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!!