Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Library Metamorphosis – from 1970s to the 2000s

I was beside myself when we were told last fall that McGavock High School had been approved for a redesign. Let me tell you about the yearlong metamorphosis of the 1970s style McGavock High School library to a 21st century learning commons.

1st Step: Building a team. A team was put together last fall that consisted of an architect, project manager from the construction company, project manager from MNPS, representatives from the Nashville Public Library, the executive principal, our MNPS lead librarian, and us—the two McGavock librarians. We are the first high school to benefit from the experiences of earlier MNPS redesigns; the contracted people had all been involved in the recently redesigned libraries.

2nd Step: Planning. We met monthly and began the planning process with a question. What did we feel we needed? In planning, we had to come up with:

  •        A budget
  •        A design
  •        Estimate of materials and labor costs
  •        Technology supplies
  •        Other supplies

In 1971 it was important to have individual study space, plenty of room for audio visual materials, and plenty of room for the stacks. That meant that McGavock had old-style study carrels, old typing rooms with solid wood doors, and extra storage rooms and closets.  Conversely in 2015 McGavock needs collaborative learning spaces for small groups, less storage since most AV equipment was outdated,  a lot less room for the stacks because so much content is online. We needed to knock down walls and reconfigure existing ones. We had plenty of space, it just needed to be repurposed.

3rd Step: Moving Out! What a job! There was a lot of stuff—not just books. We are indebted to the Limitless Libraries and MNPS Library Services helpers who helped us pack up. We got books moved out very quickly, but we had to determine what supplies, furniture, and equipment was obsolete and what was needed when we moved back in. We also had to figure out what should be kept out for that last three weeks we were in school and in case we weren’t moved in by the start of the new year.

4th Step: Building. Obviously, I didn’t need to pull out hammers and saws, but I was glad that we were around during the summer when issues came up. It was also exciting to be around to witness how the space was changing.

5th Step: Moving back in. I feel like we’re still in this phase. Daily we can’t find things. And it is/was challenging to figure out where things should be placed. I’m not good with details. But once we opened, it was all worth it. All who come in are amazed and impressed. Thanks to a really great team of planners and builders, our space is inviting and flexible, encourages collaboration, and facilitates the use of 21st century tools. We have moved from a library repository for books to a library learning commons. Just today, I used the dry erase wall to help groups of Agriscience students draw giant Venn diagrams to help them grasp narrowing and broadening topics and getting to that all-important research question. I think the wall helped them grasp the concept a little better, and now that we have a flexible garage door classroom inside the library, I was able to teach without fighting over outside noises and distractions.

We have some missing technology and some undone finishing touches, but we have already been transformed from a plain, ugly caterpillar in our school building to a beautiful butterfly.  And students who have never voluntarily darkened our doors are coming in. Just like Library Girl’s (Jennifer LaGarde) library, our space is noisy and full of activity. I love it.

MNPS Librarian

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Balancing the Books

In my six weeks as a new librarian, I’ve flipped our orientation, presented said orientation during district-wide PD, drafted a mock-up of an info literacy Blackboard course, created new “Writing and Research in a Digital Age” lessons for seniors, delivered blended learning PD to  teachers, shamelessly applied for hundreds of software licenses with ConnectED and Nearpod, designed a do-join-us-next-year Prezi presentation for my Academy, joined my school’s Blended Learning PLC, became an (appointed-assumed?) school ambassador for that same focus, redesigned our library's website, and collaborated several times with the new digital design teacher who is yet vacillating between survival and disillusionment. (Good sir, I get it.)

And yet…I haven’t read a single young adult novel. To be fair, I’ve only just begun reading again (i.e., after a recent five-week hiatus). New librarian, remember? Riiight. (And that tidbit totally debunks the myth that all we do at work is lounge and read books all day.) In what I like to call “real life,” I typically read two to three books per week, since my unplugged plasma TV’s job is simply to take up 42 inches of space in my super small studio. Sans cable, what else is there to do but read? But when I seized the opportunity to rediscover reading (that was Labor Day weekend, by the way), YA lit definitely was not on my agenda. To be perfectly honest, good lit wasn’t even on the agenda.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had students ask me for book recommendations: Can you recommend books by black women authors? She was not amused when I provided a list of authors’ names, rather than titles. Oops. Do you have anything similar to Looking for Alaska? Ah, summer-reading-inspired questions. What about mystery books? Umm…try the spine labels that have the mini magnifying glasses? Maybe a sci-fi series? Oh, more than one book? Dude, you just smirked at my ineptitude. Wait, you haven’t read (insert-totally-obscure-YA-lit-title)? Sigh, and no. Are you a real librarian? Okay, ouch.

Prior to becoming a librarian, I was an English teacher and reading specialist, where I taught the classics or worked to get students to the point where they could, at least, begin to understand them…(respectively). The last young adult novel I read probably was Nikki Grimes’ Bronx Masquerade. Or maybe it was Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. The audiobook so counts. Either way, it was a couple of years ago. With that aha moment in tow, I digitally trotted to NetGalley to request ARC after ARC of YA lit, in an effort to redeem myself in the judgmental eyes (kidding) of my students. Fortunately, publishers felt my desperation all the way through Wi-Fi. And, I mean, if I read a title before it even hits the shelves, that gives me more credibility with the kids, right? Too, I finally downloaded  Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, which is sort of cheat reading, since it’s “required” for Battle of the Books. (I’m writing the questions for that one, after all.) But I realize that I have to start somewhere (and start yesterday) in my adventure into the Through-the-Looking-Glass wonderland of YA lit. While technology is part of what we do, as 21st century librarians, it’s certainly not all we should be doing in 2015. So for the kid who strolls into our library at 6:50 a.m. tomorrow, with great expectations for book recommendations, I’ll be ready.

J. Greer
MNPS Librarian

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Creativity & Learning Go Hand-in-Hand

When I was in the classroom, I HATED grading research papers/projects.  It was always the same topics!  It was always the same format!  I mean really how many papers can you read; how many PowerPoints can you watch?  As a librarian, trying to encourage research, I was hearing the same concerns that I made as a teacher.  

Research in and of itself is highly interesting and fascinating.  The product is what is boring us and the students half to death.  I began to ponder this situation and slowly but surely a solution started to take shape.  The solution came in the form of a rubric.  I call it an Open Rubric because it is open ended enough to let the students be as creative as they want to be, and the teacher can still grade each student’s work equitably.  

Here is the rubric: The Open Rubric

After the rubric was in place, it just became a matter of showing students different ways to present information.  (The presentation is the key.) It is my belief that we, as humans, are naturally creative.  It is when the creativity is suppressed for years that we begin to fill as if we are not creative.  Once we started exposing students to all the different was to express their learning, the students took off and blew us away. Here are some examples:

This is a 1st graders drawing of the fireworks display during the 4th of July. She made several drawings of U.S. symbols.

This student made a book within a book.  It is a great story on how to use maps and globes.  The outside book is fictional; the inside book is factual.

This mask was created by a student who researched American Indians.  During her presentation, she would turn to another drawing a talk about that aspect of her research.

These are just samples.  We also get PowerPoints, posters, & various other demonstrations of knowledge. 

Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is Intelligence having fun.”  Just because we are being creative doesn’t me we are not gaining knowledge.  Research is fun because you are learning things you didn’t know and affirming things you did know, but the production is where we show how we interpret what we’ve learned.  So, let the students create their own production.  I promise it is more fun!