Emergency remote school librarianship so far…

I completed my Master’s degree through the quality online program offered through Charles Sturt University, Australia. Every aspect of my learning journey was clearly outlined, well developed and supported through their online learning platform. They had been offering this type of program for many years and so by the time I arrived in classes, it was running very smoothly. Many Universities have suddenly switched face to face classes to online classes, forcing teachers to suddenly adapt not only the method of instruction but also the content and the assessment (Hodges et al.). It is important to acknowledge there is a huge difference between carefully crafted online learning experiences and our hasty move to remote education and that applies to all sectors, tertiary, secondary and primary.

With all of its challenges and difficulties, this time of emergency remote teaching (ERT – yes it already has its own acronym) offers all educators opportunities to develop new skills and methods that may well become a regular part of education delivery. We have what is now called Pandemic Pedagogy and Natalie Milman, writing for Education Weekly goes as far as to outline 10 essential aspects teachers should consider as they proceed with classes online. We should be evaluating the successes and quality of our ERT programs so that we can prepare for future disruptions (Hodges et al.).

The challenge for Teacher Librarians is that similar to IT coaches and support staff in that what we do to support learners and teachers while involving technology, is also best achieved one to one or with small groups, real-time and face to face. I have been reading many blogs and tweets and other posts trying hard to see what my peers are doing. I think as A J Juliani rightly states – there is no manual for this and so no one right way to go about being a Teacher Librarian working ERT. This is actually very liberating and the truth of the matter there never was one right way.

So here are a few things our library team has tried over the last four weeks driven by the desire to add value rather than stress or busywork.

  1. We have emphasized reading for fun. No strings attached. Just read for enjoyment. To do that we removed limits on borrowing before school went to ERT. We had one and a half days but many students took us up on the offer and walked out the door with many books. We made sure our students and parents new about our online reading resources. We explored all the “free” online access offers and only took up the ones that we rated and were actually free and without strings.
  2. We post once a week to all primary students and again the post is simply – read. Enjoy what you are reading. We have offered a few activities that were entirely optional and again away from screens.
  3. We have run an online parent afternoon tea for primary parents showing our online resources. We had a limit to the numbers who could attend. It was very much appreciated by the pare\nts who came who like us have been thrust into this strange world of ERT.
  4. We set up a padlet for grades 6 and above and staff to show what they are reading right now. In our school we usually have that posted at the doors of our classrooms. It is now online and I am thrilled at how densely populated it is and with many wonderful comments from the people who are posting.
  5. We have endeavored to keep BOB alive (BOB is Battle of the Books and we hold two of these Quizzes each school year, one for grades 5 & 6 in December and one for grades 3 & 4 in May). Our students have really engaged by offering questions for practice quizzes run through Google forms. So we are working on existing commitments to make them actually happen.
  6. We are working with whole classes in the online meetings, small groups and one to one to support research through guest spots, reference interviews and again filtering through all the “free” offers of resources and finding the ones that \are the best fit for us.

The things we have struggled with to date is the sudden pressure to do more to be “visible”. I am resisting that as much as possible for a few reasons. We don’t want to clutter up people’s inboxes with extra unnecessary work (see the pint about adding value). When we do try to do the extra things they can turn out to be overly complicated – I am finding that keeping it simple is so important for my own sanity but also to be able to communicate clearly.

What doesn’t change are the underlying values of why we do what we do. In resource selection I found myself going through the same criteria we would use when evaluating any online resource to add to our collection – and fortunately we have that clearly outlined in our Collection Development policy. We support personalized learning and my best ERT experiences have been working with students one to one on their particular needs and questions. We want to empower our students and teachers to be confident users of information. We celebrate reading and invite everyone to be part of our reading community.

We are about to go to Spring Break and everyone in our school community will be having a staycation this year. We sent out a Spring Break online reading resource to all staff and students, just in case they were near the end of their print book piles. I am planning to go offline for a few days at a time. As I said in my last blog post – I am not great at this ERT librarianship – yet.

Works Cited

Hodges, Charles, et al. “The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning.” EDUCAUSEReview, 20 Mar. 2020. EDUCAUSEReview, er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.

Juliani, A. J. “This is not online or distance learning.” A J Juliani, ajjuliani.com/this-is-not-online-or-distance-learning/. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.

Milman, Natalie B. “This is emergency remote teaching, not just online teaching.” Education Week, 30 Mar. 2020, www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/30/this-is-emergency-remote-teaching-not-just.html. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.

Online librarianship – learning to support colleagues and students from home

We one week into our online learning experience at our school. We are very fortunate in that many of our colleagues in China and other countries have paved the way and shared their experiences, resources, and tools.

I really appreciate blog posts by colleagues that help us as we are beginning online learning. Carl Hooker is a great example of a colleague who has shared his own experience and has some very practical ideas. The infographic below is from his blog post on the 19 March.


Librarians can follow the same signposts. At one stage this week I was communicating with a colleague on Google Hangouts. comments on a document we were working on and email – all at once. This is not ideal. I need to gather my thoughts and decide the BEST way to communicate with my colleagues and students and then stick to it. Some situations may require a different form of communication – context and purpose are the guides here.

To support our learners online when we are spread across the entire school is a tough call to know how to do this and do it well. For this signpost, I decided I would try to prioritize so grade 11 and their Extended Essay and Research project and we had started our Battle of the Books with grades 3 and 4 so keeping BOB alive is another goal. I am thankful for eBooks and databases and at the same time I want to encourage our students to leave the screen and READ a book – or get creative (like the bookworm below showing the books they have read – for younger grades of course).

My reading caterpillar BOB – one book to go and then I will have read all 6 titles… Keeping BOB alive

Office hours are given to grade 11 students and our library team has set meeting times weekly now. Being available is important. I am using my Google Calendar to try to organize my time and my analog journal helps me to jot notes and items to attend to that can come my way through e-mail. Being organized is vital when working from home and Zachary Dome has some good ideas to share on how to do that – including giving yourself deadlines and a schedule.

Content delivery and retrieval that can be accessed from many p[latforms is another great idea. Our school uses Google Drive and I tend to complete all my work there but then also share it on our See Saw and Managebac platforms.

Then finally the power of reflection – this blog post today is my reflection for the week. Online learning is challenging. Last week we were all at school in an environment that was energetic, noisy and full of life. This week we are at home in front of our computer screens. As a teacher-librarian, my work is all about working with students and staff and it still is – it is just VERY different at the moment. I am learning how to do this in what seems like a tsunami of tips, offers, tools, and advice that keeps appearing in my inbox and Social Media. I am a connected librarian through FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram so I am receiving a lot of information right now. I am also guilty of sending requests, information, and advice to my colleagues and students.

The phrase “Flexibility is my friend, expectations are my enemy” seems to be my mantra this week. My days have not ever gone according to my plan – but then they never did at school either. I am not good at this distance learning teacher-librarianship – yet.

Works Cited

Domes, Zachary. “How to organize your life: 10 habits of really organized people.” Lifehack, 5 Mar. 2020, www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/how-organize-your-life-10-habits-really-organized-people.html. Accessed 19 Mar. 2020.

Hooker, Carl. “A beginner’s toolkit for teaching remotely.” Hooked on Innovation, 19 Mar. 2020, hookedoninnovation.com/2020/03/19/a-beginners-toolkit-to-teaching-remotely/. Accessed 20 Mar. 2020.

“Information overload, why it matters and how to combat it.” Interaction Design Foundation, Jan. 2020, www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/information-overload-why-it-matters-and-how-to-combat-it. Accessed 19 Mar. 2020.

Richards, Reshan, and Stephen J. Valentine. “A letter to educators teaching online for the first time.” EdSurge, 13 Mar. 2020, www.edsurge.com/news/2020-03-13-a-letter-to-educators-teaching-online-for-the-first-time?utm_campaign=site&utm_content=share-318. Accessed 19 Mar. 2020.

Schwartz, Laura. “What teachers in China have learned in the past month.” eduTopia, 13 Mar. 2020, www.edutopia.org/article/what-teachers-china-have-learned-past-month?fbclid=IwAR0X4149YybElkTU-jtANDR2rMaOMFIbzef1YfxE-hyqvuUbOWmDXuLuSFE. Accessed 19 Mar. 2020.

Library books – sharing ideas not germs

In the current climate of keeping ourselves as protected as possible from contact with the coronavirus, the best information source is the World Health Organisation. They recommend washing your hands frequently, not touching your face or eyes, and keeping others safe by covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing. Some of my colleagues working in school libraries in the USA have been asked to disinfect library books. Apart from this being very difficult to carry out (how do you clean a book without getting it wet?) it is actually unnecessary.

“I have never heard of anyone catching anything from a library book,” infectious disease specialist Michael Z. David told the Wall Street Journal in 2015. There was a terrible year in 1895, when a librarian, Jessie Allen, died of tuberculosis. Rumors flew around the world that library books could indeed kill you – which simply was not true. The Smithsonian article about this sad event shows how quickly misinformation and fear can lead to public panic. Fortunately, the idea of libraries sharing books withstood this test and people can still turn to libraries for reliable information in a time of crisis. The Library Journal published this helpful article for Public Libraries last month outlining what they should know about Coronavirus. It includes the most reliable websites, news and update, and some books about the topic of pandemics (obviously it is too early for a book to be written about coronavirus).

We have a few books on germs, disease and keeping healthy in our collection. All of them recommend that the basic self-care that the World Health Organisation has published.

For those students who are at home due to self-isolating measures, we have some wonderful online resources they can access to read electronic books and to support their studies.

Tumblebooks and TeenBookCloud provide electronic books, fiction, and nonfiction. They need a username and a password to access, please email one of the librarians for that information. We have Encyclopedia Britannica online and EBSCO newspapers and journals – again please email for the username and password information. Our school subscribes to these resources and that is why we need to have usernames and passwords to protect them.

In every situation we face having access to high quality, reliable information is crucial. You can count on your school library and librarians to have this ready for you.

BOB is here again

The selection this year for grade 5 and 6

With the start of the school year comes the launch of our grade 5 and 6 Battle of the Books or BOB as it has affectionately become known.

Battle of the Books began in 2013 in Montreal, Canada with two Teacher Librarians wanting to encourage students who loved to read (Stark). It is now a worldwide phenomenon being run by public libraries and school libraries in different ways.

Our school has been running BOB since 2015 and our goal is to encourage students to read books outside their usual range. We choose titles that are worthy reads but not necessarily the most popular books. We have a classic, one nonfiction, a graphic novel and a few other titles. As Ian McEwen, a teacher-librarian in Ontario describes – students form teams and, as a collective, they read as many of the books on the list as possible (36).

Our students enjoy the celebration of reading that BOB brings. They develop confidence, leadership, and teamwork while getting to read some new titles (Stark). The teams have a few months to read the books and then we have a quiz about them. The prize is a trophy and obviously the glory of being winners. BOB adds to the vibrant reading culture in our school. But as the sports cliche says “Reading is the winner on the day”

Below is the YouTube promo for BOB coming up in December for grades 5 and 6. Grade 3 and 4 get their Battle in May.

Works Cited
McEwen, Ian. “Battle of the Books.” Teacher Librarian, vol. 41, no. 3, Feb. 2014, pp. 36–37. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=94736165&site=ehost-live Accessed 5 Sept., 2019.
Stark, Julia. “Battle of the Books: Coaching an English High School Literary Trivia Competition in Montreal, Quebec.” Education Libraries, vol. 41, Jan. 2018. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1186278&site=ehost-live Accessed 5 Sept., 2019.

Summer reading – creating a family culture of reading helps reverse summer reading regression

What can help your child improve their reading skills? Reading over the summer break. Studies have shown that the achievement gap in reading forms and widens during the summer vacation rather than the school year (Kim 3). In fact, students could lose approximately three months of reading development each summer and two years of reading loss by the time they reach sixth grade (Blanton 2). This is called summer reading regression and there is an effective solution to this problem. Since parents and families are with their children over summer these results imply that the biggest contributor to a child maintaining the learning gains they have achieved during the school year is their family approach to reading.

Further research show two major aspects to the child maintaining their reading level over summer:
1. Access to resources – books
2. Positive reading experiences for the child – actively using reading skills learned during the year and the opportunity to read to and discuss books with family members (Kim 4)

Here at IICS, we can certainly assist with the first aspect through our summer borrowing program. Children returning to school in the fall are encouraged to borrow 12 items for the summer. Students from grade 4 and over have unlimited borrowing. The students returned a signed form and then can select their books in the final week of the school year. Many class teachers bring their students and assist with book selection, recommending books knowing their students’ tastes and reading skills. We also give access to all our electronic books over the summer – the same permission slip has the login information required for Tumblebooks and TeenBookCloud.

The second aspect is up to the parents and the children together. As students the children learn the five optimum strategies for reading comprehension:
1. Re-reading text
2. Asking questions while reading
3. Making predictions
4. Summarizing
5. Making connections with other texts and personal experiences (Kim 7)

Some possible discussion prompts parents could try for each strategy include:
1. Re-reading the text – ask your child to read aloud the most exciting or interesting part they have read that day. Don’t be surprised if once your child has read and enjoyed a book that they will want to re-read it. Encourage them to this as it is a great strategy for deeper comprehension. Ask the child what did they appreciate the second or third time they read the text. Ask about any new vocabulary and ask how did the child come to understand what the word meant?
2. Asking question while reading – ask your child what questions they have about the plot or characters that have not yet been answered OR what questions did they have that were answered that day?
3. Making predictions – ask your child what they think will happen next OR how will this chapter end OR what will a particular character do about a situation?
4. Summarizing – ask your child to explain the book to you OR to explain what the scariest/funniest/most surprising part was?
5. Making connections with other texts and personal experiences – this offer perhaps the richest source of conversation with your child about what they are reading – what other books have you read that are like this? Have you seen a movie or TV program like this? Does that make you think about the time you went to an event?

Research also shows that while reading books alone is beneficial the more involved the parent is in a positive way the greater the gain for the child. Three keys to reducing summer regression in reading are the reader, routine, and relationship (Blanton 16). Reading daily is part of the routine and hopefully with the strategies and questions mentioned above those positive relationships already in your family can be extended to developing a family reading culture. What happens in the home with the summer reading resources has a huge impact on reversing summer reading regression (Compton-Lilly 2). Literary interactions can involve many family members and thus over summer your family can develop a powerful culture of reading (Compton – Lilly 3).

We, families and teachers, want to see our students flourish in their learning and one great way to support this is through summer reading.

Works Cited

Blanton, Morgan V. “Keys to Reducing Summer Regression: The Reader, Routine, and Relationship.” Journal of Organizational and Educational Leadership, vol. 1, no. 1, Jan. 2015. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1131513&site=ehost-live. Accessed 10 June, 2019.

Compton-Lilly, Catherine, et al. “A Closer Look at a Summer Reading Program: Listening to Students and Parents.” Reading Teacher, vol. 70, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 59–67. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1105417&site=ehost-live. Accessed 10 June, 2019.

Kim, James S., and George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education. “Summer Reading Summer Not: How Project READS Can Advance Equity.” George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education, George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education, 1 June 2010. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED539756&site=ehost-live. Accessed 10 June, 2019.

The importance of teaching research processes and tools

Students arrive in our classrooms with the latest technology in the form of laptops, phones, and tablets. Our assumption is that they will know how to use these tools to organize themselves, conduct research and learn. That is definitely not the case – leveraging apps, programs, calendars, documents, and websites all need to be taught if our students are to make the most of the technology tools that are available to them. Certainly, secondary students require these skills when they advance into tertiary education. Students may not get the instruction they need at University as it can be assumed that they arrive having had experiences of high-level research tasks in their last years of secondary school. Teachers in secondary school can also assume that students learn these skills in the middle school years when there is ‘more time’ and less content pressure. None of these assumptions are realistic and they always rely on someone else to teach the skills and tools required. In a workshop at IASL (International Association of School Librarianship) conference in 2018 Jamshid Beheshti from McGill University in Canada, gave some scary information about the research strategies of first-year students – they went straight to Google or their friends to find information (Bond). The conclusion of the study was to call for high school students to be better prepared for academic research, – using databases, evaluating websites, using citation tools with understanding (Bond).

Schools must make the time to teach their High School students the tools and strategies of sound academic research and allow them time to practice those skills with feedback and guidance. Simply showing students how to use a database, how to take notes from a source, how to use a citation generator once is not enough. Guided practice is more helpful. At Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone, New Jersey students were started with Guided Inquiry from grade 7 and each year revisited the process on a major unit of Inquiry (Oatman 58). In this school, the teachers and the Teacher Librarians (TLs)worked together to design the inquiry, deliver it and guide the students through the process (Oatman 58). The key to the student’s successful development of academic research school was the partnership between TL and teachers and the fact that the students do not do this once and are then expected to remember it. They revisit the skills and tools systematically throughout their secondary schooling and build their skills while being guided by their teachers and TL.

In a study conducted by Ryan Rafferty with first-year medical students, he found that instruction about library resources and giving students guidelines on research methods had the biggest impact on the quality of cited materials in the work the students produced (213). The instruction those students received related directly to their actual assignment and the works cited lists produced were analyzed to see the impact of the instruction and make any necessary improvements for next time (Rafferty 213). This kind of work involves the academic librarians of the University and the Teacher Librarians in schools can give the same high-level guidance and instruction. In fact, some schools are setting up partnerships with tertiary libraries to create and deliver a syllabus that explicitly teaches the research skills necessary for college-level inquiry (Oakleaf and Owen). IN their study on the value and impact of librarian’s interventions on student skills development Sue Shreeve and Jacqueline Chelin found that every time academic librarians actively assisted with student research the students completed the work with much more confidence in conducting searches (204)

Effective partnerships between TLs and teachers and TLs and students must be formed if we are to send our students to College with adequate skills in academic research that are expected and required. This takes time and energy, commitment for school leadership and staff who are experts at collaborating for the sake of student success.

Works Cited

Bond, Amanda. “3 steps before Google – research support.” Wondering at work, 8 May 2018, abond.edublogs.org/2018/05/08/3-steps-before-google-research-support/. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.

Oakleaf, Megan, and Patricia L. Owen. “Closing the 12 – 13 Gap Together: School and College Librarians Supporting 21st Century Learners.” Teacher Librarian, vol. 37, no. 4, Apr. 2010, pp. 52–58. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=50300767&site=ehost-live. Accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

Oatman, Eric. “Overwhelming Evidence: Now, There’s a Surefire Way to Show How Libraries Make a Big Difference in Student’s Lives.” School Library Journal, vol. 52, no. 1, Jan. 2006. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ755123&site=ehost-live. Accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

Rafferty, Ryan S. “The Impact of Library Instruction: Do First-Year Medical Students Use Library Resources Specifically Highlighted during Instructional Sessions?” Journal of the Medical Library Association, vol. 101, no. 3, July 2013, p. 213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3163/1536-5050.101.3.011. Accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

Shreeve, Sue, and Jacqueline Chelin. “Value and Impact of Librarians’ Interventions on Student Skills Development.” New Review of Academic Librarianship, vol. 20, no. 2, 2014, pp. 204-32. EBSCOhost, web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=3&sid=c6483402-bd6f-44a4-a83e-3dc2fec43a57%40sessionmgr120. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.