by April Bunn
San Diego has a high today of only 59 degrees, so it’s not the warm getaway I expected, but it’s still a welcome relief from the piles of snow I left behind in New Jersey.
The 2011 ALA Midwinter Meeting is underway and today the convention center was full of dedicated librarians today, scurrying off to one meeting or another, or visiting the over 450 exhibitors.
I am always impressed at how well ALA does a conference. Every person I spoke to was helpful and friendly and the speakers here are always interesting- Neil Gaiman, Nancy Pearl, and Ten Danson are on the line up for tomorrow. I am really looking forward to attending my first Youth Media Awards on Monday morning.
As Vice President of NJASL, I’m here with our President Elect, Fran King and President, Judith Everitt to attend the Affiliate Assembly meetings for AASL. I respect all of you that are attending this conference and participating in multiple committee meetings to better yourself and this profession.
In these tough times, it is crucial that we network and advocate every step of the way.
by April Bunn
Is this some kind of nightmare? No, it’s really happening.
Our state is broke and they’re coming down hard on everyone, especially education to help make up much of the 2 billion dollar deficit. Our relationship with the state government is so bad that even our acting Commissioner of Education Rochelle Hendricks decided not to address teachers at last week’s NJEA convention, as has been tradition for years.
In my post a few months ago, I talked about the recent change of our title back to School Librarian. To quote myself, and where I was at the time, “I love my job, no matter what the name or the place is called. I pledge to continue to work as hard as I can to keep my board and community aware of what I am doing as Media Specialist, Librarian, or Teacher-Librarian in our Media Center, School Library, or Information Center.”
Now it’s early November and the budget cuts were beyond devastating
to schools and school libraries. Entire districts, like Woodbridge, lost their librarians.
It’s estimated that hundreds of positions were lost. My little one school district lost its librarian too. Yes, as a result of the mid-March enormous state aid cuts, my Board was put in the position of cutting almost $500,000 and my position and program were included in those cuts (along with teachers, a secretary, all the lunch aides and part of our basic skills program). Note: I still have a job because in addition to my School Librarian certification, I also have an Elementary Teacher certificate. So, I’ve transitioned to the 2nd grade classroom of one of my colleagues who was let go.
Our library program was strong and popular. Some of the current Board members had been active volunteers through the years.
Just some of the programs that will be lost with this decision:
A Weekly Book Club, held at lunchtime
Recess Library Assistants in 4th-6th grade
Six Flags Reading Club
Collaborative projects with tech, art, and language arts on subjects such as: endangered animals and alternative energy
Recess quiet reading/study area
Student book reviews
Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race tracking
Award-winning books gallery
Reader’s advisory for emerging and reluctant readers up to voracious YA readers
Visits to the public library to promote membership and familiarity
What will happen to these libraries? In my school, classroom teachers are responsible for taking their classes to the library and allowing students to pick books. Parents in my community are volunteering to come and help with book re-shelving. While I’m always grateful for parent volunteers, they cannot replace a certified librarian. It’s a disgrace. The students will lose out in so many ways.
Pat Massey, past- President of NJASL, testified to Chairman Louis D. Greenwald and Members of the Assembly Budget Committee on March 25th, arguing that students need resource-rich school libraries that are staffed by state certified school librarians. The transcript can be found here.
I am sad and mostly angry at what happened here. To put salt in the wound, I am now Vice President of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL) and am not even be doing the job while serving my term! I’ll work to advocate for the recall of these positions, but according my administration, we’re in this situation for a minimum of 4 years.
The outlook is bleak
I just saw a posting from a library school student on the YALSA listserv looking for a place to do her practicum in northern New Jersey and she is struggling to find a program that is still afloat. What does this mean for our award-winning MLIS/MLS programs that are producing excellent school librarians?
These budget cuts are far-reaching into the future of education. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is fighting the cuts in education, and local teacher associations are rallying to get the public’s support. Barbara Keshishian, president of the NJEA, the state’s 200,000-member teachers’ union, said in a statement that the proposed budget “is a disaster for public school children and for older students who want to further their education beyond high school … Gov. Christie is slashing education in order to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy.”
Working hard and advocating for our jobs is the most important thing we can do right now.
Keep advocating. Don’t give up. Tell your towns that cutting school libraries (and public libraries) is not an option.
Keep the faith that we’ll wake up and find out that this was all a bad dream.
by April Bunn
Times are rough for librarians in New Jersey. In the education world, librarian positions are being cut at an astronomical rate due to severe cuts in state aid.
I have been quiet here on Library Garden lately because I am part of the statistics- my position was cut- leaving our school without a librarian. I have been busy advocating for our positions with my teacher’s association and the New Jersey Association of School Librarians.
While I’m shocked at what happened to school budgets in the Garden State in such a short period of time, I’m finding a shimmer of hope in the cover story of the May issue of the New Jersey Education Assocation (NJEA) Review: Keeping Dewey relevant in the digital age: Why books still matter by East Hanover teacher and author Ralph Rabb.
Rabb argues that with our help, books, in their original printed form, will inspire literate, passionate readers. His primary concern is that students are doing their reading online and not picking up hard-copy text enough. The new term for all this online reading is called being “e-literate”.
I was immediately hooked into the article because Rabb describes one of my major reasons for loving libraries since I was very young- the SMELL of books- “It’s absolute olfactory heaven.” He calls libraries “temples built for the love of books” and suggests that teachers need to take their students on field trips to the great libraries, such as the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.
I take my youngest students each year on a trip to our public library and their excitement is contagious. And while my library is not a NYPL, it is still my temple and it’s still a baby. I’m extra sad to see it close* next year since I “built” it from scratch. The prior superintendent had a vision for the school that included a large library with an adjoining technology lab and they were dedicated in September of 2005. She’d be sad to see this happening.
*I said it was “closing” next year, which I consider the case, but my Board doesn’t see it that way- they think teachers taking their students down to “pick out books” and volunteers shelving books is keeping it alive. By the way, the technology department experienced no budget cuts.
by April Bunn, Media Specialist, Teacher-Librarian, School Librarian
NAME CHANGE ALERT!
The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) decided to change our job title. We’re going to be called School Librarians… again.
The board of directors voted for the change at January’s midwinter meeting in Boston. The response has been heated.
|Response to the news:|
Many feel this name change represents a loss in a long-standing battle with our image . University of Washington I School professor and school library advocate Mike Eisenberg responds, “To me, it’s retro – conjuring black and white images of stereotypical 1950s librarians.”
My first response is one of fear. Taking the words ” media specialist” out of my title will just give the powers that be (Board of Ed. or the state) more juice to eliminate my job. Public and academic libraries have held on to the traditional title without change through the years, so what’s the difference? In schools, we’re in a crises of unknown identity- Administration still doesn’t know exactly what we do.
“Branding” the Name and the Space
In New Jersey we are School Library Media Specialists- at least that’s what’s listed on our teaching certificates- but not necessarily the name listed in our outdated job descriptions and contracts. In other places the most common title is Teacher-Librarian. In a power-house packed webinar, called What’s in a Name?, Mike Eisenberg encouraged us to find a consistent “brand” in what we do. Our librarians, our spaces, and our local and national organizations all have different names (i.e., Media Center, School Library, Information Center). In the Garden State, we were ahead of ourselves when the Educational Media Association became the New Jersey Association of School Librarians in 2006, to match the national organization of AASL, and help people understand who we are. Maybe we just didn’t see that this change was always in our future?
Do we need the word “Teacher”?
As an elementary teacher, I would prefer to have “teacher” (Teacher-Librarian) in the title, but either way, it’s a “kinder and gentler” name for what I do- Media Specialist was always a foreign concept to young children. It also coordinates much better with my colleagues in public and academic libraries.
The problem continues to be that the public doesn’t understand all that we do in a 21st Century learning environment. As a single-operator school librarian, I wear every hat, from traditional storytelling and book searches to Web 2.0 infused lessons, and I work every day to keep my program afloat and dynamic.
In an effort to include advocacy in this post, I looked for a good job description for our position. I like this one, by Sara Kelly Johns, President of AASL (and currently running for ALA President), describing our essential (and varied) role in the school-
- work with educators to design and teach curriculum
- create curriculum and promote an engaging learning experience tailored to the individual needs of students
- evaluate and “produce” information through the active use of a broad range of tools, resources, and information technologies
- provide access to materials in all formats, including up-to-date, high-quality, varied literature to develop and strengthen the love of reading
- provide students, educators, and staff with instructional materials that reflect current information needs.
Budget Cuts & Lost Jobs
If the state and school boards really understood what we do, they wouldn’t approve massive job eliminations during budget cuts, like the local situation in Woodbridge, where they eliminated all the elementary school librarians, serving 16 schools, in a massive budget cut this year (by the way, in that article, they called them “librarians”).
If there is a person in the position of school librarian who is indispensible, making an impact (and showing it!) on student achievement, creating a culture of collaboration, and being a leader in the integration of 21st century skills – whether that person is called a school librarian, library media specialist, or teacher-librarian – they will survive this and any future budget crisis.
– Nancy White, on CASL’s blog
I love my job, no matter what the name or the place is called. I pledge to continue to work as hard as I can to keep my board and community aware of what I am doing as Media Specialist, Librarian, or Teacher-Librarian in our Media Center, School Library, or Information Center.
School Libraries Work!-outstanding resource, including research statistics on the impact of school libraries on student achievement.
NJASL Advocacy Wiki– great resource, including procedures and contacts divided into areas of concern
I hope we can save ourselves before it’s too late, and stop this nonsense of cutting positions that are essential in the 21st Century.
by April Bunn
The tables are cleared, the mini-cash registers are closed and balanced, and the wheelable bookcases are packed and closed. The library looks a bit empty after our PTO’s Scholastic Book Fair closed last week.
Don’t get me wrong, I am always relieved to get my circulation desk (also my personal desk) back and unpack when they leave. It is a challenge to move out of the place and teach my lessons on a cart, but overall Scholastic makes it pretty easy to “wow” the kids. They market with a theme, which this year was Destination Book Fair- reading around the world.
You should see it- the students arrive with books circled in the flyer, chomping at the bit to get in the library and spend every cent of the money they’ve brought in envelopes and Ziploc baggies. It’s priceless to see the excitement in their eyes when they walk into the wonderland that the PTO members create with these book fairs twice a year.
Despite the economic conditions, the sales were good. Of course, we quickly sold out of Jeff Kinney’s latest hit, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Also, it was great to have a parent purchase and donate the picture book, Dewey: There’s a cat in the Library! which I had on my wish list.
I didn’t have the experience of my library transforming into a Book Fair growing up- the bookmobile came to our school and impressed us. Can you remember visiting the bookmobile? Do you remember the buzz in the school when it arrived?
At my school, in suburban central New Jersey, we’d line up, a few students at a time, and head into the bookmobile to spend our money on a brand new book (I don’t remember buying the erasers, silly pens and pointers, posters, and all the tchotchkes they widely sell now).
Bookmobiles are back in, apparantly, because in 2010, ALA is celebrating bookmobiles and their 100 years of service on National Bookmobile Day, Wednesday, April 14th, during National Library Week.
Bookmobiles are more commonly used by libraries now, to reach out into the community, but the idea is the same. Drive up, open the doors, and let the excited patrons, young and old, enter the magical kingdom of books.
As librarians, we are lucky to have daily experiences with the joy of connecting people to new books. I feel extra lucky working with children, because they give us such uninhibited delight when they find the “perfect” book. Walking into a special place focused on books, whether it be a library, book store, book fair or bookmobile can be all we need to inspire our reading spirit.
Happy Holidays to all of you for keeping that spirit alive.
by April Bunn
by April Bunn
Most of us have no control over it.
It gets people really upset when they run up against it.
The Internet Filter
Hopefully you aren’t trying to read this at a school computer because you’d probably have your “access denied” with most of my links below.
As a School Library Media Specialist, I am all too familiar with a great teaching moment being ruined by a blocked website. Linda Underwood’s School Library Monthly article “21st-Century Learning Blocked: What is a School Librarian to Do?” (September’s issue-not available online yet) inspired me to think more about this topic. This past week one of my colleagues was blocked from using National Geographic and another was blocked from downloading her Promethean Board software, so I knew it was time to get this done. The technology teacher and I just convinced many of these teachers to branch out and use new technology and this filter is discouraging them rapidly. Just to give you an idea of what it’s like with these filters:
- We can’t use any image or video sites at all (so long to those Google Images on our web pages and for student projects and no-can-do on that great video you found on Abraham Lincoln on YouTube).
- Also, no access to sites that have a shopping cart feature, like Barnes and Noble, making it a serious challenge to place orders when we are registering for conferences, ordering books and supplies.
- No technical or business forums (see below)
Ironically, as I try to finalize this post, sitting at my desk after school dismisses, I am blocked from previewing the post on WordPress with the response screen below:
|You cannot access the following Web address:|
|The site you requested is blocked under the following categories: Technical/Business Forums|
|Temporarily override filtering on this computer if you have an override name and password. (Note that your administrator may be notified that you’ve bypassed filtering.)|
|Use your browser’s Back button or enter a different Web address to continue.|
Surveying other Libraries
After suffering from blocks preventing her from using pieces of Web 2.0 in her teaching, National Board Certified Teacher and Instructional Technology Integrator Sharon Elin used her blog at edutwist.com, to conduct a survey about which popular sites were blocked and find out what other schools were allowing. Her results, displayed in colorful graphs, represent the more controversial of sites, but even simple sites that include questionable images are blocked from most students.
As Media Specialists, we are responsible, along with our Technology colleagues, for teaching about safe internet searching and strategies for effective information retrieval. As one of Elin’s responders wrote, “Teaching students about internet safety in a highly filtered environment is like teaching kids to swim in a pool without water.”
So why do we have to have them?
In 2000, Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). As a result of that Act, many schools and libraries got grants for technology or joined the E-Rate program, a discounted pricing system set up by the FCC for telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections. One requirement of these programs was to certify that you are using computer filtering software programs to prevent the “on-screen depiction of obscenity, child pornography or material that is harmful to minors”. Nobody is really arguing that schools against schools being a safe place, away from highly offensive material. As librarians, our collection development is monitored by administration and the purchasing has to be supported with some curricular connection. What we as educators are saying is that the filters that are in place in schools are blocking educational information that could be inspiring to a child. Parents must understand that their children are losing out on dynamic learning communities created by Web 2.0 developments.
We’re being forced to bypass the filter
In most cases, educators are waiting for technical administrators to release the block after explaining how they are going to be using it in they teaching. By the way, these tech administrators are NOT teachers or librarians; they are IT people and network security experts that are now responsible for evaluating things like 5th grade students’ research on endangered species. Are we even speaking the same language? I don’t think so. In my school, those requests are only read once a week.
As a result, we’ve (older students and teachers) resorted to bypassing and unblocking the filter on our own. My Google search returned over 1 million hits when using the search terms “how to bypass school internet filters” and the responses included videos and instructions galore. A large portion of these requests could be from students as well.
A few examples are:
is just one of the many sites giving step by step directions how to bypass the filter. They call it a “circumvention” of the block and don’t make any attempt to discuss the issue: “Whether or not these blocks are justified or a waste of time, whether they are a form of censorship or a method of managing resources, are topics that can be debated another time.” They give 3 sets of directions depending on what you’d like to use: a translation service, URL redirection service, or web proxy.
Quick Online Tips (www.quickonlinetips.com) has a page called “Top 10 Ways to Unblock Websites”
We know about it but won’t widely risk it
Most of the school librarians that I spoke to knew that these methods existed, but many had only used it once or twice, or were scared to be caught. The law specifically states, “An administrator, supervisor, or person authorized by the responsible authority [i.e. school, school board, local educational agency, or other authority with responsibility for administration of such school] may disable the technology protection measure concerned to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes.”
Can’t we just block the students’ computers?
No. The FCC’s E-Rate program is specific that every computer have the filter engaged, “The FCC is imposing the requirements on ALL Internet-accessible computers used by the schools and libraries, including public, student, staff and administrative workstations on the Internet because the law made no distinction between school and library computers that are used only by adult staff, and those used by children or the public.” If we’re hoping schools will allow us to have more access than our students, it looks like we’ll be waiting awhile. If you refer to Elin’s survey, the communication service Skype is almost the only site that was allowed on more teacher computers than student ones. That wasn’t true in my school this month when a teacher was blocked from Skype or Google Video Chat to demonstrate communication across the world with her son who is teaching English in Korea.
What can we hope for in the future?
I’m trying to be optimistic in how I think filters will be used in schools of the future. Otherwise I’d feel like my degree in Library and Information Science may not be best suited for a school library career. My dreams are for:
- Trust from our Administration that we are professionals and will use the internet wisely in our teaching
- Filtering programs that are created by educators and parents
- Websites designing “school-safe” versions for filter approval
- Open access to dynamic information online without lurking viruses and predators
- Faith from the parents whose children we inspire on a daily basis that we are working to create better global citizens
by April Bunn, School Library Media Specialist in a PreK-6th Grade School
Are you like me and have a pile of books you’ve gathered this year and haven’t had time to read? Will you get to them all this summer? Maybe you participated in the summer reading program at your Public Library as a child and loved all the incentives, prizes and competition. I was a fixture in Mary Jacobs Library in Rocky Hill each summer. That’s where the pattern of a summer reading plan started. I’m hoping that even just writing about this is the incentive I need to start finishing more books each summer. I’m excited to see that Adult summer reading programs are popping up all over. Library websites and Facebook pages allow the programs a great online presence and wider audience. I may have found the answer to my summer reading dilemma.
For me, summer seems to be the perfect time to catch up on reading- At least in theory. As a school librarian, I have my summers free (well, I’m using that word loosely- Those that don’t have summer jobs like most of us are free, that is) from my full-time work. So, every year, when school gets out in June, I set out with a noble plan to read hundreds of books before Labor Day.
My initial strategy for summer reading-
• Gather reading lists, YA, Adult, and non-fiction.
• Read recommendations on Shelfari, and pages for “grown-up” suggestions, like Katherine Day’s suggestions, found at http://tinyurl.com/nehv2a
• Gather the piles of books I’ve gathered at ALA and BookExpo that I plan to read and then give away as prizes or promotion at school.
Then what happens?
I start my first summer book with high hopes and optimism and often finish it right away, then I get 2 or 3 going, eventually getting distracted by a fourth and next thing I know, I’m sitting on the beach in mid-July with unfinished books in my beach bag, and enough frustration to last until Thanksgiving. Would a summer reading program designed for busy adults help? I think so. Don’t you get more done on a day when you have several things scheduled? Time and project management are essential to my productivity. It sounds rigid, but I end the day much more satisfied when I accomplish more. That’s why I think summer reading program for adults are worth promoting.
When I make my reading plan in June, I never factor in that I’ll be doing outdoor activities every sunny day, traveling as much as my job allows, repairing my house, cleaning my garage, taking care of family, and generally just trying to get enough energy back to start another school year in September. Sometimes I need the freedom from so much “input/output” that goes on during the year that reading another “heavy” book in the summer might not be what the doctor ordered. When did my reading excuses become so “adult”? Gerie Madak posted this quote in reference to Bridgewater’s Adult Summer Reading Program, “Too often adults deny themselves the pleasures of reading for fun. They’re so busy taking care of everyone else that they begin to regard reading as a self-indulgent pastime they don’t have time for because of chores, appointments, and deadlines.” I’d like to find the happy medium between the guilt of not reading and the gluttonous satisfaction of reading more books than someone else. These programs aren’t designed to be competitive, they’re more like open book clubs for the summer months.
So, in creating this post for LG in early July, I’ve decided to stop being so hard on myself and celebrate each book I do finish OR start! I’ll do more walking, yoga, and reading for pleasure. Unlike my students, I don’t HAVE to read a certain number of books to complete a summer reading project. Unlike the summer reading program I promote in school, I won’t win a prize for reading 100 hours at my public library (that’s changed in many places and I honestly did not know that until I started researching for this post). Since I began writing this, I’ve learned about some great adult summer reading programs. Like a book club, I think it’s great to have deadlines and discussion when you’re reading. The prizes are cool, too, don’t get me wrong- like restaurant and movie gift certificates, and of course, books!
My Summer Reading Tips
- Make a “wish list” of books you’d really like to read, or mark up Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust with all your must-reads, like a book bucket list
- Read a book about a hobby, new or otherwise
- Hang out at the library with your kids or friends — you’ll be inspired
- Join a successful Summer Reading program for adults, like the one in Seattle (Their summer reading Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/nrga4h) or Burlington County (http://tinyurl.com/mjzge8)
Happy summer- Happy Reading!
I’d love to know more about dynamic summer reading programs for adults, and if you have your own plan that you’d like to share.