Teachers’ Booklist Spring 2014

In an earlier post, I read an article about the importance of reading for pleasure for teachers and thought of creating something like a once-per-semester booklist for teachers to help them keep up with some of the popular reading for teenage students.

After spending the fall semester getting settled into my position and feeling out the school and my users, I’ve gone ahead and created one for Spring 2014.

Here are some of the major pieces of my rationale:

  • Only 5 titles; I felt like any more than that would just overwhelm already overworked teachers.
  • Automatically include titles with major film versions coming this Spring.
  • My favorite YA book that I read this year should be on there, as long as it has one other qualifier, i.e. if it’s a recent title, one that will be made into a movie, a major award winner from this year, etc.
  • Varying genres or formats as much as possible.
  • At least one lower level/middle grades title.
  • Common Core aligned, i.e. could be used in classes

It didn’t take me long to come up with this list. Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, both huge books from the last couple of years, have film versions coming out before the end of the school year. Seraphina is my favorite book of the year and won a bunch of awards, not to mention it will be a fantasy trilogy, so it will probably blow up at some point; it just hasn’t happened quite yet. Code Name Verity has been wildly popular already, was #1 on the Teens’ Top Ten for 2013, and is historical fiction, which doesn’t happen often. And The False Prince is arguably middle grades, but was #2 on the Teens’ Top Ten for 2013 and has been optioned for a film.

Honestly, it wasn’t hard to make these choices. Obviously, I might end up being wrong about something being a popular book, but even if that happens, I think this is a good list for teachers to be familiar with at the very least. Films will cause a buzz, and there is a lot of buzz around both Verity and Prince thanks to the Teens’ Top Ten.

I did end up thinking about some issues I had:

  • My library here at school does not have all of these titles. I don’t think it’s a huge problem, but it would be a definite bonus to say that I have them. I’ve already been asked by a couple of teachers if we have all of them. I hate saying no. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, my budget doesn’t really allow for much wiggle room.
  • I’ve also mentioned before that I’ve been told not to email the entire staff at my school. How do I get this list out to teachers without emailing everyone?
  • I used Smore to create a flyer because I had just discovered that website, and I like trying out new creation tools. I think it worked, generally, but it isn’t the best format to present this type of information. At least now I know how to use it, right?
  • The Smore flyer is embeddable, but it changes the dimensions of the pictures and doesn’t look right. Also, Smore and WordPress don’t like each other so it won’t embed here.
  • I was concerned that teachers would immediately think that this was a required thing, so I went out of my way to explain that it was just an FYI thing; they could read if they wanted or completely ignore.

I think that about covers my feelings about this. I think this is a really good thing to do, and I’ve already received positive feedback from several teachers. I even had one ask if we could do a discussion group for anyone who reads any of the books. I think that’s a fantastic idea, in small doses. Again, I don’t like the idea of adding on to what is expected of this group of teachers already, which I think is a whole lot, so I’d want to keep it to just one 30 minute session where we can just share our thoughts about the books.

Anyway, here’s the link to the booklist!

Buying on a Budget

I feel like budget is a topic that many people try to steer clear of. And I totally get why now.

I only had $441.60 to spend on my library this school year.

I mean, I knew that we got money based on student enrollment, and I know that I’m at a very small school, but I didn’t realize it was going to be that small. Most vendors who called me on the phone to try to sell me something didn’t even have packages that fit within my budget. I made the mistake at the very beginning of not explaining how small my budget was to one caller; he sent me a couple of boxes of fantastic books to look through that would have cost me 4x my budget. It was my fault, but I just wasn’t sure what I was doing at first.

I had a lot of trouble really narrowing down what we needed, even though there were some parameters dictated to me. Because of the transition my school is in, I was told to hold off on anything non-fiction as we will be trying to go strictly electronic resources for that as a part of the move to Learning Commons instead of Media Center.

Once that was decided, I had to consider what fiction we really needed. And with my student population, what I really needed were high-interest, low-level titles. And I had to do that without ignoring the need to include some award winners from the last couple of years.

I got lucky enough to have a vendor call me one day and actually have something he could offer me for way less than my budget and was nothing but graphic novels. Our graphics collection was abysmal, so it needed some work, but aside from that, graphics offer low level readers some place to turn. On top of that, I was given a handful of books to choose for free simply for giving their program a try. I found a bunch of high-interest, low-level readers, often suggested by ALA’s Quick Picks list, and got to choose from those.

Beyond that, I bought the NCSLMA award winners from the last two years, and added on a few extras because I was told to (apparently, that ‘Do Not Exceed’ line is extremely useful).

Also, my Department of Media Services sends everyone additional books based on a popular list and what we already have or do not have. I feel good about what I did, but it truly was a struggle to look at such a small number, knowing all of the work this Media Center needs. Of course, I probably would have been totally overwhelmed if I’d been given way more money than that.

Learning Commons

The information, professional development, and movement coming from the Department of (Virtual Learning) and Media Services in my school system is all about the transition from Media Centers to Learning Commons.

I am in a really unique position because my school is also in the middle of a transition, so I get to combine the two things; my Media Center will be the first official Learning Commons in the school system at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. Our school building will be renovated and redesigned during the 2014-2015 school year with the new model in mind. I don’t have to do much, though I do get some say in furniture and design, but I will come in to an entirely new Learning Commons in 2015.

Buffy Hamilton, a former school librarian, recently posted about this transformation of spaces, on her blog. The VLMS department in my school system has been watching the Hunt Library at NC State closely to see what they’re doing and how it’s going.

Basically, this is a huge movement for the school library world, and I’m very excited to be a part of it. I’ve seen the plans for the new Learning Commons and can’t wait to be its leader.

But it is a big change, so I’ve been working on some things to help teachers prepare. Unfortunately, doing anything with my physical space is pretty silly given that I will be out of here at the end of this school year and everything will be totally different upon our return. I’ve been focusing on mental changes. Here are a few things I have done.

  • Got rid of the reference section and let students check out anything and everything for up to two weeks.
  • No late fees.
  • Push for using free electronic resources (like NCWiseOwl, Britannica.com, Google Scholar, etc. depending on topics).
  • Host events (World Cup Draw party, Hour of Code).
  • Push for using iPads instead of desktop computers or laptops.
  • Opened the Media Center to individual students rather than just whole classes.
  • Push for using the Media Center as a work area, even if you don’t need internet access or computers for the work.

It’s gone fairly well, but I have encountered one major issue. I was told not to send the entire staff emails, so much of my communication occurs via the Media Center website, which I’m sure no one checks regularly for anything. I’m stuck at a point where, within what I feel I can do (it’s too early in the process to have a Twitter or Facebook account for the Learning Commons), I can’t communicate things to the staff in the most effective and efficient way.