Star Wars Night in the Library

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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!

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“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

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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!

I am a Genius and an Idiot Both

That’s the subject of the email I sent to the nice folks at Media Services at our head office when I had a question about how to add some new equipment to inventory.  My question was basically “I forget how to add equipment to inventory.”  They’ve changed the software over the past year and I just had a brain fart in how to get going on it.  At least they were entertained by the email.

The genius part was how I put the new digital cameras in inventory.  I learned a long time ago by librarians better than I am to make sure the barcode number is in more than one place.  The barcode sticker might get pulled off, scratched, faded, or whatever and it’s easier if it’s somewhere else on the equipment, especially when it’s something that you have many of that look exactly the same.  On a boom box that’s easy.  Slap the barcode on the side and write it in Sharpie on the bottom or something.  But on a super small pocket sized digital camera?  I had to trim the original barcode just to get it on the front face of the camera and there was NO where else to write it.

But I know some things about digital cameras and one thing is that along with writing the images to an SD card, they can usually handle keeping a few images in internal memory.  So I popped the SD cards out, took a macro photo of the barcode on a white background on internal memory (where it’s doubtful to ever be erased) and boom! A backup of the barcode in a secret but easily found spot.

It gets better! You can actually scan the barcode from the screen of the camera!  I know, right? How cool is that?  Will make life so much easier if anything happens to the original barcodes.

Yes, it’s been a busy week.  I’m working on getting new stuff in inventory but I’m also trying to go through the old stuff and decide what to keep and what to surplus.  And I’m still figuring out the technical difficulties of the new broadcast room, which will be great once I get it down.

Then, of course, add a Book Fair into the mix!  Yup, that’s right, next week is conference week (already!?) and we set up the book fair Thursday afternoon and were in full crazy mode all day Friday.

So I’m enjoying my weekend.  Next week will be a fun but exhausting grind with the book fair and conferences for My Lovely Bride.  It’s a challenging week for us both (twice a year) but rewarding in it’s way.

Hope it’s going well for you!

Broadcast Room Retrofit

So we’re winding down the year-long technology retrofit at our particular school and last week I received my broadcast room retrofit.  They switched out many things, added some things and gave me a whole bunch of new toys to play with.  But that’s not the hilarious part.

The hilarious part was Thursday afternoon.  The plan was to have a team (well, three guys) come and do the physical retrofit. Adding and updating the computers, cameras, teleprompter, software, etc.  Then Friday a different guy would come out for as long as I needed to show me how to use the stuff.

I gave the heads up to the people that would need to know that I wasn’t sure what would happen with the morning show and bus call those two days.  But they came in Thursday after the morning show and finished their part of the job around 1pm.  So one of them sat me down to show me how to run the bus call slide show on the new system.  “Wait a minute,” I said, “let me get Lisa to hear this too.”  Lisa is the Copy Goddess whose workroom is part of the overall media center.  Technically her job description is “Instructional Clerk” and she’s considered part of the office staff.  She does all the photocopying, helps with laminating, does the slide show, helps update the web site and basically does all of the school’s and PTA’s graphic design work.  She’s also really good at listening, learns fast, and can trouble shoot tech better than most people I know.  If I’m absent, she’s the one running the morning show and bus call.  So I wanted her to hear this too.

He ran it through with us a few times.  It was slightly different, but he explained it clearly and we both nodded that we got it.

Then 2:45 came around and of course it didn’t work.  “Lisa!” I screamed.  “It’s NOT WORKING! WHAT AM I DOING WRONG!?”

She didn’t know.  “Did you do this?”  Yes.  “What about that?”  Yes.  “Try it this way.”  Nope.

Despite my racing heartbeat and the stress shooting out of the top of my head, all hope was not lost.  The sound was working so they could all hear me saying which buses and daycare vans were there.  They just couldn’t see what I was trying to put on the screen.

Let me pause here to mention that part of the new retrofit is new presentation software for the morning show.  Earlier in the day, to test it out, one of the techs recorded a few seconds of the broadcast room and played it on the screen to make sure all was working.  We’d shut off the feed to the classrooms at that point, so no one could see or hear what we we testing.

What he recorded was me, behind the news anchor desk, moving an inflatable remote-controlled robot out of the way.  This is one of the prizes in some fund raising effort at the school.  I think I was talking to it and making faces at it.  Twenty seconds, tops.

Anyway, back to the stressful crunch of trying to get those frigging slides to display on the screen for bus call.  I was in panic mode and clicking everything.  The presentation software was minimized and the PowerPoint was up.  It was letting me edit the slides, but not SHOW them on the screen.  I popped open the presentation software to see if I could do something with that. Of COURSE the twenty second video of me playing with an inflatable robot started running.  Of course it did.  I was so mad at the moment, I just clicked the red X to close out that software all together.

The bus slides showed up on the screen as soon as I did that.

Turns out that was the problem.  You have to disable the presentation software if you want to present anything else.  Neither Lisa nor I recalled the guy mentioning that.

So anyway, all went fine after that.  I did my morning show the way I’ve been doing it up until now on Friday morning, then the guru came and showed Lisa and I all the tips and tricks he could to get us started on all the new stuff, paying particular attention to how we handled the bus call slides before he left us on our own.

Friday at 2:45 had three of us working on the bus call.  I ran it.  Lisa hovered to make sure all was well.  And my Friday clerk watched nervously since she usually does it on Friday.  Also, she had been subbing in a class the day before and been cracking up at me and the robot and all the other snafus.  She didn’t think it was so funny now, though, did she?  Oh no!  NOw she’s all worried about having to do it on her own next week.

Don’t worry, I’ll help her.  But I might make the robot scare her just to keep her on her toes!

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BEFORE: 2 cameras, 1 teleprompter, small tripods.
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AFTER: new pro tripods, two new teleprompters, new cameras.
BEFORE: 1 computer, 2 CRT monitors, 1 editing machine hardly used.
BEFORE: 1 computer, 2 CRT monitors, 1 editing machine hardly used.
2 computers (1 for teleprompters, 1 for presentations and video editing, new hard drive video recorder, two flat screen monitors. NOT SHOWN: new software for presenting and video editing.
2 computers (1 for teleprompters, 1 for presentations and video editing), new hard drive video recorder, two flat screen monitors. NOT SHOWN: new software for presenting and video editing (and that stupid robot).

I’m a hero? Like Captain Underpants?

So one of the elementary media specialists in our county sent out an email to all of the other elementary media specialists asking about the “controversy” surrounding the new Capt. Underpants title. 

This was my response:

“Unless someone even noticed that Harold’s future self is a guy with a husband (which I doubt they will unless someone points it out to them) then I can’t see it being a problem.  There’s absolutely nothing about gay characters other than one existing and not even saying or doing anything. If people want to reconsider a book because someone exists, then they probably have more problems than a book challenge will help.  Also, I can think of at least one other popular series that has a same gender couple
parental unit that exists in the background and I’ve never had anyone ever comment on the issue.  And this is a highly circulated series that has been checking out for years.

Thanks,
Jim”

I received an email from one of the higher ups in the Media Services dept. later that day:

“And this is why you’re my hero….seriously.”

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PS This is the unnamed popular series, written by the brilliant and hilarious Amy Ignatow.

There’s Always Preview Mode

Week two of school down, only thirty-four more to go!

Mostly I did library orientations.  I tried an experiment and made a Kahoot instead of a video.  A Kahoot is an interactive quiz like slide show where the participants can log into the game and answer the questions live and you can get immediate feedback on what they know or what you need to discuss further.  It was my first Kahoot and after the first one I learned that I need to work on making Kahoots more if I ever do one again.  I made it 20 questions and that’s too long.  It took the first group almost an hour to gt through it.  After that I did it in “preview mode” which basically meant they answered the questions the old fashioned way (by raising their hands or calling out answers) and I clicked the answer choices for them to get through it in time for them to be able to check out books.  Live and learn.

For my Kindergarten orientations I read the Charlie & Lola book, But Excuse Me That Is My Book by Lauren Child in my not very good but apparently very funny imitation of Lola’s lilting British accent.  It’s a good one to start with because it emphasises trying different books other than the few beloved ones you’ve been reading over and over again.

For first grade I read Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, and I’ll read that to K next as well.  It’s a good beginning book becasue, well, it’s just wonderful and it’s about making new friends.

In home read-aloud news we finished Rick Riordan’s The Son of Neptune. This is the second of the “Heroes of Olympus” series.  The were an original five books featuring the demigod Percy Jackson and now a second five book series with Percy among some all new heroes.  I find these books even better than the original series in many ways.  Riordan has really nailed the multiple points of view and the characters seem even richer somehow.  Not sure if we’ll go right to book three next or break it up with another book in between.  It’ll be up to our new 7TH GRADER.  7th grade! For crying out loud.

Only 178 More Days Until Summer Vacation!

So since I last posted we’ve gone through pre-planning week, the week teachers go back to set up their classes and go through a bunch of business meetings.  Registration Day was a bit stressful due to a new online component that took parents way longer than expected but we got through it all right.

Now school has begun!  Actually for me, the first few days are pretty quiet.  Day One is basically still mini-registration day.  I only had one K class come in on their tour of the building.  I’m hoping for a couple more today (though there seems to be an issue with the schedulling software).

The funny thing is the beard.  I made sure to stand out front greeting everyone so it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone later on. Many kids just stared at me as they walked by.  A couple said, “Mr. Randolph, you have a beard!”  Like I haven’t looked in the mirror for the last few weeks or something?  I just acted surpirised.

Now to decide on my first read-alouds for the various classes.  Always a difficult winnowing process for a librarian!