the MSLA President's Award.
Why Do Schools Need Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?
Struggling with a global pandemic, an economic recession, and racial injustices and disparities, today’s students and teachers face overwhelming fears and anxieties that negatively influence mental health and learning (CASEL, 2020; Cipriano, Rappolt-Schlichtmann, & Brackett, 2020; Shafer, 2020). Consequently, “the compounding traumas of this crisis call for schools to rethink what it means to educate the whole child and invest deeply in SEL” (Cipriano, Rappolt-Schlichtmann, & Brackett, 2020, p.6).
Academic Column: School Library Teachers: Becoming Leaders of Online Teaching and Learning Best Practices
Dr. Georgina Trebbe is the Information Specialist/Librarian at the Minnechaug Regional High School.
Whether engaged in full or hybrid online teaching and learning, Massachusetts school districts pivoted to emergency online learning during COVID-19. Emergency online teaching and learning required all-hands-on-deck. The emergency nature of online teaching and learning lead to the challenging of traditional educational practices and perceptions as educators needed to determine what works. During COVID-19 school library teachers were especially challenged with threatened position cuts and reassignments (Witteveen, 2020). Through these challenges, school library teachers creatively determined safe methods for providing traditional services, utilized their technology expertise for instructing K-12 educators and students how to use and apply new online tools (AASL, 2020; Witteveen, 2020).
Laura Harrington is the Library Media Specialist at North Andover High School, and a recipient of a 2020 MSLA Super Librarian Award.
As I sat in Barbara Mahoney and Kim Claire’s workshop, Game of Tomes: An Independent Reading Collaboration, at Teen Library Summit X, I broke out in goosebumps. The day before, October 3, 2018, the head of guidance at my school, North Andover High School, sent out a call for new course proposals.
I immediately emailed Christy Morley, a NAHS English teacher who had been increasing her students’ independent reading time. I enthusiastically supported Christy’s ideas to restructure her class time, providing students reading time in class and trips to the school library for book shopping. I had a feeling that Christy and I might be able to make an Independent Reading elective a reality at our school. She replied within the hour later that she wanted to have a meeting the following day.
Liz Cammilleri is the Library Media and Technology Integration Specialist at Venerini Academy In Worcester, MA
and a recipient of a 2020 MSLA President's Award.
Teachers are under so much pressure to increase testing scores, and to justify all that is done in their classrooms by showing a correlation between scores and curriculum. The library is not exempt from this, and it can feel like our best practices, and the heart and passion in learning can fall at the wayside. There are things that so many of us do in our libraries that we know are right, but I wanted to be able justify what I do and why. I decided to investigate if there was value in building reading communities in order to increase achievement. I wanted to leave the idea of achievement vague, as it can mean anything from increased test scores, to simply learning to love reading. I would venture to say that while these two things may be on the opposite ends of school based assessment, that they are linked to one another. I am a school librarian, and my life is about teaching students to love reading. I truly feel that reading is the key to lifelong success and by researching this question, I can better help my readers. We begin our early days learning to read, and then at about 3rd grade, it switches to reading to learn. Knowledge comes from reading. Success comes from knowledge. And humans are social people. I wanted to find out how reading affects achievement, and if social reading plays a role. I focused my inquiry mostly in two areas, looking for data to show that reading does affect achievement, and then what and how reading communities encourage reading.
Valerie Diggs is a former President of MSLA and currently works as a Senior Visiting Instructor at Salem State University, where she also serves as the Graduate Program Coordinator of the MEd Library Media Studies program.
I work in a public high school. I was surprised when I stumbled upon the Bible in the religious section of the stacks. I wondered if other schools have the Bible in their collection.
Should the Bible sit on the shelves of a school library? Whether you are brand new to a school library and just trying to figure out what is on the shelves, or a seasoned professional, questions concerning religious materials on the shelves of a school library are not uncommon. As professionals, we need to hit the pause button here and ask why. What is it about religious materials on the shelves that elicits such concern?
Patsy Divver is the School Librarian at Millis Middle/High School and the MetroWest Co-Area Director.
If there has ever been a time for creativity and imagination around schools and libraries -- this is it! Over this school year, school librarians have been exploring so many innovative ways of connecting with students: virtual libraries and classes, remote and curbside book circulation, online games and book groups… the list goes on!
Yet with all the focus on student and teacher interaction, very often the School Librarian is - again- a singleton in search of support! Joining the zoom of 100 staff members does not necessarily give you that encouragement needed. So many of us are finding, with the multitude of tools and platforms now available (and expected) for our use, it’s as if we were all “newbie librarians.”
One solution: our MSLA Collaborative Connection! The listserv is always a vital resource for assistance and information -- ask a question and get the wisdom and expertise of numerous answers! Still, to help with the isolation that is now a daily part of COVID, and often a regular part of the school experience, why not try “attending” a VIRTUAL Area Meeting?
Maria D'Orsi is the Teacher/Librarian at Medford High School and a recipient of a 2020 MSLA Super Librarian Award.
When I consider the Covid Era, what comes to mind is a list of changes none of us were prepared for; school and library closures, remote teaching, supply shortages, business closures, event cancellations, lost jobs (and lost stipends!), social distancing and mask wearing, to name a few.
And then there are those other, more personal things; fear of Covid, fear of any kind of illness, testing positive (something I have managed to evade so far), loss of family and friends, coworkers and neighbors (something I have NOT been able to avoid), isolation, screen fatigue, weight gain (yup!!), vaccination anxiety, etc.
Kathy Lowe is the former (and now happily retired) MSLA Executive Director and School Librarian.
I certainly touched a nerve when asking what your title is and what you call your space! Thanks to the many colleagues who responded to these questions. The short answer is overwhelmingly in favor of Librarian/School Librarian and Library, with Library Media Specialist and Teacher Librarian, and Library Media Center/Media Center in distant 2nd place. Included below is a spreadsheet with all the responses so you can see the wide variety of titles and place names used. I've also included shared some of the comments I've received.
One constant remains - Regardless of what AASL has decreed, or the verbiage in our contracts, DESE licenses or signs outside our doors, we continue to have differing opinions among ourselves in the profession about what we and our spaces should be called. This makes me wonder if using titles and place names other than the traditional Librarian/Library helps to clarify or confuse our roles and the services and resources we provide
MSLA President Laura Luker is the Library Teacher at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley, MA.
When last I wrote to you for the Forum, none of us could have predicted where we’d be today. That was May, and we were winding down a school year. We were finishing up something the likes of which we had never seen before and holding onto that ever-present end of year thought - next year will be better. We had dreams that the pandemic would be winding down and that things would be calmer and saner soon.
Katherine Steiger and Reba Tierney are Co-Editors of the MSLA Forum
and librarians at Newton South High School and Waltham High School, respectively.
In these unprecedented times, school librarians are struggling with shifting schedules, developing lessons for in-person, hybrid, and fully remote lessons, and new challenges such as how to sanitize an entire library quickly between classes or how long to quarantine returned books. As a result, many of our scheduled contributors needed to postpone their submissions until a later edition. So this Fall 2020 Forum is a little lighter than usual, but you will still find some valuable articles.
In light of the current situation, MSLA has undertaken some initiatives to provide additional support to members. This includes moving professional development online and coordinating periodic jobalike Zoom calls so members can meet to share successes and brainstorm issues.
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.”
Francesca Mellin is the Head Librarian at The Pike School in Andover
In these turbulent times, I find myself looking for silver linings and “small wins” wherever I can. I am encouraged by the increasing number of Native folks serving in Congress and the recent commitment by a professional football team to change an offensive team name. The number of books published by Native creators is on the rise, and recognition of problematic narratives is generating much-needed conversation. Just in time for Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 12, here is a selection of recent picture books that reflect a wide array of Native perspectives, identities, and activism.
Georgina Trebbe is the Information Specialist/Librarian at the Minnechaug Regional High School.
The buzz word surrounding Massachusetts educators is “Pivot.” Expressed originally by Commissioner Riley, the term “pivot” has been used to describe the changes Massachusetts educators have done as they shifted to remote learning in March, returned to either full-online or hybrid learning, and plan for the possibility of future changes (Riley, 2020). One thing is for certain, benefits from online teaching and learning will continue to be incorporated into the education practices long after Covid-19 has been mitigated and schools return to face-to-face teaching and learning. Online teaching and learning have allowed educators to take a serious look at their role in this new online ecosystem. Similarly, school library teachers will have to consider necessary changes to their profession that will meet the needs of a new emerging education outlook that engages online even when face-to-face learning is once again the method.
Samantha Silag is the Library Teacher at Manchester Memorial and Essex Elementary Schools
in the Manchester Essex Regional School District.
So we are all living through this new reality – regardless of whether you are teaching live, remote, hybrid, etc. It’s just a weird and kind of sad time in the world and certainly in the world of education. Typically, an elementary schoolhouse is the epicenter of JOY, LAUGHTER, LOVE – and yes, even HUGS! At the elementary level we have much, much less of the middle school students’ woes of puberty, understanding who they are, getting used to more independence and so on. And the elementary schoolhouse is definitely free of the stress of AP courses, college applications, competitive sports and “what do I want to do with my life” pressures of high school. So yes, this new reality has presented the elementary community – students, parents, and definitely teachers – a very different level of stress with very different challenges, concerns and pivots. (Umm…anyone taught K-2 how to use an iPad, submit an assignment on Seesaw, or press MUTE?!)
But I want to be an optimistic voice – don’t hate me if you’re sick of the “oh, it could be worse” or “I feel so blessed” contingent because well, it helps me get through the day to find silver linings each day. And, to be clear, many of my days have been hard, dark, frustrating, and un-fun and there have been some days when I have seriously contemplated quitting my job! Haven’t you?!
So here are the top 10 things this crazy COVID period has taught me as a K-5 Library Teacher and Team Leader:
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.
This certainly has been a school year “for the books” (no pun intended!). We have met more challenges on so many levels over the past six months that we are truly entering the 2020-2021 year in almost ‘new teacher’ status.
In reaching out to others, I’d hoped to share some humorous and creative ways that we have found to adapt to our new teaching methods. Thanks to the folks who have shared their ideas and anecdotes.
From Barbara Gogan, Sudbury:
I don't have any students in person--they are all remote. When trying to talk to my students through opening a ‘New Tab’, I have found out not all second-graders know the difference between "x" and "+". So, instead of joining class, many of them close their Google Meet tab instead.
This article is a shortened version of an AASL article by Georgina Trebbe (Minnechaug Regional High School) and Deeth Ellis (Boston Latin School).
MSLA jumped into action, developing the Massachusetts Virtual School Librarian (VSL). The goal of VSL was to immediately fill the anticipated information and reading literacy needs of all Massachusetts students, educators, school administrators, and families. Members of the Massachusetts School Library Association’s (MSLA) Advocacy Committee, along with board leadership, immediately asked ourselves, how can we directly provide both informational and reading literacy sources, along with instructional supports that reach all Massachusetts students, educators, administrators, and families?
MSLA President Laura Luker is the Library Teacher at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley, MA.
Dear MSLA Members,
I don’t believe I’m overstating things when I say that we are now working through one of the toughest challenges our profession has faced. All educators are being asked to innovate at breakneck pace, exhibit grace and flexibility on a daily basis, and to keep education moving along for our students. School librarians specifically are faced with the task of figuring out how we fit into the bigger distance learning picture, knowing we need to continue to educate the students and adults we consider our patrons despite all the challenges thrown our way.
I am proud that we are all doing our best to keep information flowing to those we serve. I’ve seen many of you agonize over how best to get reading material (physical or virtual) into the hands of your students. How to distribute devices to those who might not otherwise have access. How to make sure that students can connect and that teachers have the skills they need. And you’ve done all of this while balancing the needs of your own families, your own communities, and yourselves.
Felicia Quesada Montville is the Library Teacher at Charles E. Brown Middle School in Newton, MA,
and the winner of a 2020 MSLA Web Seal of Excellence.
When I sat down to write my first Forum article back in January, I brainstormed a list of topics, settling on two for my winter and spring articles. Little did I know that my first article’s topic, using social media to connect with students, would suddenly become even more relevant as we moved to connecting with students solely online. Nor did I realize that my second idea would need to go right out the window — what help is an article about genrefying a collection when no one can access their libraries? Back to the drawing board it was.
And while there’s no shortage of pieces out there highlighting the amazing things people are doing from home, life in quarantine is simply all I could wrap my head around. What does middle school librarianship look like from home? Much of our time connecting with students in school is during unstructured extension blocks — the library is the heart of the school, a gathering place in addition to a classroom. How do we recreate that safe space online? And while our libraries are about so much more than the books and the lessons, there are also the books and the lessons! How do we ensure that our students keep reading and learning important information literacy skills?
Francesca Mellin is the Head Librarian at The Pike School in Andover.
If you’re like me, you may find yourself glued to your laptop on a certain Monday morning in January, cheering gleefully (while others in the library wonder what in the world you’re watching)! The Youth Media Awards, announced at ALA’s annual Midwinter meeting, are undoubtedly a major event for book lovers. The Newbery, Caldecott, and Coretta Scott King Awards have traditionally been at the forefront of media coverage... and can sometimes outshine the other awards. ALA itself has been gradually giving increased recognition to awards given by its affiliates. In the past two years, announcements of literature awards given by the American Indian Library Association, Asian Pacific American Library Association, and the Association of Jewish Libraries have been made at the Youth Media Award breakfast, welcome news indeed for those of us promoting multicultural and inclusive literature in our libraries.
The picture book honorees for 2020 represent a wide array of experiences and themes, expressed through stunning art coupled with engaging text. Let’s take a closer look at some of my favorites.
Margaret Kane Schoen is a Library Teacher at Newton South High School
and a winner of a 2020 Super Librarian Award.
What can you do when you can’t get into your library? It might seem like this is a time when projects can’t get done, after all, we don’t have access to anything in our libraries - no books, no displays, no maker spaces. But any quiet time you have right now can be an excellent opportunity to tend to digital projects that require mostly your attention and a computer.
You won’t necessarily be able to finish all of these - some are starters for projects that you can work on once you’re back. But getting all the online drudgery out of the way now means you’ll be able to focus on the fun part - the students and the books! - once you're back.
(And of course - some of us have no quiet time. Everyone’s home work space is different right now, so don’t feel guilty if you can’t get to these.)
Jennifer Mason Stott is the Library Teacher at King Open School in Cambridge, and a recipient of a 2019 MA Super Librarian Award .
Students come to school with a wide range of experience, some joyful, some traumatic. In 2017-2018, I took a course on trauma-informed practice and thought about the role of the library. While librarians are not therapists, we can provide experiences that help students feel cared for and important. After seeing my first grade students’ response to the book Extra Yarn, I turned an author-illustrator study of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen into an art-making collaborative. We would yarn-bomb the recess yard! The result: the King Open Art Fence.