A Ghost in the Library!

IMG_1525For our Halloween morning show broadcast yesterday my crew wanted to do something fun. Since someone back in the day painted the walls of the broadcast room green to make the use of the ChromaKey green screen thingee easier, we have had no use for the big green curtain provided to us.

Until yesterday!  In the picture above the “ghost” is pretty obvious to you. But not when the ChromaKey is on with our news background! It just looks like a slightly blurry background when it moves. They brainstormed a bunch of gags, but I said we didn’t want to do anything too scary for the little ones. So our ghost just moved that mug back and forth a couple of times and messed with our anchors, flipping hoodies and levitating and knocking off hats and such while they made concerned faces.

In the end of the show a hand magically appeared, gave a thumbs up and high-fived the two anchors.

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!


Using Instagram in the Library

I have an Instagram account for my elementary school library. It’s useful to promote things like the book fairs, author visits and other special occasions. It’s also great just to show off pictures of people using the library alone or in groups for reading or using the technology or whatever.

When I first got into this school librarian gig, if you wanted to promote your program online you had to use this antiquated format called a “blog.” Nowadays some people use Facebook and/or Twitter, Intagram, Snapchat, ClassDojo and probably things I haven’t even heard of.

Instagram is my pick because it’s easy and fun. I don’t have that many followers and this isn’t one of those annoying posts on “how to leverage Instagram in your library media program!” Ugh.

But I do find it interesting that when I started being a librarian there were all these ideas about using photos of students on your blog. Not necessarily rules, but strong recommendations on either using stock photos or blurring out faces or showing things and not people because you did not want to mess with student privacy.

There may still be people being careful about this kind of thing and I’m not recommending we don’t be careful. But I take photos of kids in my library often now and post them without too much thought. Sometimes I show the student the photo and mention I might post it. In the two years I’ve been doing this I can only think of one student who said not to post.

Privately I’ve thought, if any student or parent asks me to remove a post I will, no question. But it’s never happened. I don’t put student information in the captions. Not even first names. Almost all of our students and staff are covered by the “media release” form they fill out at the beginning of each year. You could count on one hand the students that haven’t had one signed.

So I just take a bunch of pictures once in a while and sometimes I post them on the library Instagram. Sometimes I tell the people I photograph and sometimes I don’t. I’ll be happy to remove anything that someone wants removed but it’s never been an issue.

And that one student who didn’t want me to post? He help up a book fair book that had a shark with his mouth wide open and he mimicked the wide open mouth of the shark. I laughed and snapped his picture. I said I just had to post it on Instagram. He said no. I handed the book to a different kid, had him open his mouth up WIDE and did the same thing; posted it and it was awesome. Later that afternoon the first kid’s mom came in and I showed her his photo. “I thought you’d want to see this since he didn’t want me to post it.”  She looked at him an was like, “Why not?!? That’s wonderful. Can you send me a copy?”

New Year New Challenges

So I’ve gone through on day with each of the seven 4th grade classes for library orientations and spent the last few days giving them some kind of pre-test on the computers. Protip: if you have any say or any choice, testing like that is ALWAYS better paper/pencil. Computers are amazing for so many things but testing elementary students isn’t on of them.

The time has come for me to make my first Specials lesson plans. So of course I’m procrastinating by updating the blog.

I’m going to be getting a Scholastic magazine called Storyworks for my main source but that doesn’t come out until September. In the meantime I have plenty of ideas. I’ve genre-fied the fiction section so we will be exploring that. I also want to review some tips and tricks that will help them get more use out of our online Media Catalog. Then I’ll go into the public library catalog and how to reserve the things we’re already out of (Wimpy Kid, Amulet series, Minecraft books, etc.) Last I want to get them getting a reading list together using a database our district subscribes to called NoveList. You can put in the name of a book or author you like and it’ll give you suggestions of other books kind of like that. Problem is, I don’t always have all the books it suggests, hence the public library catalog lesson before this one.

I also am going to try a new (to me) tool called Plickers which will allow me to do some fun formative assessments and ticket-out-the door activities without needing all the students to have a device or code or login or other cumbersome and time-wasting fiddly bits. With this they just hold up a card with their answer and I use my phone with the app to quickly scan and get a read on who knows what’s what. I haven’t used it yet but have enthusiastic feedback from a teacher who has and loves it.

I’m also dealing with an online troll so have, for the moment, turned the “protected tweets” option on my Twitter because muting and blocking didn’t seem to be enough for this fellow. Don’t worry, it wasn’t anything too horrible. Just a constant stream of nonsense that was becoming an annoyance. Here’s to his future mental health and happiness.

But all in all it’s been a good year. Like I said, I’m about to start the Specials rotation in earnest this week, going back to the live morning show is going well, the Reader’s Rally Team is kicking off this week and we’re about to have the first Book Fair. Then Dragon Con! I’ll be crazy busy through the Labor Day weekend but after that should be getting into a routine.

How about you? Beginning of school treating you well? Hope the challenges you’re facing are keeping things interesting! Let me know in the comments.



Getting Ready for School AND an Eclipse!

Solar-EclipseIt’s the middle of our pre-planning week here in my district. We all have a million things to do and time is running out to do them but somehow the first day always comes and goes and it’s usually a success.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea I’ll be teaching a Specials class this year. I found out yesterday it’s not in the traditional one class per day for seven days, then start over format. It’s in a three days with this class, then three days with that class and so on until you see the first group 21 or so days later for another three day session. So I’m thinking about turning it into a Media Festival workshop. We have a state Media Festival every year and it’s always hard to find the time to let kids go to town on those projects. I’m not sure if I’m up to the logistical challenge but I’m consulting some expert teachers on the subject so we’ll see where that goes.

Also, I’ve been getting questions about the 2017 solar eclipse. There is a ton of information out there but really, everything you really need to know is right here: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/

Where we are we’re going to get about 98% coverage instead of complete totality, but that’s the most I’ve ever seen so I’m happy. I’m going to be playing the NASA livestream for the school in case it’s cloudy or for anyone who is unable to get out there for it. Our school district has extended the school day for an hour just for this. I think that’s because “totality” is occurring right around the same time as many school’s bus dismissal time. That would be a mess.

Do you have any plans for the eclipse? Let me know in the comments. Have fun!

Back to School Time!

“We’re ready for the new school year. Are you?”

Today was the first day back for teachers. Next Monday is the first day back for our students.

Things that will be new this year: the principal, and assistant principal, the tech guy, about 10-15 teachers, doing the morning show live and now I just found out I’ll be teaching one 4th grade Specials class every day (still without a clerk).

Today I basically got to make a big long To Do list, meet some of the new people and make initial contact with 4th grade regarding the whole Specials class thing.

Oh yeah, and of COURSE I got some of those cute Mo Willems characters they were selling at Kohl’s this summer.

Have a great one!

Star Wars Night in the Library


Well, as you can see, the Georgia Garrison of the 501st more than delivered. It was the highlight of our school’s Literacy Night and a big draw. They came early and the principal and I posted a couple of shots of our droid guest on social media saying, “I HOPE YOU’RE COMING TO LITERACY NIGHT!” I heard from more than one parent that they were on their way to things like gymnastics or Boy Scouts and were instructed to “turn the car around! We need to go back to the school!”

It was a delighted mob that these fine folks patiently stood for photos with for over an hour. They were real, well, troopers if you will. They were so enthusiastic, high fiving everyone and really hamming it up.

I didn’t want to take too much of their time after the crush of people left but I did get some fun pictures of them with books in the stacks, checking out and other stuff. I even got a few video clips I can play on the morning show including one where they give some advice for getting a good night sleep and a good breakfast for when we have the big state tests in April.

They were all amazing but R2-D2 was the thing that really sold it. He moved around, beeped, and reacted to individuals. All his panels could open and close and the parents were as delighted with him as the students. The guy who built, programmed and ran him (an intensive two year process!) casually leaned against a pillar in the background and subtly ran R2 all night with no one catching on how it was being controlled. He hung out afterwards with some of our Robotics Club kids taking off panels and showing them how it all worked.

A great, great night for all involved!

“These are the books you’re looking for.”

You BETTER Know Star Wars in MY Library!

I was checking in books this morning and some of the kids were talking about Star Wars. I said, “Did you hear that the next series movie has a title now?”

Kid: Really? What is it?

Me: The Last Jedi.

Kid: Cool. I wonder who that is.

Me: I don’t know. I imagine it might be Luke Skywalker.

Kid: Who’s that?

Me (loudly, pointing at the door): You get out of here RIGHT NOW MISTER and don’t come back until you know who Luke Skywalker is!

Other kids fell on the floor laughing. (It’s okay, they know I’m kidding!)

More new library furniture


I keep forgetting that I used to post more photos on my blog. Now with Instagram and Google Photos I share them so many ways I…just don’t think of it.

But here is the latest update to my multi-year project of updating the Media Center! Before, as you may or may not recall, I painted, added new exciting posters, and got some cool blue and green tables WITH WHEELS.

Here is the second phase. Nice, huh? The little laptop tables are from World Market by the way. They were listed at $79 but were on sale for $59 when I got them. I might need some for my house!

The chairs WERE going to have a cool pattern to them but the prices changed and that became a bit too crazy. So we went with the three colors you see here (and matching ottomans that are at the base of some of the shelves in the background.

I keep trying it all in different configurations but so far this is the one I like best. Putting the ottomans in the middle became a playground. Ugh. Spreading them out with an ottoman inbetween each chair made the circle weirdly too big. (I guess I could try two smaller circles like that…)

But this is cool. I like the ottomans near the shelves and they’re all easy to move around as needed, which is one of the points of all this.

The orange was not on the original plan but has been popular. When I buy more of the rectangular tables for the computer area I’ll probably get blue, green and orange ones to brighten things even more.

Now just to wait for the next big school fundraiser to see if I can do the rest in one, two or three more phases…

Sharing the New Books in the Library

This is always a challenge. When I get in a big order of new books of course I can put them on a cart and make signs and show everyone but after a week or so everything gets shelved or is being circulated and the excitement dies down. There are also many books that I know won’t be big hits but they’ll fit in with certain needs later. Books that will be great read alouds or that can be used in a unit on WWI or poetry or whatever.

With nearly a hundred staff members and over nine hundred students there is no one way that’s good at letting all the right people know about all the new books when get in periodically. Last year I tried just making a short video clip only showing off the covers of all the new books in one order. I was planning to add it to the morning show but just sweeping over all the covers took over 8 1/2 minutes long. Couldn’t do it.

This time I’m trying something new. I decided a long time ago that I just like the blog format for my media center website. So sticking with that idea I made one post about the new books and “pinned it” to the top of the blog. Then I made a post for each book. It was pretty quick to do. I just used Titlewave and copied a picture of the cover and copied the publisher blurb and/or a quote or two from review sites. Cut/paste/cut/paste. That’s it.  It took time but over a few days it wasn’t that bad. I made sure to use a few labels on each book. “Read aloud,” “WWI,” “poetry,” that kind of thing. Then I send a group email to all the teachers with a link to the blog and that first post (which explained everything) and waited to see how it went. I’ve also showed it to a few classes and a number of random students. I’ve gotten all positive feedback. Not everyone jumped on it but I did get a few requests for things based on it from both a couple of teacher and a few students.

I also think it will come in handy later when someone asks me, for example if I have anything new in folktales, I can hit that label and there they are.

I may even add a few more books. For example if I notice the 5th grade teachers using it to see what new civil war books we have, I’ll add posts to other civil war books they might miss (especially ones in Fiction or Everybody that they might miss if they only look in the 900s). If I see students often use it to see about new scary or funny books I’ll add more of those. That way I can have a fast and easy way to share something for a request of “second grade read alouds” without having to keep up a whole massive database or wiki or wrack my brain every time.

It’s an experiment but it’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

A Virtual Author Visit!

o'connorOne of the books we’re reading for the Reader’s Rally team this year is by Barbara O’Connor.  I’ve actually met her before at children’s literature conferences so I contacted her and we’re going to get to do a Skype visit in December!

How cool is that?  So I got extra copies of that book for the team (so they can read it NEXT) and checked out what we have of her other books and am asking them to read at least one other by her (my favorite is How to Steal a Dog). Then I’ll give them some interviews of her so they can get to know her as well as her work and come up with good questions for the meeting.

Should be fun!