Saturday, April 26, 2014

Library visitors and love notes

We had a great day in the library yesterday.  Everyone was breathing a sigh of relief that standardized testing was done, and we were back to our usual schedule of Friday assembly and class visits.  We were fortunate to have not one, but two WATCH D.O.G.S. on our campus, and they almost always have library time on their day's schedules.  Two more pairs of hands to shelve books is always a treat!  One of the dads opted to join his daughter during our read-aloud time in the Book Nook, and got to listen to my rendition of Library Lil in honor of National School Library Month.  I was sure to extol the virtues of free access to books and intellectual freedom!

Several of our usual volunteers also came by and lent a hand getting books back on the shelves, returning "strays" to their rightful places, and getting flyers ready for our upcoming book fair.  It's not hard to imagine how wonderful it is for my assistant and me to walk out of work on a Friday afternoon with shelving carts cleared, shelves straightened out, and one more task crossed off the neverending to-do list. 

Here's another detail to add to this fairy-tale sort of day we had...and it involves several sets of hairy legs and a bag of insects.  I walked out of the library restroom in the middle of the day to a delivery man from the district.  He was ready to hand off a half-dozen plastic terrariums with a tarantula in each, along with their requisite food supply of live crickets.  I knew one of our grade levels was working on a PBL unit on spiders, and I know that the library is the usual drop-off location for live animal loans, but I was not expecting this delivery!  

Luckily, I am not arachnophobic, and thanks to a former colleague who kept tarantulas in her classroom, I'm kinda fascinated by the creatures--as long as they're enclosed in glass or plastic.  I could even tell that one of them was going through a molt, and passed that info along to the teacher who came to pick them up.  

Later in the day, I was visited by three lovely young girls who presented me with a handwritten-in-marker acrostic note of my name, with admiration for my job.  I received some wonderful notes during Teacher Appreciation Week, but this one, out of the blue, just made me smile from ear to ear.  During an email exchange hashing out the details of a project, I had a colleague compliment and thank me for my efforts.  By the time I left work, I was bursting with the feeling that I am right where I need to be.  

Some colleagues who were lunching in the library were not as thrilled as I was during our arachnid visit, but for was just another day among the stacks.  And I am one happy librarian, glad to be  there for all of it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The art of social conversation

I had the most pleasant exchange today in the library.  Two charming young kindergarteners, the class librarians for the day, came in to return books before their regular visit.  I happened to be standing at the circulation desk scanning books when they arrived, and greeted them with a hearty "Hello there, young gents!"  They immediately replied in kind, and then added a heartfelt "Welcome back, Mrs. Margocs!  How was your learning trip last week?"  We had a brief, but lovely, conversation about my conference, and then they began talking with each other about their classmates' choices of books as they dropped them in the return slot, remarking on which ones they had read and how they knew their classmates' book preferences.  I was blown away by their civility, listening to the give and take of their conversation, and relayed this to their teacher when she arrived with the rest of the class.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to me.  I am a greeter by nature; I feel it is important to acknowledge someone's presence with a hello, hey there, good morning.  This is especially true in the library setting, where I want everyone who enters to feel welcome.  But many students I've come in contact with over the past few years not only will not initiate a greeting or conversation--they won't even reply to a hello.  I've even encountered adults who will pass me in the hall, or enter the library, without a greeting or nod.  Whether it's social ineptitude, social exclusion, introversion, or full attention to another matter, I'm not sure.

I am sure that the pleasantries exchanged today at my circulation desk were warm and heart-filling for all involved.  I hope those two young gentlemen continue their habits of friendly communication, and influence others to do the same. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stuff I learned at TLA '14--Professional edition

I learned something new at every one of the three tech sessions, three tech keynotes, one general session, five breakout sessions, and two meals with authors.  Most importantly, I learned that I need a tablet before I attend next year's TLA conference, because the laptop was only pulled out once and it was really hard to type on my Google Docs with my HTC One--no matter how big my daughter proclaims it to be.  I switched to writing notes halfway through for just a bit, to give my thumbs a break.  

I won't share every detail of the seven pages I typed/ wrote, but here are some nuggets of learning I was able to take away for professional purposes:
  • Dr. Bruce Ellis--Use specific, positive critique to help others (and ourselves!) make small steps to improve tech skills.  Perfection may not occur in six weeks, or even one year; focus on manageable steps.  Building relationships, recognizing effort, having a growth mindset, modeling with concrete examples, and shifting from lifelong learning to lifelong sharing are important when building community with technology.
  • Bluebonnet Committee presentation--Kudos to the team for powering through the tech glitches!  And thanks for providing all those wonderful resources on several platforms--Pinterest, Facebook, WordPress, and Symbaloo.  I will improve my promotion of Bluebonnet books next year with all these great resources!
  • Dr. Ellis again, with cybersafety.  Learned the difference between a passive digital footprint--anonymous data collected through our internet use--and active footprint--the stuff we share "on purpose".  We were reminded to Google ourselves on our birthdays and at Christmas, as gifts to ourselves in guarding our digital presence--and not to forget to search for images as well. is a good site to help manage privacy settings on several social media platforms.
  • Keynote lunch with Jennifer LaGarde, the LibraryGirl.  Leadership is not a position, it is an action.  Focus on students, not stuff.  Help our principals with whatever it is about our school that keeps them up at night.  Collaboration is not a goal, it is a strategy.  Build bridges, not barriers; the library space should reflect what we value.  The important part isn't finding info, it's using it
  • will be part of my summer self-professional-development.  It's a one-stop shop for web-based, education-related sites, tools, applications, and extensions.  Todd Nesloney is so full of energy and enthusiasm for using tech tools in the classroom, you can't help but dream of the possibilities after listening to him speak.  One tip was to let students use whatever websites they choose for resources, as long as they can prove the validity of the site.  Another is to keep tweets and blogs positive; let's share what we are doing right!  His take on learning is that there really aren't new ideas, just great stuff already there to be shared.  A great quote he shared--"Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up."-Erica Bauermeister  Mr. Nesloney's session and keynote were both educational and motivational.
All of the above was just from our day of Tech Camp 2014!  Moving on to Wednesday:
  • James Patterson spoke at our opening General Session.  He is an engaging, humorous author who walks his talk.   Mr. Patterson spoke about free book choice for kids (with some guidance), and parental responsibility to model reading and provide resources.  I already have his literacy website bookmarked on our library Symbaloo:  ReadKiddoRead .  He provides scholarships for education majors, and has donated funds to one of my favorite causes, Libraries of Love.  
  • The authors on the panel for "It Can't Be Science, It's Fiction!" were Matthew Kirby, Nate Ball, Megan Blakemore, Shirley Duke, Wendy Mass, Kate Messner, and Suzanne Selfors.  They spoke about writing books that incorporated real-life scientific knowledge, processes, and theories.  What struck me the most about the panel was their willingness to stretch themselves to learn whatever it was they needed to know to "flesh out" their stories, whether by researching through print resources or contacting experts directly.  My favorite quote came from Ms. Messner--"Science is about wonder."
  • Lunch with the EBSCO representatives now has me intrigued by their Novelist   readers' advisory  product.  If anyone out there has had experience with it, I'd love to hear about it!
  • Jacqui Rash and Eileen Lee, public librarians, and Michelle Lee, pubic library assistant, gave us great tips and takeaways on the subject of Sensory Storytime.  We reviewed the meaning of sensory processing disorder/ dysfunction and how it can affect communication and behavior, and learned difference ways of preparing children who have SPD for library time through the use of accommodations, social stories, and special salutations. was offered as a resource for librarians who serve patrons with autism.
  • Michelle Luhtala, librarian for New Canaan High School in Connecticut, shared how mobile technology is being used in her school.  Their motto is "We Trust You."  The future of learning and research is heading towards what we can access through the devices in our pockets, and sharing what we learn through social media.
Whew!  Now to Thursday....
  • After my 5K walk, I joined a session featuring an author panel speaking on the subject of bullying.  The panel consisted of Trudy Ludwig, Michael Buckley, Stuart Gibbs, Christine Pakkala, Michael Fry, and James Howe.  Ms. Ludwig talked a bit about the nuances of bullying, and recommended the International Bullying Prevention Association website.  Some memorable points (there were many!) from the discussion:  popular kids often lose their fizzle by reunion time, while nerds are usually still achieving and accomplishing great things; teachers can be bullies, too; try looking at the bully's point of view for understanding and defusing; bullies beget victims who can become vengeful bullies themselves; solutions need to go beyond posters and lessons--a culture shift has to happen.  We have to make being kind a cool thing; ask kids "Who do you want to be?".  Remember that power plays start occurring as young as preschool.
  • John Grandits and Michael Allen Austin  received their Texas Bluebonnet Awards for Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want to Survive the School Bus with great back stories and humor. The students who presented the award were the most poised children I think I've ever seen, speaking to hundreds of librarians in a huge ballroom!
  • My Thursday was rounded out by a trip to the exhibit hall, a Gale reception, and a gathering of SHSU alumni and professors. What a great day!
Friday, day four!
  • My own children would never have forgiven me if I passed up the TASL Breakfast with Lemony Snicket...and I'm so glad I went.  His speech was as interesting and entertaining as the books he writes.  The one concept that arose again and again was curiosity; "It's interesting when things happen."  Asking questions, even all the wrong ones, leads to great stories.
  • I had to head down to the exhibit hall one last time, to get my copy of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library signed by Chris Grabenstein  and take advantage of any last-minute freebies from vendors.  After picking up a couple of books and purchasing a few more for my school library, I decided to call it a week and head for home.
I've learned so much, and will continue to learn, thanks to the resources and motivation I've received from attending the Texas Library Association's 2014 Annual Conference.  A big thanks to Round Rock ISD and my principal for accommodating this continuing education opportunity for this newbie librarian! 

Stuff I learned at my first (full) TLA Conference--Personal edition

It has been 24 hours since I returned from my first full Texas Library Association Annual Conference...and I'm still recovering, mentally and physically.  It was a whirlwind of activity and learning for three and a half days, and I learned a LOT.  Aside from the seven pages of notes, there was a wealth of experience gained, which I want to preserve in print for future conference-attending.  This blog post, and the next,  are summaries of my personal and professional take-aways.

  •  Do not dismiss colleagues' suggestions about wearing comfortable shoes.  I brought two pairs to alternate, and these Propet Travel Walker Mary Janes were the outstanding winners.  My other pair, some bungee-laced flats from another company, were comfy for eight hours...and they need to be comfy for eighteen hours.  Trust me on this.  The convention center itself was huge, and add in exhibit-hall wandering, trips back to your hotel room, and dining on the town afterwards....Comfy shoes are a necessity.
  • If you have an early start on your first day, stay at the hotel the night before.  I did not do this, and waking up at 3am for a 5am departure behind the wheel was not the best way to start a long day of learning!
  • The suggestions for snacks and bottled water were spot on, though I admit to overpacking these.  Which is fine, since I'll be using the leftovers for my lunches-on-the-run for the rest of the school year.
  • Jeans are perfectly appropriate, even for fancy sponsor luncheons.  Remember--eighteen hour days.
  • Those printed address labels we were told to bring were for the backs of tear-out coupons from the exhibit guide, to turn in for drawings and give-aways.  Glad I printed some out!
  • Having tote bags to start out was helpful, too, even though I scored two more from tech camp and a vendor.  Next year, I'll be better at getting down to the exhibit hall earlier to snag some more free bags. 
  • Take advantage of the health-related events.  I walked the Hetherington 5K on Thursday morning, and it was so nice to be out in the fresh air doing something good for my health--especially after my yummy, not-so-healthy Mexican dinner combo plate the night before.
  • Do not be afraid to ask your colleagues, the concierge, other conference attendees, and random people for advice and help.  There are so many events to attend, breakout sessions, places to eat, etc.  The choices are mind-boggling; talking it out with someone may help you decide where to go and what to do.
  • The advice to take cash was spot on.  One of the author-signings I lined up for was charging for books and only accepted cash or checks, as was one of the major publisher booths.  And there were no receipts for the author-signed I may not get reimbursed.  Arrrgh.
  • I was so excited when the conference-provided mobile app worked for me at the beginning, and I spent time arranging my breakout sessions, events, and exhibits I wanted to visit.  And then the app stopped working for me halfway through the conference.  Thankfully, we had our handy dandy mini printed conference guide.  Lesson learned--be flexible.  Don't sweat it  if you can't remember which exhibits or authors you wanted to see.  I was so focused on attending breakout sessions that I didn't make it down to the exhibit hall in time to beat the lines for author signings...and that's okay.  I wanted to be learning rather than standing in lines, anyway! 
  • I reached my limit by noon on Friday.  I had attended a full day of tech camp (with three keynote speakers), five breakout sessions, two sponsor receptions, dinner with some of my district colleagues, the opening general session with James Patterson, the Bluebonnet Luncheon with John Grandits and Michael Allen Austin, the TASL breakfast with Lemony Snicket, dinner with my SHSU cohort gals, another SHSU sponsored food-and-fun on a riverboat ride, and spent approximately six hours in the exhibit hall.  I'm guessing that's not too bad for a beginner.
And I'll be sure that both pairs of shoes are super-comfy, at next year's conference.  Next blog post--the professional learning edition! 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

TLA '14, here I come!

Whoohoo!  This Tuesday, I am off to my first-ever Texas Library Association Annual Conference as a librarian!  (I volunteered in the registration booths a couple years back as an MLS student, but didn't get farther than the exhibit hall.)

I am already slightly overwhelmed by the sheer number of learning opportunities, vendors, authors, and social events.  I've availed myself of the conference mobile app, mapping out my preferred breakout sessions, exhibits, and ticketed events.  I'm purposefully scheduling a couple sessions per time slot, knowing that I may need a Plan B if they fill up fast.  I've also tapped into my personal learning network of district librarians and Facebook contacts for tips on what to pack  Suggestions have included address labels for quick raffle submissions, carts or empty suitcases to lug books to the hotel and car, jackets for freezing conference rooms, and water and snacks for on-the-go nourishment.  Check, check, and check.

One thing I don't have to worry about--my library, while I'm away.  I have an uber-capable, wonderful assistant who, along with a substitute, will keep those books circulating and read-aloud going while I'm gone.  Here's hoping I return as a better, more knowledgeable librarian with lots of cool ideas to update our library program.