Librarian Blogger Questionnaire

As a join the realm of librarian bloggers on Twitter, many of them seem to feature the same questionnaire (as seen below) on their blog.  I did a little research, and, as it turns out, librarian bloggers tend to put out some information on their reading habits after their first few blog posts.  So, in the spirit of a new tradition, here it goes:

Do you snack while you read? If so, what’s your favorite reading snack?

I tend not to snack while I read, but, if I do, it’s on Skinny Pop Popcorn or Yoplait Greek Yogurt Bars.  Both are healthy and delicious snacks.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of
writing in books horrify you?

If I’m studying what I’m reading and I own the book, then I tend to highlight passages.  That way, I can come back later and reread what I found to be important or interesting.  I think marking in my books goes back to my days as an undergraduate English major.  However, I never mark in a library book or a book that is on loan to me.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?

I always use a bookmark, although it’s usually nothing fancy.  Junk mail flyers make excellent bookmarks.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

I’m definitely more of a nonfiction reader, but modern authors like Libba Bray and Neil Gaiman hold my attention as fictional writers.  I also have an undying passion for children’s literature, regardless of whether or not it’s nonfiction.

Hard copy or Kindle?

I tried a Kindle.  My family bought it for me over the holidays one year and gave it a beautiful leather cover.  However, no matter how hard I tried, I just could not get into the whole digital book concept.  I prefer a real book in my hands.  I guess I’m old-school like that.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you
able to put a book down at any point?

I find chapters to be a good stopping point in a book.  I tend to pace myself by chapter when reading a book.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

Sometimes?  It depends on the word and the level to which my curiosity is piqued.

What are you currently reading?

The Way Into Jewish Prayer by Lawrence A. Hoffman.  It’s a very deep book that delves into the liturgical history of Judaism.

What is the last book you bought?

The Way Into Torah by Rabbi Norman J. Cohen.  It’s the next book on my reading list.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can
you read more than one at a time?

I usually have several books going at once, but have recently decided to focus my studies on one book at a time.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

In the evening, I prefer to read on the chase lounge part of our sofa at home.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have our little Chihuahua Hercules cuddled up next to me.

Do you prefer series books or stand-alone books?

I’ve recently started getting into series books, but, generally speaking, I prefer stand alone books.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

I’ve always loved the writings of George Orwell.  He was a powerful writer.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

At home, it’s how they fit on the bookshelf by height.

And there you have it:  A Librarian Blogger Questionnaire on my reading habits.

 

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Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Yes, Even Librarians)

How did I spend one of my first days of summer vacation?  Reading professional journals and buffing up on professional development?  Nope, all that brushing up on skills begins tomorrow with summer professional development training at my school.  Rather, I spent the day having fun!  I babysat my friend’s six-year-old daughter all day.  How could babysitting be fun, you ask?  Well, when said six-year-old has similar interests as you, but on the junior level, it can lead to lots of well-intended, deliberate mayhem.

We kicked off the morning with a bevy of crafts:  sand art, stylus scratch art, monogram painting, and making sun-catchers.  Then, we broke out the puppets.  It’s amazing how puppets can influence even the shyest of children to become their authentic selves and express their true person.  Plus, playing with puppets is just plain fun!

crafts

Of course, with growing children there is always the involvement of food (and, boy, did we eat!).  Chocolate, angel food cake, Mexican cuisine, popcorn, and Dip ‘N Dots ice cream were some of the treats we indulged in throughout the day.  I think second graders could smoke me at the buffet any day of the week.

Next, we raided our local dollar store for fun treats.  Some of the items scored:  a baby doll (for her), a chevron scarf (for me), some multicolor earrings, and a funky pink bouncy ball for playing in the yard.  I have to remember to check out the dollar store more often for fun, inexpensive treats for my students.  You never truly know what you’ll find there.

Then, we went to the movies to see the movie Epic.  It was a cute movie.  Maybe a little more appropriate for ages 6+ as I don’t think really young child would understand the complexity of the dialogue.

Following the movies we went to get our nails manicured and painted at the local nail salon.  Note to self:  Have an appointment already made when taking a child anywhere.  If they have to wait for any length over five minutes, they can become impatient.  Luckily, I was with a relatively mellow young lady and she waited patiently with me while we perused the latest jewelry catalogs together.  I had a shellac manicure, while my partner in crime opted for purple polish with silver glitter sparkles.

nails jpg

So, why bother include this post in a school librarian/crafting/other library collections blog?  Well, because librarians should always take some time out of their busy schedules to have fun.  Be it a solo trip to your favorite chick flick at the local movie theater or babysitting your friend’s eldest daughter for the day.  You’ll quickly come to realize that time spent wasted on fun is not, indeed, a waste at all.

Cheers to a fun and fulfilling summer break!

Home and Heart: A School Librarian’s Home Office

Have you ever wondered where librarians work?  Well, besides the actual library work environment, a school librarian should have a home work space to call her or his own.  There are required areas for maximum efficiency, as well as just areas that should be meant to inspire and motivate the school librarian.  Here’s an inside peak into my home office and a brief explanation of the benefits of each of these areas:

The first area in a home office that every school librarian should have is a place to display (or, show off) your education credentials.  Hang that MLIS (masters of library and information sciences) on the wall for all to see that you have worked hard to get where you are today.  It will inspire you when work gets tough to help reassure that you are an intelligent, hardworking professional who has what it takes to get the job done.

diplomas

Next, you should have something that lightens the mood of the whole room a bit.  Remember, that while you are a competent and dedicated professional, it’s always good not to take yourself too seriously all of the time.  This is the reason why I decided to hang up a multicolor felt heart garland and Swarovski crystal hanger from my wedding day.  They are the first items I see when I walk into my office.  They remind me that my work is fun and filled with joy, and so is my life.  Having some of these reminders around you will lighten your spirits and help to re-center your purpose on difficult days.

lighten the mood

The next area serves a more practical purpose:  the printer and paper area.  When you’re a librarian, you print a ton of stuff.  From Accelerated Reader password cards to weekly lesson plans, each type of print job requires a different type of paper.  In order to save yourself from a headache, have a designated print center with different types of paper pre-sorted.  I’ve made half of my closet area into a de-facto printer center.

printer centertypes of paper

Next comes the requisite bookshelf.  Every librarian needs at least one bookshelf in her or his home office.  Librarians, as a way of life, tend to have a lot of books lying around the house.  Store and organize those books neatly on your bookshelf.

bookshelf

In addition to your bookshelf, have an area to store all of those school supplies.  I have types of supplies organized in Dollar Store plastic cups: highlighters in one cup, colored pencils in another, and so on.  Organizing your supplies so they are easily accessible makes for less hassle when you need them for an upcoming lesson, etc.

supplies

Every librarian should have a desk, albeit I’ll admit that this desk is rarely used.  I tend to multitask in the living room on the sofa while talking to my husband, etc.  However, someday I plan to become more a more desk-oriented librarian while doing my work at home.

desk

The next area of my office is one of the most fun areas:  the puppet center!  It includes puppets from my collection from around the world.  There are hand puppets, arm puppets, and rod-puppets.  One of my passions is puppetry in the classroom.  Having two shelves helps me display my collection while having them easily accessible, as well.  If I need a puppet for the week’s lesson at school, I can just grab off of the shelf and go!

puppets

The last three areas of my office are strictly for inspiration and warm fuzzy memories.  I have a corner shelf with my preserved wedding dress, and two walls full of artwork and photographs that inspire me both professionally and personally.  I encourage school librarians to add meaningful personal touches throughout their offices to make it a place that you desire to spend time in.

wedding dressart for inspirationinspiration henson

So there you have it:  where a school librarian works when she’s not in the school library classroom.  If you’re a school librarian, I encourage you to make your own special space in your home to work.

Professional Development for School Librarians

A topic that I would like to address in this blog post is professional development for school librarians/media specialists.  Often, school librarians find themselves overburdened with the teaching and administrative tasks that take up our everyday workday, and push professional development opportunities to the backburner.  As a proactive librarian, I say, “No more!”  We must, as professionals in an ever-changing and growing field, seek out opportunities that allow us to grow as enriched and enlightened educators.  This summer, I plan on attending the Tennessee Association of School Librarian’s Co-Op Day that provides opportunities to focus on areas of interest to my library:  forming lasting partnerships for co-planning units of instruction, building graphic novel collections, and an overview of the Battle of the Books program.  Professional development need not require us to take off school days for conferences (although, I highly recommend attendance to professional development conferences offered by school librarian associations at the state and national levels).  In addition to the Co-Op Day, I will be taking an online course, as well several workshops offered by my employer over the summer, including such offerings as a workshop called “Culturally Responsive Teaching,” that addresses the multicultural needs of students in the learning environment.

If you find that your busy schedule will not allow for day-long workshops, I would advise staying current on professional literature.  Publications from the AASL and ALA should be part of your weekly and monthly reading routines.  One title that has recently met with acclaim is “Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact” by Judi Moreillon.  This title, published by the ALA (American Library Association), provides “techniques for strengthening collaborative partnerships through flexible design and delivery.”  Reading strategies, an area of ongoing concern with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, are an area of focus that may not have been emphasized in your graduate library and information sciences program.  Recently, this shift towards blurring the lines of classroom and library environments, now “library classrooms,” allows sample lesson plans and a realistic outlook of how reading comprehension strategies can be implemented and taught by both classroom teacher and librarian in a collaborative partnership, thereby allowing each professional to capitalize on her expertise with students.

Lastly, I would recommend developing a professional network of school librarian peers.  This may be formal, such as a membership the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), or more informal, such as meeting, emailing, or starting a wiki with other school librarians in your area.  Since most of us are the only librarian at the building level, it is essential to build contacts within your school district or city.  These peers become invaluable when you have a question, interlibrary loan, or, for the more adventurous, cross-district planning.

An idea that I have recently being intrigued by is starting a hierarchal planning network of school library professionals whose teaching will impact my students both pre and post elementary school.  An often underutilized network of professionals includes these preschool, Head Start, and daycare providers at the pre-elementary spectrum, and middle, high school, and college librarians at the post-elementary levels.  This will help us better ascertain what skills students are entering elementary school already having prior knowledge of, as well as what skills students should be building towards learning in the secondary and post-secondary environments.

Ultimately, professional development can come from a diverse array of avenues, from conferences to publications to a network of peer colleagues.  What is more clear, however, is that school librarians need to be active participants in seeking out, attending, reading, and engaging with these experiences to better serve their student patrons.  After all, a key tenant of being a librarian is best serving our patrons to meet their informational learning needs in a changing and developing world.   What better way to do that than begin by professionally enriching ourselves.

Welcome to The Middle Shelf!

The Middle Shelf was created as a platform for sharing ideas, reviewing new publications, and disseminating information among other elementary school library media specialists, or just those with an interest in urban elementary libraries, children’s literature, and scrapbooking/crafting.  Often, in my career, I find that these worlds often collide and professionals from the educational world can greatly benefit from those in the publishing, writing, and scrapbooking/crafting realms.  In addition to these areas, my professional interests tend to focus on multicultural literacies, arts-integrated education, Common Core Exemplar Texts, graphic novels, and emerging technologies that impact school libraries.

Other areas of personal interest include, but are not limited to: modern authors Libba Bray and Neil Gaiman, religious studies, Dr. Who, puppetry, and The Muppets.