Back-to-School Week: What’s the Value of School Summer Reading Lists?

Every library worker has gotten that request for a strange, old book which is still somehow required at some school somewhere. Betsy Bird did a terrific take-down of those outdated list earlier this summer, and an attempt to “update” the choices for teen appeal backfired in South Carolina and Florida.

Yes, assigned whole-class summer reading can be problematic. The number of titles (and the page lengths) required seems to have dwindled over decades, and other supposed innovations including “read any one book from the New York Times bestseller list” has led to a scramble for the shortest books.

Continue reading

Back to School Week: Collaboration is a Thing You Do NOT a Learning Outcome!

For years and years and years (I’ve worked in libraries for a long-time) I’ve talked about and heard about the importance of school and public library collaboration. And, over the years, I’ve talked about and heard about how hard it is to be successful in this area. It actually seems to me that the challenges and barriers that I’ve been talking about and hearing about for a couple of decades haven’t really changed. And, they certainly haven’t gone away.

image by George Couros on the best ways for leaders to use technologyThe fact that conversations remain the same over a long period of time, got me thinking – Maybe we are going about this the wrong way. Maybe, instead of the focus being on what we regularly call school and public library collaboration (the thing we do), what we really need to focus on is what is required in order to have positive lasting outcomes/impacts for students and teachers (what we want to achieve). This was brought home to me this week when I read the post Building Relationships Through the Use of Technology by George Couros. The ideas embedded in the image he included in that post (shown on the left) really resonated with me.
Continue reading

Back to School: Library Card = School Supply

smartestcardLibraries and schools across the country collaborate to promote library card sign-ups at the beginning of each school year. Annual efforts include blog posts, official proclamations, and lists of schools supplies sent out to parents. Last year, Philadelpha City Schools and Free Library merged databases to give nearly 100,000 students library cards. In April of this year, President Obama announced the ConnectED Library Challenge with the lofty goal of putting a public library card into the hand of every school student. As of August 5, nearly 50 communities had adopted the initiative.

Accomplishing this will be no easy task. When you live in an area (as I do) where one school district serves multiple library districts and vice versa, knowing where to go to get a public library card can be confusing. Unincorporated areas, which often aren’t served by any public library, compound this. At least one nearby library has mitigated that issue by signing contracts with local schools that allow students who live in the unincorporated areas to receive a card for use during the school year.

One neighboring community, Skokie, has adopted the ConnectED Library Challenge. The Village of Skokie is a northwest suburb of Chicago, and is home to a little over 64,000 people. The village straddles two different townships, and so public high school students attend one of two different districts. One township, Niles, is also home to a portion of the Village of Niles, which makes up a significant portion of the Niles Public Library District. Confused yet? Students from four different library districts all attend Niles Township High School District 219.

Continue reading

Back to School: Building the Resume

Many libraries are in a great position to help teens develop skills and experience they can add to their resume. Whether it be volunteering on a regular basis or honing graphic design or other useful technology proficiency, teens can gain that needed edge through the library for when they seek out other opportunities.

Last school year, I stumbled across a program at my local public school system that gives students school credit for being part of a library program such as volunteering! What a win-win situation for all! Read on for more details on how the program works. Continue reading

Back to School: The Skill of Listening

listen written on a brick wallFor many, back to school time is a time for learning new things. One thing I’m trying to learn more about and be better at is listening to what people in the community need and want from the library instead of simply going out and telling people what the library has to offer. For example, at a back to school professional development event library staff might be asked to present information on what they have to offer to teachers and students. Typically that might mean going in and saying, “Hi, we have these databases, they are great, use them.” Then we leave and hope that that helped inform teachers about how they can use the library’s resources.

But, really what we should be doing is first asking teachers and staff in schools what they are doing, what do they wish was available in the community, what do they and their students need? We who work with teens in libraries listen to what they tell us and then craft a response that is focused exactly on what we heard when we listened. It’s not focusing on, this is what I think you need, it’s focused on this is what you told me you need and I can directly help that need in this way.
Continue reading

Back to School: The Future of Library Service for and with Teens

Welcome to August and the first in a series of YALSAblog posts all about getting ready for the new school year.

forum logoI don’t think there is a better way to get started thinking about going back to school then to check-in with YALSAblog readers about how you are implementing the ideas in the Future of Library Service for and with Teens: A Call to Action report published by YALSA in January of this year.

Thinking about the fall and the programs and services we’ll work on with and for teens during the school year is a great time to learn about what others are doing that connect to the ideas in YALSA’s report. At the YALSAblog we’d love to hear what you have made happen that connect to what’s outlined in the report. For example: Continue reading

App of the Week: Alge-bingo

Title: Alge-Bingo
Platform: iOS
Cost: .99

It’s back to school time and this month the YALSA App of the Week bloggers are’  focusing each week on apps that are good for students and teachers. We’ll cover research, science, math, and staying organized. If you have a favorite school related app feel free to post information about it in the comments on our App of the Week posts. And, don’t forget, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is taking nominations for Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. You can make a nomination on the AASL website.

I don’t like math. Never have. I see a string of numbers and my brain grinds to a halt. I have empathy for teens who feel the same. They might try to laugh it off, like it’s cool not to like math, or maybe they think it isn’t important because they are strong in other subjects.’  But trying to rationalize a dislike of math won’t help anybody.’  Math is important and necessary. This is why I chose to share a math app for our Back to School series. Maybe if I’d had an app to play with when I was struggling with math it would have helped me stay focused instead of getting frustrated.’  According to this article in Education Week, students and teachers alike seem to enjoy apps for math.

In searching for great math apps, there are several. I decided to focus on an app that helps with basic arithmetic,’  the type of math I struggle with the most, as well as the foundation for other mathematical pursuits. Alge-bingo makes a game out of basic algebraic equations and challenges you to do your arithmetic fast.’  Continue reading