Professionally developing

This week has been all about professional development for me.  I actually taught a professional development session on blogging to teachers in the school where I am student teaching on Friday!  After that experience, I am even more interested in creating the type of self-directed online learning modules utilized at PLCMC and by Kristin in her old school.  Teachers are difficult to manage as students!  But I also think that so many of these Web 2.0/tech tools that can be great for teaching and learning purposes can be best learned through exploration and discovery of how the tools can best fit one’s goals.  Allowing professionals to decide what they want to learn about and then to learn at their own paces and on their own schedules seems like a great way to validate them as professionals and to differentiate.

I love that (at least some) schools and public libraries are taking on the responsibility of providing professional development in technology areas.  The people working in schools and public libraries are not “digital natives” and may have varying levels of comfort with technology.  It struck me recently what a challenge it can be in schools where teaching staff belong to entirely different generations from their students. Teachers are expected to prepare students for a world that is yet to be, while many teachers are still struggling to adapt to the world that is right now.  The library profession includes its fair share of Luddites, but librarians are supposed to be leaders in information and technology.  We definitely need ongoing professional development to meet the demands of our professions.

The Semadeni article seemed like the odd one out in this week’s batch of readings since it addresses face-to-face professional development that is not necessarily related to technology.  I wonder what non-SLM students got out of this one, seeing as the world of teacher professional development may be a foreign one.  I did not find the concept of providing professional development during the normal school day hours to be particularly novel; in the two districts where I have student taught, professional development and team planning often took place on teacher in-service days or during the school day through the utilization of substitute teachers in order to release teachers for planning/PD.  If attendance at PD sessions held before or after school is low, or if teachers are not at their best at those times of day, having PD during the hours they have to be at work seems like a reasonable solution.  I do wonder how financially struggling schools (i.e. those that cannot afford to pay for substitute teachers so often) could implement something like Lincoln County Schools, not to mention the difficulty of providing stipends (like Lincoln County) or prizes (like PLCMC) for participating in PD if budget shortages are cutting into essentials. Of course, as Semadeni quoted in his article, “‘More can be done to improve education by improving the effectiveness of teachers than by any other single factor’” (p. 69), so maybe this is the best possible use of a school district’s money.

Last week’s webinars were, essentially, online professional development sessions.  Even though I was nervous about giving a webinar and even though we had some technical issues at the beginning, I found the webinar experience extremely rewarding.  Thank you to everyone who attended ours and for all your participation in the chat!  The chat and other interactive features really helped me feel connected to the participants and reassured me that the participants were engaged and thinking about what we were sharing.  I was worried that I feel like I was talking at a screen and wouldn’t be able to tell if I was reaching anyone without being able to observe body language, etc., but that didn’t end up being an issue.

In giving the webinar, Brett and I took turns speaking and monitoring the chat.  Fortunately this didn’t end up being too complicated (though at times it felt like musical chairs).  It surprised me how similar giving a webinar was to giving a normal, live presentation.  We still couldn’t really consult with each other during the presentation because everyone could hear us, we couldn’t pause because we had a live audience, and we still had to make sure that we held everyone’s attention and communicated clearly and effectively.  The whole experience supported the idea that the value of a tool really depends on how you use it—being online didn’t automatically make our presentation better or worse than if we had given it in front of the class.  We just had to work with the capabilities of the tool we had to achieve the goals we set for ourselves, taking advantage of the additional benefits of webinars and mediating the challenges that come with distance learning.

Admittedly, I totally forgot that we were to attend other webinars until the day before we gave ours.  I was really upset to realize that I missed a few that I was interested in, so I’m glad they’re archived! It would have been helpful to attend at least one webinar before giving one because I learned a lot from being a student that I would have liked to apply as a teacher.  For instance, I didn’t realize that there is a sort of laser-pointer tool you can use to point to parts of your slides since participants can’t see where your mouse is tracking.  And that it probably isn’t advisable to start your recording well before starting your webinar (as we did) because then the archived version has a whole bunch of blank minutes of recording…. But now I know for next time.

The webinars I attended addressed copyright/Creative Commons, online access as a civil right, open access resources, and accessibility/ADA guidelines.  I learned a lot!  The copyright session ended up being immediately applicable with the students I teach and I was able to share all sorts of great information about Creative Commons licensing and permissions with 7th graders working on creating problem/solution projects on the topic of bullying using various Web 2.0 tools.  I had already taught 6th graders some basic Creative Commons and copyright information, but after the webinar I felt far better informed and prepared.  Thanks, Andrea, Katie, Heather, and Nikki!!

Works Cited

 Andrea, Katie J., Heather N., and Nikki P. Copy, Right? Sharing Your Work Through Creative Commons Licensing. 11 Apr. 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>

Blowers, Helene and Lori Reed. “The C’s of Our Sea Change: Plans for Training Staff, from Core Competencies to Learning 2.0.” Computers in Libraries 27.2 (2007): 10-15.

Fontichiaro, Kristin. “Planning an Online Professional Development Module.” School Library Media Activities Monthly 25.2 (2008): 30-31.

K., Amanda, Kayla L., and Joanna P. Open Access: Less Money, Less Problems. 11 Apr. 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. < jnlp?psid=2011-04-11.1412.M. 7124EAB9FE3952B29DCDC730A67A6A .vcr&sid=cm090828>

R., Eden, Emily M., Jill M., and Kristel W. Welcoming All Patrons! Creating an Accessible and Comfortable Environment in Your Public Library. 11 Apr. 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>

Semadeni, Joseph. “When Teachers Drive Their Learning.” Educational Leadership 67.8 (2010): 66-69.

T., Emily, Emily S., Josh M. and Susan S. Is Access a Civil Right? 11 Apr. 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.<>

Google, Twitter, + more embeddedness


Last week we had Paul Courant guest speak about the Google Books court decision.  I must admit that I haven’t been following this issue as closely as I should be, so I learned  a lot from Paul but didn’t really know what to ask about.  I did notice an article from ALA come through my e-mail in which Paul is interviewed about what the Google Books ruling means for HathiTrust, etc., so I’ll have to read that to start catching up a bit more.  Librarians seem to be in a tricky spot in issues like this because we’re dedicated to access as well as to protecting copyright holders—which, I guess, is what copyright law is supposed to be all about, too. 

After the guest lecture, we discussed embedded librarianship with others in our cohorts. School libraries are heavily represented in our group, but we also have academic, law (which is also academic, right?) and public library people.  To me, embedded librarianship means that the librarian operates from within the community, that s/he is where the users’ needs arise rather than being someplace that the users have to go to.  In a school, the library is already embedded in the building, ideally right in the center of everything.  It’s not as convenient as always having a librarian right there in the classroom, but I was in fantasy land when I came up with that idea. :-P In a university setting, the general library is typically (okay, I don’t know about typically because I’ve spent too much time at U-M) in its own building, though there might be some special subject-area libraries that are housed in their departments’ buildings.  At U-M, I believe there are several libraries like this, the one with which I’m most familiar being the Fine Arts Library housed inside Tappan Hall with the rest of the History of Art department.  That “embeddedness” makes it really convenient for History of Art researchers to pop in to the library at any time, whereas it’s no longer so convenient, especially in January, for SI students to swing by Hatcher (I do miss the West Hall connector…). As for public libraries, the library is located within the general community, but it is a place that you go to—the librarian doesn’t hang around your house waiting for you to have an information need or an inkling for a good mystery. 

Which brings us to what embedded librarianship looks like in different types of libraries.  Are online reference services, catalogs, and instructional sessions a version of embedded librarianship because the library is always at your fingertips? What about pick-up/drop-off points for library materials located throughout the community (such as at the grocery store, post office, gas station, etc.)?  For schools, are school librarians really “embedded” if they never leave the library space or if access to the library/resources is restricted or if they are often unavailable because there is only one librarian and there may be hundreds of students and dozens of classrooms? 


Our readings were many, but each no longer than 140 characters.  I’ve had a Twitter account since last semester, but haven’t really used it much.  Now I’m in the habit!  It has been a process to get used to parsing through all the hashtags and @s, but I’ve found some interesting articles and many references to conferences I wish I were going to.  But it sure is frustrating to me when there’s a fascinating tidbit referenced from a conference session and no link to find out more other than the hashtag—I want to find out more firsthand, not just read a bunch of people’s reactions to something I haven’t experienced!

I have also been frustrated by how many tweets seem entirely disconnected, irrelevant, or pointless.  I’m sure I’m guilty of such tweets myself, but to me it seems like a sign of lonliness.  We all want someone to talk to, but if there’s no one there we put it online.  Maybe your bff cares what movie you’re watching or how quickly you can snap your baby’s Onesie, but I actually don’t…I guess this is what Kristin meant when she said she unfollowed some library people because they posted too much about their cats or what they ate for dinner. 

When I first heard of Twitter, the preceding paragraph was how I understood it.  A little too much exhibitionism/voyeurism and I didn’t really see the point.  I now see how it can be helpful for building a learning network—the many tweets that linked to fascinating articles and other web resources seem like a great use of Twitter.  I came across many things that I might not have otherwise, including articles on Web 2.0 tools for learning, a video on librarians and copyright, awesome activities that some public libraries are doing, a whole bunch of educational and ed tech resources and examples of what others are doing successfully. It’s almost overwhelming, but I have absolutely come across more library- and education-related information than I otherwise would have this week.  I feel like I’m more aware of what’s happening right now in my profession.

But then there’s this article about Twitter and narcissism coming from someone guilty of the okay-but-who-cares? kind of posts. And I’m following few people who use Twitter mostly to direct people to their blogs (many of which are wonderful, but still…).  I guess it’s like any other tool—it is what you make of it.  I will be weeding out some of the people I follow and I plan to use Twitter more in the future.   

P.S. Am I missing something? I can’t seem to edit a retweet in order to add the #SI643 hashtag.  Is that just the nature of retweeting?

Embedded Librarians + Effective Teaching

The articles and chapters for this week really synced with my thoughts and frustrations surrounding my future as a school librarian.  Pardon me if I write a little too much about my outside experiences in this post, but it is all too interconnected for me to focus too closely on just the readings.

Just last week I posted on my other blog, almost jokingly, about how great it would be to have a school librarian embedded in every classroom (at least I’d have no problem finding a job).  It seems like many of the key proponents of collaboration between school librarians and classroom teachers expect that school librarians are able to spend 30 hours co-planning, -teaching, and -assessing with every teacher, every week. It is almost like they are saying it would be great to have two teachers for every classroom and that one of these teachers should be a teacher-librarians because of our particular areas of expertise. Of course, this isn’t possible in the reality of one or fewer FTE school librarians in most schools, and yet the collaboration cheerleaders do not seem to realize exactly what they are proposing.

Of course, the idea of having one librarian devoted to a single building, a school, is its own form of embedded librarianship. Students and teachers have a librarian committed solely to them, rather than having to turn to a public library and public youth librarians across town to meet information needs.  The issue remains, however, that most school librarians have not become “member[s] of the[ir] customer communit[ies] rather than service provider[s] standing apart” (David Schumaker, as quoted in Matos et al., 131).

Why this disconnect? Why are school librarians, by nature embedded in their customer communities, often not seen as truly integral? I think that Matos et al. identified one key reason:  “the faculty/students have to support the concept of the librarian in their building for it to have a chance to succeed” (132).  Teachers and students may be content to have a school librarian, but I would not necessarily go so far as to argue that most of them “support” their school librarians. They may not understand what the school librarian does or can do for them, or should be expected to do. Students may enjoy listening to stories read aloud and teachers may appreciate the release time or getting help with teaching or grading citations, but if that is all we do are we really worth supporting?  Alternatively, if that is all we are perceived as doing or as capable of doing, why would students and teachers support us? 

I think school librarians can learn a lot from the embedded librarian model in terms of how to become an integral part of the community instead of “standing apart.”  The way to earn this support is through relationships—healthy, reciprocal, and authentic relationships—with students and teachers.  We need to become a part of the school community by breaking down (or at least knocking on) the doors that contribute to the so-called culture of isolation in schools (meaning the tendency for teachers to isolate themselves in their classrooms rather than sharing and learning from each other).  We have to communicate, build relationships, develop trust, and meet our community where they are both cognitively and physically. The stronger the relationships, the more “embedded” we will become and the more we will be able to effectively serve our communities.  The way to build these relationships is to be where the community members are and being available when their needs arise—this might mean a combination of:

  • having the school library open before and after school, during lunch, and accessible throughout the school day
  • having a strong online presence including instructional screencasts, virtual reference (or access to virtual reference services that might be provided by entities other than the school, such as the public library), and online resources
  • teaching in the classrooms, library, and computer lab
  • providing technology and research support and instruction, as well as reader’s advisory, whenever the need arises
  • communicating with students about their interests
  • communicating with staff about their teaching and learning goals and philosophies, curricula, resource needs (including variety of topics, formats, and reading levels), and interests/concerns
  • communicating directly with students, parents, and teachers through a blog or other means of sharing library news, resources, services, and your own learning

In a university or other type of institution in which distance can be an issue, I can see the value of webinars, but I did not list them here because within a school everyone is pretty close together.  Recorded and archived video instruction might be helpful, but if a school librarian is available to give a lesson it is far preferable to do so in person so that the lesson can be more interactive and adaptive to individual student needs instead of artificially virtual. Kids might like staring at screens, but television doesn’t hold the draw for this generation that it did for the previous one—they are far more accustomed to screens that they can communicate with, like live webinars to some extent, but more like video games and web sites that they can interact with personally and at their own pace.  I cannot imagine getting a class of 7th graders to sit through any webinar I have ever attended—it’s too much “talking at”—you’d lose their attention within the first two minutes and they’d either be doing something else or contributing inappropriate content to the live chat. Maybe live webinars could be a volunteer service provided by school librarians to homeschool students in the community.  Perhaps schools in extreme climates could use them for instructional purposes if weather has closed the school for more than the allotted number of snow days.  Or rural schools could reduce costs by conducting school entirely via webinar once or twice per week, if the Internet infrastructure in the area were reliable enough. But I am not sure how webinars would fit into most K-12 schools at the present.

The other issue with my list of ways to communicate and build relationships with students/faculty is the lack of virtual communication. Where are kids? They’re on their phones and online (which is increasingly one and the same).  But this is not where schools are or where school libraries are for a number of reasons, not least of which is the prevalence of prohibiting electronic devices in schools.  Sure, students might use the school’s computers for schoolwork purposes, but they cannot have or use their cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. at school. Having personal electronic communication devices at school opens up lots of potential issues as well as opportunities.  If it were more common for students to have iPads or cell phones in school, the options for virtual reference would skyrocket.  Of course we don’t know how welcoming students would be to teachers intruding on their “spaces” (e.g. facebook, texting, etc.), and maybe we do not want students to be able to ask us anything at any time—we want to raise independent thinkers and problem-solvers, after all.  But accessibility, communication, and relationships are unquestionably important for becoming a valued member of a learning community and an “embedded” librarian. 

This leads me into “Effective Teaching: Examples from History, Mathematics, and Science,” chapter seven on How People Learn. First, how cool that Dr. Bob Bain from the School of Education was highlighted as an effective teacher!  Second, how can school librarians (especially in schools with flexible schedules that result in students only coming to the library for instruction when the teacher identifies a need) build upon the lessons from this chapter? How can we teach students authentic inquiry processes if we are only called in to teach students how to create a bibliography or how to conduct a search in Gale? As Montgomery expresses, “These sessions give librarians the opportunity to create a connection with students but also give the perception that the librarian is a guest presenter” (309). I feel like school librarians are taught all of these best practices in 21st century education like how to teach lessons that promote critical and creative thinking, problem solving, using technology to enhance communication and understanding, synthesizing, etc., and yet in the “real world” the opportunities to employ these kinds of lessons belong almost solely to the classroom teachers.  School librarians are expected to teach the mechanics, whether or not the rest of these elements have been learned by students. I’m sure I am just being apocalyptic here, but I don’t know—this is just what I’m experiencing and feeling right now.  Hopefully I can figure out a way to change or avoid this as a professional.

My ideal is to begin working closely with teachers when they begin a unit that will culminate in a research project in order to tap into the students thinking from the very beginning.  That’s where the opportunity is to work with a teacher to structure a lesson that develops 21st Century Skills—not at the end of a unit.  Before a unit even starts, we have the opportunity to co-plan with the teacher, sharing our expertise in areas of technology, information resources, comprehension, and 21st century skill building.  Even if we are not going to co-teach an entire unit, having a place at the team planning meeting means that we can help shape lesson units that we are proud to be a part of.  During the unit, we can participate in lessons that set the stage for inquiry, exploration, and problem solving, as well as technology, notetaking, communication, and citation.  This way we can put into practice the kind of teaching that Bransford et al. encourage in chapter seven, both through the instruction we provide directly to students and through working with teachers to create inquiry-based learning experiences. 

I will post on the webinar experience separately in the interest of keeping my posts relatively short and cohesive. (Hah.)

Works Cited
Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning. “Effective Teaching:
     Examples in History, Mathematics, and Science.” How People Learn: Brain,
     Mind, Experience, and School. Ed. John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and
     Rodney R. Cocking. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000. 155-189.
     The National Academies Press. Web. 24 Mar. 2011. <
Matos, Michael A., Nobue Matsuoka-Motley, and William Mayer. “The Embedded
     Librarian Online or Face-to-Face: American University’s Experiences.”
     Public Services Quarterly 6.2 (2010): 130-139. Informa Ltd. Web. 22 Mar.
     2011. <>.
Montgomery, Susan E. “Online Webinars! Interactive Learning Where Our Users Are:
     The Future of Embedded Librarianship.” Public Services Quarterly 6.2 
     (2010): 306-311. Informaworld. Web. 22 Mar. 2011. <


I was very impressed by the workshops presented by the other “Hearts” members—great job, everyone.  While the primary purpose of the workshops may have been for us to practice using the ADDIE model for planning, implementing, evaluating, and redesigning (or at least thinking about how we would redesign), and while I think this goal was accomplished, I especially loved thinking about the different ethical issues brought up by the workshops.  In the Hearts group, we learned about copyright in academic libraries, accessibility issues in public libraries, how to reconcile differing views of what public libraries should be, and finally had some great discussions about the ALA Code of Ethics in a way that really let us explore and reflect on it.  This last workshop was a great opportunity to delve into the ethics of librarianship like I had wanted to do the previous week, while the other topics were all issues I also find fascinating for one reason or another, so overall it was a great 2.5 hours.

Preparing for this workshop proved to be not nearly as difficult as I expected it would be at the beginning of the term.  My partners had a lot to with this, as did the experience I’ve gained over the past three months as a student teacher.  Lesson planning just isn’t as difficult as it was in December and January.  The backwards design model really helps me, because once we figured out our learning goals it was pretty easy to plan out activities and instruction to meet the goals.  On the other hand, when I try to start by picking an intstructional method, I feel stuck and clueless about how to proceed.

My group’s workshop was on the topic of using others’ creative works (we focused on images) in student work and teachers’ lessons in K-12 schools.  We took on the role of school librarians teaching fellow teachers in our high school.  We picked this topic because its something that none of us felt we understood well enough to begin with, which, for me, meant that I was nervous that we interpreted copyright/fair use incorrectly and someone was going to call us out on our errors.  I was very relieved that no one did…but I still don’t feel totally confident about my understanding.  Even so, our feedback was pretty positive and I felt good about the lesson and like I learned a lot about our topic and about teaching an audience of peers.

I’m currently student teaching in a middle school where I do a lot of teaching about research and citations to 6th and 7th graders.  I actually had the opportunity to share some of my knowledge from our workshop lesson with my students a few times today! These two grades are doing research projects and some of the students are interested in including images and wanted to know about citing images.  Instead of just telling them how to cite images (which they can do with our school’s citation software), I introduced them to and gave a brief rundown of why they should be using open source images and not commercially licensed images or other images that carry stricter copyrights and licenses.  I had a few kids really worried because other teachers had given assignments that included taking pictures from Google Images with no consideration for copyright status, so I had to calm their fears—the project was print-based and not widely distributed, so it would probably have fallen under fair use, but it confirmed my suspicion about the importance of this topic for teachers and students.  These students had never heard anything about laws governing the use of other people’s creative works, and though they are only about twelve years old, it’s a great idea to start teaching about this so that we don’t end up with a population that thinks its okay to take other’s intellectual and creative property at will.  (Or are we to late for that…? After all, I was a huge fan of Napster when I was in middle school.)  I am curious to see how well my introduction to open source images sticks with these kids—they definitely saw the appeal of using Creative Commons over writing to the copyright holders to ask for permission!

Book clubs, ethics, ebooks, etc.

Congratulations again to my fellow Clubs.  You all selected great stories for discussion and we had some really great discussions in our belated book clubs.  As mentioned previously, the readings we had were as follows:

"The Lady or the Tiger," by Frank Stockton

"Cinnamon," by Neil Gaiman

"The Gift of the Magi," by O. Henry

"The Goose Girl," as recorded by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm

and our selection, “The Last Question,” by Isaac Asimov

I haven’t read Susan’s post yet, but I find her title very interesting:  “Weak and Wicked Women.”  We definitely had several of each, though as a group we decided the princess in the first story was guilty of being wicked even though the text itself does not say for sure.  I love digging the meaning out of folktales, so I was excited for “The Goose Girl,” but I also read “Cinnamon” as a modern version of a “folk” tale, and from there found all sorts of symbolic meaning. 

As for the discussions themselves, I think all of did very well, especially considering this is probably the first time most of us have led a book discussion.  The leaders asked great questions and our conversation flowed very naturally rather than there being awkward silences or anyone feeling uncomfortably “on the spot.”  One thing we struggled with as a group was staying on the topic of the text in hand. We regularly brought in other texts by the same author or other authors, but which the other participants had not necessarily read.  This made it difficult for those unfamiliar with these other works to participate, in turn allowing just a few people to dominate the discussion until it got back on track.  We allowed this to happen in our discussion and I wish we had stepped in to redirect the conversation, but I was not sure how to do this tactfully.  It is also difficult to know when to step in as part of a group of discussion leaders, since I could not really consult with my teammates.  Maybe they did not think this was an issue at all!

Interestingly, since only some of the members of our book discussion group are SLM students, all of the groups had us roleplay as teenagers.  Some of the stories we read were things that one might be likely to read for an English literature class, while others are by authors known for their works for children and/or teens.  It was often difficult to stay in the assigned role.  Our participants had difficulty doing so for our story, though later on some of us really got into the teenager role in our responses.  It is definitely difficult to think and respond like we might have as fourteen-year-olds, removing all of the experiences and knowledge we have gained since being teens, and I wonder how real teens might have responded to these stories and questions.  Even while we wrote our questions we had difficulty keeping a teenage audience in mind, though I imagine this would not be so difficult if we were actually working in a school and knew the book club students.

We have not received feedback from all of our book club members, but I am not sure this really matters.  We definitely would not expect all attendees of a real book club to respond to a survey.  This taught me that having paper surveys to hand out and collect immediately following the discussion is probably a better way to guarantee people will respond.  I also found it difficult to answer others’ survey questions after participating in five book clubs in a row.  It was hard to remember the atmosphere for each discussion.  Maybe we should have moved to different seats for each book club so it seemed like a different place.  That probably sounds really silly, but I think it would have helped me.  Anyway, it was useful to complete the ADDIE assignment for the book club because it really forced us to go back and reflect. The survey responses were helpful, too, especially the open-ended responses.  For the yes-or-no type questions, I am hesitant to put too much faith in the responses.  I think a lot of our club members were being kind, which I appreciate, but I think I would ask these kinds of assessment questions on a Likert scale in the future to (hopefully) facilitate more nuanced responses.

Class this week immediately followed our book discussion groups, so it was like a double dose of 643.  Fortunately I am quite fond of this class.  We talked about ethics of librarianship a bit, though I would have liked to dive into this a little more.  There are so many sticky areas of librarian ethics and I think it would have been interesting to discuss some difficult ethical scenarios just to get ourselves really thinking about the kinds of issues that can come up in different types of libraries.  The webinar with Bobbie Newman, however, was really great.  She was a good choice and I really appreciated her knowledge and commitment to looking at this ebook issue in a balanced way.  This is a new territory that libraries and publishers are trying to navigate, and I suspect that publishers are terrified that they are about to go the way of the music/CD industry if they don’t put some limitations in place such as refusing to sell to libraries or establishing a limited lease model like HarperCollins’ new plan.  I don’t think a good solution has been found yet, though I shared my own ideas last week and read some great ideas from others in my blogging cohort (hi, guys!).

I attended the MACUL Conference on Thursday and one of the speakers suggested that education texts are moving toward the iTunes model of granularity.  Teachers want short texts, not complete textbooks.  Maybe people want to buy chapters of books, but not entire books. (This is probably truer for non-fiction, short story collections, and other works that can be broken up more easily than full-length novels, but maybe there is a market for granulated novels, too.)  What happens when people can buy just the chapter they are interested in for $.99, rather than the entire book for $10 or $20? What effect would that have on publishers? On libraries? Could libraries support the borrow-a-chapter model? 

Ethics, Library Assignments, and HarperCollins

The ALA Code of Ethics can be difficult enough for public librarians to adhere to, what with the mandate to resist censorship of all kinds and preventing personal beliefs to interfere with our collection and services.  Librarians are, after all, human beings with convictions living in cultures and societies that influence the way they view the world.  What might seem outrageous in one community might be the norm in another—where do we draw the line between being of service to our patrons by providing the types of materials they seek and being completely uncensored? We cannot have every book (etc.) in our collection, so where is the line between self-censorship and making responsible and effective collection development decisions?

In the school library it seems even harder, although I was pleasantly surprised to discover how well the ALA ethics align with the Association of American Educators (AAE) Code of Ethics.  Educators are also expected to protect confidential information about students (which should include their information requests and uses), to present information without personal bias, to pursue ongoing professional development, does not use the school to promote their own private enterprise or political partisanship,and, most notably, “The professional educator complies with written local school policies and applicable laws and regulations that are not in conflict with this code of ethics.”  This means there is no excuse for violating these ethics in order to comply with a local school policy. The AAE doesn’t say much about provision of resources except in the line about presenting facts without personal bias, but this is a gray area since information is so much more than “facts” and even facts are not always agreed upon by everyone.

Censorship and inequitable access to information happen on a regular basis in school libraries.  I believe they happen in public libraries as well, but in my experience public libraries have more leeway—there are books you might find in the youth section of a public library but not in any of the local elementary schools, or in the teen section but not in any of the middle or high schools.  Educators have the responsibility to protect students, which can conflict with the responsibility to provide open access to information, hence the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). So basically, school librarians are expected to adhere to two codes of ethics that, while often in alignment, have some areas of contention that will have to be carefully navigated in order to make decisions in day-to-day situations.

I have so many reactions to the Mosley article and I am going to try very hard to turn all of that into something coherent. 

First, I never had a “library assignment” like the ones she describes until I took the reference class (647) with Soo.  Sure, we had research papers and occasionally went to the library for instruction on using databases, but never had a library scavenger hunt or other exercise in finding information until 647.  Do most students receive assignments like this? In my experience, professors and teachers do not give assignments with the purpose of getting students to learn to use/become familiar with library resources. Instead, they either arrange for a library instruction session with a librarian (such as how to search a specific database) or assume that students already know how to use the library and send them off to do research with no guidance or preparatory assignment.  The only library-specific assignments I have seen like this have come from librarians themselves.

Initially I thought this article was perfect for this class because it applies to school and public librarians almost as much as it does to academic librarians:  almost any librarian is going to experience reference questions from students about homework/research assignments that are poorly designed or worded or, more likely, which the student did not even bring with him/her to the library.  Some way to communicate with teachers and professors about what are reasonable requirements and expectations for research-based assignments is needed.  Even better would be a procedure by which teachers/professors shared their research-based assignments directly with libraries that students would be likely to use so that librarians can be prepared to help students, can reference the actual assignments, and can head off any issues before students line up at the desk. 

I was a little disappointed to realize this is not quite the point of this article, though it would be nice to hold instructional sessions for educators to help them learn how to create effective and reasonable research-based assignments.  (In my opinion, it is probably librarians who need to be taught to avoid meaningless library scavenger hunt assignments.)  The main takeaway of the instructional sequence described, the “importance of maintaining open communication lines between the teaching faculty and librarians, and the professional nature of those interactions” is still salient, but as library assignments are (in my experience) fairly uncommon, this lesson would need to be redesigned to address research-based assignments and perhaps why students should be encouraged to use library resources and reference service at all.

Which brings me to the big issue of “the rapid growth of information resources, electronic databases, and data from the WWW,” and Mosley’s belief that “many faculty understand the need for information literacy.” We are in a whole different world today in regards to information available online.  Students turn to the Internet for information, and students and faculty alike seem to assume that the students should be self-reliant when it comes to locating and using information. Perhaps this is why there are so few library assignments! Faculty may agree that information literacy is important, but teachers and professors alike (in my experience) devote very little attention or instruction to teaching information literacy skills or turning to librarians to teach, build, and reinforce these skills.  Librarians in public, school, and academic settings are probably seeing fewer and fewer students coming to the reference desk about research or library assignments because they are just “Googling it.” I was shocked by how few students came to AADL for homework/research assignments.  I was even more shocked that I never once had a student bring his/her assignment to the library, so I did not even get the opportunity to make a photocopy of an assignment to share with my co-workers who were likely to handle reference questions from other students working on the same assignment.  Finally, I was just as disappointed as Mosley in the types of assignment requirements, such as asking all of the fifth graders to check out three books on a particular country (sorry, we just do not have three books at a fifth-grade level on Bolivia) or all seventh graders to check out three books on a chosen profession (sorry, we do not have any books specifically about becoming an optamologist or a sanitation worker or a machinist… but I can find you plenty of information using other sources and I can copy some pages from reference books on careers!) Of course, students are coming in the night before an assignment is due, further limiting the resource choices.  This is exactly why it is so important for faculty to be aware of the types of library resources that are available, including awareness of which electronic/online resources are acceptable sources and when it is appropriate to require students to use a print resource.  So yes, we absolutely should still be creating and offering workshops for faculty (teachers and professors) in school and academic libraries, as well as public libraries if appropriate, so that assignments for which students should be using library resources are well designed, clearly communicated to students, and shared with library staff.  But Mosley’s assignment has not aged well and is due for a serious makeover in light of the changing nature of library resources.

Finally, I’d like to tackle the big HarperCollins debacle.  Wow.  I have been reading many different perspectives and talking about the 26-circulation limit with other librarians and non-library folk, which has helped me puzzle out some sort of personal response.  First, let me say that the resources I consulted were as follows:

So yes, a limit of 26 circulations seems like an arbitrary number and may be detrimental to consortia because it makes ebooks no longer affordable.  There are costs and benefits to ebooks—they cost less to make and distribute, they don’t wear out, and theoretically more than one person could use the “same ebook” at once.  There are no costs involved in shipping, labeling, putting in protective covers, shelving, or trucking around the state for ILL.  On the other hand, it is not fair to publishers if all ebooks are treated like free web content.  All of these conveniences have to come at a price, either in higher costs per ebook or some limitations on their use.  But it is not fair to make ebooks more expensive than their paper counterparts and then say they only “last” 26 circulations, especially since some (paper) items circulate over a hundred times and others may circulate once or twice and then be weeded because they turned out to not be so popular.

The possibilities of ebooks are not being fully exploited.  Librarians take risks when they order books—will it circulate? How many copies should we order so that we can meet patron demand without wasting money? If we could circulate ebooks and then pay by publishers by number of circulations, librarians would not waste money on unnecessary resources, might even be able to let everyone who wants to read a book have it simultaneously instead of waiting on a hold list for weeks and weeks for a digital book (!!! this always drives me nuts), and not concern themselves over the cost of holding onto a title that might not be terribly popular—it’s not taking up shelf space or costing anything to have it available.  Publishers would be happy because they would make money every time a book was read (though the cost per circulation would have to be quite small).  There would probably need to be a small fee for adding a title to a library’s collection (and maybe that fee is larger or smaller for consortia or is affected by how many “copies” of a title a library wants to have—i.e. it might cost more to circulate the same title to 60 people at the same time than to have it set up for one person at a time).  I know that this would make for complicated budgeting.  Libraries want to know how much a book costs when it is ordered, not continually receive bills based on circulation stats.  Libraries also want to own books instead of leasing them, but this is a leasing model. But it seems to me like it’d be far more sustainable. I’m interested to find out what everyone else it thinking about this issue and other possible solutions.

One quick note:  the school library vendor Follett sells some of its books in “Follett Bound” binding, which basically means that the print book is guaranteed forever, and if it ever starts falling apart you just send it back to Follett and they send you a new copy.  (I’m not sure how this works once a book is out of print…but whatever.) This is what we’ve come to expect from ebooks, and if Follett can do it with print books there’s no reason why we should pretend like it isn’t a possibility for ebooks. So there.

What should libraries do right now? It sounds like reactions have been all over the place, but many libraries are really upset and are choosing to boycott HarperCollins ebooks or all HarperCollins books or some other middle ground. (Which reminds me, I read another blog with some different options for ways to boycott, such as avoiding using HarperCollins books in displays, reading lists, or book clubs. When I figure out whose blog it was, I will post the link here.) I like that ALA’s Equitable Access to Electronic Content task force is taking the time to deeply explore this issue and possible solutions rather than hastily reacting. This is time of change. Libraries, publishers, vendors, patrons, authors, and other stakeholders need to figure out a solution that works for everyone.

P.S. I didn’t discuss class from last week because I was attending the student teaching celebration dinner instead.  The dinner was great, the mock interviews were nerve wracking but beneficial, and the conversation was top notch. I’m excited to finally have our book clubs tomorrow!

Works Cited

American Library Association. “Code of Ethics of the American Library Association.” American Library Association. American Library Association, 22 Jan 2008. Web. 12 Mar 2011. <>.

Association of American Educators Advisory Board and Executive Committee. “Code of Ethics for Educators.” Association of American Educators. Association of American Educators. Web. 12 Mar 2011. <>.

Mosley, Pixey Anne. “Creating a Library Assignment Workshop for University Faculty.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 24.1 (1998): 33-41. CTools. Web. 13 Mar. 2011. <>.

book clubs!

Can I just say how excited I am to read the selections chosen by the other “Clubs” book club groups?  Gaiman and the Grimms!!! <3<3<3

I am part of the group meeting next week on account of the student teacher celebration dinner.  I read each of the selected readings once, but don’t plan to do the super close reading with lots of note-taking, etc., until next weekend so that I don’t forget everything (which I am apt to do).  I may add to this post later after I’ve worked through the readings more thoroughly.

I think we are going to have a lot to discuss and I am, again, really excited.  Thanks, fellow Clubs members! I don’t know how much to reflect upon the individual readings since the point of this exercise is more the process than the particular content…but I think everyone chose complex texts with a lot to unpack and many puzzles to work through.

So instead of talking a bunch about the readings, I will reflect on class.  Vicki from AADL came in to talk to us about book clubs and she is certainly a wealth of information. I think she was a great guest speaker and shared her knowledge and experience in a way that could be useful for public snd school library folks. Not so sure about academic, but I suppose they could host book clubs if they wanted to (either within their professional roles or just as citizens interested in organizing book clubs).

I was not such a fan of participating in the demonstration Socratic Seminar, but that was far better than having my name chosen for the screencast sharing. I felt unprepared because it had been a few days since I read the Darnton article and I (rather stupidly) read it before reading the SS articles and never went back to re-read and take notes in the margins, etc. I definitely would have read it more closely and critically if I knew I was going to participate in a SS, which I guess is part of the point—students who know they will have to do this in class will have a much greater incentive to read thoughtfully than if they will just be taking a quiz on the text or something.  My brother is a sophomore in high school and recently told me about how he has neglected to read almost any of The Great Gatsby because he doesn’t like reading, especially difficult texts, and so he just uses SparkNotes. There are no in-class discussions like SSs that he needs to be thoroughly prepared for, so he doesn’t see a reason to push himself to read the novel. I am willing to bet he would put in a lot more effort and actually read the book in order to avoid looking/sounding ignorant in an SS. Also, since you are not supposed to be allowed to participate if you have not read the selection, there might actually be grade-related consequences to not reading! (In theory, there should be anyway, but many students, like my brother, are pretty good at fudging their ways through tests on material they haven’t read.)

I did not feel particularly prepared for the discussion, but I was also rather dismayed that it did not become much of a “discussion” and was more like (in Susan’s words) an “oral pop quiz.” We rarely built off of each other’s responses or engaged with each other, instead just responding to one question after another. This gave me some pause, as I am hoping our book club will be more discussion-like.  After class, Susan, Andrew, and I talked about ways we could facilitate purposeful conversation.  One idea was to share our questions with the book club members beforehand so they could feel more prepared. Another was to encourage participants to use a specific hand gesture or other body language to indicate that they had something to say.  I don’t know that we made any decisions, but we all share a common goal.

Ties right into what we’ve been reading in How People Learn!

How we spent Valentine’s Day

I was one of the students who did not get around to looking at the survey data on McGonigal’s TED Talk, and I was glad to have the chance to go over it and try to draw conclusions.  My cohort and I realized that as hosts of a speaker, there are many other questions we would have been more interested in asking and different ways we would have phrased the questions so that the response data would have been easier to collate and draw conclusions from.  The aim of our exit survey would have been to determine whether or not the speaker was work the investment by asking about attendees’ enjoyment of the talk and how relevant or useful they thought it was, as well as questions to help use determine what types of speakers to host in the future.  A really useful question that we have on exit surveys at AADL is an open-response question about what other types of programming or follow-up on that day’s programming they would like to see. 

I also really found it beneficial to discuss our “key blogger issues” within our cohorts.  When I wrote up my paper, I felt like a lot of what I was saying was so obvious and would consistently be showing up in every blog that other 643 students were following.  I was surprised by some of the things I saw that were not so important or did not appear in others’ blogs, such as online/social media campaigns to help keep particular library systems open and strong.  I was also surprised by some of the things that were big issues for others’ blogs, such as self-promotion.  I think bloggers should certainly be using their blogs to build professional networks.  There is a fine line between being blatantly self-promoting and just marketing one’s expertise and services. I loved when Alison Circle invited readers to contact her if their library did not have a Facebook page so that she could help them.  It rubbed some of my cohorts the wrong way when their steampunk blogger promoted herself as a lecturer. I wonder where that line is and how much has to do with delivery and attitude, not to mention intent.

Finally, at the end of the class we selected our group members for the Socratic Seminar and also selected our text. I am really excited about working with Susan and Andrew and about the text we have selected. More about that later!

Talking about texts

Hoffert’s article introduced me to many different ways of orchestrating a book club.  I was aware of “we all read the same book,” of course, but even within the thematic approaches there appears to be a lot of variety.  I love the idea of thematic book clubs/discussions.  While it is great to converse with others who have read the same thing you have, especially with difficult and/or thought-provoking pieces that really benefit from deep discussion and sharing, the idea of coming together with different source readings to discuss a shared topic or theme or author is really intriguing.  It seems more authentic to me:  we all bring totally unique perspectives to a reading or a discussion anyway by nature of our own experiences, so bringing our own interpretations of various readings seems like a natural extension.  That is also why I really, really love the idea of bringing in different media.  Life is about making connections between our experiences—what we read, do, see, watch, think, talk about, etc.  Incorporating a variety of other media, formats, and activities into the traditional book club concept opens up so many possibilities for engaging with others around a concept, topic, or text to make meaning and stretch ourselves.  I want to participate in a book club like those discussed by Hoffert!

 I wonder how I could incorporate a thematic reading/book club in a school library.  I think it would fit better in a high school than with younger students, since high schoolers’ brains are developing the ability to philosophize and think more abstractly.  A safe environment for discussing ideas is something a lot of teens are hungering for (though convincing high schoolers to voluntarily spend more time reading and in school may be a challenge).  I think it might be more challenging with younger students, but still possible with modifications (discussed below).  As a fourth or fifth grader, I was in “Junior Great Books” at school and I have very positive memories of discussing questions and ideas about literature that I may not have asked when reading on my own, but which were really provocative and have influenced the way I read to this day.  One of the texts we read was Cinderella, which incidentally I just used for a lesson with fourth graders in my student teaching.   One of the students posed a question that happened to be one that my Junior Great Books group discussed and which has intrigued me for the past fifteen years or so:  why didn’t her shoe/slipper turn back to normal at midnight? The questions my students raised about a familiar text (and an unfamiliar version I shared with them) confirm for me that even elementary students can enjoy and engage in meaningful discussions about their reading.  Why not have a book club for students at almost any age level? Once kids move past storytimes or read-alouds, meeting them with a book club can keep them continually engaged with others about literature.  I definitely like the idea of having a student-contributed book blog through the school library.  With appropriate monitoring of contributions and comments, it could be a great way to validate students’ ideas about their reading and let teens share reviews of books and other media with their peers.  As an added bonus, reading students’ blogs and reviews could really help teachers get to know their students and what media is important to them!

With younger students, I probably would not go the thematic route.  Having a shared text helps get everyone on the same page (literally and figuratively).  The discussion can start with the assumption that everyone has read the same text and jump right into considering the meanings and ideas.  I probably would not move into a thematic book discussion with elementary or middle school students, except perhaps using different versions of the same story (such as folktales) or within a very narrow theme or topic with middle school students. Otherwise, we might end up with a book club that consists mostly of students vying for their chance to summarize the books they read in great detail to the peers, who are each just thinking about what they want to say when it is their turns. (Admittedly, it depends on the group of students—this could happen with a group of adults just as easily as with eight-year-olds, while a group of elementary students could certainly surprise me with their sophistication—it happens all the time!)

I appreciated reading Metzger’s and Tredway’s perspectives as school teachers concerned with reading comprehension and student engagement.  Metzger’s observations of the difficulties many students have with reading comprehension rang true to me, based on my own experiences in high school and as an undergraduate, as well as on conversations with my high-school-age brother and sister about their reading for school.  Students do not really engage with texts, think there is one “right” interpretation that they are supposed to “get,” miss the subtleties, etc., largely because of how literature and reading comprehension are taught and reinforced in schools.  From elementary school, students learn to repeat information directly from texts in order to indicate their comprehension, whether through assignments asking them to identify the character, setting, and plot or worksheets asking them to find and copy down information found in a textbook.  When they move on to identifying themes or processing more complex texts, the teacher often has a predetermined lesson plan with certain objectives and right answers—the meaning of specific symbolism, etc., has already been “discovered” by scholars and accepted by the curriculum, so what is there for students to discover for themselves?  Even with canonical texts, the opportunity to explore different meanings and ideas in more creative or innovative ways can be supported by using questions that do not have established/accepted answers.  Or, if it is important that students learn what the red A symbolizes in The Scarlet Letter, start by introducing the scholarly community’s ideas and invite students to add their own ideas, interpretations, or challenges.  Since the Socratic Seminar places the responsibility for comprehension and puzzling out meanings in the students’ hands, it sounds like a great way to push students toward deeper processing of texts while learning how to work cooperatively and learn from each other.  The amount of participation from the teacher sounds rather negotiable, as Metzger aimed to remove herself almost completely from the discussions while Tredway sees the teacher as a more involved “facilitator and participant” (28). It probably depends on the goals of the seminar and the individuals involved.  Metzger’s reflections on her own participation through watching videos of her class, as well as her students asking her to butt out, helped her realize that her participation and leading was not necessary or beneficial, but as a good teacher she also realized when and where she needed to step in to provide more feedback, modeling, and other forms of scaffolding so her students could be successful.  Tredway seems more aligned with the idea that adults/teachers know more than students and are there to help them figure out what they need to know.  Though she acknowledges that teachers’ agendas are not always best and that students can reach and puzzle through complicated and high-level ideas on their own, her format for Socratic Seminars sounds far more involved for the teacher.

When taking the Socratic Seminar out of the classroom and into a more open discussion environment like a book club, I suspect there would be some new issues to deal with. The voluntary book club participants would need to be willing to learn a new technique and to return to the book club several times before the Socratic Seminar format really got on its feet and became effective. How do you convince book club members to keep trying? In the public library or other open settings (unlike classrooms), how easily and quickly can new people join into a Socratic Seminar discussion group? Are Socratic Seminars possible or useful if the book club consists of only a few people?  What issues arise from working with different age groups?  Hoffert discusses teen book clubs and Tredway suggests that Socratic Seminars are possible and effective with children, teens, and adults, but I wonder how the format and role of the leader would need to change in relation to different groups of people in terms of age, culture, environment, education level, complexity of text, and other factors.  I am interested to see how it works in class to get a better idea of how to facilitate a Socratic Seminar with different types of texts, with adults, and with first-timers. 

This article was to prep us for the Socratic Seminar demo, so I will reflect on it more thoroughly in my post about the upcoming class.  For now, it reminded me of a lot of the focus of some other core library courses, such as the reference course and the collection development course.  Figuring out how to balance the commercial side of publishing with the freedom of information side is a tricky issue.  We do need to keep the scholarly discourse alive, support the publishing of a wide variety of informational and entertaining texts, etc., but keeping the industries healthy is an important element, too.  One of my best friends has been seeking a job in the publishing industry for the past year or so, and he has shared with me the dismal state of publishing houses (especially small, independent ones). I have a deep affinity for the role libraries play in providing “free” access to information, but I definitely also recognize that in a capitalist society it is idealistically simplistic to push for a complete and free digital library.  Darnton did get around to discussing some of the trickiest parts of creating a free digital archive, including the legal issues, and I think he is on the right track.  I also think we still have a long way to go in figuring out how to make it work for the best of all parties.


Darnton, R. (2010, December 23). The library: Three jeremiads. New York Review of Books. Retrieved February 19, 2011, from

Hoffert, Barbara. (2006, July 15). The book club exploded:  Buffed, blended, and hooked up to other media, today’s book club looks nothing like yesterday’s modest tea party. Library Journal. Retrieved February 19, 2011, from

Metzger, M. (2010, December 23). Teaching reading: Beyond the plot. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(3), 240. Retrieved January 8, 2011, from Academic OneFile.

Tredway, Lynda. (1995, September) Socratic Seminars: Engaging students in intellectual discourse. Educational Leadership.