Friday, September 21, 2012

Peek at this book: Michael Vey

As part of my new job (I may, possibly, blog about that at some point), I have the privilege of teaching in Kalispell a few times this semester.  As I was getting ready to head out a couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to download an audio book on my Ipad to listen to on the drive (seeing as I have very little time to read for fun right now).  I looked through iTunes and happened upon Michael Vey by Richard Paul Evans.  That's right, the same Richard Paul Evans who wrote The Christmas Box.  I knew it might be chancy to try a genre crossover book, but I read the rating and took a gamble.  The gamble paid off big time. 

I'm not giving anything away, but this book tackles issues such as bullying, talents, teen pressures, and more.  The protagonist is a 9th grade boy who has a unique gift, a gift that could be used for good or evil.  The best part...I could listen to this with my son and not have to fast forward a single second.  I love a writer who can capture and maintain my attention without stooping to common profanity or sexual indecency.  There is already a second book in the series.  I'm looking forward to reading it as soon as possible. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

eBooks: You better believe it.

I love both e-books and the good old fashioned print book.  As an elementary librarian, we are not quite ready for e-readers such as the Kindle and Nook.  In fact, our school district has asked us not to use them because they are not secure.  I do see a huge use for e-books though.  Being able to project a book you are reading is fantastic for those little ones who didn’t quite make the 1st row cut.  It also appeases both the visual learner and the auditory learner.  Then there are students who want to read book but are struggling readers.  There’s the audio digital book option where they story can be read to that student and you can still assess comprehension. 
I do have some book apps downloaded on my iPad.  They are a real treat.  The books are interactive with games and options for how you see and hear the book.  I love when the word is highlighted as it is read.  
If you live in Great Falls, the Great Falls Public Library offers a wonderful service to patrons.  It’s a service my husband has been taking advantage of for a long time.  Until now, after a stiff prompting from my library class, I decided to give it a shot.  Here’s the play by play of how to take advantage of this service. 

1. You need to have a library card.  You don’t have one?  How embarrassing.  Fix that.
3. Log in with your library card…you don’t even need a password.
4.  Browse the titles.  Make sure they are available before choosing one unless you want to get on the wait list.  Hunger Games has over 160 patrons on the waiting list.  Yikes!
5. Look at the types of downloads.  You will see Kindle, Adobe, Overdrive and a general download for other e-book compatible readers.  Overdrive is free and can be used on Apple products.
6.  Also pay attention to the download description.  If you are allergic to audio books, avoid the word “audiobook”.  It seems obvious, but I may have missed it. 
7.  Download.  You have 14 days to enjoy and then it’s automatically checked back in. No late fees.  No dirty looks.

I’m so excited to be able to use this in my library.  It’s such a fantastic option and can reach all kinds of readers.  I hope you get a chance to check out Montana Library 2 Go…it’s worth your time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Library Automation What?

Library Automation Systems:  eTrue Story

One of the most complex dynamics of a library is getting to know the library automation software.  Library automation systems are databases which mean they are complicated in nature and aimed at a sophisticated user.  In the Great Falls Public School district, we use the Alexandria automated system.  Here’s an overview of Alexandria:

1. What is it used for?
a. We use Alexandria in numerous ways.  From the client (student) perspective, we use it to check books out to them and check the books back in, to send out late notices, to charge missing fines, and to put holds on books.  From the librarian point of view, we use it for all of the above and much more including creating class barcodes for checkout, weeding, inventory, material barcodes, item look up, adding and deleting patrons, and creating reports.

2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Alexandria?
a. Strengths: This is a robust system with lots of bells and whistles.  The library can manipulate policies, add to and remove capabilities, and create almost any report needed.  It can almost be as simple as you want it to be according to the way you use it.
b. Weaknesses:  There are many glitches and needs for updates.  All of the sudden you will see charges against patrons when there weren’t any before.  Sometimes strange messages will pop up during check in time, slowing check in time immensely. The system is so complex; it’s challenging to figure out how to manipulate it to your own needs.  

3. Why does the product work well or not work well for your particular library?
a. I think I’m too new to make a complete judgment, but from my perspective this product works well as long as you are given the product training needed to really get the most out of it.  I definitely have a ways to go to completely understand how to get the most out of Alexandria.  I do struggle with the glitches that come along because I then have to try to figure out a way to combat them and I don’t know the system well enough to do that in an acceptable amount of time.

4. What kind of statistical reports does the product allow you to generate (circ stats, collection evaluation, etc.)? How do you use the reports?
a. I don’t know completely, but there are a ton of reports you can generate.  I recently pulled circulation stats as I started the weeding process.  I looked at all of the items which had not been checked out since we started using Alexandria (a downfall to changing systems is you don’t have the past data to work with) and then determined if they should stay on the shelf or not.  At the end of the year, I will print a weeding report to keep a hard copy of what was done.  I will have to run an inventory report by the end of April or Mid-May.  One report I’m trying to figure out is to find out which patrons have never turned in a book late, but I haven’t figured out how to run that yet.  I know if you use an accelerated reading program you are able to run reading level reports as well.

5. How often do you recommend evaluating this product and possibly changing systems?
a. I recommend evaluation a new product after 2 years of use and then re-evaluating every 3 years unless there are major issues.  This year we discussed moving to an open source automated system due to the cost of maintaining our Alexandria maintenance agreement, but the cons outweighed the pros so we are tabling that until next year.  Librarians have to really think about the long-term effects of changing systems.  You lose a lot of data and it can be a nightmare to set up a new system.  You really want to do your homework because changing frequently would be inadvisable. 

This is just another side to the weighty role of the library media specialist.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

K-12 Library Site Wishlist

Fairly quickly after being hired as an elementary librarian, I began the hunt for websites that could help me figure out my job.  What I found out is there is a shortage of K-12 library sites that are truly helpful.  I have tried to start a site of my own, but time is limited between my job and classes and life, so here is my top 5 wishlist for a library site (hopefully mine):

1. Straight forward, easy navigation design.  I have found so many sites with links that stretch for miles and graphics that pulsate and chime.  Way too distracting for me! Once a simple, easy to follow design is set up, the rest is cake.

2.A link for the schools OPAC with a way to reserve books.  I allow my 4th-6th graders to hold books on OPAC.  This makes my job a little easier as I'm not having to hunt down books because they already have reserved what they wanted.  I love reserving my books on our public library site for Great Falls.

3. I love me a good research database.  I think all library websites should have links to school research databases.  The issue here is, of course, money.  We pay for our databases and we can't let any Joe off the street use them, so there has to be a login of some kind. 

4. Book recommendations organized by grade level and enhanced by book trailers.  I know, I cheated.  I lumped two together, but it's my wishlist so I get to do what I want.  I would have to get recommendations from a variety of people because my own recommendation list would be a bit prejudicial.  I would also love the books to be current as there are always new books to take for a drive.

5. Big 6 and Super 3 lesson planning ideas.  This is just a personal request.  Coming up with lesson plans out of thin air can be frustrating and is freakishly time consuming.  I've yet to find a site with dynamic teaching ideas and I know I'm not the only librarians who is looking for them.

There you go.  The list you've all been wondering about.  Fine...the list I was asked to post, but it has been on my mind and now it will be my go to list when I get the time to work a little bit on my own site.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Birthday Boy ....I mean TEEN

Cooper Ammon Lott
Born:  February 16, 1999
Due Date:  March 5, 1999
Weight:  5 lb 12 oz
Length 20"
Time:  12:15am

This little miracle baby of mine turned 13 this week.  Since Hunter left the teen years a few months ago, it's only fitting I get to have another one.  Cooper is such a joy to our family.  There are so many things about him I admire.  He is hilarious and sweet.  He is so tender hearted that his gets broken every once in awhile.  He does not like to see people sad...ever.  I love to hear him sing and watch him create.  He is very in tune with how he feels when he helps others.  He's a smarty pants who doesn't like to do homework.  He has strong moral values and an innate sense of right and wrong.  Who knew one little boy could bring so much joy into my life?  Who knew one little boy could teach me so much about what's important in life.  Who knew one little boy could love so big?  He's been our miracle in more than one way.  Happy Birthday Cooper!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The different faces of Parent Teacher conferences

Being a teacher isn't easy.  Being a parent isn't easy.  At least four times a year the challenges of those two roles converge as children and parents and teachers meet to discuss student progress (academic, social and behavioral).  Keep in mind those are 12 hour days teachers are putting in trying to create the best educational team possible for each student.  Tonight, as I tried to tackle one of my many library to-do lists, I took some time to observe the  trek families made down the halls of our school and how each one was so unique.

I watched some parents being pulled with excessive force by children who couldn't wait a second longer to jump into the throws of their conference, knowing it would be full of positive praise and glowing test scores.  Oh how blessed those parents and children are.  I watched some children sit on benches outside the classroom, head down, smile gone, trying to disappear inside themselves as parents sat solemn faced waiting for the doomed news they knew would be given.  My heart goes out to those families. 

I watched some children come with an aunt, grandmother or grandfather because there wasn't a parent to take them.  With just slight disappointment they eagerly headed to their teacher, who also helps meet the caretaking role for these little lambs.  Oh how I want to wrap my arms about them and tell their guardians thank you...thank you for stepping up and caring.  Then there are the invisible.  Invisible children, invisible parents who cannot make it for many different reasons, but who really should be there.  Oh how I wish they were.  I wish they knew how important they are, the children and the parents. 

Finally, after 12 hours of constant movement, I walk the halls to head home.  There are still many teachers trying to prepare for the next day.  They've congratulated, communicated, tenderly explored, and sadly related diverse tales to one group after the next.  I see them, day after day, doing the best they can while they are disparaged by the public and completely taken for granted.  The next time you see a parent, cut them some slack.  The next time you see a child, give them a smile.  The next time you see a teacher, show a little gratitude.

Friday, February 10, 2012

RSS Feed Me!

  I'm not sure how many of you love a good RSS feed, but I'm a sucker for a tidbit of juicy information.  I currently subscribe to RSS feeds in two different ways, through Microsoft Outlook and through Google Reader.  I definitely prefer Outlook but I only use Outlook at work.  

My feeds at work include ed tech feeds, new book release feeds, author review feeds, BSU feeds, and iPad app feeds (just trying to see how many times I can use the word "feeds" in one post).  At home I use Google reader where my feeds are more personal (you know what I mean).  I like to follow blogs, news, and the feeds of the current University I'm attending (seriously though, how many schools can one person go to). 

There are feed directories you can use to find information you think you can't live with out including,, and  You may be wondering why I'm trying to jam RSS down your throat, but the truth is it's just another little tech tool I like to use and I like to share the wealth.  So the next time you see the RSS symbol on a website you love to visit, you just might want to click it.