It is August and the school bells are beginning to signal the end-of-summer break.  As a high school librarian, I always want to make sure that the new freshmen students have a thorough understanding of everything our school library and digital learning lab offer.  I have also realized that our school’s faculty and staff, new and old, need a refresher of our services since our school has seen tremendous growth and changes in the past three years.  Our student orientation has shifted focus from “Where in the library can you find?” to “What can our school library do for you both at school and at home?”  I run our school’s digital learning lab called the LiNK.  I use Prezi to inform our students about what the LiNK is and what is available for them there.  Since I work in conjunction with our school library, I include information on our physical and digital collections as well.  The current orientation can be found here.

The faculty orientation happens in two parts.  New teachers are not aware of the amount of the media and technology resources our school has, so I created the Basics Orientation.  It details the data (ie. how many we have of this and that) and what to do if they need assistance.   I usually do the Basics Orientation during our pre-planning days with all teachers.  The Tech Tools Orientation is what I find most useful as it generates “business” for our media services.  Many high school teachers still have the mindset that the school library is for English classes to use for research.  I want to make sure that all faculty understands that we have worked and will work with all departments.  This orientation is updated as needed with the latest projects that students have created and also updated with new tools that we discover and implement throughout the year.  I present this orientation during the year on Tech Tuesdays or in Lunch Learn sessions, and I love the immediate response from teachers wanting to try out new things with their classes.

As common place as back to school orientations can be, they are very beneficial as they provide students AND faculty the necessary information to get the most out of your school library.  Get creative and have fun with your orientations and your school library services are sure to reap the benefits!


Many schools are winding down in the next few weeks. For the school library, that means trying to get all materials returned and then inventoried. Do you have trouble getting your students to return materials? What about teachers? Do you collect their materials too?

Our school system has set procedures for closing up shop for the year. Three weeks from the last school day for students is the last day to check out books. All books are due at the two-week mark. We have normally not had issues with these dates, but two years ago, several students became very upset by this rule. We tried to explain why we had to stop checking out books so early (inventory, etc.), but several took upon themselves to start “stealing” whole manga series! When finally caught with the 20+ books in their backpacks, they said they were just borrowing them until the last day of school. Needless to say, we have kids who LOVE to read but think the rules do not apply to them.

We have also run into the issue of kids not wanting to return books because they may have accumulated our max overdue fine of $5.00.  To encourage kids to return their books, we designate one week near the end of the school year as “Fine Free Week”.  Students can return any overdue books for free!  Yes, it would be awesome to have the money that we lose from these fines, but I would rather have the book back even more.

So what about teachers?  Our school system asks that all teachers return materials (books, DVDs, etc.), but many of our teachers argue that they are the only one to use a certain book or DVD, so why not just keep it in their room.  As a former classroom teacher, I understand that, but as a media specialist, I like to know that the materials are accounted for, inventoried, and housed in the media center over the summer.  You would be surprised how many teachers “claim” to have a book or DVD in their room, but it no longer exists because it was lost or stolen.  Returning library materials is now included on our school’s teacher summer check-off sheet that is due before leaving for the summer.

Inventory is the biggest part of our end of the year procedures.  Once books are turned in, it usually takes about three days to complete our inventory.  We do use two-three very responsible student helpers for the process.  As with any inventory, it is a tedious process, but we are able to use the results to order missing or damaged materials.  We also use this time to run an end of the year report of our circulation.  Again, this is valuable data that tells us what our students are reading most, what programs are working best, and what goals we need to set for the next year.

In addition to collecting materials and completing inventory, we also use the end of the year to “clean up” our technology.  We delete user profiles and do a disk cleanup on all desktop and laptop computers.  Chromebook profiles are deleted, and iPads are updated.  Schools with maker spaces would want to check all equipment and materials for damage and working order, as well as reorganize for the next year.

I would love to say that closing up a school library was as easy as just dusting off the shelves and locking the doors, but there are many important steps in the process in order to maintain a successful library program.  As tedious as many of these steps can be, they are well worth it when you open in the fall ready to start a new year!

The Teen Programming Guidelines discuss the physical spaces of hosting teen programs in their eighth guideline.  When YALSA released its Teen Space Guidelines in May 2012, I dove into the wealth of information that the guidelines provided.  My school was in a transition period where we gained an additional media center space that needed to be completely renovated.  Our original media center also needed some updating, so the Teen Space Guidelines was the perfect tool for me to use in approaching our spaces.

The first teen space guideline states, “Solicit teen feedback and input in the design and creation of the teen space.” Librarians and media specialists should always take into consideration the community they serve.  I needed feedback on what our students wanted to see in our original space.  A simple Survey Monkey survey was all it took to gain valuable insight into layout, furniture, needs, and wants for our high school students.  With their advice, we were able to rearrange furnishings and incorporate a few new pieces to freshen up our original media center.  Students also suggested that we move our manga section closer to the circulation desk.  Manga books are cataloged in the 740s in the nonfiction collection.  In our media center, this happened to put them in a far corner of our space and hard to see from the circulation desk.  Not only are these super popular books that are checked out frequently, but they became hot commodities that were frequently stolen.  (We do not have a book security system.)  After moving these books closer to the circulation desk, students have easier access to them, and we do not lose near as many to theft.  This also allowed us to promote the books more easily, which is also one of the guidelines in Teen Space Guidelines.  Teen feedback can never be underestimated.

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“Mrs. Thompson, why we only got two Bluford High books?”  “We need more manga.”  “I like that Sharon Draper lady.  We got anymore of her books?”  These were just a few of the questions and statements directed at me about our high school media center’s collection when I became a media specialist.  Through day-to-day direct observation and through results of a student survey, I quickly realized areas of our collection that were being underserved – manga and urban fiction.  There were groups of students who were all clamoring for the same few titles that we had of a certain genre or series and our “hold lists” were growing longer by the day.

Several reasons may attribute to underserved groups in a library program.  Community dynamics change.  Our small suburban school system has seen tremendous growth in the 18 years that I have been here – 400% growth.  That translates into a graduating class of 78 in 1998 to a graduating class of 478 in 2015.  In the same time period, our minority population grew from 5% to 30%.  Our media center’s collection does not reflect this growth.  Another reason for underserved groups is the rapid growth in new styles of writing, like manga.  It can be difficult to know whether new styles of writing are going to be accepted by your patrons, and we hate to waste money on books that are just going to sit on the shelves.  We started out with three different manga series to test the waters.  The popularity of these titles exploded!  They rarely made it back onto the shelves as students would grab them from the “re-shelf” cart as soon as they were checked in.  They also became our most stolen titles!  (We do not currently have a book security system.)  There were titles that our students desperately wanted to read, so why wouldn’t I listen to them to continue to foster their love of reading.

As a reader, I cannot stand to read things in a series out of order.  Many of my students are the same way.  Why did we only have some of the Bluford High series?  Why were #1, 4, 6-8 of Full Metal Alchemist missing?  Our database showed that we had owned, at one point, #1-15 of the manga series BlackCat, but several of the titles were now marked “Lost”.  I set filling in the gaps of the asked about series as my first goal in strengthening our collection for our underserved patrons.  In the urban fiction section, we went from two Sharon Draper titles to all 10 of her young adult titles.  We were also able to fill in the missing Bluford High titles, which serve our urban fiction fans as well as our Hi/Lo students.  For the manga patrons, we filled in all of the holes in the series we already had and aimed to include four new series a year.

Another strategy for building our collection for these underserved populations was to get input from the students.  In adding more manga, we allowed the students who were most interested in these series to help us with the selection of new titles.  They perused catalogs and looked online for reviews and suitable content (as some manga is aimed at a more adult audience). My African-American girls, who were devouring the urban fiction, asked about adding the Drama High series.  They loved looking for new authors to tell me about as well.  With the addition of the new titles, plus the marketing of the items through displays, our circulation increased 67% in one year!  Allowing students to assist in making our collection stronger for them gave them a sense of ownership and pride in our media program.

YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines states that librarians should “create programming that reflects the needs and identities of all teens in the community.”  Many media centers and libraries run into the problem of having an underserved population, and it is the duty of the librarian to recognize the needs of all patrons and work to strengthen the weak areas.  Investigate your collection for missing titles and allow your teens input.  These practices can go a long way in reflecting the needs of the communities we serve.

Snapchat in the media center?  Isn’t it just another photo messaging app that has filters and picture enhancements?  After all, Snapchat pictures disappear after ten seconds.  At least with Instagram, the images are saved for long term viewing.  So why should media specialists even consider it as a way to reach their students?

Spontaneity.  Simple glimpses into the daily life of users.  This is what has helped Snapchat become one of the fastest growing photo messaging apps since its release in 2011.  “Snaps” come off as unprepared and candid which can make the images even more engaging knowing that they are simply a snapshot of a moment in someone’s life.  What is daily life like in your media center?  Document it with Snapchat.  Images of a student nestled up with a good book in the stacks, a group of students engaged in research, or ideas at work in a makerspace.  All of these images are opportunities for media specialists to showcase their media center in a format that teens have quickly adopted.  Snapchat also offers a Story feature now that allows multiple images to be displayed for up to 24 hours.  Media specialists can highlight a whole day’s activities during a special event, such as Teen Tech Week.

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One of the biggest appeals to using Snapchat as a way to reach students is the group safety features that the app has in place. When an image is sent to multiple users, the message still appears as an individual message to each user.  There is no record of every user that the image was sent to.  A media specialist can send a “snap” to multiple users, but the users will not have access to the other users’ information.

Of course, every picture messaging app has its drawbacks.  Teens were quick to jump on the bandwagon of this social media tool, and Snapchat quickly earned a bad reputation as a “sexting” app since users assumed risque pictures “vanished” after ten seconds. Users learned that images can be screenshot and saved for long past the mere seconds that Snapchat offers.  In response to concerns, Snapchat recently created the Snapchat Safety Center and released a safety guide on Feb. 23, 2015 titled “A Parent’s Guide to Snapchat”.  Media specialists could also use the Safety Center information and the guide as part of their digital citizenship and technology safety program with students.

Media specialists are always looking for new ways to reach their students.  Snapchat is used by 42% of teenage mobile users, according to  If the students are using it, then media specialists should at least give Snapchat a chance.  It is easy to add users, just “snap” the ghost icon on a user’s Profile screen.  So set up an account today and start sending “snaps” to give your students a glimpse into the daily life of your media center.