There and back again

“There and back again” seems like an appropriate title of my journey to becoming a certified teacher librarian.  Even though I am a “fresh voice” in the land of Oregon school libraries, I am not a stranger.   My adventure began over 17 years ago when I was a third grade teacher at St. Clare Elementary school in Portland.  The school library was run by parent volunteers and being the teacher with a reading endorsement, good tech skills and a willingness to learn landed me the position as the school’s first librarian.  Those early days were filled with fun book promotions and read-alouds but also the challenge of cataloging the entire library with little training.

Twists and turns and new opportunities sent me to Valley Catholic School in Beaverton where I taught technology classes to middle and high school students.  There I immersed myself in the world of computer applications, video production, graphic design, and journalism.  I completed my Masters of Educational Technology at Pepperdine and discovered the power of networked learning for myself and my students.  The opportunity to attend the Google Teacher Academy and to present at library and technology conferences opened my eyes to a whole new world of educators who were passionate about teaching and learning.

Blazing a new trail I have now returned to the library but this time bringing with me a whole new set of technology skills to La Salle Prep.  This part of the journey includes completing my Library Media Endorsement at Portland State and the joy of discovering a network of librarians through OASL.

So what have I learned along the way that I can bring to my new school?  My adventures took me everywhere – they were all so different and yet they each changed me in their own way.

“Persevere” was a favorite word of Sr. Dolores Doohan, a beloved teacher at St. Clare.  You must have perseverance if you love to learn and I have learned this lesson well.   Learning is tough.  It’s hard work and its always a privilege to be part of the process.  I  remember being impressed with the dedication of high school students at Valley Catholic who researched, wrote, filmed and edited a documentary about teens and technology. One of my favorite quotes is from Lloyd Alexander and I believe it is so true: “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it … than we do from learning the answer itself .”

I appreciate those who have encouraged me and pointed me down the path.  I first met Victoria McDonald (2010 Oregon Secondary Librarian of the Year) when I was at St. Clare. She was always so positive and offered helpful advice.  I’m thrilled that we now work on staff together! Sue Osborne’s dedication and efforts to support the needs of her teachers at Valley Catholic taught me the value of hard work and aligning information literacy skills with the curriculum.  I will always think of Sue, now retired, and her impressive collection of collaborative project samples from teachers.

My own experience of developing an online PLN (Personal Learning Network) has helped me stay connected with other tech-loving teacher librarians.  Reading the blogs of Joyce Valenza, Buffy J. Hamilton, Gywenth Jones, and Doug Johnson has inspired me and challenged my thinking as a teacher librarian.  I stay connected to my PLN through Twitter (#tlchat), ISTE’s SIGMS, and TLchat webinars.

I am ready for the next leg of my journey.  I have already learned so much from my PSU professors, Ruth Murray, Deanna Draper, Nancy Sullivan, Reba Parker and Dolores Johnston. I am thankful to be a recipient of the  OASL Joyce Petrie scholarship this year.  I can’t wait to be more involved in OASL and work together towards stronger school libraries.

I am ready to find resources and support the new STEM Academy at my school.  I am thrilled that La Salle has adopted collaborative technology tools like Google Apps and Moodle.  It’s been fun introducing my book club to goodreads.com and seeing the power of social media transform them as readers.  I look forward to the joy and excitement on a student’s face when you show them the arrival of much anticipated book. I’m glad to still have the opportunity to stay connected with my students by teaching a Multimedia/Web Design class.  Blending the teacher librarian role with technology is the perfect combination for me.

The journey is priceless.  Who knows what the bend around the next corner will bring.

OASL reflections

I attended the OASL 2010 conference in Bend, Oregon on October 8th and 9th.  I attended the afternoon pre-conference and several sessions on Saturday that have impacted my understanding and teaching as a teacher librarian.

On Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure to hear Jerene Battisti and Angelina Benedetti share newly published books at their session titled:  You’re Invited: A Feast of New Literature for Teens. These two women are extremely knowledgeable about Young Adult novels /non-fiction and shared a huge variety of books centered around the following themes:  Fantasy, Old Stories Made New, History in Fact & Fiction, Science Fiction, Lighter Fare, Nail biters, Poetry, Girls In Trouble, War Stories and Boys Boys Boys.  Their session reminded me how important it is for a librarian to stay on top of what has been newly published –which can be very challenging!  Luckily Battisti and Bernedetti review hundreds of books each year and provide attendees with a comprehensive list that will be of great assistance when purchasing new books for the library.  Not only did I receive a list of recommendations but they discussed the authors, previous works they had written, indicated whether the books were award winners and offered related works. Even though I may prefer a particular genre, it is essential as a librarian to read a variety of genres – including graphic novels – so you can recommend books to your students or suggest familiar authors or similar themes.  Attending this session was extremely helpful and I plan to attend future workshops they give.

I was quite impressive with Kristin Fontichiaro who was the Saturday morning keynote speaker.  Her talk, Extreme Makeover: Library Edition, gave practical examples of how a librarian in the 21st Century should adapt and modify their program and become more like a Cultural Anthropologist, Peace Corps Worker, Strategic Technologist, and Community Builder.

As a Cultural Anthropologist, Fontichiaro suggested that we should be “embedded” in the classroom – always be watching and observing the students.  We need to connect to our local needs.  Fontichiaro explained that if students aren’t coming to the library – then the library should come to them.  She reminded us that libraries are not museums and we need to move away from the idea that the entire collection needs to be housed in one area.  I really like the idea of creating classroom libraries to match the curriculum.  I’ve already discussed creating a mobile science library on a cart that could be wheeled between each of our science labs.  We subscribe to several science magazines and this would be a great way to increase circulation among those items. Coming into the classroom with the mobile library cart is another opportunity to book talk!  Fontichiaro also discussed creating a library webpage that provides students with information 24/7.  One way to meet the diversity of learning styles is to have pathfinders that include multimedia – not just text.  By adding YouTube videos, Google Books, links to audio files and International resources we can reach all of our students while providing a valuable service.

As a Peace Corp Worker, our goal is to make the staff independent users of information.  Success in our position is defined by what the staff can do without our mediation.  Getting the staff to this point may take some professional development and coaching along the way but empowering the staff makes a sustainable community.  Once again, having a webpage that patrons can easily access is essential –something I am currently working on!

Our role as a Strategic Technologist suggests that we carefully evaluate technology and be strategic with planning.  Fontichiaro recommended that we get over “toolishness” and focus on effective ways to integrate technology.  I was please that Fontichiaro discussed technology as part of her extreme makeover.  I think the message that librarians today need to see themselves as instructional technologists is essential and I’m not sure many really know what that actually looks like.  Especially at the high school level, a good portion of my time working with students involves accessing electronic databases, recommending eBooks, teaching effective search strategies, assisting with MLA formatting – but at the same time being able to recommend a new novel for a patron.  We must be users and creators of technology ourselves so we can work with faculty and students when the opportunity arises.

Finally, Fontichiaro recommends that teacher librarians become Community Builders.  She suggests that we should build our learning networks online and at our school.  We need to feed ourselves so we stay current and know what others are reading and discussing.  This can happen through sites like Ning, Facebook, and Twitter but it’s not meant to replace the community you are working with – just enhance it. Participating in these networks is like a daily dose of professional development.  As a Community Builder we can encourage meaningful work such as a book study with the faculty or comment on articles from educational leadership magazines.  We can share instructional strategies with our staff and share resources we learn from our network.

Fontichiaro asked, “What kind of leader will you be?” and encouraged us to stay current on educational research, inform ourselves on current practices and participate in networks with other librarians who are emerging as leaders. Her message reinforced the path that I have taken and inspired me to reach out and invite others to join my journey.

Another influential session I attended at OASL was given by Cassandra Barnett, Past-President of AASL.  Her session, Empowering Your Learners – Implementing the AASL National Standards for the 21st Century Learning helped me to understand how each of the four standards are organized the difference between each of the strands:  skills, dispositions, responsibilities and self-assessment strategies.  The standards provide a framework for academic and personal learning.  Students have an unque opportunity in a library media center to develop their skills, hone their attitudes, independently practice their responsibilities and further their own learning.  Additional Indicators provide action items of what this might look like and finally Benchmarks offer specific skills that students can be expected to achieve by different grade levels.

Barnett provided us with a handout that we could use with our faculty about identifying partners among the faculty who can provide evidence of commons beliefs.  The goal of this activity is document what is happening in your school in a variety of classes or departments related to these beliefs: Reading is a window to the world, Inquiry provides a framework for learning, Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught, Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs, Equitable access is a key component of education, The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changes, The continuing expansion of information demands all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own, Learning has a social context, and School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.  Once the documentation is complete, you can determine areas that need attention and define action items and make plans for successful implementation.  I think that its essential to get the faculty working towards a common vision any time your planning a new initiative or curriculum implementation.  All teachers want their students to be informational literate and if we can find commonalities between our goals, we will have a greater chance at success. Additional Resources:   AASL, NETS & Partnership for 21st Century Comparision Resources for Librarians

These and the other workshops I attended at OASL gave me much to think about.  The time and opportunity to network with other teacher librarians was so beneficial to my growth as a newly returning librarian.  I am a true believer in professional development and am glad that my school library association does a good job of filling that role.