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1. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Author Interview: Kathleen Ahrens

By Patti Buff
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Kathleen Ahrens was born in the suburbs of New York City and aspired to be an astronaut and to live in a skyscraper. Poor eyesight led her to forgo the first dream, but her move to Hong Kong allowed her to finally fulfill the second.

As a child, she read constantly — often in very dim lighting — leading to her poor eyesight, and she could often be found with a book in one hand and a dictionary in another, now clear precursors of her love of both literature and language.

Her favorite subject in high school was Latin, but her aptitude in math led her to enter the University of Massachusetts Amherst as a computer science major, later switching to a degree in Oriental Languages after she grew bored writing computer programs that mimicked war scenarios.

Currently a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, where she is the director of the International Writers’ Workshop, she is also a fellow in the Hong Kong Academy of Humanities, and the international regional advisor chairperson for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Hi Kathleen! Thanks for stopping by the blog to discuss the upcoming Bologna Book Fair

With much more focus on diversity in children's books than has been in the past, how important of a role do you think book fairs like Bologna play in introducing young readers to children from other countries and cultures?

The fact that buyers can walk from one hall to another and see and acquire books from all over the world is very important — without Bologna it would be much harder to know of and gain rights for books from outside one’s own geo-political boundaries.

In addition, while most everything is available on the internet nowadays, it’s still people who connect their friends to books they find at the fair and introduce people who buy and sell rights to each other. These connections happen quite naturally in Bologna, which make it that much more likely that the books from one country may make it to the shelves of another country.

One thing that I’ve noticed as I’ve traveled is that so many publishers in countries outside of the U.S. bring in (and translate) books from all over the world. I’ve yet to see that kind of cross-cultural diversity in U.S. bookstores, even in independent ones, mainly because the U.S. publishers are simply not buying (and translating) that many books from other countries.

Part of that has to do with the fact that US has its own rich publishing environment, but part of it seems to stem from the assumption that U.S. children will not read translated books. This assumption needs to be tested by regularly putting the very best of literature translated from other languages into the hands of readers in the U.S.

Any tips for new Bologna visitors?

I highly recommend the museums in Bologna, including the Archaeological Museum of Bologna and Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna (Mambo). My favorite is the Museo Civico Medievale because it contains artifacts that show medieval life in Bologna, including funerary monuments and tombs for professors, some of which have engravings that show teachers lecturing to students. Perhaps because I am a university professor myself, I find these representations fascinating, especially as the scene is still a familiar one in universities today.

One tip if you visit the museums: there are audio recordings are very well done and worth the cost of renting if available.

Great tips. I’ll be sure to check them out. Your picture books (Ears Hear and Numbers Do, both co-authored by Chu-Ren Huang, illustrated by Marjorie Van Heerden) are bilingual in English and Chinese and feature an Asian setting. How hard was it to cross both cultures in one project?

The challenges for these two picture books was in the language. I like to say I “co-argued” these books with my co-author, who also happens to be my husband.

We were adamant about having the text read naturally in both languages and yet still be clear translations of the other language. So sometimes my husband would come up with a line that sounded great in Chinese, but awkward in English, and vice versa.

Another challenge was that the editor wanted the text and illustrations explained, as she was afraid that the minimal text and illustrations with fantastical elements might be confusing.

This is not something that is usually done in picture books published in the United States, as the reader is free to interpret the text and illustrations as he or she wishes.

We compromised by providing commentary and questions in the back of the books to assist the adult reader in interpreting the text and illustrations. I think it worked out well in the end because it helps parents see that it’s okay to stop and discuss a text during a reading, and that there is no single correct interpretation. For parents who are unfamiliar with reading to young children, or who feel that a book should have a particular overt message, it’s important to let them know that multiple interpretations are fine.

‘Multiple interpretations’, which in themselves are another form of diversity. Very cool. Your other writing projects, including the one that won the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award are more western based. What are some of the challenges of writing for children in your adopted country and writing for your homeland audience? And how do you keep up to date with teens from the other side of the world?

The biggest challenge is the same for any audience — namely, getting what is in my head down on paper. I can sit at the computer and see the scene perfectly in my head. I can hear the dialogue and smell the freshly-shampooed hair of a character. But all that needs to be translated to the page and that’s part of the challenge and excitement of writing.

In terms of keeping up with teens in the U.S, I know enough to know that I could never keep up. But I also know that, as Doreathea Brande said, “If a situation has caught your attention…[if] it has meaning for you, and if you can find what that meaning is, you have the basis for a story.”

That’s what I’m doing when I write — I’m finding that meaning. And when someone reads what I’ve written, they’re creating their own meaning based on what is going on in their lives at that particular point in time. So to my mind, it’s not so much keeping up-to-date as being curious and open to meanings in everyday situations and figuring out how they might intersect with universal themes and current issues that are of interest to readers.

You are extensively published in the academic world, which requires a fair amount of research. Do you apply the same research techniques to your fiction? If not, how do they differ?

Hong Kong at night
In my linguistic research, I set up a hypothesis and then test my hypothesis by gathering linguistic data through experiments or through analysis of linguistic patterns in that corpus.

When I write creatively, I utilize the internet, the public and university library, newspapers, published diaries, etc. in order to get background information for my story — the details that make a scene come alive for reader.

In the former, I’m testing hypotheses; in the latter, I’m gathering information. However, they share a similarity in that I also need to gather information before I test a hypothesis — I need to see what other conclusions researchers have before I start my own research. So I’m pretty good at locating and sifting through information — I used to do this on 3 x 5 inch note cards. Now I use Scrivener and Mendeley to stay organized.

And finally, what are you working on now? Any surprises you can share with us?

I’m working on a YA novel about two sixteen-year old half-sisters meeting up at a summer camp for the first time in ten years — one has been waiting for this summer for ages, while the other has been doing everything possible to avoid it.

What’s at stake is not only the relationship between the two of them, but also the main character’s relationship to her mother, who left her at an early age and later died while serving in Iraq.

That sounds amazing – and powerful. Hope to be able to read it soon. Thank you so much for stopping by, Kathleen. I wish you a lovely time in Bologna.

Cynsational Notes

Patti Buff
The tenth out of eleven children in a family that took in hundreds of foster kids, Patti Buff found solitude in reading at a young age and hasn’t stopped. She later turned to writing because none of her other siblings had and she needed to stand out in the crowd somehow.

Originally from Minnesota, Patti now lives in Germany with her husband and two teenagers where she’s also the regional advisor of SCBWI Germany & Austria. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her YA novel Requiem, featured in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2016 anthology.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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2. Poetry Friday -- On Collaboration


via Unsplash

THE TUFT OF FLOWERS
by Robert Frost

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the levelled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been,—alone,

As all must be,' I said within my heart,
Whether they work together or apart.'

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a 'wildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o'er night
Some resting flower of yesterday's delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

I left my place to know them by their name,
Finding them butterfly weed when I came.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him.
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

Men work together,' I told him from the heart,
Whether they work together or apart.'


This poem goes out to Heidi Mordhorst, with appreciation for her burst of submit-a-proposal-for-NCTE16 energy and the lingering joy of drafting and editing together on a Google Doc until the words (and word count!) (and presenters!) slipped into place like the proverbial hand in glove (with two hours to spare on Wednesday night!). Fingers crossed that our session is accepted!

Keri has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Keri Recommends.


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3. Harry Potter Alliance and Youth Advocacy

While browsing the exhibits at ALA Midwinter, I came upon the Harry Potter Alliance and its work on organizing youth to participate in National Library Legislative Day – mainly by creating local chapters in schools, libraries, youth centers, etc.. to enlist passionate readers in youth advocacy.  Of course, I also had to buy this wicked awesome (note my attempt at Boston lingo!) t-shirt:hermione

These local chapters “serve as an access point for young people who are passionate about stories to become civically engaged and lead projects that improve their communities.” (thehpalliance.org)  The HPA envisions librarians being “most heavily involved in creating their chapters, planning the first few meetings, and identifying potential leaders among the young people in attendance.”

Are you as intrigued as I am? You can send questions via a virtual owl (HPA brilliant lingo!) to their Chapters Staff at chapters@thehpalliance.org to learn more.

 

The post Harry Potter Alliance and Youth Advocacy appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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4. One More Week to Sign Up for ALSC Online Courses

Winter 2016 ALSC Online Courses

We’re heading into the final days of 2015 and it’s also the the final days before the next semester of ALSC online courses!

With topics like school/library collaboration, STEM programming, and the Sibert Medal, you can bring new ideas into your library! Classes begin Monday, January 4, 2016.

One of the courses being offered this semester are eligible for continuing education units (CEUs). The American Library Association (ALA) has been certified to provide CEUs by the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET). ALSC online courses are designed to fit the needs of working professionals. Courses are taught by experienced librarians and academics. As participants frequently noted in post-course surveys, ALSC stresses quality and caring in its online education options.

It’s Mutual: School and Public Library Collaboration
6 weeks, January 4 – February 12, 2016
Instructor: Rachel Reinwald, School Liaison and Youth Services Librarian, Lake Villa District Library

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
4 weeks, January 4 – 29, 2016, CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs
Instructor: Angela Young, Head of Children’s Department, Reed Memorial Library

The Sibert Medal: Evaluating Books of Information
6 weeks, January 4 – February 12, 2016
Instructor: Kathleen T. Horning, Director, Cooperative Children’s Book Center, University of Wisconsin- Madison

Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC website at www.ala.org/alsced. Fees are $115 for personal ALSC members; $165 for personal ALA members; and $185 for non-members. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer for Continuing Education, Kristen Figliulo, 1 (800) 545-2433 ext 4026.

Image courtesy of ALSC.

The post One More Week to Sign Up for ALSC Online Courses appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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5. Getting Ahead with Head Start

Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the comprehensive development of children from birth to age 5, in centers, child care partner locations, and in their own homes.  In fact, did you know that Head Start just realized a milestone 50 year anniversary? This five minute video gives you a quick history of this important community organization.

You can find a Head Start agency in your community by looking at their site locator. Many libraries partner with Head Start sites by sending library staff to the center to conduct early learning story time sessions. Sometimes, a center might have a grant to provide transportation services, so that they can bus students directly to the library for story time or other play based sessions.

One way I like to partner with Head Start is to work with their county based administration office, where I can provide trainings and workshops to staff and teachers, often utilizing resources from ALSC and ALA. Every Child Ready to Read and Babies Need Words are two great examples of program offerings through ALSC that have direct benefit to early education staff members in Head Start centers.

I was recently asked to provide resources to teachers and other staff members at a three day staff training conference for our local Head Start sites. I shared some of my favorite early learning websites: along with examples of activities and books they could use in their classroom settings. Of course, with limited funding, Head Start classrooms love to receive book donations – so I made sure I brought two suitcases worth of new and gently used, like new books for every person attending the workshop to take two books back to use in their classrooms.

Diversity is also an important topic for sites, as many Head Start families come from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds. I shared a booklist that School Library Journal published in July 2015, on Diverse Books for 0-5 year olds, with them, as well as making sure that my give-away items included diverse books.

Overall, for a day outside of my building, I got to connect with over 60 staff members from twenty-three of our counties’ Head Start sites, and tell them about early learning programs and services that their community libraries offer, hopefully strengthening and building a solid connection between the public libraries and another early learning organization. Which organizations do you like to partner with in YOUR community?

Lisa G. Kropp works for the Suffolk Cooperative Library System as the youth services coordinator. She has written this post as a member of the ALSC National Organizations Serving Children and Youth Committee.

The post Getting Ahead with Head Start appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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6. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Collaborative Book Talks

As a public librarian, I’ve found that book talks for state-wide award list titles are a great opportunity to collaborate with school librarians, teachers, and staff at the beginning of each school year. Teaming up to promote the lists aligns with ALSC’s core competencies by collaborating with other agencies serving children (6.4) and the programming guidelines established from YALSA’s Future of Library Services report by engaging teens via outreach to schools (3.2) and developing rich, mutually beneficial partnerships between public libraries and schools (5.0).

Many states sponsor young readers’ choice awards that provide many benefits to young readers, such as the opportunity to discover and read books that they will enjoy. The lists typically include a diverse selection of genres and voices. Deciding on titles to vote for presents opportunities for open discussion among students, library staff, and teachers.

Students in Illinois are served from kindergarten through twelfth grade by four different awards, all sponsored by the Illinois School Library Media Association. As a teen librarian, I read and book talk the nominees for the Rebecca Caudill Book Award at two different middle schools. This list includes 20 titles, so sharing the book talking load with other librarians saves my time and voice. At one school we split the list 50/50 (top half/bottom half), while at the other we just agree to read as many as we can.

Book talking together helps us to learn book talking techniques from each other. I openly admit to memorizing the best, most interesting bits from other peoples’ book talks to use whenever I am book talking on my own. The diversity of the Caudill list means there are always a few titles that I love, and a few that just don’t appeal to me. I can’t fake enthusiasm for a book, but another person’s enthusiasm – whether it comes from listening to their book talk or talking with them between talks about what they like about the book – is often contagious. At the very least, I can truthfully tell students that I know another great reader who loved the book.

Finally, collaborative book talking is a fantastic opportunity to introduce students to staff from both school and public libraries, while supporting and promoting each other’s library collections. If a title is checked out at one library, then we can invite students seek it at the other.

Since we are always pressed for time, here are some time-saving techniques:

  1. Arrange the books so that the students can see the covers, and let them choose what titles get talked.
  2. Have a 30-second “elevator pitch” prepared for each book, so that you can cram any that aren’t picked into the last few minutes of your talk.
  3. Ask the class whether they’ve read popular books on the list like Hunger Games or Cinder. If they have, then skip those and segue into a similar title: “If you liked that one, then you may like this one…”

Donna Block is a teen librarian at Niles (Ill.) Public Library District and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

The post Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Collaborative Book Talks appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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7. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Collaborative Book Talks

As a public librarian, I’ve found that book talks for state-wide award list titles are a great opportunity to collaborate with school librarians, teachers, and staff at the beginning of each school year. Teaming up to promote the lists aligns with ALSC’s core competencies by collaborating with other agencies serving children (6.4) and the programming guidelines established from YALSA’s Future of Library Services report by engaging teens via outreach to schools (3.2) and developing rich, mutually beneficial partnerships between public libraries and schools (5.0).

Many states sponsor young readers’ choice awards that provide many benefits to young readers, such as the opportunity to discover and read books that they will enjoy. The lists typically include a diverse selection of genres and voices. Deciding on titles to vote for presents opportunities for open discussion among students, library staff, and teachers.

Students in Illinois are served from kindergarten through twelfth grade by four different awards, all sponsored by the Illinois School Library Media Association. As a teen librarian, I read and book talk the nominees for the Rebecca Caudill Book Award at two different middle schools. This list includes 20 titles, so sharing the book talking load with other librarians saves my time and voice. At one school we split the list 50/50 (top half/bottom half), while at the other we just agree to read as many as we can.

Book talking together helps us to learn book talking techniques from each other. I openly admit to memorizing the best, most interesting bits from other peoples’ book talks to use whenever I am book talking on my own. The diversity of the Caudill list means there are always a few titles that I love, and a few that just don’t appeal to me. I can’t fake enthusiasm for a book, but another person’s enthusiasm – whether it comes from listening to their book talk or talking with them between talks about what they like about the book – is often contagious. At the very least, I can truthfully tell students that I know another great reader who loved the book.

Finally, collaborative book talking is a fantastic opportunity to introduce students to staff from both school and public libraries, while supporting and promoting each other’s library collections. If a title is checked out at one library, then we can invite students seek it at the other.

Since we are always pressed for time, here are some time-saving techniques:

  1.   Arrange the books so that the students can see the covers, and let them choose what titles get talked.
  2.   Have a 30-second “elevator pitch” prepared for each book, so that you can cram any that aren’t picked into the last few minutes of your talk.
  3.   Ask the class whether they’ve read popular books on the list like Hunger Games or Cinder. If they have, then skip those and segue into a similar title: “If you liked that one, then you may like this one…”

Donna Block is a teen librarian at Niles (Ill.) Public Library District and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Posted originally: http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2015/09/gimme-a-c-for-collaboration-collaborative-book-talks/

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8. Schoolwork

I recently had a meeting with the Elementary Literacy Consultant at our local school board. Our library region covers the same area as the school board, so that is convenient for us (unlike some large library systems that may have more than one school district). I requested a meeting for a couple of reasons– to listen, and to find out how we can get more teachers using our collections. School libraries have small budgets (and library staff in schools is slim). Students still need access to a wide variety of quality books, and we have them! So how do I get them into the classrooms?alsc sign

After my meeting, I had a few takeaways and some work to do. I am preparing an invitation to all teachers at all schools to get a library card. I am trying to make it easy– sending them a registration form and outlining the services we have. Our library offers an “institutional” card to teachers — they can check out as many items as they need for their classroom, and keep them for 6 weeks (our normal check-out period is 3 weeks) — and they do not pay overdue fines. It is a good deal – but only if they know about it!

I also plan to create more online booklists with teachers in mind. I asked for (and received!) a curriculum outline–a simple guide to the subjects that are being studied, for each grade. As new books come in, I can now target them for lists or for adding to my blog, which I started with our own library staff in mind. The new books cross my path before they hit the shelves, and as I am addicted to picture books, I can’t help taking piles of them home and making notes. Now I have new ways to look at these books, and I’ve added a section “Of Interest to Teachers” in upcoming blog posts.

With a new focus on teaching from children’s books rather than textbooks, I see this as a win-win opportunity. I’m always looking for ways to make our collection more accessible to our community, and now I have a few ideas for reaching out to teachers. What do you do? How do you partner with schools? How do you get the books into the hands of teachers and students? Let’s hear your ideas!

The post Schoolwork appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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9. Expanded-Learning, Collaborations, and How the Library Can Help

A recent report from America’s Promise Alliance looks at four communities who strove to expand opportunities for their underserved students. With support from the Ford Foundation, these communities leveraged local resources to expand opportunities in a variety of ways.

America’s Promise Alliance is an organization, founded in 1997 with the support from former Secretary of State Colin Powell and previous presidents: Nancy Reagan (standing in for her husband Ronald Reagan), Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. The organization strives to create places and situations for students to succeed.

Their report, Expanded Learning, Expanded Opportunities, highlighted the community efforts and the six critical lessons gained from the project as a whole. The four communities that were the focus included:

  • Grand Rapids, Michigan – they created a new network of community collaborations that worked in their school districts to tutor and mentor students.
  • Louisville, Kentucky – where they sought to expand capacity and participation in their community. Through this expansion, they hoped to raise awareness about programs and resources available.
  • Memphis, Tennessee – where they used innovation from the outside to help their schools on the inside. They called it the “Memphis Model” and had programs such as Peer Power.
  • Rochester, New York – schools redesigned the learning day, incorporating community organizations into the normal school day for expanded opportunities for their students.

From these case studies, I think the biggest lesson they learned was about community collaboration and support. Their first critical lesson is that collaboration is key, but it’s a lot of hard work. However, when you leverage the resources you have and work towards a greater goal, there is a better chance of making a sustaining impact.

That’s where libraries can come in. I’ve written a bit on studies about after-school programs during my year blogging for YALSA. I kept asking questions to libraries in the field about how their libraries could play a role in after-school programming. However, after reading this report, I want to flip that question: how does the library become a key collaborator and partner? How do we engage actively with our community, especially our schools, and find ways to work within a district? How can we help raise and expand capacity within our libraries which will hopefully spread throughout the community? That might mean we need to “turn outward” (the buzzword right now) and do engagement outside the walls of our physical library space.

And YALSA has lots to say on community collaboration. From our Wiki section devoted to partnerships, to simply searching the YALSA blog with the tag of “collaboration” brings up great articles and examples from the past. The idea of collaboration even ties into the national campaign ALA is devoting time and energy to, Libraries Transform. (And even more specifically with ALA’s collaboration with the Harwood Institute, Libraries Transforming Communities).

My experience so-far in graduate school and my work experiences show that engagement works best when you are actively present and willing to listen. It seems in these case studies that community involvement was constant and this will hopefully lead to a sustained effort. What is important is that once connections are made, they still require work to keep those relationships vibrant. Every day we can have the choice to strengthen relationships and that takes time and effort. But as we can see from these case studies, it’s worth it.

America’s Promise Alliance also released a study this October looking at mentorships with high school students. There’s an interesting article from Huffington Post about one of the students who took part in the mentorship and I think this study is a nice compliment to their expanded learning report.

What do others think of these studies and how do you see your library engaging with the community as a whole?

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10. A Tale of Teachers: Collaboration, Community, Connection

Once upon a time, there was a teacher who became a better teacher by connecting with other passionate educators...

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11. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Starting Points for Success

SPLC Committee WordleAs a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation, I’ve had the pleasure of discussing and sharing ideas with other dedicated librarians on how we can all work together to benefit the kids and teens with whom we work.

We’ve created the following list for both school and public librarians to use in sparking their own creative ideas for helping all youth become information literate.

Why not give some of these a try?

  1. Look for grant-funding opportunities specifically for school library-public library partnerships.
  2. Set aside time to visit with your public librarian to discuss your school’s curriculum and any big projects your teachers have planned.
  3. Schedule a few hours to shadow the public librarian and invite him or her to do the same. This will help you build mutual understanding about what the other’s job entails.
  4. Have a library card sign-up event at the school during Library Card Sign-Up Month (September). Make a special day of it or have an evening of gaming. Be sure to include the public librarian in the planning, promotion, and supervising the event. If an event isn’t possible, see if the public librarian can come to the school to hand out library card forms at lunchtime. This would work especially well in middle or high school.
  5. Create book lists and resource guides in cooperation with your public librarians. You might focus on materials that support reading in the content areas, science and social studies topics in particular. Include materials from both the public and school library collections.
  6. Co-host nonfiction book clubs for students and for teachers.
  7. Invite the public librarian to make a presentation to the teachers at your school during the school’s teacher in-service day about public library resources that support Common Core State Standards.
  8. Host a joint meeting with the public librarians and your fellow school district librarians to discuss Common Core, 21st Century Standards and state/local curriculum expectations and the public library’s role in student learning.
  9. Talk about early literacy programming in the public library and how it connects to the school librarian’s work with K-2 students.
  10. Use the public library as a facility for after-school tutoring for students, especially in reading. The public librarian and school librarian can collaborate to recruit volunteers.
  11. Coordinate joint activities that integrate the public library’s summer reading program with the school’s summer programming.

As you can see, there are many ways school and public librarians can work in cooperation. You may already be using some of these suggestions, but if not, what’s stopping you?

When we all work together, it’s a win-win situation for everyone!


Linda Weatherspoon serves on the AASL Board of Directors and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

The post Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Starting Points for Success appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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12. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Promoting Access Through E-Resources

SPLC Committee WordleSchool-public library cooperation can take many forms, and promoting access to electronic resources and information seems a natural fit.

Clarksville (Tenn.) is about 50 miles northwest of Nashville, so I often hear about the Limitless Libraries program, an innovative partnership between Nashville Public Library and the Metro Nashville Public Schools that could take up this entire post. While my school isn’t included that partnership, I can imagine how wonderful it is when public libraries and school libraries share resources between them.

Recently I’ve started wondering about some very basic ways school and public libraries can work together.

A  first step can be sharing information about each other’s program, such as putting up posters and flyers on bulletin boards so students/patrons know about on-going programs and special events. At school libraries like mine, we have a somewhat captive audience, but that’s not the case in many public libraries. Anything I can do as a school librarian to promote programs at the local public library may get more students involved in those problems.

Another step for schools might be to promote the e-resources the local public library has to offer: Music, e-books, e-audiobooks, databases, and other resources students may not know are available. If students know about these e-resources and choose to use them, they would never be without a library.

When I talk to students about the public library, however, I find that many of them have never been there. In Clarksville, we have one main public library. They are no branch libraries, and the main location is geographically distant to my students. We do have a public transportation system, but very few middle school students use it.

While electronic access to public library resources can minimize the transportation barrier, many of my students do not have a public library card. Our public library, like many others, requires patrons to get a library card in person and show proof of residency. Without that card, students can’t access electronic resources.

I would like to see public libraries take a different approach to providing electronic access only to students at local schools. School libraries could distribute and collect library card applications and then distribute electronic access-only library cards to students after the public library has processed them. Students who need Wi-Fi to download electronic items can use the Wi-Fi at school to get the materials and then read or listen to the materials at home or even on the bus.

I know there are issues to think about like parental permission, CIPA, and probably more, but almost all problems have solutions if we keep trying to find them. If the students are only using electronic resources, there shouldn’t be an issue with overdue or lost items.

This electronic resource partnership program would be a small step toward bridging the digital divide. It may not be as robust a program as Limitless Libraries, but it would be a starting point for school and public libraries to work together.


Rebecca Jackman is School Librarian at New Providence Middle School in Clarksville, Tenn., and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

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13. Just to See if I Could


I love technology even when I'm less than facile with it. Having come from the horse and buggy days when overdue notices were handwritten, check-out cards (by the thousands) were hand alphabetized for each due date and slowly searched to unite card with returned item, and phone notices ate up a morning each week, how can I not love?

Back in the day, to reach out to your colleagues meant a drive or a long-distance phone call. It wasn't unusual for a director, sweating the bottom line, to ask you to use snail mail. Not exactly conducive to a conversation.

Technology has been powering our work and connectivity since the '80s. Each year it gets better, faster and more interwoven. Social media gets us brainstorming, learning, commiserating and celebrating with pals, new and old, near and far. Travis Jonker just wrote this article on power-using. Combine that with chats, google doc collaboration and we can be right there with each other all the time. I'm with you, buddy!

Bringing technology into our work with kids has also been great. Watching parents using iPads with their kids, kids gaming and solving in Minecraft, kids learning animation, coding, filmmaking, using iPads for trivia/scavenger hunts on tours and more in libraries (check out Jbrary's recent post on iPad programs) has been way exciting. I will never be the Luddite that screams "Books! Books! Nothin' but books!" There is room for all the ways to interact with print and discover and learn information.

So where is all this going? Well with new iPhone I bought last night in hand, for the first time I am free to blog wherever and whenever. So I did, just to see if I could!

Sigh! Technology I heart you!

[Although I couldn't *quite* figure out how to get the links and photo in...more study ahead!)

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14. I Get By with a Little Help From My Friends


Image: Pixabay
As some of you know, I've recently been teaching as an adjunct and occasional instructor for continuing ed courses. I pretty much fell into it - never pictured myself teaching. With encouragement, I applied to teach a basic youth services in public library grad course online a few years ago. What's to lose?

Holy academia! I got hired! That first time, I had six weeks to develop a syllabus and content for the fifteen week grad course, find my textbooks and set-up the online course on a platform that was like learning a language from another dimension. It was without question the hardest professional challenge I ever experienced.

I was able to do it because I wasn't alone. The support from SLIS staff and many, many colleagues who mentored me, suggested pathways through this new dimension and from the students themselves taught me a ton and shaped me as a teacher.

Because of that experience, I found I love teaching and kept it up (it's gotten easier and far less other-dimensional since that first "polar plunge" semester).

And alot of that love is because of alot of you!

Teaching allows me to share the wisdom and experience of many of you out in the field blazing paths to great services for your communities. I have been able to link my students to many bloggers  and blog posts and the seminal thinking that is going on in the field. I thank you and hope you keep writing and sharing!

And I want to especially thank the kind colleagues who took the time to go the extra mile this semester for my students by creating videos talking about their passions and areas of expertise for my students. Huge hugs go out to Christine Jenkins, Mel Depper, Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Karen Jensen, Abby Johnson, Terrie Howe, Megan Schliesmann, Shelly Collins-Fuerbringer, Lisa Shaia, Amy Koester, Cen Campbell and Starr LaTronica. I know how busy everyone is and it was a privilege to share your thinking with the students.

While the course evaluations aren't in, I would say that these videos touched the students deeply (if the discussion boards and papers written are any indication) and were eye-opening glimpses into the thinking behind what we do as youth services professionals. Your expertise, so kindly shared, will make the students more mighty.

Thanks for joining me in this teaching adventure. I simply could not do it without you!

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15. Wednesday




by Anne Bertier
translated from the French by Claudia Z. Bedrick
first American edition: Enchanted Lion Books, 2014

Brain Pickings' Best Children's Books of 2014 strikes yet again!

I am adding this book to my collection of "books to read at the beginning of the school year." It will also be good for discussions of theme.

Little Round and Big Square begin the book playing nicely together, even though they are different. In their favorite game, one says a word and they both transform into that thing. By splitting in half and flipping their halves, both are able to become butterflies, for instance.

Soon, Big Square is suggesting shapes that Little Round cannot make. Both retreat to their corners.

Until Little Round suggests that they work together. Then the fun really begins.



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16. #libtechcon15

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Folks at #libtechcon15 . Photo by Jay Heath

At my school (LREI), our Library and Edtech departments merged a few years ago. We are in a bit of a unique position since two of our dedicated tech people are degreed librarians, and the Department Chair of the Edtech department is actually our high school librarian. So our joint department numbers 9 strong with 6 of us holding MLS degrees. We are fortunate to work and play well together, but our sense from attending conferences and meetings was that we are a bit of a rarity.

In the fall, we hosted the first #libtechcon14 where we invited librarians and tech folks to come in pairs or teams for an unconference style day that would touch on some of the hard questions about communication, working together and the future of libraries. The event sold out quickly and once it was over, we were asked to consider hosting the conference again.

This time we widened our view and decided why not partner with another NYC independent school to co-host the event. I strongly believe that broadening the conversation and sharing resources is essential to our success in libraries and we soon partnered up with Ethical Culture Fieldston and their librarians and tech folks to host #edtechcon15 up in the Bronx.  We looked at what had worked well the first time around, as well as the reflections from participants that let us know what they wanted more and less of. We added an essential question portion asking big questions about collaboration, literacy and future job descriptions. One of the most powerful activities involved all participants anonymously writing down their hopes and fears on separate post-its in terms of library and tech. As job descriptions morph and lines blur, librarians and tech integrators are finding themselves redefining their roles in ways that are both exciting and scary.

I hope this conference will become a bit of a wandering staple the NYC independent school world.  I can see this model working not only for schools, but for public libraries as well —  to foster community between branches, departments or counties.  I know that I left energized with plenty of ideas as well as new contacts.

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17. ALSC Online Courses for Summer 2015

ALSC Online Education

ALSC Online Education (image courtesy of ALSC)

Summer has a way of sneaking up on you, doesn’t it? ALSC is giving you a little extra time to get ready for our new semester of online courses. Registration is open for all courses. Classes begin Monday, July 13, 2015.

Two of the courses being offered this semester are eligible for continuing education units (CEUs) by the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET). ALSC online courses are designed to fit the needs of working professionals. Courses are taught by experienced librarians and academics. As participants frequently noted in post-course surveys, ALSC stresses quality and caring in its online education options. For more information on ALSC online learning, please visit: http://www.ala.org/alsced

NEW! It’s Mutual: School and Public Library Collaboration
6 weeks, July 13 – August 21, 2015

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
4 weeks, July 13 – August 7, 2015
CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs

Storytelling with Puppets
4 weeks, July 13 – August 7, 2015
CEU Certified Course, 2.2 CEUs

Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC Online Learning website. Fees are $115 for personal ALSC members; $165 for personal ALA members; and $185 for non-members. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer for Continuing Education, Kristen Sutherland, 1 (800) 545-2433 ext 4026.

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18. The Art of Collaboration

The spirit of cooperation is a natural force in humanity. Libraries can be a key community collaborator. How can you harness the power of collaborative work? The practice of neighbors helping neighbors is the genesis of a healthy and thriving community. The fire department, the post office, and the public library are a few examples of early voluntary associations that strengthened society.

What is the essence of collaboration? What are the benefits of pooling resources with community organizations, businesses, and individuals? How can you determine whether a common mission exists between the library and others?   These are some questions an upcoming 2016 ALA Editions book will explore. ALSC is helping me, as co-author, to conduct a brief survey to gather information for the book project.   If you’d like to participate, complete the survey by end of Wednesday, June 17, 2015.

Thank you,

Dorothy Stoltz  dstoltz@carr.org

************************************************************************

Today’s guest post was written by Dorothy Stoltz. Dorothy is the co-author of a forthcoming ALA Editions book project on creating collaborations. Dorothy serves as chair of the PLA/ALSC Every Child Ready to Read oversight committee and is head of Programming and Outreach for Carroll County (MD) Public Library.

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19. Ideas with Crossover Possibilities

Creative Commons search - maker supplies

Creative Commons search – maker supplies

Sometimes, school life and library life overlap.  Sometimes they don’t. Often I read the posts of my public library friends and find myself nodding my head and then I read the posts of many school librarians and my experience doesn’t mesh with theirs.  There are two hot topics that are happening right now in both the arenas of education and libraries and we should definitely be expanding our thinking and reading outside of the library and the school publications proper.

Makerspaces.  Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past 3-5 years, you’ve been reading about, learning about, or implementing some aspect of making whether you are in a school, a school library or a public library. I know that as children’s librarians we have been participating in maker culture for years, but the new focus really is more than a rebranding.  The blending of digital and analog, the open ended and problem solving nature of presenting students and patrons with possibilities instead of directions are both different from some of the making that we were doing early in my career as a youth services librarian.

Design Thinking. I recently participated in my own school’s Innovation Institute which brought together members of the faculty to use design thinking to solve a problem or create something new to share with our faculty and students.  The Gates Foundation and IDEO have created a Design Thinking Toolkit for Libraries.  While this way of thinking and problem solving is definitely taxing on the brain, it does tend to lead to innovation. We are always telling our students to take risks in their learning, and as librarians we should be willing to take some risks in ours as well.

The following are some links from the education world that easily lend themselves to library environments.

Edutopia – Design Thinking

Maker Ed – Projects and Learning Approaches

Teacher Librarian – The Philosophy of  Educational Makerspacea

Knowledge without Borders – Design Thinking for Kids

I’d love to hear back from librarians who have successfully used design thinking either with colleagues or kids. Also, feel free to drop your favorite maker link into the comments!

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20. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): The Scene from San Francisco

FADE IN

INT. NETWORKING UNCOMMONS – MOSCONE CONVENTION CENTER – MORNING

JENNA and a group of seven school and public librarians are gathered around a flip chart in the corner of a crowded co-working space at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference. JENNA steps forward to start an informal, high-energy information exchange between library professionals.

JENNA
(smiling and beyond excited)

SPLC Committee WordleHi, everyone! My name is Jenna Nemec-Loise, Chairperson of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration. Thanks so much for joining us this morning to talk about ways we can work together to improve outcomes for the youth and families we collectively serve!

We’ll be starting from a very basic but very important premise: We all want to work together. School librarians want to collaborate with public librarians, and vice-versa. But even though our spirits are willing, we know there can be barriers to the effective collaborations we want to create and maintain.

So what can we do? Build bridges to understanding between school and public librarians. Learn what our counterparts’ typical days are like and the unique successes and challenges we encounter in our respective settings. From this understanding, we can start building relationships that foster effective collaboration and deliver the maximum benefit to youth and families.

Today we’ll be using the guerilla-style format made awesome by Storytime Underground. I’ve placed 20 prompts into this cup for us to use as starting points for our discussion. Let’s get started!

AWESOME PARTICIPANT #1
(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

How much involvement do school librarians have in creating assignments that require library use? For example, “Read a biography about Abraham Lincoln that’s at least 100 pages.”

SCHOOL LIBRARIANS
(several hands raise at once)

The short answer? It depends! School-public library collaboration depends largely on the collaboration happening within the school building. Classroom teachers often bypass us when planning for assignments, so often we find out about them at the same time you do.

Public librarians should know we have very little planning time, and things can change very quickly in schools. Your positive tone and approach mean everything when trying to work with us. Relationships are definitely key!

AWESOME PARTICIPANT #2
(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

What aspects or outcomes of your school or public library job do you consider most essential?

SCHOOL AND PUBLIC LIBRARIANS

Even though we work in different settings, we’re all working toward the same goals: To facilitate positive relationships that benefit youth; to inspire kids to read and learn; to successfully integrate technology into kids’ lives; to improve outcomes for youth and families; and to prepare kids and teens for success both in school and in life.

AWESOME PARTICIPANT #3
(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work as a school or public librarian?

SCHOOL AND PUBLIC LIBRARIANS

(1) Advocating for my program and additional resources, which are very limited; (2) Administrators, parents, and teachers don’t know what we do; (3) Staff shortages; (4) Communicating and marketing services; (5) Not enough time to focus on the big picture/more meaningful work because of day-to-day responsibilities; and (6) Unpredictability!

JENNA

What I’m hearing from our conversation is that we’ve got a lot of common ground. We’re facing similar challenges in our day-to-day work, but we remain steadfast in our belief that what we do makes a difference for kids.

(heads nodding in agreement)

Two complementary questions as we start wrapping up our time together: How can public librarians best support their local school librarians? And how can school librarians support their local public librarians?

SCHOOL LIBRARIANS

Spend time just getting to know one another. There may be growing pains the first few times you meet, but definitely take the time to meet regularly. Plan events together. Make things happen for the community. Most of all, learn how to be better advocates for one another’s roles and one another’s programs!

JENNA

One final question: What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to ask/tell school or public librarians?

SCHOOL LIBRARIANS

We’re so impressed with what public librarians do! Keep trying to work with us. And let schools know what’s new at your library, from collections and services to programs and special events!

PUBLIC LIBRARIANS

How can public librarians best support their school library counterparts without stepping on their toes?

JENNA

Thank you so much for this rich exchange today! As the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation moves into its next year of work, we’ll definitely capitalize on everything we’ve gathered from this session. Stay tuned for next steps in building our momentum and keeping the conversation going!

As participants begin to disperse, there’s another flurry of brainstorming about possible next steps: collections of best practices, Twitter chats, Google hangouts, asynchronous online working groups, and additional in-person meet-ups. JENNA can’t wait.

TO BE CONTINUED

FADE OUT

*********************************************************************************

Today’s guest contributor is Jenna Nemec-Loise, ALSC Division Councilor, Member Content Editor of the ALSC Everyday Advocacy website, and Chairperson of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration. Jenna writes the Everyday Advocacy column for Children and Libraries and blogs at Miss Jack & Mister Jill.

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21. Poetry Friday -- Renga With Friends



About a month ago, Steve Peterson (@insidethedog) invited me and Jan Burkins (@janmillburk) to try writing a renga with him. Renga is an ancient collaborative poetic form, and is actually where haiku was born!

Steve gave us these directions and resources:
Directions
  • 3 line haiku-like poem 
  • 2 longer lines (sort of like a tanka form when you put them together). Another person writes this. 
  • 2 lines are inspired by the haiku immediately above. 
  • then, 3-line haiku poem inspired by the 2 previous lines, 
  • and so on like a game of telephone until we reach 35 lines total.
And some resources

     a description of the form.
     some examples.
The order of play went Steve, me, Jan (repeat). Here's our first renga:




in the prairie dawn
a spider's web snares the sun  --
cricket rejoices

meadowlark joins the chorus
breeze bends ripening wheat heads

whose lanky bodies
bow, sun’s church--peace be with wheat
and also with corn

they gather on folding chairs,
jello melts while the preacher prays

white-robed acolytes
shoulders shaking with giggles
two clouds hide the sun

even the adolescent stalks are sober today
word of fire in the neighboring field

this dark sky --
thunderheads poke fingers
at a thirsty land

near the abandoned homestead
ditch lilies toss flaming heads

who called this place home
does the ground remember
stories brought to earth

a faded calendar tacked
to the wall above the stove

try to imagine
the layers of memories
beneath the dust
how much memory is imagination
how much dust is history

sun slants through wavy glass
in the stale air
motes rise to dance

down the road, far down the road
reverberations can be felt





After we came to the 35th line, we gathered via conference call from Mountain, Central, and Eastern time zones to discuss the process and the product.

Steve found that although he instigated this poem writing adventure because of a desire to try collaborative writing, and to practice the haiku and tanka forms, he found himself meditating on Jan and me as he chose the words he thought would best fit with what we were trying to say.

For me, it was like trying to catch a tune and sing along.

Jan was continually looking for the meaning in each set of 5 lines alongside the meaning of the poem as a whole.

Our memories of church and our ideas of "prairie" were very different, but we realized that Rosenblatt's reader response theory was alive and well as we wrote together -- each of us as reader/writer could bring ourselves to the text and make our own meaning, independent of the two others.

For me, the prairie in the poem is the flat, dry landscape of Eastern Colorado, where I've spent this month with my mom. Wheat harvest has been in full swing, but no one is complaining about the rains that might have delayed some of the harvest -- they were good for the corn. Those white-robed acolytes are my childhood friend Barbie and me, trying to be solemn in our candle lighting duties, but invariably giggling all the way down to the altar and back. The end of the poem is woven with images of change, home, memory, and loss -- all of which have been bitter and sweet in this month of helping my mom transition from her home of 60 years to a new home in assisted living.

Jan and Steve found echoes of current events that I can see now, but that didn't occur to me as we wrote.

We have plans to play with revising this poem, and we are fifteen lines into another. It has been fabulous to take risks together, to watch the poem unfold, and to hear each other's actual voices over the phone after listening so closely to each other's writerly voices on the page. Thank you, Steve and Jan!

Margaret has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Reflections on the Teche.




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22. 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.

What if as the new school year starts you didn't talk about or focus on the act of collaborating with your school or public library, but instead talked about and worked towards answering the question, What should the outcome of public library school library collaboration be for students, teachers, parents, and school staff? What would be different and would you be more successful by the end of the school year? Taking the Couros post image as a model would you go from "Good Answers" like:

  • Making sure that library staff know about assignments
  • Being able to teach school staff (teachers and administrators) about library resources
  • Making sure to purchase materials that support teacher/student needs
  • Being able to add website links that support teacher/student needs
  • Having the chance to work on lessons with teachers

To Better Answers like:

  • Build relationships for long-lasting success within the public/school library community
  • Change cultures
  • Learn from each other - students, teachers, parents, administrators and other school and public library staff
  • Develop outcomes and stories that can be used in advocacy efforts
  • Drive change
  • Lead
  • Support learning of students no matter what.

Of course, as with many things in life, this is often easier said than done. But, it's doable, I'm certain. For example, this year instead of going into classrooms or talking with your counterpart colleagues about the resources you have for students and teachers, what if you had conversations that focused on what teachers, students, administrators, staff are:

  • Working on
  • What are they successful in/at
  • What they are finding difficult to accomplish
  • What would they like to be able to do more easily
  • What would they like to change

Would that lead to stronger relationships with everyone and as a result a better chance to bring about positive outcomes? As you think about the outcomes and the conversations you can have with your library counterpart and school personnel and parents and students remember, the outcomes are what the students, teachers, staff, and parents gain. While through these gains library staff might find that their resources and expertise and time are used successfully - the focus of the outcomes you work towards in this area should be about the people you serve, not about you and your library. The outcome is in what changes in the academic and formal and informal learning lives of those you work with.  For more information and resources about outcomes, visit YALSA's wiki.

I don't think the idea of collaboration is a bad thing. But, I do think that we spend a lot of time talking about the thing - collaboration - and not what the impact of the work needs to be for students and teachers and families. Change the conversation, listen to those you want to serve before you tell them what you can do for them, build relationships, focus on the goal for the user, and see what happens.

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23. Poetry Friday -- as the hummingbird sips the nectar


Flickr Creative Commons photo by Bill Gracey

Jan Burkins, Steve Peterson and I have collaborated on another renga. Our first renga (and notes about the form) are here. Here's our second renga:



as the hummingbird sips the nectar

I.
round moon not yet full
finds my cracker--full ‘til bitten
life full with roundness

sharp as a wheel of cheddar
smooth and creamy as brie

under the gnarled oak
an old couple tosses
dry crusts to the pigeons

we become what we take in
fresh foods, sour moods, vast ideas


II.
mountain peaks tower
above the endless plains
full -- sharp -- old -- vast -- inspiring

toward evening, golden sunlight
settled on her wrinkled face

inside she’s a girl
surprised by her reflection
in her dreams she runs

river carries silt downstream
building up the new island


III.
sweet alchemy --
orchard apples filled
by the light of a star

loose tooth lost with first bite
red orb of bittersweet

cold front passes through
scrubs away humidity
wren sings from the fence

once, he learned to see rainbows
in the oil on a street puddle

a skill important
for grownups who are often
too busy measuring

too concerned with to-do to
barter duty for beauty



When we chatted via conference call about the finished poem (on the afternoon before Steve's first day back), I loved what Jan said about the process, how it's like laying one stone out at a time, building a path as we walk forward. 

As we talked about our inspirations for each of our stanzas, or the stories behind our words, it was amazing (again) to learn from where in our lives these words had come.

I was the one who divided the poem into sections this time. I was working (probably too left-brainedly) to find a flow of meaning throughout the whole poem. While I couldn't find it throughout the whole, I did find it in these sets. 

Steve gave us our title, and I think it's quite brilliant. 

This is what I'm learning from Steve and Jan as we write together -- how to string pearls.



Sylvia has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Poetry For Children.


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24. Collaboration for Learning: Notes from the Public Libraries & STEM Conference

I was recently able to represent ALSC at the Public Libraries & STEM Conference in Denver, CO. The conference was kept very small–around 160 people total–and thus was very concentrated, with plenty to learn from and discuss with colleagues from libraries, STEM organizations, and other institutions with missions for informal learning. And while the small size necessary means that the participant pool was limited, the takeaways weren’t. I particularly want to share with you one of my major takeaways: the library as a single element in a larger learning ecosystem.

Note: I tried visual note taking at this conference. Since my handwriting isn’t always great, I’m transcribing text in the captions of images.

Here’s what I learned and have been itching to share:

Public Libraries & STEM Conference (Image by Amy Koester)

Public Libraries & STEM Conference; Denver, CO, Aug. 20-22, 2015 (Image by Amy Koester)

Help define a new 21st Century vision of STEM in public libraries. (Image by Amy Koester)

Help define a new 21st Century vision of STEM in public libraries. (Image by Amy Koester)

There were several goals of the Public Libraries & STEM Conference, but one in particular resonated with me immediately: to figure out what STEM/STEAM in public libraries could/should look like in our age of technology and innovation. What is the library’s role now, and what should it be? It’s within our collective power to create a framework for STEM in public libraries.

Collaboration as a System of Collective Impact (FSG) From individual orgs with individual goals & pathways to collaboration of goals and pathways (Image by Amy Koester)

Collaboration as a System of Collective Impact (FSG) From individual orgs with individual goals & pathways to collaboration of goals and pathways (Image by Amy Koester)

That said, while we, libraries, can certainly make some decisions and create some practices around this (or any other) topic, it’s imperative that we recognize that we are NOT the only institutions with a vested interest in STEM learning and experiences. Yet if we think of ourselves as wholly separate from other organizations even when  they possess similar goals to our own, we’re muddying the waters. Or, rather, as Marsha Semmel (formerly at IMLS) shared from an organization called FSG, each individual organization is moving in its own direction. It’s a little bit of chaos, no matter how well intentioned. But when we collaborate, however–and this is meaningful collaboration, in which we set a common goal and common pathways to achieve it–we can actually accomplish meaningful progress and change.

Progress moves at the speed of trust." Collectively see, learn, do. (Image by Amy Koester)

“Progress moves at the speed of trust.” Collectively see, learn, do. (Image by Amy Koester)

An integral part of meaningful collaboration: trust, said Marsha Semmel. If we observe together, learn together, and act together out of a trust that we truly are working toward a shared goal, we can accomplish transformative change much more quickly than independently, or even working parallel to one another.

STEM Learning Ecosystem: P-12 Education, Family, Out-of-School Programs, Higher Education Institutions, Business Community, and STEM-rich Institutions as spokes around the Learner - Ellen Lettvin (Image by Amy Koester)

STEM Learning Ecosystem: P-12 Education, Family, Out-of-School Programs, Higher Education Institutions, Business Community, and STEM-rich Institutions as spokes around the Learner – Ellen Lettvin (Image by Amy Koester)

Part of developing that trust is recognizing that we as libraries are a single aspect of a larger learning ecosystem. When it comes to STEM learning for youth, we fit into a larger puzzle of groups and individuals supporting students. Ellen Lettvin, of the U.S. Department of Education, emphasized some of those other players in this ecosystem, including students’ families; their schools; their out-of-school programs and activities; community businesses; institutions of higher education; and STEM-rich institutions, of which libraries may be one.

Out of school experiences are increasingly central to the public's STEM learning. (Image by Amy Koester)

Out of school experiences are increasingly central to the public’s STEM learning. (Image by Amy Koester)

Why do we need to recognize that we’re part of a larger learning ecosystem? John Falk, from Oregon State University, has researched this very topic, and has oodles of evidence supporting the fact that all of those experiences that youth–any age person, really–have out of formal school contexts are more and more important to overall STEM learning. Schooling isn’t sufficient in and of itself.

Learning is continuous and cumulative. (Image by Amy Koester)

Learning is continuous and cumulative. (Image by Amy Koester)

That’s because, says Falk, learning is continuous and cumulative. It happens all the time, and it constantly builds on what a learner already knows. There is no place or situation that is not ripe for learning. As such, if the library is a place people spend time, the library is necessarily a learning place.

Libraries are hubs & hosts of STEM. (Image by Amy Koester)

Libraries as hubs & hosts of STEM. (Image by Amy Koester)

Now, we know this. We know that libraries are institutions of learning. But in what capacity? Are we mostly places of individual discovery? Of information support? What if we really embraced that concept of library as learning place to its fullest extent and intentionally and proactively support the public who use us? We could be intentional hubs and hosts of STEM learning–or, truly, any type of learning that our communities need.

R. David Lankes: "The power of libraries is not in being a space for X, it is in being a space to facilitate connections between community members and local organizations that are experts in X." (Image by Amy Koester)

R. David Lankes: “The power of libraries is not in being a space for X, it is in being a space to facilitate connections between community members and local organizations that are experts in X.” (Image by Amy Koester)

David Lankes, from Syracuse University, was careful to emphasize, however, that our being hubs and hosts of STEM learning does NOT necessitate that we ourselves be the be-all, end-all experts. Should you tap staff expertise and interests in creating STEM programs and services? Absolutely. But remember that whole bit about collaboration for collective impact? Here’s where it really comes in. There’s a very legitimate school of thought that says that libraries’ best role in supporting STEM learning, across the board, is to meaningfully collaborate with organizations who are unequivocal experts in STEM so that we can connect our patrons directly to the experts. We are mediators, introducers. That makes our capacity so much greater than it could ever be on our own.

Partnerships help us develop more and more programs and to bring those programs to the people we are targeting." -Sharon Cox, Queens Library Discovery Center (Image by Amy Koester)

“Partnerships help us develop more and more programs and to bring those programs to the people we are targeting.” -Sharon Cox, Queens Library Discovery Center (Image by Amy Koester)

This sentiment was echoed by Sharon Cox, from the Queens Library Discovery Center. It’s an entire library dedicated to children’s STEM learning and exploration, and even with that mission, focus, and staff expertise, they add huge value to what they are able to bring to their community through partnership with organizations who are expert in STEM and whose goals align with the library’s. As libraries, we’ve always thought of ourselves as the people who connect our public to the resources they need. This type of collaboration means that the definition of “resources” our public requires may very well include organizations other than our own.

Do what you do best, and link to the rest." -L. Rainie; Libraries should NOT be trying to do everything. (Image by Amy Koester)

“Do what you do best, and link to the rest.” -L. Rainie; Libraries should NOT be trying to do everything. (Image by Amy Koester)

Or, in other words, we continue to do what we do best and then connect our patrons to the rest of what they way. That was the overarching sentiment from Lee Rainie from Pew Research Center–that libraries are strongest not because they can do everything, but because they can connect you to people and organizations who can.

Cultivate collaboration. Ask: What are our shared interests and goals? -Dale McCreedy, The Franklin Institute, LEAP into Science (Image by Amy Koester)

Cultivate collaboration. Ask: What are our shared interests and goals? -Dale McCreedy, The Franklin Institute, LEAP into Science (Image by Amy Koester)

So if we’re deliberately not doing everything, and we’re also going to best support our patrons’ STEM learning through collaborating with expert STEM learning organizations, how do we collaborate? Dale Creedy, who works at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and is a collaborator with the Free Library of Philadelphia to offer a LEAP into Science program, says that the first step in cultivating collaboration is to reach out to other organizations and straight up have a conversation. Your intent: to identify what, if any, are your shared interests and goals. If you determine that you don’t have sufficient shared interests/goals to merit the time and resources that would go into a formal collaboration, it’s no real loss–you now know more about the organization and can better identify when to direct your patrons to them. But if you do have sufficient overlaps in your interests and goals, the foundation is primed for you to work together. Now you can shift your conversation to what, specifically, your shared goal is, and how you might reach it together.

Collective Impact: How do we serve as part of a solution, as opposed to the solver? -M. Figueroa (Image by Amy Koester)

Collective Impact: How do we serve as part of a solution, as opposed to the solver? -M. Figueroa (Image by Amy Koester)

This type of conversation can actually be a little clumsy for libraries. We tend to think in terms of the library being the sole solver of a problem, rather than just one player in a larger solution–that’s according to Miguel Figueroa from the Center for the Future of Libraries at ALA. Collective impact necessitates that libraries be part of a collective solution, which may require a bit of a mindset shift.

Collaborations: Actively participate in a robust learning ecosystem; Re-envision the library with community input; Bring people to museums, and vice versa -Dr. S. Sampson (Image by Amy Koester)

Collaborations: Actively participate in a robust learning ecosystem; Re-envision the library with community input; Bring people to museums, and vice versa -Dr. S. Sampson (Image by Amy Koester)

So what to do to enact that mindset shift, to form those meaningful collaborations? Dr. Scott Sampson, Vice President of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (and also Dr. Scott the Paleontologist from Dinosaur Train), gave some suggestions in the form of a few progressively-more-involved strategies. Starting small, figure out how to bring people to libraries, and vice versa–that is, how to bring libraries to people. Where are the people in your community who do not come to the library? What spaces do they tend to use? Figure out collaborations with those places to bring the library to them.

Next in the spectrum is re-envisioning the library with the input of the community. We tend to get into a library echo chamber and create new programs and services based on what other libraries are doing or what we think would be appealing to the community. But that’s not the same thing as asking the community what they need the library to be. It could be through surveys, focus groups, inviting a cultural organization to the space… the possibilities are endless, and the results fruitful.

Last on that spectrum is actively participate in a robust learning ecosystem. Sound familiar? It should, and the concept is repeated here because it is so important. When we work on our own, we are limited to reaching the people we personally serve. But when we are part of a larger ecosystem, however, we not only draw on the strengths of fellow elements in the ecosystem but we draw from the people they reach as well. Maybe a person child will just never come to the library; that’s just the reality of their life. But they do go to school and out-of-school activities. So if the library is part of a learning ecosystem that includes that school and those activities–if we collaborate with them–we do reach that child in a fundamental way.

A Collaboration Workbook: 1) Install a collaboration team; 2) Find a common goal; 3) Listen to the community; 4) Generate ideas for collaborative programs; 5) Prioritize and implement programs -Heart of Brooklyn (Image by Amy Koester)

A Collaboration Workbook: 1) Install a collaboration team; 2) Find a common goal; 3) Listen to the community; 4) Generate ideas for collaborative programs; 5) Prioritize and implement programs -Heart of Brooklyn (Image by Amy Koester)

Dr. Sampson’s best suggestion for a model for collaboration comes from the Heart of Brooklyn, a cultural partnership involving the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park, and Prospect Park Zoo. Their method: Install a collaboration team whose first task is to find a common goal that al of the partners can get behind. Then listen to the community; is your goal their goal, too? From there, the partners and the community can generate ideas for collaborative programs and services–these should be in play with one another, building off one another, not simply a list of isolated programs that take place at isolated institutions. With those ideas in mind, it’s time for the collaboration team to prioritize and implement select programs. Obviously there will also need to be some evaluative piece after this implementation, but that’s a bit beyond the main takeaway of this post: collaboration.

What is holding us back is not money. The currency in short supply is collaboration and vision." -Dr. S. Sampson (Image by Amy Koester)

“What is holding us back is not money. The currency in short supply is collaboration and vision.” -Dr. S. Sampson (Image by Amy Koester)

And collaboration is vital for transformative, dynamic support of STEM learning by libraries. Yet many of the smart people at this conference indicated that, right now, collaboration–and the vision of collective impact that can inspire and support it–is in short supply. We need to recognize that libraries need not go it alone when it comes to supporting STEM. That is not to say that we shouldn’t invest in doing some STEM programing and providing relevant services ourselves; it is just to say that we can do so much more when we collaborate with others who also aim to support the STEM learning of our communities.

That vision of what we can do together is huge.

The collective impact we can have when we collaborate meaningfully is massive.

And what, after all, is our overall goal as libraries if not to support our communities in transforming their lives?

The post Collaboration for Learning: Notes from the Public Libraries & STEM Conference appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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25. From Telling Stories to Writing Stories- It’s all in respecting the process

I pause to listen to these stories (as best as I can in classroom of 27 six-year-olds, each with a story to share). After they’ve shared their story I comment, “I can’t wait to read that story!” or “Wow, you already have an idea for writing workshop!” Some walk away shaking their heads, eager to write their story, others look at me puzzled as if they aren’t sure why I would say this when they just told me the story. (I often wonder if they’re thinking, “Weren’t you listening?”).

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