Monday, December 20, 2010

Kracked Kindle

So I forgot to take a picture, but one of our Kindles came back last week looking like this:

(Image from

I'm not exactly sure what happened -- I don't think the student knows, either. It sort of looked like Kindle suffered blunt force trauma - maybe it got stepped on?

I panicked for a second, but a quick phone call to Amazon eased my worries. They replaced it free of charge. My new Kindle was overnighted to us and they sent a prepaid shipping label to send the broken one back.

I wonder how many times they'll do this? I hope this is the only broken one we ever have, and therefore we don't have an opportunity to test Amazon's tolerance for junior high kids and electronics. :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mission [Statement] Impossible

Usually conferences leave me feeling revitalized and invigorated. Today? Not so much. I left this afternoon appreciating just how much I have left to learn. I might excel in some areas of being a librarian, but in others? Ouch.

We’ll save the most painful realizations for another post. Today, I’m just going to focus on why I hate mission statements:

  • They’re always really dense
  • Who the heck bothers to ever read them?
  • They’re a dumping ground for jargon and edu-speak

Needless to say, developing a mission statement for my library program was never a high priority. I probably would have continued to avoid it had I not attended today’s session. It took a fair amount of mental arm-twisting, but ultimately we came up with one.

It was a team effort – contributors included myself, an elementary librarian, and our district’s technology director. Our goal was two-fold: write the shortest mission statement possible and make it understandable for elementary AND secondary students.

Here’s what we came up with:

Learners discover, create, inquire, and think critically through shared learning experiences supported by curriculum, teachers, and tools to produce and communicate new knowledge.

This particular product is a blend of ideas expressed in other mission statements. It’s our own work --- but heavily influenced by others -- especially David Loertscher's work on the library as learning commons.

Even though we’ve finally got a mission statement, I was still kind of confused as to why I actually need one.

I dug around a little bit, and I think I might have a few ideas. According to an article by Allison Zmuda "its purpose is to cause student learning as defined by a set of goals" (School Library Media Activities Monthly / Sept 2007).

I'm thinking that mission statements should help drive your library program. Like -- if it's not part of your mission, then why the heck are you doing it?

So . . . the point (or at least one point) of a mission statement is to guide your own practice.

It's only sitting here writing this that the lightbulbs are FINALLY going off. Today's conference was about the library as a learning commons - kind of a new idea. Soo --- at last, the WHY behind today:

We played around with mission statements until they reflected the learning commons philosophy. These new statement can then GUIDE our program as we seek to DEVELOP a learning commons model in our own schools.

DUHHH!!! It would have helped if I'd made that connection 8 hours ago. Feeling SUPER dense right now.

At least I can kind of admit that I might sort of like mission statements (at least I can see the point).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kindle Update

Phew, can you tell things got crazy again? I'm squeezing this in between an administrator's observation and a lesson on web site evaluation.

Now that it's been a few weeks, I thought I'd update you on our Kindles. The covers arrived - yippee - and now I can swaddle our precious cargo in an extra layer or two. Students have admitted to dropping uncovered Kindles - but it doesn't appear to hurt them -- at least after the first few tumbles. Hopefully, with these fancy leather jackets from Amazon, they'll stay in great shape!

At $35.00 each, the covers aren't cheap. After looking at a bunch of different options, I think these were my best bet. For one, I wanted to purchase the covers in a range of colors -- these particular ones come in seven different choices: red, pink, orange, green, blue, brown, and black.

If you remember, I named each Kindle by color in my circulation system -- so it was important that the "Red Kindle" actually had a red cover. I also wanted something that covered the Kindle the whole time -- not just a case to carry it around in. The Kindle clips easily into this case, and stays firmly in place. An elastic band wraps around the cover to hold it open and closed, making it easy to hold the Kindle while reading.

Next time: Amazon surprises me. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Yesterday's Ahh-Haaa! Moment(s)

When I attend conferences, it's a good day if I can go home with at least ONE new idea.
Yesterday's SLS Fall Conference didn't disappoint.

Ross Todd's session was great, especially when he talked about the kinds of research and learning that **should** be taking place in a school library. He really emphasized the importance of TRANSFORMING research rather than TRANSPORTING research.

Unfortunately, I see classroom projects that require students to transport much too often. The ubiquitous PowerPoint project asking students to collect facts and display them on a series of slides is a frequent offender.

That's my goal for this school year: more projects requiring students to TRANSFORM the facts rather than TRANSPORT the facts.

Sue Kowalski, a middle school librarian in the East Syracuse Minoa district, gets credit for the other great take-home idea. She used the database TeachingBooks.Net to hold a virtual author festival in her school. TeachingBooks.Net is a resource provided by our library system -- I've never used it, but I totally should because it offers hundreds of short author interviews. I think I'll do our own mini-festival, using it as alternative to book talks. Sue said that after the kids watched the author videos, they were clamouring for books written by their favorites -- and these were titles that **typically** never get checked out of the library. Can't wait to give it a try!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It sounded like a good idea at the time

I have a habit of saying yes. It's almost a disease. Someone makes a suggestion or offers me an opportunity and my mouth just can't seem to form the letters n - o. My inability to decline usually equals lost sleep, increased stress, and a messy house.

I'm blogging right now, at 6:55 AM because I got up forty-five minutes early -- and that was after going to bed an hour late. My stomach is nervous and churning. My house is a DISASTER -- I have not one, but TWO banana peels sitting next to the keyboard.

It can only mean one thing -- I said yes.

Today, I'm presenting at the School Library System's Fall Conference at the Doubletree Hotel in Syracuse, NY. It's not the biggest venue I've presented at, but it's still a venue. Venue's are scary.

The keynote speaker is Ross Todd. In case you don't know, he's a BIG DEAL. Maybe he'll talk a really long time -- sooo long that I don't have to do my presentation.

That'd be awesome.

But unlikely.

At 10:50 this morning I'll be presenting Technology and Web 2.0: A smorgasbord of engagement ideas. At least I got a food reference into the title.

I think I'm already sweating . . .

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Letting my babies go

I don't have kids, but I can imagine that sending our **brand new** Kindles out for circulation is kind of like putting your kindergartner on the bus for the first time (Image from here). I wanted to swaddle them in layers of protective bubble wrap, but I resisted the urge, gritted my teeth, and handed them over.

Our reserve list for Hunger Games is so long that I couldn't justify letting six perfectly good copies sit in my cupboard on the Kindles. So, even though our covers haven't arrived, I started handing them out yesterday.

The response is OVERWHELMING! The kids are loving them!! My new favorite thing is to call a totally unsuspecting kid down to the library, put a Kindle in their hands and tell them they can TAKE IT HOME. In the twenty-four hours they've been out, I've had a bunch of kids clamoring for part of the action.

8th Grade Kid: "Mrs. Cesari, you know that thing? You know, that thing? You gave my friend a thing."

Me: "What thing?"

8th Grade Kid: "You know, the thing! That thing with the books on it."

Me: "A Kindle?"

8th Grade Kid: "Yeah, that thing. I want one. Can I have one?"

The kids who ARE lucky enough to have a "thing" are enthusiastically enjoying the experience, though one reported that he can't actually get a lot of reading done because everybody keeps staring over his shoulder and asking what he's doing.

So far, these are the books I've got on the Kindles:

The Hunger Games Trilogy
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy
Maze Runner I and Maze Runner II
Burned, Tricks, and Fallout

I'd had really good luck finding Kindle editions of everything I wanted -- until I tried to add Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains and Forge. Neither one is available on the Kindle. :( Otherwise, we're loving Kindle circulation and glad we pushed those babies out of the nest.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Starving for Hunger Games

The kids in our library can't get enough of Hunger Games -- our reserve list is miles long. Also, kids that loved the Hunger Games want to know what's next. The solution:

Not that this is, by any means, the most amazing bulletin board you've ever seen, but hopefully it gets the job done! All the books pictured on the board are also displayed on a bookshelf with ample signage. If you're looking for a list of Hunger Games read-alikes, the Evanston Public Library has a great one here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cord Control

We're sooo lucky to have lots of cool technology donated to the library. Between iTouches and Kindles, we've got some of the latest and greatest tech toys.

It's great that we've got the toys, but it'd be awesome if we also had money to buy fancy storage options to keep everything organized and secure. Unfortunately....we don't! So for now, we're coming up with creative ways to store our stuff.
We started last year with three iTouches, and ended the year in June with just two. Our checkout procedure and storage obviously needed to be revamped. This year, we've gotten super-duper fancy. Meet our iTouch storage cart:

Yup, it's totally what it looks like. We just stuck a locking file cabinet that we already owned underneath the circulation desk. The custodian drilled a hole in the side, which we wrapped with electrical tape to cover any jagged edges (the hole is circled in red at left). We have a USB hub to manage the multiple iTouches, so the power cord and USB cord run out the hole and connect to the circulation computer.

The cords from the computer loop over the top of the drawer. We've taped them down to the drawer so they don't move when it's opened and closed. We keep the two iTouches hooked up to the hub, and when a student wants to use one during studyhall, the person working the circulation desk pulls open the drawer, unplugs it, and checks it out. Easy peasy! So far it's worked like a charm.
As a side note, if you're going to circulate multiple iTouches in your library, I totally recommend getting different colored cases -- it's much easier to tell them apart. Especially when you're watching fuzzy surveillance video and trying to track a specific iTouch while you wait for it to disappear on video. All the purple iTouches look alike when your view is from the ceiling!

If you were impressed by our iTouch set-up, wait until you see how we manage the Kindles.

The secret is inside this cabinet. Once again, we've hit up the custodians to help us with cord control. This time, they installed a lock on a set of doors in the office's back room. They also drilled a hole in the bottom shelf of the cabinet so we could run a powerstrip cord from inside of the cabinet to an outlet below.

This is the view inside the cabinet. We used book ends to build little cradles for each Kindle. I just stacked them in a row and then taped the last one on the right down to the shelf so they don't slide. Each Kindle has its own power source that plugs into the strip behind. Unlike the iTouches, I was smart enough to order different colored cases for the Kindles (I'm still waiting for that Amazon shipment to arrive!). You can see where I labeled each slot with a "color."

We haven't actually started loaning out the Kindles, but as soon as those covers arrive, I can't wait to get them in students' hands!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review: CoLibri Pocket Auto Covering Machine

So much for good intentions! The start of the year is just crazy, and my resolution to blog once a week didn't even last through Labor Day. But -- I'm back!
Today it's a review of the CoLibiri Pocket Auto Covering Machine.

We're always hunting for cost efficient methods for covering books. We buy lots of graphic novels, paperbacks, and hardcovers with dust jackets. Two years ago, the PTA purchased the CoLibiri machine for us. We've used it regularly, and I've got a few thoughts on it. At Right: The Colibri Pocket machine we own. Image from

How the machine works: Covers are available in three different sizes: mini, standard, and big. The covers are plastic, or more specifically - clear polyethylene. Basically, you pick the cover that's the closest size to the book you're working with. You slip on the cover, and then use the CoLibiri machine to seal/cut the cover to the exact size of the book. It's EASY. Last year, our library volunteers mastered the machine in just one training session, and did most of the covering for us. The machine makes it easy to create precise, even edges. At Left: The biggest size cover. I've got my hand in one of the cover's two "pockets."

CoLibri Positives:
  • Initially, the covers look great.
  • The machine is VERY easy to use
  • The machine can be used for MORE than just book covers. You can use the plastic to cover bookmarks, make pouches and bags, and even wrap presents.

CoLibri Negatives:

  • The covers aren't cheap - it works out to about $1.00 per book, regardless of size. The covers come in cases of 250 for mini and standard, and 150 for the big ones.
  • We had issues with our machine - a bar inside was bent, creating jagged edges on the plastic covers, and the machine needs to be oiled REGULARLY - otherwise it squeaks like crazy. Oiling it isn't difficult, but still a pain.
  • We weren't 100% satisfied with the customer service. When we had issues with our machine, it was a pain to get our salesman to come fix it. Though, that's probably just an issue with this one individual, and not the company as a whole. They do promise "100% customer satisfaction."
  • Finally, the biggest issue: The covers don't hold up under heavy use. Below are some images I took of a book we covered about a year ago. Obviously, this title got a lot of use -- maybe 15 or 20 checkouts over the course of a year. You can see the issues we're having. The plastic can rip, and kids love to scratch through it. It also gets cloudy as the books are circulated.

So, for now, we're not using CoLibri covers. To be honest, we've stopped covering our books altogether. I might regret this in a few years . . . but we'll deal with that then.
Any recommendations for covers you LOVE?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm taking an online class through Simmons College, and it's got me thinking a lot about Social Networking and my junior high library. Currently, my social networking efforts are rather limited, though not totally non-existent. I do use Twitter, and a link to follow me is included on the library's home page. Twitter isn't blocked at school, so I thought it would effective in reaching students - but to be honest, most junior high kids just don't have Twitter accounts.

I've been nervous about making a foray into other social media avenues because I'm not tenured yet, and I'd love to keep my job (as I do have a fabulous one!) smile This is my tenure year, so I'm willing to branch out a little bit, though I'm promising to be SUPER vigilant. I decided I wanted to create a Facebook Page for our building's library.

My first step was to do TONS of research. I began by investigating other school libraries with Facebook pages. Here are some of the ones I looked at:

I also asked a librarian friend in Albany, New York for suggestions, as she recently created a school library page. She used Buffy Hamilton's "The Unquiet Library" page (Creekview High School) as a template for her own. It's the second link in the above list.

After seeing what others had done, I needed to decide what TYPE of Facebook page I would create. I know the whole point of social networking is TWO-WAY communication, but until I have tenure, I don't want the stress of worrying about inappropriate comments.

I initially thought I would create a fan page, as that's what MOST other schools have done. A fan page doesn't allow people to write on your wall, BUT it DOES allow them to comment on your posts -- which, in my mind, is the same thing as writing on your wall -- because, DUH!, it shows up on your wall! This option made me nervous -- at least for right now.

The alternative was to create a regular "person" page for my library. Although a little atypical from what most libraries are doing, a person page has a lot more options for control -- I can prevent ALL posts on my wall from showing to the public, and better monitor the content.

After deciding on the type of page to create, I had to decide what content I would include on the page:

  • I think links to the library's Google Calendar and databases are a must.
  • I'd also like to include photo albums featuring projects and programming at the library - I'll need to double check our district's photo posting policy.
  • I'm most excited to use the wall feature. I plan to use it to announce contests (which we host regularly), book reviews, announcements, news items, etc.

The final step would be to actually CREATE the Facebook page, but there's one hitch in the plan -- I decided I need permission from my building principal. smile We haven't had a chance to sit down and chat yet, but hopefully will be able to soon, now that school's starting again. I'd love to have it up and running for Orientation, so I can talk about it with the kids. FINGERS CROSSED!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rolling Stone, you're killing me!

Our junior high library gets Rolling Stone. It's a music magazine, and teenagers love music, right? Lately, though, the Rolling Stone covers have been so risque I haven't put them on the shelf.

See what I mean?
July's cover, August's cover, and September's cover

Do you get Rolling Stone? Any qualms about putting it out in a junior high library?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Taking the Contempts Challenge

The Contempts are a group of 21 YA authors who write contemporary fiction. Each of these 21 authors is publishing a YA contemporary fiction novel sometime between September 2010 and August 2011. Using their new blog and tweets, their goal "is to help teens, booksellers, and librarians connect with and celebrate books that feature true-to-life settings, characters, and situations, and to let publishers know about the ongoing demand for contemporary stories."

Hurrrahhh!! It's about time! I'm getting sick of the whole vampire/zombie/werewolf/shapeshifter onslaught. I just unpacked a book order this morning, and I couldn't believe how many of the titles fell into this category. Yeah, a bunch of new "realistic fiction" books were there, too, but the number of fantasy books featuring a vampire were overwhelming!

I don't know about you other school librarians, but I'm ready for the whole Twilight ripple effect to peter out. Although I'm sick of this genre, I guess I shouldn't complain about it too much, as kids DO read it. Ultimately, I'm happy to get ANY book into their hands - even if it does feature blood sucking and howling at the moon.

Even though I'm overjoyed to have a kid read anything -- I'm ready for the tide to turn! So, I'm accepting the Contemps Challenge.

About the Challenge: "Love to read contemporary fiction? Accept the Contemps Challenge and promise to read at least 18 of the 21 upcoming Contemps books between now and August 15, 2011. One lucky challenger will win the grand prize: ALL 21 of our books! That's like a whole bookshelf of books!" Details on entering the challenge are here.

I'll review all the books I read for the challenge, so stay tuned!

Anyone else ready for the next big thing (as long as it's not fantasy)?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pat yourself on the back!

Congratulations!! You made it! You've successfully completed two weeks of web design! I'm really proud of all you've learned and how you've grown. You seem to really understand the basics of HTML and design.

The final blog post is two part: 1) What are you most proud of having accomplished during your two weeks at Sheldon? It can be from any session -- not just this class. 2) What are you looking forward to come September? I know I'm excited to start getting a paycheck again! :) And to see all my teacher friends.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Finish Line!

Wow! So you're almost done!! I'm really impressed with all you hard work. I hope you feel like you've learned a lot during the last two weeks.

Your question of the day: What did you learn in this class that you can see yourself using again?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What's the plan, Stan?

Welcome back! Today we're going to create a free account at This site allows you to upload your own HTML and also use a visual editor to create a web site. Once uploaded, you'll have your first web site under your belt.

Now, it's time to start work on your second site. I want to know what kind of marvelous, amazing, creative web site you plan on building. Please answer these questions:

1) Are you going to use Webs or straight-up HTML?
2) What is the purpose of your site?
3) Who is your audience?
4) What will your content include?
5) Describe the creative vision for your site - colors, designs, feeling, theme?

Monday, August 2, 2010

And what next?

So, if you look at what you've learned in a week, it's so impressive!! You knew nothing about HTML last Monday, but today you've almost got a complete web site. Today we cleared up some CSS confusion, talked about embedding videos and images, and learned a few showy tricks.

Tomorrow we're going to look at web hosting services - places you can upload your web site to to make it "live." We're also going to look at visual editors, or web bases sites that employ WYSIWYG. Then, you'll have Wed, Thurs, and half a class on Friday to build a three page site on a topic of your choice.

Today's question: What haven't we learned yet that you'd still like to know? "Nothing" is NOT an appropriate answer.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I don't know, but let's find out

Links for today's lesson.

Okay, so I'll be honest. I had no idea how to use CSS until I taught it to myself a year ago.

That's the great thing about web design - if you're interested in learning something, there are so many amazing resources out there to help you. Best of all, 99% of them are available free, and online, so the only thing you really need is an Internet connection and a little motivation. Many, many people working in web design are self taught, or only have a little instruction in a classroom setting.

Today's question is two part: 1) Why does this logo for CSS make sense? and 2) Has there ever been anything you wanted to learn so badly that you just decided to teach yourself? What was it and why did you make that decision? Is there anything that you'd love to learn how to do, but you just haven't found the motivation yet?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is this school or summer vacation?!?

So I'm a little concerned that web design is more like regular school than the fun, summer time extra you signed up for. I know it's a lot of new information to absorb, and if you've never seen HTML before, it's a huge undertaking.

Remember, HTML is Hyper Text Mark-Up Language -- it's called a "mark-up language" because you write your content first, and then "mark-up" your content with the code (the tags) to control the formatting. I think some of you might have been a little confused about that yesterday.

Today we worked with some new tags -- a few days ago, you had no idea what a tag even was! Now you do! We learned how to make things BOLD and italicized , and we learned how to make ordered lists and bulleted lists. Wow! That's progress.

Even though I know you're making tons of progress, I'm still worried that you're overwhelmed. So today's question is this: How can I make the web design class more fun and less stressful? What can we do differently in class to keep this from feeling like summer school? Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is Your Head Ready to Explode???

If you've never used HTML before, the first day of playing with it can be something of a shock! Maybe you're super excited because it seems really cool, but also a little weary because all the new ideas are totally overwhelming. I've been there, and felt BOTH emotions.

Today I want you to think about and then respond to these questions. Please answer ALL questions fully. I like it when YOU make ME think!

So I want to know the following: 1) How the heck are you feeling? Is your brain ready to explode or are you a cool cucumber? 2) What are you still struggling to understand? 3) Why is HTML called hypertext markup language?
Happy commenting!

Monday, July 26, 2010

What if you were blind?

Link to today's sites.

The best websites are those that can be accessed by everyone. I have an iPhone, and I hate trying to open a website only to get a little blue box and nothing else.

If visitors have trouble accessing your site, you're potentially losing customers or money.
It's not always our natural instinct to think about how our design decisions effect other people, but once we get into the habit of using universal design, it's really pretty easy to follow a few guidelines.

Today's question is multi-part: 1) Do you know anyone with a disability? How does that disability effect them in their daily lives? 2) Think of a specific disability that we didn't discuss. How many that effect someone's ability to access a web site or even a computer?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Today we're talking about web design. What makes a site good? What makes a site bad? As we start off most of our days, we're going to begin here, at the Sheldon HTML web site.

So we've spent a ton of time talking about what makes a site good and what makes a site bad. If we want to develop a good, useful product that accomplishes our goals, we need to keep the components of good design in mind. Think about everything we’ve discussed today.

In your opinion, what are the 5 MOST IMPORTANT elements of a good site?
Leave a comment below, responding to this question.

Once your list is complete, compare it to your neighbor’s. Do you have things in common? Anything you disagree about?