Finding a New Groove with Community Collaboration

In August of 2020, I started my seventeenth year in education and my fourteenth year in a school library at Liberty High School in Lake St. Louis, MO. As I began to plan for the year, I felt the overwhelm that I know all of us, regardless of tenure in our libraries, experienced. The programming, the flexible spaces, the collection of tech–many of the “Future-Ready” elements I had dedicated time and money to build or curate–suddenly weren’t what teens or staff needed as our school district launched with a hybrid schedule. And that general “groove” I’d found myself in professionally for the last few years? It was gone. I felt scared, I questioned my value, I didn’t know how to help.

I did, however, have a dynamite network of local school librarians I had grown even closer to in the first few months of the pandemic, thanks majorly to our frequent Zoom meet-ups. And as I began to kick around the idea of trying a school-wide shared reading experience, I felt safe asking for their opinions and guidance. Was I too ambitious? What did they think about my book choice? Would they be interested in collaborating? These amazing women were immediately supportive and open to working together so the project could benefit not just my school community, but theirs as well. We dove in as a team, choosing Kate Moore’s The Radium Girls, titling the program, “One Read,” and dividing the work.

Our visit to one of the towns featured in The Radium Girls

Through our collaboration, we created a shared slidedeck full of lesson ideas, discussion questions, video links, activities, and more. We connected the book to various curricula including science, health, English language arts, business, art, and social studies, and we even took a group trip to film a virtual field trip of one of the towns featured prominently in the book. We agreed on a program hashtag, created a kick-off video, and created our own t-shirts. We even got our hands on a couple of Geiger Counters to enhance our students’ learning. We geeked out! Multiple switches to and from remote learning in my district complicated our efforts to talk with students about their One Read experiences, but teachers shared grateful emails and visited us in person to speak about how they were engaging students with the content. Continue reading Finding a New Groove with Community Collaboration

“It’s Teen Tech Week and I work in a school. Now what?”

For a lot of school librarians, celebrating Teen Tech Week can present some steep challenges. Not every librarian teaches classes, or has a designated time with their students to demonstrate and create, leaving tech programming a little up in the air. Many may not even see the point in celebrating– “If I only have the kids when they stop in for five minutes each day to print, how can I show off this really cool cloud tool or have them make an awesome podcast?”

If you find yourself in the “I want to, but when” boat, never fear! Here are some easy ways to integrate technology into your library for the week without disrupting classes or running yourself ragged. Continue reading “It’s Teen Tech Week and I work in a school. Now what?”

What a Librarian Can Learn from Chess

A few years back I bought a chess board for our library, the kind with a magnetic board that makes it a bit portable, and one where I hoped students wouldn’t lose pieces too easily. I placed it on a spare student-sized desk near the library’s entrance with two nice chairs on either side. Teachers and students began sitting down or huddling deep into a game while waiting for a class to end or during a free period. I placed our few books about chess next to our game and hoped the board would help welcome in more library users. Then the school year ended.

When the new school year began, I put the chess board back on its desk. Three days into that school year, a handwritten notice was found under the board: Continue reading What a Librarian Can Learn from Chess