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Twitter on Thursdays Preview 11/19/2015

In light of the article posted in Charlotte Observer, Are School Librarians Going the Way of the Milkman? (, we want to continue the conversation that has ignited passionate responses in our school library community.

On the flip side, Scholastic re-launched its School Libraries Work campaign, which provides stakeholders and the community-at-large with reports about the positive effects that licensed, full-time media specialists have on student achievement. Visit this link, to receive your report.

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Beyond the Walls: Building a Vibrant School Library Community

Everything in a school needs to have relevance to the world. I’ll go a step beyond that comment by asserting that true education doesn’t just relate to the world, it encompasses the world. When my school library providing its best educational opportunities and services, the students are not limited by time and space. They see portals, opportunities, and windows to the world -- through print, non-print, electronic, and interactive experiences and resources. To accomplish this learning environment, I believe in bringing the community into the school as much as I do providing connections for our students beyond our walls. When students see their parents, community leaders, practicing professionals, and other adults actively engaged in school activities and events, it helps them to understand the value and importance of literacy in living a rich, meaningful and productive life. Moreover, the community members we invite to engage in our program are often amazed at the richness and value of the modern school library and what it means to a student’s educational journey. It’s the very best form of advocacy I’ve ever experienced.

One way we build community in our school and beyond is to offer our “Ages & Pages: Family Literacy Program.” Our students and their families are invited to read common text (this year we offered two selections: Donald Davis’s Tales from a Free-Range Childhood and Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks). Working with a committee of teachers, parents, students and community representatives, we created a program that launched with an author visit (Donald Davis) at storytelling concerts for the students during the day and the school community and families at night. Over 300 people attended the evening event, which included a chili supper, author meet and greet, digital storytelling information station, and family discussion guides and optional projects for students to work on with their parents. We invited local business partners and potential partners to join us, believing they would appreciate the opportunity to participate in an engaging school event without being asked to contribute to the event in any way. Currently, over 100 students are now reading and working through the project guide with their parents. In the spring, we will showcase the best family projects at the culmination event. We will also use the culmination event as a forum to recognize at least 50 additional students for reading accomplishments, such as book review blog posts and top passport readers in our incentives program.

Since the kick-off of “Ages and Pages,” we have recruited new business partners, received direct donations to our library, had several community groups request tours and observations of our library in action and made connections with alumni from our original high school graduates (class of ’62 in particular). Over half of the students participating in this program are truly at-risk in one regard or another. The parents who attended our kick-off event had an opportunity to evaluate the activities of the event: 100% gave the event an A or a B. 98% of the parents said that the school would benefit from reading programs and activities that engage parents in reading books with their children. In a middle/high school setting, I have to say we were overjoyed with this feedback. After kicking off the program, the students involved have apparently shared their enthusiasm with their peers. Each week, we have additional students come in to enroll in the program so they can be a part of the literary buzz.

I think the most important element of building community within and beyond the walls of a school library is keeping a sharp eye out for opportunities to let people shine. Whether that be showcasing student’s multimedia projects, inventing an awards program, inviting professionals to share their expertise with students, giving students an authentic audience to share their findings in a research project, asking community members to help judge contests or to give input into the design of a new initiative, there is so much value to fostering a sense of sharing and pride in a school environment. With the library being the heart of a vibrant school, the sky is the limit on how these opportunities can look. Each time I challenge myself to find a new way to expand our reach, I realize what comes back to our students benefits them far beyond what I could ever dream.
Posted by NCSLMA Member Gina Webster
School Library Media Coordinator
Walkertown Middle-High School
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

Focusing on Solutions

Gina Webster, media specialist at Walkertown Middle School, posted this on the NCSLMA listserv back in November, but it is very timely and worth revisiting, considering the impending budget cuts. 

I've been feeling a sense of urgency and a call to action lately. I'm generally focused more on solutions than problems, so I thought I'd share a few ideas that may be worth considering as we consider our emerging and evolving place in education.

1. Develop a student focus group to get feedback & fresh ideas to connect w/ what they need/want from their library.

2. Create a space on the library/media center's website that showcases collaborative work with teachers & students.

3. Find at least 5 other School Librarians who have a positive attitude about growth/change.

4. Develop an online request system to solicit ideas for future purchases.

5. Weed.

6. Invite someone from the Board of Education to participate in a lesson, program, or special event.

7. Realize that books may change in format and such but READING isn't going anywhere.
Focus on reading and literacy and you won't go wrong.

8. Try a new techy tool and shamelessly show it off to anyone who'll listen.

9. Use a social network to build a professional support group, think tank, sounding board, and cheering section for yourself.

10. Find a reason to make parent phone calls every week. Solicit volunteers, reinforce student accomplishments/learning, whatever you can do to remind parents of your role in their child's education.

Lots of library love to you all,

Posted by Ms. Dee at 7:41 PM

Tammy Young Advocates at Library Legislative Day

Tammy Young, NCSLMA Advocacy Committee Chair, shares her experience from this year's Library Legislative Day.

As the Advocacy Chair for NCLSMA, I have stepped waaaaaaaaaaaaay outside of my comfort zone. When I volunteered for this position I was intimidated a bit by the responsibility required of me in “speaking for NCSLMA”.

My first opportunity came when the NC Library Association (NCLA) invited me to join the NC delegation’s trip to Washington, DC May 9 and 10 to participate in ALA’s “Library Legislative Day”. NCLA has coordinated a group for the past several years and I was very excited to be able to travel and network with these colleagues.

The journey began on the morning of Monday, May 9 when the “western” delegates met in Greensboro to board the chartered coach and head toward Washington with a stop in Henderson, NC to pick up the “eastern” delegates. Among this group were public library directors and branch managers, library board members, NCLA leadership, academic librarians, a county commissioner and Mary Boone, our state librarian. It was a boisterous group of 27 advocates lead by the energetic Carol Walters, Director of Libraries Sandhill Regional Library System.

During the ride to Washington, the delegates were given information and key talking points regarding the state of NC libraries to utilize in our legislative discussions. Information packets with statistics were distributed on Tuesday to the NC legislators and their staff –including among the multicolored and informative papers, flash drives with video presentations that put faces and places with the numbers. One piece of advice I’ve heard over and over is the importance of showing the “transformative power of libraries” not simply statistics, when advocating for our patrons, programs and personnel.

The NC delegation focused on three key points: fund Federal initiatives including the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and Improving Literacy Through School Libraries, support school libraries through Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and assure stabilization of the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF) and simplify the E-rate discount program.

We arrived in Washington in time to drop in at the ALA reception and meet other delegates. The NC delegation received an award for the largest number of delegates of all states represented.

Day 2 began with an early AM departure to Washington where we began the day by meeting Celia Sims, a staffer of Senator Burr. Delegates from 2010 were very enthusiastic about reconnecting with Celia due the previous year’s meeting resulted in Senator Burr co-sponsoring the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, which provides expanded authority to the Institute of Museum and Library Services to promote and ensure library and information services, and reauthorizes appropriations for and programs under the Library Services and Technology Act.

The entire group then moved to Senator Hagan’s office where we met with her staffers and we gave testimonials about the importance of libraries to all North Carolinians. To cover as much ground as possible, the large group divided into two groups and thanks to prearranged meeting times, we met with House members and/or staffers. I along with the other western delegates met with Rep. McHenry’s staffer Krista Stafford, Rep. Myrick’s staffer Andy Polk, Rep. Foxx, Rep. Shuler’s staffer Erin Georges, Rep. Coble and Rep. Kissell. The eastern delegates met with Rep. Miller’s staffer Brandy Dillingham, Rep. Ellmers’ staffer Josh Babb, Rep. Price’s staffer Laura Thrift, Rep. McIntyre’s staffer Alyssa Dack and Rep. Butterfield’s staffer Meredith Morgan. During each conversation we shared stories of the value and importance to maintaining and/or improving library funding and staffing.

While it was thrilling to meet personally with several representatives, we were told by veteran advocates that the staffers are often the best “pipeline” to our elected officials. These staffers can ensure the legislator continues to focus on library needs and concerns. Rep. Kissell (District 8), a former educator, asked pointed questions and expressed his support of educators. The group met on the Senate steps to have our photo made with Senator Burr and present him with a certificate of appreciation for his past support of NC libraries.

Following a quick lunch at Union Station the group boarded our coach for the ride back to Henderson then Greensboro, very tired but feeling like our presence “planted a seed” with NC’s federal representatives (and their staffers). Personal thank you notes were written to each staff member and/or representative in an effort to help keep our concerns “front and center”.

If you are in Washington or Raleigh during a break from school, drop in and allow your representatives and/or their staffers to hear from you how much libraries mean to you and your patrons. I would encourage you to remember your local, state and federal elected officials and issue a “blanket” invitation to visit your library next time they are available (or nearby)! Check out this link to "District Days" -- an opportunity to take advantage of legislators summer break

Please let us know your plans to advocate for libraries with legislators by posting to the Facebook NCSLMA discussion and following up with photos from your events. 

Posted by Ms. Dee at 6:30 PM

Stephanie Vance, the Advocacy Guru, Keynote Speaker at Fall Conference

Stephanie D. Vance, the "Advocacy Guru" of Advocacy Associates, LLC is author of Government by the People: How to Communicate with Congress, the guide, Get a Job on Capital Hill, Citizens in Action, and the recently released Advocacy Manual: A Practitioner's Guide.  She has over 20 years of experience in Congressional affairs, having worked in a prominent DC law firm, lobbied for National Public Radio, and worked in various Congressional offices, holding positions as Legislative Director and Staff Director.

Her work on congressional communications stems from a deep and abiding belief that government is effective only when citizens are active participants. She has presented the concepts behind Citizens in Action at seminars and workshops around the country and she is a member of the National Speakers Association. Ms. Vance is also a member of the American Society of Association Executives and Women in Government Relations. Her website, has won a number of awards, and her work has been the subject of a variety of print media stories, including a column in the Washington Post.

A frequent guest on radio and television news shows around the country, Ms. Vance holds a Masters Degree in Legislative Affairs from George Washington University and a Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies at Georgetown University. She is the only advocacy trainer to hold the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speakers Association.

Stephanie Vance is the keynote speaker for the fall conference.  She'll open the conference on Thursday, November 4, 2010. 

Posted by Ms. Dee at 6:13 PM

Danger, Will Robinson!

I'm just now catching up on my blog feeds in my Google reader, so apologies to those who may have already read through Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk blog posting of April 21st, "Dangerous Statements for Librarians to Make". Some of the statements really do emphasize how we can be our own worst enemies when making our cases for our library media programs.

Here are some of my favorites:

But the school HAS to have a librarian/libraryReally? So we don't think they could do without us and our programs?

If all we're doing all day is sitting behind the circulation desk and checking out books, then yeah, they can do without us. A paraprofessional, an assistant, even a parent can scan those barcodes to check out those books to the voracious readers that clamor through our doors.

With facilities budgets being cut and school populations growing, that space we call a library media center would convert nicely into about three classrooms. Just move in some portable walls and voila! More space for instruction!

Oh, we instruct, do we? Well, that reminds me of another favorite line:

Correct bibliographic format is absolutely critical

If our instruction revolves around colons and periods being in the right place of a bibliographic citation, then we're feeding the stereotype of the anal retentive librarian, in my book. Why aren't we helping students evaluate websites? Or helping them craft a thesis based on the preliminary investigation they are doing on a topic of interest? Or working toward creating processes that will build foundations for their research?

Maybe here's our problem: The research proves that libraries improve student achievement.

Well, bully for the research! But we can show all the research in the world to our principals and our staffs, but if it's not data and research that DIRECTLY impacts OUR students and teachers, it's probably not worth a hill of beans. Do our teachers and kids really care about what happened in Colorado ten years ago? A resounding, "No!"

But our teachers do care about the fact that we've spent all year working with our students at one particular grade level to implement a process to improve students' research skills and access to information. They do appreciate the time we put in with them and their language arts students, helping to create rubrics and instructing those students in cool technology tools to enhance their multimedia book reviews. And those same teachers are probably excited that we introduced them and their students to blogging which they now use on a regular basis to deconstruct and flesh out content, ideas and concepts in their core content classes.

But ultimately our actions have to speak for themselves. What we do for STUDENTS has to be the focus of all that we do. We have to be ACTIVISTS.

And don't believe this statement for a minute: I can advocate for my own program. I don't need anyone else vocally supporting it.

In today's budget crunch, teacher lay-offs, and central office down-sizing, we need all the support and advocacy that can be mustered for employing strong teacher librarians. But that support has to come from our students and teachers and most especially our administrators.

If we aren't being ACTIVE, relevant, innovative and information-savvy TEACHERS for our students, then how can we expect anyone to support and advocate for librarians in our schools? 

Posted by Ms. Dee at 10:24 AM

School Librarians, Where Do You Hang Your Hat?

At my library media learning team back in August 2009, we looked at the beliefs that are the cornerstone for the standards in library media programs using the book, Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action (AASL, 2009). First, we looked at the nine common beliefs through our own eyes, as library media coordinators. 

If we had to hang our hat on just one of the beliefs, where would we hang it? What did we see as our focus in our library media programs?
  • Reading is the 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 for education.
  • The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed.
  • The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
  • Learning has a social context.
  • School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.
We were split between two of the beliefs: 'Reading is a window to the world' and 'School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills'. Some of us felt that reading was the main focus of our programs and our work with students while others took a broader approach to seeing themselves and their programs as the place, environment, and access to all. No real surprises there.

But when we looked at the beliefs from other perspectives, we began to see how others view the library media program and how this affects our work. We asked ourselves which belief our principals would hold up as the hallmark for the media program. What would our students say is the most important belief? And what about our parents and PTA? Where would the superintendent or the school board member hang her hat on these common beliefs?

That's when we realized that we have to consider all perspectives about library media, our influence on others, and the advocacy to promote our entire program. 

If a teacher views the library media program as a place for reading and that's it, will he ever begin to incorporate instructional technologies or encourage educational and social networking with his students? If our principal sees our program as the place for students to improve their technology skills, will we ever get a budget to purchase the latest and greatest fiction? If the superintendent is most worried about and focused on ethical behavior in use of information, will he recognize the need for inquiry and critical thinking skills within the framework of learning?

We as librarians know that these are a set of beliefs and one does not necessarily outweigh another. It's important to understand the perspectives of all our users in order to meet their needs, build influence and advocate for out total program. 

However, our hat rack may tell a different story if we tend to hang our own hat on only one or two of the beliefs instead of wearing the many different hats of our profession. 

Posted by Ms. Dee at 7:58 AM