Monthly Archives: January 2014

Roles of a School Librarian

Check out my graphic I made up to represent the main roles of a school librarian:

To me, I feel that in a way our roles are nested, and that at the heart of things, we need to be a life long learner, which then gets built on (or nested into). So, that’s why I decided to use Matryoshka Dolls as my visual. I used and the image is used under creative commons attribution, sharealike from


Collection Weeding as Dendrochronology: Rethinking Practices and Exposing a Library’s Sponsors of Literacy

Found this to be exceptionally insightful. Buffy Hamilton gives her insights on collection development and weeding. Great read if you have time!

A Class at the Museum

Just thought I’d share with you all, I just signed up for a 4-week Coursera course starting March 3rd. It’s called, Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies for Your Classroom offered by the Museum of Modern Art.

“Intended for teachers (Grades 4-12) from all disciplines, this course will introduce ways to integrate works of art into your classroom by using inquiry-based teaching methods commonly used in museum settings. This course is designed to give teachers the tools to create meaningful object-based learning activities that can be integrated into a wide variety of curricula. We’ll explore strategies that emphasize literacy, critical thinking skills and that connect across disciplines. The strategies and content that you will learn in this course parallels the proficiencies outlined in the Common Core State Standards as they relate to literacy, speaking and listening, critical thinking, analyzing informational text, and citing evidence to support arguments.”

Here’s the link if anyone is interested:

The Misadventures of Martin Van Buren and other U.S. Presidents

Last class we were able t meet and discuss inquiry. Not only were we able to discuss this buzzword of a topic but we got to go on our very own adventures. First, I would say we had a misadventure with our beginning activity. It started just like any other day, then Kristin told us, “Time for you to do a report on the U.S. Presidents! Here’s a sheet that you fill in, with the rubric on top”. But to spice things up, we got to pick from pieces of paper which president we would be researching. I landed with Martin Van Buren (Thank goodness youtube has a song about him).  Sorry, Mollie, you really had absolutely no choice in your pick of the draw.

I loved that we played out this activity. It brought back those feelings of first excitement, and then complete boredom and annoyance, I remember having in elementary school through high school. I’m also glad we were able to recap why those feelings were occurring. I know part of it was, I didn’t feel challenged enough. All I needed to do was fill in the blanks, and then I’d be good with the assignment. The juicy stuff, like odd personal stories and facts about the president wasn’t highlighted, or weighted. I felt creatively stifled in some ways, but also lacking a whole lot of motivation. The assignment wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It didn’t help go off of people’s passions, and interests. Creating something that allows more for ownership, will make a more creative and meaningful project for a student. Why I also loved part II of class, the guided inquiry approach. We listened to an article from NPR and learned about Grover Cleveland’s scandalous tumor removal. Who knew Grover Cleveland was so fascinating?  Who knew there were so many health implications of past presidents? Not only did this way of introducing the topic of presidents allow us to start asking interesting questions, it also gave us the freedom to explore what interested us. That was an amazing outcome, as well in seeing where people’s creativity took them (the history of facial hair, mistrust in government, 1890s surgery, public image, ethics… wow!!)

I love guided inquiry. It allows us to hit on so many things at one time. We can give students choice and ownership, we can validate their feelings and interests, and we can also challenge not only them, but also ourselves, and we all learn something new.

I think now what is on my mind is, how as a freshly pressed media specialist do you implement guided inquiry strategies that will be effective for your students and meet teacher’s goals? Is it another case of baby steps, trying a little at a time? I think for me, this would be the way I go about it. Start to get my toes in the water, assess, and then go a little further until I’m pretty sure the sharks are fairly far away.

Zombies, Superheroes, Fairies, Oh my!

All this talk about inquiry, student-centered learning reminded me of an article I read on Mind/Shift this past fall. In Utah, a teacher, Cinnamon Holsclaw, asked to teach 7th grade science on short notice with no resources turned a challenge into an innovative idea.

“All it took on my part was a willingness to let go of 100 percent of the control and a willingness to try and find a science tie to the things kids were interested in,” Holsclaw said.

More of the article here: (Dive Into Science With Zombies, Superheroes, and Fairies)

When I first read this in November, I thought, Ah! If I take a position in the sciences, how might I eventually work up to doing something like this. Now, I’m also thinking, how might we as librarians help inspire, support, and collaborate such move of a teacher?

Leadership …

Leadership, the big word that I want to be but don’t want to be called. Maybe that’s my humbleness getting in the way. As most of you imagined, I enjoyed these weeks readings. Especially Coatney’s chapter on Teacher-Librarian as curriculum leader. One thing I enjoyed about the chapter was the recognition that you can’t change things over night. That it takes “baby steps”, building up your trust and relationships with your teachers, along with having a welcoming personality. I took Keeling’s article and How to stop a failing school from failing, as an excellent role model and demonstration of how a librarian can be a leader (Wowzers!). Also, while I was reading Coatney’s chapter, it reminded me of the importance of the library also being a space for students to freely explore their interests.

This hit me again when I read the Harada article about inquiry based learning of how one librarian stated, “Why is the library now a classroom instead of a place to share books?”. At first when I read this, I snickered, because to me our role is so much more than books, and I take the teacher component to heart. But then I reflected on what this librarian was saying. I think there is something deeper there. The library is unique because we aren’t necessarily structured as a classroom, from our size to seat arrangements. The space itself is different. Then we have the librarian her/him self that are not like your regular subject teachers, we’re a bit of renaissance-type people. Not only that but we typically have listened to what our students and teachers want/need from the library. So, the library is a great place for implementing inquiry based learning, but I think we also need to remember how it is also that special, safe, intimate place for students to come to and get lost in something wonderful.

Virginia schools moving beyond traditional PD, the tell-all

Interesting article from over at edSurge on changing the way we do PD for teachers.

” “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,” John Kennedy intended to say in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

These words are as relevant to us today in Albemarle County as they were when John Kennedy asked America to relearn the world – through efforts such as the Peace Corps – and relearn the universe – through the then seemingly improbable “moon shot.” If our students are to be successful in today’s increasingly complex and demanding global environment, we must be constantly learning and we must be modeling learning. To do that we must help our educators develop the learning and leadership skills which help our children learn to become leaders.

This only happens when professional learning supports educators in becoming “makers” of their own learning and not simply consumers and re-transmitters. Professional learning in our district is not found in “one size fits all” training packages created by corporations or even universities. It is discovered through the research and imagination of our highly innovative professionals.”

more of the article here:

ain’t yo’ momma’s library

For some reason, it has taken me a little while to ponder over last week’s class. It was so relaxing, full of individual tasks and actually using paper and pencil. I think what has struck me most is I don’t feel I fit into the typical school librarian model, nor do I find myself wanting to. What is clear to me, is how much I see myself not as an appendage, or a sort of sub-level to a school, but rather an integral part to student and faculty learning, along with actively being apart of curriculum building. I think it is spawned out of my love for learning vs. my love for reading (not saying we shouldn’t promote love of reading, or that reading is bad!).  After all, it’s learning that brought me to get my MSI, and learning and the individual passions that students bring to school everyday that further led me to wanting to be apart of a school community.

I think that is partly why the Learning Specialist article didn’t rub me the wrong way. I envision my role in school as being different then how things use to be, and I envision myself trying to push those boundaries a little further. I understand people not wanting to play a major part in curriculum, and being a so called, “learning specialist”. I don’t think there is a path better than the other, but what matters is what works best for you and fulfills you. I’m finding more and more I want to be a leader in my own way. That’s why sometimes I’ll think to myself, “Man, I feel like such a bad librarian for x,y, and z reason.” Then it dawns on me, I’m not bad at my job because I don’t believe in prioritizing certain aspects of the traditional role of a school librarian as high on the list. I’m just creating my own flavor of what I envision the job to be and where some of us should take it, which hopefully, somebody will want to hire the Kelsey-fied version. Or at the very least, I think I’m flexible and adaptable enough to make it all work out.

P.S. Did anyone read the CCSS article in Knowledge Quest called: The Common Core: A Disaster for Libraries, a Disaster for Language Arts, a Disaster for American Education? I think Krashen’s points are interesting, but I had a hard time taking it all in with images of atomic bomb plumes next to the text…just sayin.

change agentry

For this week, I mostly would like to focus on the Hughes-Hassel and Harada (2007) piece about how the Library Media Specialist can be a change agentry, and help with change in their schools. I liked how they stated that change agents do “not necessarily lead” the change process. Instead they may act as caregivers, facilitators, etc. This appealed to me because the word “leader” can be like a big intimidating beast, meant only for people like the President, or Captain Kirk. Especially if we are talking about leading a reform. By using this idea of change agentry, I feel it relaxes me, but also motivates me to be a leader in my own way, which is powerful.

There was also this idea of the “single most important factor that affects ability to change is resiliency” and the idea of resiliency being defined by 5 characteristics: 1. positiveness 2. Focus 3. Flexibility  4. Organization 5. Productivity. Change agents have higher resiliency than most. Hm. It just feels natural that as librarians we would be up for the job. These ideas of helping people, having a personal vision, being flexible (etc) it all screams, Hello, School Librarians!

That’s why, I wasn’t too shocked when I was looking at the job description for a school librarian from Knowledge Quest. Or the other lists of what a school library media specialist does and can do (especially with learning strategies). At first as I was reading through the list I kind of a got a little overwhelmed. But really, all the descriptions align with one another. Which made me excited to be going into a field where the majority of the people want to do their job not just well but outstandingly, and they want to get there by helping and working with one another.

I see myself as playing a role of an agent of change (Do I get a codename?) in my school. I think now it is just learning more of how to be an effective change agent.


Hughes-Hassell, S., & Harada, V.H. (2007). Change Agentry: An Essential Role for Library Media Specialists. In School reform and the school library media specialist. S. Hughes-Hassell & V.H. Harada, ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Ballard, S. (2009) Developing the vision: An L4L job description for the 21st century. Knowledge quest 38(2), Nov-Dec, pp 78-82.

Zmuda, A., & Harada, V.H. (2008). Reframing the library media specialist as a learning specialist. School library media activities monthly 24(8), 42-46.

National Association of Independent Schools. (2009) NAIS guidelines of professional practice for librarians. Knowledge quest 38:2, Nov-Dec, 53.

Harvey, Carl. (2005). “What should a teacher expect a school library media specialist to be?” Library media connection 25:5, 23.

Got my blogging hat on!

My apologies for these first two posts being a bit bland. I promise as I get my blogging skills back, hopefully they’ll get a little more zazzy! Until then…

There were probably three main things that I keep reflecting on since our last discussion. The first is about the Stepehens’ reading and the support we had going for Wendy Stephens’ compelling article. I think we all came away with being encouraged to promote curiosity and play wherever we all end up working, whether it be in schools, public library or the archives (!). I found this excited very refreshing and invigorating to see people just as passionate as I am about promoting curiosity and play. I also love the idea we discussed (and was in the piece) about the Librarian as a professional development approach. I personally am thrilled and hopeful I will be able to wear one of these hats!

Speaking of hats…. I loved our discussion around the Woolls article, be it realizations of how much a media specialist does in one day, or the numerous hats we must were and change in a switch! I loved the analogy of putting on different hats, and some of the hats that people were able to put out there. It energizes me, but I also understand how it can be exhausting. Needing to take time for some alone-time goodness is great advice. For me personally, I know I need a couple of minutes to just collect myself every now and then. The idea of taking a lunch at your desk is appealing to me. During my practicum, Jane and I would eat our lunches in her office (taking turns) when we got a chance. Some days, it wasn’t until the end of the school day! Honestly, on those days we were so busy, I didn’t even realize it was that late in the day. By not participating in the ritual of the lunch room, I wonder of how there would be ways to socialize with my fellow faculty that lets them know I am available, interested, and willing to help them.

Lastly, I was so appreciative of the history of school reform and its relation to libraries. Last semester  I took an educational reform class. We mostly discussed theories and problems within the past and current reforms of American public schools. But we never got a timeline! What I always can’t get over is how much educational reform is like a pendulum, where we see repeating ideas come back up (but we see that in libraries too!). Also, the library seemed to be a key aspect in a lot of reforms, but a lack of looking at the librarian. Hmm… this seems to be a common debate in our profession. Is the library a library without a librarian? Or is a librarian a librarian without a library? If a book falls off the shelf but no one is around to hear it … did it really fall? This idea of a library being important, yet not giving school media specialists the same position of a teacher is something that really gets under my skin. Rather than ranting on why it irks me, I’m trying to currently brainstorm how to create and engage in conversations with administration, and faculty in seeing our role not as an appendage to them, as a way to an end, but our role as an end in itself (a little Kantian ethics…), that we are teachers too.

Phew, I didn’t mean to get too philosophical in that last bit. I’m looking forward to our next class with all of you! In the mean time, I’m about to put on another one of my hats 😉

Model Barbara Henderson, wearing feather hat "Birds Aflight" designed by bride Barbara O. Ehrhart. LIFE Magazine, Dec. 1948

Model Barbara Henderson, wearing feather hat “Birds Aflight” designed by bride Barbara O. Ehrhart. LIFE Magazine, Dec. 1948