Saturday, October 18, 2014

A school library within a global community

I wrote this article for Cengage Gale's School Blog.  It can be accessed here.

Working in an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, as a school librarian, presents the opportunity to focus on a more global perspective and to have set expectations when it comes to research and information literacy. What really stands out to me is that research is at the core of the IB curriculum and at the high school level it takes the form of an Extended Essay. What is even more exciting is that the role of the school librarian is clearly written in the Extended Essay Course Guide.
The International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, MI is an authorized IB World School.
The International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, MI is an authorized IB World School.
The Extended Essay is a 4,000 word investigation into an academic area that the student has a personal interest in. The subject the student chooses should be one that the student has taken an IB course in and understands the fundamental methodology of that subject area. The students are then expected to take what they learned in class and apply it to their topic of choice.
For the sciences, in order for the student to score well they have to carry out an investigation (usually a lab), and not just report on things that have already been done. Students have to come up with a research question that will allow them to set up and carry out a lab procedure that will test their hypothesis. They need to collect data, analyze, calculate and display in charts and graphs evidence leading to their conclusion.
For the humanities, like history, students have a different way of collecting data. For the Extended Essay, students must choose a topic with a lot of primary and secondary sources available. Students need to look at the historiography of their topic. They need to be able to research orthodox and revisionist interpretations from historians and based on primary sources, students need to come to their own conclusions. They are encouraged to agree or disagree with historians and state their reasons why. These are some of the ways that the Extended Essay is an investigation and not a traditional report.
The role of the school librarian is critical in this process because the work starts in 9th grade (at the high school level) and continues on through the 12th grade. Students cannot be successful in the Extended Essay without a solid foundation in research basics. Part of the Extended Essay rubric grades “quality of sources.” Students need to demonstrate that they can find monographs, academic journals, magazines, and newspaper articles. It is the school librarian’s job to teach students that research databases provide access to a variety of sources. It will then be up to students to demonstrate they can find a variety of sources for their specific topic. It is also a perfect opportunity to teach students how to use inter-library loan through either their school library or public library.
The IB Extended Essay is an opportunity to do academic research at the high school level. It really prepares students for research at the university level. Students who complete the IB program have been taught research skills so that they know to establish the credibility of an author, they can create a Works Cited or Bibliography, they know how to parenthetically cite (or footnote) their sources, they understand that a variety of quality sources will give them will give them credibility as researchers as opposed to taking the easy way out and uncritically surfing the internet.
I also think that a well done Extended Essay makes students realize that there are a variety of perspectives on every imaginable topic. In order to be a good researcher, one has to acknowledge that all these different perspectives exist and make issues complicated. A global citizen needs to be aware of all the different viewpoints before coming up with their own opinion and justifying it. As a teacher and a librarian, I believe this is a life long skill. Knowing that my library has to be prepared for all kinds of research is challenging, but fun. It takes me a long time to do collection development, both print and online, but it’s satisfying to know that my students are going off to college with a solid grasp of academic research.

Friday, April 25, 2014

How I became a school librarian #whylib

I think in a way my profession chose me.  I think about my choice of career every once in a while, but I don't really reflect on it.  I was inspired by the twitter conversation #whylib and then read some stories by other school librarians posted here.  So, I thought I would write down my own path and I guess, share with the Internet.

Going to the public library is one of my first memories.  I remember selecting large of piles of books to take home with me and watching my mom hand write the check out forms.  She never said "no" to the amount of books I wanted to take home.  Once I learned how to write, I was excited to fill out my own slips.  Then the wand scanners came, with the laser red tip, and barcodes.  Talk about libraries being on the cutting edge; even the grocery stores did not have scanners yet.  This was the old West Bloomfield Public Library I remember:

The building is still there today...but it houses another organization.  The best part of summer was the Summer Reading Program at the library.  I remember the satisfaction of stamping each line for every book that I read.  I'm not sure I remember the prizes, but I remember that I had many sheets of paper logging each book that I read.  (Some things never change as this is my current book log.)  There were days that I spent reading from the moment I woke up until I couldn't keep my eyes open.  It's possible that my mom was a little concerned that I was not outside playing but choosing to read my piles of books.  I think I remember there being a prize for the child that read the most books.  I was always disappointed that I never got it because I was sure I read more books than anyone at the library ;)

I remember being one of the few kindergartners who could read and the beginning of the school year.  My kindergarten teacher let me do a few read alouds to the rest of the class during storytime.  I have vague memories of sitting on the teacher chair reading to my friends from a book with a yellow bird flying around the pages. I am surprised I didn't get beat up for this!  I was super excited to give up recess to be a library helper.  I even roped my best friends, Jenny and Rhonda, into being library helpers with me.  It was thrilling to know that I was trusted to put the books back on the shelves.  At this point, I was supremely proud of myself for being able to help a librarian.

I was also one of the first students to try out the school's first computer - an Apple IIe.
I got to draw the name of students out of a hat to be the "Twin Beach Elementary Student of the Week" and then make a flyer for them in the original PrintShop program.  The school had a dot matrix color printer, which took about 20 minutes to print 1 flyer.  I would stand there and watch it.  Then a year or two after the first Apple IIe, the school library got a 6 computer lab.  I learned to play Oregon Trail:

I also spent a lot of time playing "school" with my brother and sister.  I came up with lessons, worksheets and grades(!) for them.  I'd love to know what they were thinking when they sat in my "classroom".

By middle school, we got a fancy public library.  
I learned how to find articles on micro-film and the old ProQuest research database where you had to put the right CD in to find your article.  I was actually taught how to do that in my high school library.  I thought it was the best thing ever to find old articles!  I was always worried that I would not get the research spot in the library because the ProQuest computer might be too busy (I never saw anyone use it) and it cost 10¢ a page to print.  This still required a physical dime to be dropped into a coin box connected to the printer!  

By my senior year of high school, I had all the credits I needed so I signed up for a independent reading contemporary fiction class.  I basically read books in the library for a class period my 2nd semester.  It was awesome!  We had a beautiful media center, but unfortunately, I do not remember ever interacting with the school librarian.  The book suggestions all came from my English teacher.  But I was still reading a lot and useing the public library for school research.

When I went off to college, I still did not have a career path picked out for myself.  I definitely did not have a clear plan, although I sort of envisioned myself as a foreign diplomat and decided to get a BA in International Studies.  I loved all my classes, all my professors and the academic world in general.  I had a library connection from Day 1 at Saint Joseph's College.  For my freshman orientation class, I was put in a section with Cathy Salyers, who was one of the librarians there.  We met once a week that first semester to make sure we were doing ok with our new college life.  Because I met her that first year, I was not afraid to ask for research help.  I participated in research symposiums, Model UN and became the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper.  I spent HOURS reading (for class only) and studying in the Robinson Memorial Library at SJC.  I hid in the study carrels in the basement because no one could ever find me there :)  It was quiet and warm and I made myself do all of my assigned reading down there before I did anything else.  I became pretty familiar with the microfilm and microfiche machines, which were somewhere in the back of the library.  As I was getting closer to graduation, I realized that the reality of the political world was a crushing disappointment to my idealistic self.  I didn't want to leave the academic world, but it still hadn't occurred to me that being a librarian was my path.


I worked for about 3 years after college in totally random jobs.  Managing a Sunglass Hut, Kaplan test prep center, summarizing depositions at a engineering firm, being a customer care specialist at a reiki center and working part-time in a pharmacy.  It was a state of unfulfilled flux.  My mother-in-law would talk about her job as an elementary media specialist and I was desperate for a new job.  I started considering the possibility of working in a school library. She made a phone call and I got an interview the next day for a Media Tech position.  I was quickly hired to assist with the technology needs in a school and right away started researching the Library and Information Science Program at Wayne State University.  I realized that I liked working in a high school.  So, I submitted my grad school application, was accepted and enrolled in classes within about a 2 month span.  Working full time and going to school full time was not the easiest commitment I have ever made, but I survived.  In 2002, I received my Masters in Library and Information Science.  Unfortunately, I was still short a degree in order to be a high school librarian. I slowly worked towards a degree in Education to get my teacher certification and finally in 2009 I was officially a Teacher-Librarian. (In addition to being a librarian, I can be a history teacher too).  Mr. DeZwaan let me be his student teacher for a whole semester.

I've never left that one school I started at.  I have been fortunate to work as a librarian in a amazing school with the best students and staff.  I'm in an academic setting, where I knew I belonged.  I teach others how to research and share my love of reading.  I'm thankful that Mr. Okma hired me after Mrs. Miner interviewed me.  I'm pretty sure they know my story, but I would not be at the IA if it wasn't for them.  Because of my school library background I have had the opportunity to travel around the Americas for the IB to teach other teachers about the Extended Essay.  I get to review books for publishers.  Every day is different, sometimes a bit crazy, which makes for good storytelling.  It's all the little things that come together during the journey.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Latest Book Review - Delusion by Laura J Sullivan

Here is the authors blog.

I enjoyed this book :)


VOYA Rating: 4Q 3P 
Highly Recommended 

This book was a very unique blend of historical fiction and true magic. Phil and Fee Albion, were set to debut their magic show until it was cancelled because of the London Blitz. They were immediately sent to a remote English village in order to stay safe from the Nazis. Phil still wanted to contribute to the war effort, but it was more difficult being removed from London. Phil and Fee happened to stumble into a magically cloaked village that was not interested in having anything to do with the war. Their job was to protect the natural world and not meddle in man-made problems. There was no possible way the girls could have stumbled into the magical village without having magic flowing in their own blood. The English magicians are forced to intervene when they discover the Germans are using magic in the war effort.

There are some references to the Holocaust and the London Blitz, which will encourage readers to think about whether or not war is ever justified. This would be a good fit for students interested in World War II history. It does also show how women were able to be a part of the war effort on the home front. Many families were separated during to war and this shows a personal insight to how that could have felt. There is also the romance aspect that keeps the story moving forward and the mystery of how Phil and Fee came to have magic in their blood. It’s an interesting twist to think about using magic to fight the Nazis.

I really enjoyed it. I was skeptical at first as to how a writer was going to combine magic and historical fiction, but I was very impressed with the result. The cover art will attract readers that might not normally be into historical fiction. The strong female characters will appeal to girls. I think the dialogue fits the tone of the story. It would be a good book club book in terms of having a lot of topics to discuss. However, there is a cliffhanger at the end that a sequel is inevitable. Overall, this book is a good choice for a school library.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Stalin defends the role he played during the Great Purge

Somedays the library space really works for large group activities.  If there is a class in here that I am not directly involved with, I let them do their thing and do my own library related work.  Today, I couldn't help but listen to Mr. Uhelski's history class put Stalin on trial.  The prosecution and defense had their arguments all ready to go.  Stalin was in the hot seat several times, along with witnesses like a Polish poet who survived her time in the Gulag.  The entire group was most impressive, with Stalin even showing up in military uniform and signature mustache.  They declared Stalin guilty on 3 of 4 charges.  Well done, scholars :)