Tag Archives: work life

It’s the Testing Center, Not the Library Media Center

The past couple weeks have been really busy.  One reason is because I am taking an agility class with Brinkley.  I had taken one several years ago with Jake, so I thought now would be a good time to try it with Brink.  He’s doing okay so far.  He finds some things a bit scary, but I can tell he’s having fun!

This past Friday was the last day our library will be open, pretty much for the rest of the school year.  AP testing starts today, and that is followed by our state mandated testing (Standards of Learning or SOL).  We conduct all our SOL testing on-line instead of on paper, and we get these done in seven days, rather than stretch them out.  There are many benefits to this method, but the downside is that all our computer labs and large rooms are filled with laptops in order to get the students in and out of their test.  AP classes are highly encouraged in our school, so we have a lot of students who must take an AP test come May.  While AP uses paper tests, the large numbers of students requires that the library be used.  So we operate out of our office/workroom for the rest of the year.

SOL testing ends after Memorial Day, but senior exams start that week, followed by the other exams.  Special Education and ESOL use the library during exams for testing accommodations, so we never really open back up.

The need for all this library use is completely understandable, but it is still frustrating to me.  One recent month, we had over 3,000 students sign in to use the library before, during, and after school.  Of course, these are not unique visitors as we only have 2,700 students, but this does not include scheduled classes because students do not need to sign in when they are with a class.  So that 3,000 number is a lot of different individual needs that need to be met outside the classroom environment.

3,000 is a large number of students who lose access to a variety of resources for the remainder of the school year.  Some of these students do not have computers at home and rely on school computer access to complete assignments.  We have a solid number of “frequent fliers” who are voracious readers and come in more than once a day to check books out.  We do continue to check books out via our workroom door and keep a few carts of new and popular books available back there, but the students miss the browsing experience.  The fast readers have already plowed through a lot of the new stuff and whenever they hit the dry spell in between new orders, that is when they browse the shelves to find older books they have not read yet.  If they know what they want, we can go pull it, but often the students rely on the serendipity of discovery, which is not an option during all this testing.

Our space is also popular before school and during lunches.  Before school, we have anywhere from 100 – 200 students sitting at tables finishing last-minute homework and socializing with friends between 7:00 am, when the school opens, and 7:25, when the warning bell rings.  We do not require these students to sign in as the line would never end before the bell rings; they only sign in if they need to use a computer.  Once we close, these students must relocate into the halls and find space that is not already staked out by other groups.  A lot of students come in during their lunch (they do sign in so they fall under that 3,000).  Some come to use our resources, but some come seeking the solitude of 20 library minutes.  Students sit in our reading area with the comfy chairs to decompress with a book or a magazine.  Students find quiet corners where they can sit on the floor, away from eyes.  Others come in to study, work on a library puzzle, or play a game while they eat their bagged lunch.  We have many students who are sensitive to noise and crowds and need that time in the library to get through their day without feeling overstimulated.

Starting today, these students lose this constant in their school day.  They are forced back into the loud cafeteria, where other students have had the full year to claim their tables.  I sympathize for the stress students find themselves under when the end of the school year arrives; class grades and all this high stakes testing brings pressure.  Loss of the library, whether it is just the space or all the resources in the space, cannot make that pressure any easier.

Right now, I do not know what the answer is to all of this.  I have asked about us staffing a classroom to give students the quiet space, but because our school is so full, there is not a classroom that stands empty during a whole lunch period, so I would have to move to different rooms depending on the lunch shift.  I would then have to take responsibility for the teacher and student belongings left in the classroom while they go to lunch.   We borrow laptop carts from elementary schools for SOL testing, so we do not have the option of opening a lab for students to use during their lunch shift.

I know that all this testing is not going away for the foreseeable future, and now is not the time for me to climb on another soapbox to talk about the questionableness of these state-mandated, multiple choice tests.  But when I look at the students and all their various needs, is it really benefitting our school population to take away library access the last month and 1/2 of the school year?  It is a question we ask every year, but it falls on the deaf ears of those who must coordinate testing that is so important to the future of the school.

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Free E-Book Suggestions?

Even though we’ve been off all week, I’ve been trying to get some real work done from home.  I have been feeling bad about my students who read voraciously not having books this week.  I thought I’d post a list of free e-books on our library webpage. I know Little Brother is one that is always available, but I’d love suggestions on what else is out there right now!  Any thoughts?

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Photo Friday

My box of books from ALA Midwinter finally arrived!  Hurray!

I’m so glad they arrived before the snow we had this past Wednesday and the Snowmageddon that is supposed to come today.  Between the Oscar movies I need to see and all these books, I have more than enough to keep myself busy.

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Random story:

I recently found one of my students looking up the following statement in Google, “when is dec 21, 2012 going to happen.”  I stopped and asked him, “Do you mean what day of the week?”  He replied, “No, I want the date it will happen.”  Really?

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ALA Midwinter – Boston

I attended ALA Midwinter in Boston last weekend and had a great time.  It was a short trip due to everything going on at home, but I was able to squeeze in a fair amount.

Friday, I attended an hour long session – YALSA 201 – about becoming involved.  It was interesting to hear the variety of things available.  I dropped in at the YALSA Happy Hour but didn’t stay long as I knew no one and couldn’t bring myself to let go of my shyness and approach groups of strangers.  So I visited the exhibit hall and was able to score a few ARCS, including the two I was really hoping for: This World We Live In and The Dead-Tossed Waves.  After the exhibit hall, I attended at one of YALSA’s ticketed events: Games, Gadgets, and Gurus.  I was able to check out some card and board games that would be great for my school library and meet some awesome people.

Saturday, I attended a YALSA leadership development for committee chairs.  It was a very positive experience and I came away with ideas for my committee, motivation for myself, and the feeling that YALSA cares about the members and their involvement and wants to make leadership within the organization a positive experience.

After that was YALSA’s all-committee meeting where I met with my fantastic local arrangements committee for Annual and we brainstormed.

I returned to the exhibit hall where I was able to pick up many more books and peruse possible library purchases.

I dropped in at the Kidlit Tweet-Up in the lobby bar of my hotel.  It was great to meet fellow bloggers and others in the Kidlit/library world.  It was particularly exciting to meet a couple people who read my name tag and said, “I read your blog!”  Sometimes I forget that there are readers out there!

That evening I went to dinner at the Union Oyster House with Susan from Wizards Wireless and PBS Booklights.  Susan and I met in grad school and it’s always great to catch up with her.  Dinner was soooo good!

Sunday I attended a Web 2.0 session, which was informative, and gave me an opportunity to meet other YALSA people.  I checked out of my hotel, grabbed some lunch, and attended the teen feedback session on this year’s BBYA list.  It was great to get teen opinions and I was able to post my thoughts on Twitter throughout the session thanks to the free wi-fi in the convention center.

I flew home that evening.  This was my first trip using Jet Blue and I was very happy with my experience.  On the way to Boston, I paid an extra $10 for a seat with additional leg room, which was worth it.  On the way home, I was able to use the TV to watch the red carpet arrivals at the Golden Globes.  (My favorite moment was George Clooney pointedly referring to himself and Billy Bush as idiots before making his escape from Billy.)  The plane landed (early!) just as Ricky Gervais was starting the actual show, so I had to rely on my DVR to catch up.  I will definitely use Jet Blue again!

It was a great weekend and so inspiring to me as a librarian.  I have attended non-ALA-related conferences (which shall remain nameless) where I come away with nothing after spending my day listening to people use the day as a bitch-session or receiving basic training on working the AASL standards into library-oriented lessons (said conferences are NOT related to AASL).  I imagine those types of things are helpful to some, but two of my grad school professors were on the team that wrote Information Power so every school library class I took was centered on that book, making it easy to adapt to the new standards.  Do other school library programs not teach the AASL standards?

I also enjoy the ALA conferences because I seem to come across more people who became librarians because they wanted to be a librarian, whereas at these other conferences I tend to meet people who became school librarians because they wanted to get out of teaching but still have summers off.

I love being a part of YALSA and hope I can continue working on committees in the future.  The members are creative, energetic, and passionate about their careers.  School librarians seem to be in the minority, so I encourage other middle and high school librarians who love working with teens to get involved!

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Thursday Tidbits

I’ve gotten a little behind this week, so posting has been content-lite this week.  Hopefully next week, I’ll be back on track. For now, a couple thing:

  • A ten tear old Arkansas boy has decided not to say the pledge until we truly have “liberty and justice for all” through the freedom for all to marry.  CNN interviewed him, and he’s an articulate, serious kid, who also happens to be wearing an awesome shirt.
  • I have to take my dog Jake back to the vet today.  He was diagnosed with arthritis earlier in the fall and has been on Rimadyl.  This worked for a while, but he’s back to limping again.  I’m trying not to worry as he seems to be fine besides limping – he eats, still runs around, bringing us balls and ropes, barks at everyone who walks by.  It isn’t affecting his quality of life – yet.  I don’t know what the vet will suggest, so I need to wait and see.  He’ll be 8 this January, which is getting up there for a dog, but he’s a 60 pound mutt, so he should have several more good years left in him, and I want to keep him around as long as possible.
  • I saw the film Precious this past weekend.  It is a good movie – well acted, emotional, and sure to receive some Oscar nominations.  I never truly got into it, although my friend shed some tears so it must have been me.  It tries to end on a hopeful note, but I do feel like it is a little false, knowing the time period and the obstacles Precious faces.  I can only assume the book ends the same way, although I have never read it.  I did like that after leaving the theater with illiteracy on my mind, I saw the following bumper sticker on a car, “Those who do not read are no better off than those who cannot read.”
  • I’ve started a shelf shifting project this week in the fiction section of the library.  I do realize that I’m gambling a bit with circulation still continuing, but over the past year, things have just gotten out of sorts.  A few random empty shelves, some with just 5 books and some about to burst at the seams.  Of course, I can’t help but weed while I do it, which helps make room but makes the project take longer.  I enjoy it, though. Staring at the shelves, trying to figure out a good place to break the letters down to the next shelf, trying to decide how many books I want to leave.  While it seems to offend some people when we weed and/or spread books out so there are less per shelf, I’m a big believer in doing it.  First of all, it’s a sneaky way to make the library look like it could use new books, so people don’t think the budget should be cut.  Second, I think it makes things visually easier to find.  Third, we don’t have a good display area in the library, and when I’ve tried to make one, it doesn’t get much traffic.  So I like to use the empty space on the shelves to display books.  It catches the eye, makes the shelves jump out at you, and seems to encourage browsing.

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Quieting down now

I’ve been back at work for 2 weeks, but teachers started this week and the students start next week. I’m a bit busy getting everything going, so posting will be sporadic to non-existent. But please stay tuned, I will return!

Don’t forget about the ARC giveaway of Margaret Atwood’s newest book, The Year of the Flood.

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