Teachers’ Booklist Summer/Fall 2015

I honestly love doing this teachers’ booklist twice a year. It makes me really think about what I should know and be able to talk about with students and teachers. At this point, if teachers are looking at it, they aren’t talking to me about it. That’s totally fine, but I have no way of knowing if anybody is actually using it for anything. I need to think about ways to actually bring it into conversation and get some information.

I discovered, much to my chagrin, that there is a limit on Smore as to how many flyers you can make. I was forced to look elsewhere for a new resource, and I’m so glad I did. Lucidpress is a fantastic online program that makes a large number of different things. I used a magazine template, but, as you’ll see when you click on it, it works almost like a presentation. There is a limit on Lucidpress, too, but it could work really well depending on what you are trying to accomplish or produce.

Anyway, here’s the list! I’m really excited about this one as I think that I’ve done a good job picking what really will be fairly popular with readers. Several of the books on here are already very popular!


Lunch Fun

My current school operates on a schedule that includes SMART lunch. When I was in high school, we called it tutorial, and they got rid of it shortly after I graduated, and I’ve never worked at a school that has had anything like it since.

I think it’s genius. Ours is an hour long lunch period in the middle of the day. Students can get lunch at any point during that hour, and teachers have a designated 30 minutes for lunch. For the other 30 minutes, teachers have duty, tutoring, club meetings, etc. depending on the day of the week.

The library is open for all of SMART lunch, every day, for the most part. There are always things that cause us to close (testing), but we are usually open. So I’ve decided to use that time to try to bring our program into the makerspace movement and 21st century learning.

We’ve designated areas in the library for certain things. We have quiet study, mostly-quiet whatever, computers reserved for school work, the gaming computers, the games area, and the lounge. There are several tables that don’t fall under any of those specifications, which I think is fine.

We are also adding activities on certain days. Every other Friday will be Artsy Fartsy Friday, with art projects in the area designated mostly quiet whatever. Unfortunately, that area is next to the quiet study area, which I want to keep open all the time, so I’m not sure how that’s going to work. Right now, since we are starting in the middle of the school year with this, these things will end up being mostly a test for next year and we will be able to make adjustments, so there’s that.

On alternating Tuesdays, we will do Reading Hour and Book Club. Students will only be welcome in the library on Reading Hour days if they are reading a print resource (or for quiet study). There will be no computer access on those days and no games. Book Club days will still be open to everyone, with book club being held in the lounge as long as there is room for everyone there. Since we are a school and have limited access to numerous copies of the same book, I tweaked the Book Club format so that we just choose a subject or genre or author or whatever I can think of and participants get to choose the book they read and share with everyone else.

All three programs are drop-in; no one is required to show up every time or even at a specific time. The latter may have to change with Book Club but like I said, we’re trying it out.

I’m really excited about each of these things and I will definitely post about what happens with each of them.

What I Learned When I Gave Away Books

First some necessary background information.

1. My school didn’t have a librarian for at least 3 years before me.
2. My school is Title I, which I discovered means that many publishing companies send the school a TON of copies of a few books for “classroom libraries” at the end of the year.
3. My school has gone through a HUGE number of transitions in the last 15 or so years. It was a middle school, high school, “learning center” (whatever that means), twilight school… It also received a lot of leftovers from other schools when they were closed. And at one point, a high school from down the road was moved to our building “temporarily,” along with all of their stuff, and never moved back.
4. As far as I can tell, no one had ever gone through most of all the stuff that had fallen into corners of classrooms and the library.

So I decided to go through it. Because we are moving and it’s a good time to clean house.

As I began to go through the process, I realized that something better should be done with all the books I was finding than donating or sending to classroom libraries to collect dust. I couldn’t justify adding all of them to the collection. Most were old, paperbacks that I didn’t think would get enough attention off the wall and would just end up being weeded out within three years. I also didn’t want to just throw them away. But they needed to be used somehow.

I decided that I wanted my students to have first crack at these books. Obviously, my students come from low-income households. They’re struggling in school. They need to read over the summer but they have no books. Why not let them take these? So, with no rhyme or reason or method whatsoever, no display-like advertising, I threw these books, cover up on the work tables. They were everywhere. There were so many of them. And I told the teachers to bring their classes for a few minutes and I spread word through those students who were constantly checking books out over the course of the year. And I made sure that every student who walked in knew they didn’t ever have to bring these books back, that they were theirs to keep or give away or whatever they wanted.

THE RESPONSE FROM STUDENTS WAS OVERWHELMING. They flooded the library and took as many as they wanted. Boys who hadn’t checked out anything all year FREAKED OUT and took all the old “Star Wars” books and then told their friends to come get more. They asked me how many they could get and when I said “However many you want!”, they asked if I had any bags to hold all the books they wanted. They asked me over and over again if they really didn’t have to bring them back.

I almost cried.

I believe that this occurred because the books were free to take, to keep, to have. There was no responsibility on the student to bring the books back. If a book got destroyed, it didn’t matter. I truly believe, after this occurrence, that my students want to read, but do not have the ability (for a number of reasons) to do so.

I will do this at the end of every year, in every school I work at. I don’t actually know what happens to books I weed out and box up to be collected by the Media Services department, but I feel certain they wouldn’t mind if I gave them to students instead.

Summer/Fall Teachers’ Booklist

See this post (article about the importance of reading for pleasure for teachers) and this post (Teachers’ Booklist for Spring 2014) for more information on what this whole thing is, how I came up with the idea, etc.

This article is about the booklist I created for Summer and Fall 2014.

Let’s start with the rationale I mentioned in that second post, when I created my first teacher booklist. Updates are in bold.

  • Only 5 titles; I felt like any more than that would just overwhelm already overworked teachers. –> I did this, without even thinking about it. 5 is a good number.
  • Automatically include titles with major film versions coming this Spring. –>I also kept this without even thinking about, especially because these are movie versions of already popular books.
  • 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. –>I meant favorite book of the previous year here. How can I have a fave 2014 book yet? So this piece of the puzzle only works for Spring booklists.
  • Varying genres or formats as much as possible.–>I tried to do this. More on that in a second.
  • At least one lower level/middle grades title.–>I did this, but on accident; I completely forgot about this 
  • Common Core aligned, i.e. could be used in classes–>Personally, I think any book could be used for Common Core, so I might be personally biased here.

This was a harder booklist to develop. The first three, The Maze Runner, The Giver, and If I Stay, were easy because of the film versions. They’re all already fairly popular books (except in the case of The Giver, a 20 year old title that was wildly popular for many years) and I truly believe the film versions will really boost them. But once I established those, it was harder for me to pick which others to include. I went back and forth between a large number of choices, including Out of the Easy, Eleanor & Park, All the Truth That’s In Me, and Charm & Strange. I ended up choosing Panic and The Madman’s Daughter. I chose Panic because it is a very recent publication, by a very popular author, that has already been optioned for a film. I’m certain it’s going to be huge. In the case of The Madman’s Daughter, I am less certain. It was just named the NCYABA winner and was optioned for film, but mostly I chose it because it was such a different genre than what I had already (although it is sort of sci fi).

I still had a few issues overall, but honestly, except for choosing the books, this booklist went a bit more smoothly.

  • We do have all of these books in my library except for Panic (too new) because I was given some more money with which to buy books, but books can’t be checked out over the summer. Sorry!
  • 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 kept the original problem on here because I liked my solution; I just emailed each department as a group rather than the whole school.
  • 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? –>I also wanted to keep this original issue on here. I ended up liking Smore way more than I thought I would, so I decided to use it again and find a new one for the next one.

Anyway, here’s the link to the booklist!

What I Learned When I Ordered Too Many Books

or: Genrefying is a Legit Thing

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Covers

or: Some of the Theories About Diversity in YA Might Be Wrong…

Okay, I didn’t really order too many books. My library is being packed up and moved to another building for the next school year while ours is being renovated, so one of my goals for this school year was to do a major weeding project in fiction and to order mostly fiction to update the collection. I want to come back to the new Learning Commons with a fresh, clean, desirable fiction section. I’m fairly certain that I was pretty successful at this.

But I ordered like 200 new books and they arrived as I was in the middle of my weeding project. I did not want to confuse myself by shelving them and having to put hands on them again when I already knew I wanted them here.

So I put them on the tables in the MC. Literally just cover up on different tables, organized by genre. Essentially I had a mini collection of fiction organized by genre and displayed so you can see all the covers.

The amount of attention this drew was MIRACULOUS. Students who normally read got SO EXCITED. Students who didn’t normally check books out went through them and checked books out. They TALKED ABOUT THE BOOKS IN FRONT OF THEM. It. Was. Tremendous.

Here’s why I think it worked.

1. Genrefying. When we throw all the books on the shelf in alphabetical order by author’s last name, we don’t give possible readers anything to go on to find a book except for whatever they can see on the spine.

2. Covers. I mean just read number 1 again.

I’ve been considering genrefying my library for a while. I did it at a middle school library I interned at and then did a lot of research into it and I really think it’s a good idea. I think I’m going to add that as a goal during the move and transition, but I’d also like to find more ways to shelve or display books with the covers out. Does anyone have thoughts or suggestions?

Also, and I’m going to do a more specific post on this at some point, but I noticed that many students did not care what was on the cover as long as it looked cool. This is a big thing for me. I always thought that a young black girl would probably not pick up a book with a young white girl on the cover, and I don’t think I got that thought from nowhere. I feel like I’ve been hearing it, reading it, discussing its factness for a while. It may be right in some cases, but it really wasn’t the case for my students here. If the cover was engaging and enticing, it did not matter what race the character pictured on the front was at all. I’m very intrigued by this.

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!

My first bulletin board/display…

…feels like an unmitigated disaster.

I created a bulletin board and display for Teen Read Week as well as a display for Banned Books Week.

Here are some pictures of the TRW bulletin board and the display.

IMG_3252 IMG_3258


And the BBW display.





I felt like there were a number of challenges to this whole thing.

  • I have one large bulletin board and one small bulletin board on opposite sides of the library. That upper right picture in the collage is the smaller bulletin board. There is no table or bookshelf without anything on the top near the smaller bulletin board, so I had to think of something to do with it.
  • Neither of my bulletin boards are in a very logical place to be put to use in conjuction with displays.
  • The bookshelves that don’t have anything on top of them (and are short enough to be used as displays) aren’t in very good places for having displays. You’ll notice the Censorship poster is on an office window.
  • There is no better place to move any of the things that are mobile, which is actually only one of the bookshelves.
  • The large bulletin board was actually way larger than I was expecting.
  • My collection is in serious need of a major update. We didn’t have any of the books nominated for this year’s Teens’ Top Ten or any of the Top Ten Challenged Books from last year.

And here is what I ended up doing about each of those things.

  • I put a quote on the small bulletin board that I felt related to the theme of the book display on the large bulletin board. Positives: love the quote; it’s from a book; it’s totally related. Negatives: we don’t have that book, although we do have a couple of random ones from the series.
  • I used them anyway because they needed to be covered ASAP. I was originally thinking I could put always put a related quote on the little bulletin board and put the book that the quote is from on the shelf next to it. I may still try that, but it’s really limiting since my collection could use some help. Still like that idea though.
  • I used them anyway. I had no other choice at the time. It will be different next time.
  • Yeah, I’m not moving them. Not even the mobile one. Oh wait. Stream of consciousness here, but I just had an idea I might try out before doing the next display. We’ll see.
  • I filled it with things I’m not too proud of. Dots and squares for one. I thought the QR codes were a good idea (they link to the voting page for Teens’ Top Ten and the local public library to find the books), but I will print them larger next time to take up more room. Negative to that: my kids don’t actually know what they are because they mostly don’t have the devices to use them.
  • I had to get creative. The TRW display is all previous Top Ten and other award recent award winners, are things like The Giver, whose “sequel” Son is nominated this year, or are other books by authors who are nominated this year. The BBW display is a bunch of books that have been challenged over the years.

I do think I had some small success in using tissue paper to line the board and in finding those colors for the bulletin board letters in the back room.

I’m going to change a bunch of things, hopefully before I switch over to the next displays. Most importantly, I’m moving a bunch of the sections in my collection. That may open up some better shelf space for displays. However, that space won’t be near the bulletin boards, so I will have to do some thinking about that. My stream of consciousness idea may solve that issue, too.

Sorry for the length of this post. I really needed to reflect and figure out how I was going to make this better. I don’t deal well with feeling like something I attempted turned out awfully.

Using YA lit in Classrooms

I went to my first department meeting as a librarian last week. I started with the English Department because I thought it would be the least shocking for my system since that is the department I’m most used to. Mostly, I was there to discuss how we want to handle cataloging the class sets of novels that are housed in the stacks in the Media Center and how handling of those books will help with reading across content areas and build literacy in the school. I will do a post about that later.

But I stayed for most of the meeting, as I should. The conversation lingered on teachers wondering how they are meant to find time and resources to allow students to read texts of their choice, while still holding them accountable for those.

The time issue is not necessarily a concern of the MS, but reading, in general, is, and defending students’ need to read literature that truly reflects their lives and experiences definitely is.

I’m definitely no expert or anything, but finding ways to let students choose their own novels to read was a really important and effective change I made in my classes in my third year of teaching. And after going through library school and studying the reading habits and psychology of teenagers, I feel even more strongly that YA lit should be a staple in high school English classes. Here are some research based facts as to why:

  • Teens are more likely to actually DO the reading, and thus, get better at reading, because YA lit will be more interesting to them.
  • Students learn best when they are able to make connections to what they like, know, and are familiar with. YA lit reflects their own lives.
  • Teens have a lot going on. YA lit is not childish; it deals with the issues that plague teenagers and can help them deal with those issues. Basically, they’re not all about handsome vampires who sparkle in the sunlight (swoon).
  • They will actually be able to make it through this book with only a minimal number of confusing moments. Yes; challenging our readers to think about symbolism and use context clues to define words is important. But so are simple things like questioning the text, drawing conclusions, and making inferences.

Essentially, I’m arguing for more use of modern YA lit for students, or mixing YA lit into classics. We can’t keep expecting students in 2013 to relate to a title written in 1950. The world has changed and it’s time for us to adapt to it.

There are LOT of resources out there explaining more about why we should be using YA lit. I’m working on finding more about HOW we should be using YA lit. I will post any free resources I find.