The Alabama School Librarian

Volume I, Issue 2

The Alabama School Librarian is a combined association newsletter and peer-reviewed (refereed) journal published by the Alabama School Library Association (ASLA). It is devoted solely to the field of school libraries and technology as related to school libraries.

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ASLA President's Column

How quickly this year has flown by!

Plans and arrangements for the ASLA Summer Conference 2014 are underway, led by President-Elect Molly Bates. Molly has lined up super keynote speakers in Jennifer Northrup for the morning session and Dr. Tommy Bice, AL State Superintendent of Education, for the afternoon session. This will be Dr. Bice’s third year as our afternoon keynote—he is a great favorite in our post-conference evaluations!

I personally look forward to Dr. Bice’s update for the Alabama College-and-Career Ready Standards (CCRS) implementation. CCRS is currently under fire by our state legislature who apparently believe that a return to the 1990s version of the COS would be a good thing. I hope you will contact your legislators to reaffirm your support for CCRS. Our students must move forward with challenging standards that support a greater depth and breadth of critical thinking.

Earlier in the year the ASLA Board voted to offer our support to the primary organization advocating for CCRS. Alabama GRIT is a team of Alabama parents, educators, business leaders, military personnel, and other civic leaders who work together to ensure all of Alabama's children have an opportunity to graduate from any of Alabama's schools prepared for real life. Please consider becoming a personal member. You can sign up at GRIT will keep you up to date with any activity in Montgomery in connection with CCRS.

I am pleased to announce that Alabama State University has been selected as one of the remote sites for the 2014 AASL Fall Forum Workshop. Participants at the remote sites will receive the same great professional development through technology as the onsite participants have on site in St.Louis, Missouri. Plan on joining us in Montgomery on October 17-18. FYI—just in case you haven’t heard. ASLA’s own Steven Yates is the Chair of the conference. He will be at the St. Louis location. Arrangements in Montgomery are under the direction of the new Library Media Program Coordinator Dr. Naomi Cauldwell.

I wish you well on the remainder of the year and I hope you see you at the conference this summer. It will take place at my own school, the home of the Shades Valley High School / Jefferson County IB School / Shades Valley Technical Academies Library Learning Commons. Carla Crews, my co-librarian, and I have been busy genrifying our fiction section this year. Please drop by and see the results.



The ASLA Summer Conference is your conference. This is an opportunity for us to network and collaborate as professionals and find ways to meet the challenges we face in our school library programs.

To meet.the.challenge@yourlibrary, we must first identify the challenges! So, I am asking for your help. My goal for the conference is to provide professional development sessions that specifically addresses the challenges being faced across the state of Alabama. To do this, I need to know what challenges you are facing. I am asking you to consider the following.

· Define your challenge as specifically as you can

- Think strategically about what you want to accomplish and what is possible for you to accomplish given available resources

- Develop short-term objectives that can be measured and long-term goals that set the direction in which you want to move.

- Clarify your purpose and basic principles.

· Identify and differentiate your stakeholders (in school, in district, outside of school)

- Determine who your decision makers, policy makers, influencers, allies, and undecided are.

- Determine the interests of your stakeholders and what they value. (Remember Jennifer LaGarde’s advice…Find out what school concerns keep your principal and assistant principal up at night and find a way the library program can help meet those needs.)

- Examine your school’s data to determine areas in need of improvement. Determine what your library program can do to help meet those needs.

Once you have given this some thought, email me and let me know what you discovered. I will do the best I can to have sessions at the summer conference that address the universal challenges you discover.
The ASLA Summer Conference will be June 2, 2014 at Shades Valley High School / Jefferson County IB School. Early Bird Registration is open on the website Be sure to take advantage of the Early Bird Registration—Save some money and be sure you get a lunch!

Requests for Proposals to present a session are also open Help your colleagues meet.the.challenge@yourlibrary by sharing your expertise and success!!

I look forward to seeing you in June!!!

Molly Bates,

ASLA President-Elect

Summer Conference Coordinator

I’d Rather Clean Out Closets than Weed Fiction

My fiction shelves are so crowded that I don’t have room for new titles so in desperation I have come up with some criteria to begin this daunting task. Where do I start? A good story is a good story, no matter how old it is. If you’ve thought about weeding your fiction section, there are some mental obstacles to overcome.

In the past I have visually inspected books, looked in them for copyright dates, run back to the computer to look up usage—it is time consuming and labor intensive. This year I decided to let technology cut down on the legwork by carrying my iPad with me and using the analysis from my favorite vendor. It has an aged titles tab which lists every Fiction book which is 15+ years old.

So I am looking for books on my list. Of course, I leave the classics, but even after 20 years in education I can’t identify every single book that would be considered classic. What makes a book classic? I do look up books in a vendor database to see if they are tagged as classic. I also decided if I was wavering on a book, if it has been reprinted or made into an audiobook in the last 10 years and I think my kids might read it, I would keep it.

Another criterion for me is award-winning books. One of my teachers is using award-winning books in her independent reading assignments. Having some idea of what teachers have assigned in the past definitely gives me more confidence in my weeding decisions.

My last criterion is “Has it been read lately?” I have another tab pulled up with my circulation software to check that immediately. I have to admit there are still some heart-wrenching decisions. How do I give up Anne of Green Gables? But we have the whole series and they take up a complete shelf! I compromised and kept the first 3 novels. It is also hard to weed books that I taught or read myself. I ask myself, “Is there a current book on the same topic that kids are more likely to read?” I stumbled on Lassie. Lassie was a classic of my generation, but today’s kids have no clue who Lassie is. And yes, there are plenty of wonderful, more-current fiction books on dogs.

I’m not saying there won’t be some hard decisions. Age, teacher and student use, enduring popularity, and knowing what your kids like will direct you. Each teacher-librarian must ultimately go through the mental exercise of “What is important to my readers?” The payoff is well worth the time when you look out on uncrowded shelves where all your books shine.

Jennifer Padgett

Liberty Middle School

Madison, AL

What's Happening in School Libraries Around Alabama

Pelham High School

A Fun (and Easy) Fundraiser

As many high school librarians will tell you, it is hard to raise money in the high school library. Your typical book fairs and other common fundraisers don’t usually go over as well at the high school level. Last year the media specialists at Pelham High School, Heather Kirk and Mallory Swinsick, had a unique idea for fundraising after hearing complaints from students. T-shirts are made from every event to prom and homecoming but many students felt that the school lacked basic “spirit” shirts that could be worn at any event and any year in high school. Kirk and Swinsick began to toss around the idea of creating a spirit shirt and a special senior shirt for sale. After requesting submissions from students, a design for each shirt was chosen and the selection of vendors ensued. The first year of the sale was a huge success raising over $1,500 in profit. This year we learned from a few mistakes of the past and conducted an ever better sale raising just under $2,500. In all the most stressful parts of this fundraiser are deciding on the design of the shirt and the day that the shirts arrive. Other than those few busy days, it is a very easy fundraiser and one that you can reap rewards from for years to come as you see people wearing the shirts that you designed in the hallways! The biggest tip that Kirk and Swinsick learned from one year to the next was that students will pay more for better quality. Comfort Colors shirts were are must at PHS but students paid a higher price tag for them which resulted in more money raised. Don’t try to skimp on quality or the students will know it and the sales will show that decision.

Streamlining the Sign In Process

Using paper and pencil for students to sign in the library has become extremely difficult in the areas of convenience, ease, and monitoring student use of the media center. This year, the library media specialists at Pelham High School, Mrs. Kirk and Mrs. Swinsick, have experimented with a new sign in system. This system includes using an Apple iPad and an application called Sign In. This way, students can electronically enter their name and teacher information which will be stored to the device and can also be emailed. When the students sign in or out, a time is automatically assigned. Not only is this system much faster and easier for the kids, but it also gives media specialists the ability to electronically search through student names to verify student use of the media center as well as teacher name and their time in and out. Finally, adding a blue tooth keyboard has made the whole process even easier for students.

Oak Mountain Intermediate School

Oak Mountain Intermediate in Shelby County is celebrating reading with a grade-level read aloud for fourth-graders (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein) and for fifth-graders (Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool). Eye-catching displays in our main hallway attract viewers with a display of the book and another display showing curriculum connections.

A hot thread on Twitter lately has been whether or not a “one-book” approach is fair to those students who would not have chosen the book, who might not be able to read at that level, have already read the book, need more complex text, would have read the book on their own or are not interested in the topic.

At OMIS last year, we read Wonder by RJ Palacio (5th Grade) and Rules by Cynthia Lord (4th Grade). Our books are selected with input from the librarian and grade level teachers. We keep an eye out for theme, vocabulary and student interest. Lessons are planned and shared by teachers and librarian to promote the book and connect to curriculum.

This year’s books connect to vast amounts of curriculum. I was a little concerned that promoting Lemoncello’s Library might be because I love it so much with all of its library connections, but the students really seem to enjoy the playfulness of the book. Navigating Early has history and science tie-ins and works well on the theme of “what is true friendship” that follows up Wonder really well.

We do encourage our students to read and select what they are interested in for their extra-curricular reading but we do find value in the one-book approach, especially since it is just one book out of a whole year’s worth.

Share your opinion at #tlchat or contact me @searslms on Twitter.

Calera Intermediate School

At Calera Intermediate School we have a Picture Book of the Month. At the beginning of each month a picture book is put out for students to read. The first 15 students to read the book and sign up gets to join Mrs. Sisco in the library for a special snack at the end of the month. While we are enjoying our snack we talk about the book. By the end of the month there is a high demand for the book.

Foley Elementary School

We have recently added a Little Free Library to our school library this year. I got the idea from my cousin who has one of these libraries in a park in his neighborhood in downtown Atlanta.

My husband and I built our Little Free Library and installed it in my library at Foley Elementary School. We painted the back of the Foley box blue, which is one of our school colors, and the back of the state box red for Alabama. I have currently taught my 3rd and 4th grade students about it and how to use it. We have 462 3rd and 4th grade students (our total school population PreK-4th grade is 1363 students). Eventually, I will add my 2nd grade students to using it. I just wanted to make sure it didn't always sit empty with our large number of students.

I sent a newsletter about the Little Free Library out to the 3rd and 4th grade parents to let them know if their students had any books they no longer read and were wanting to donate they could bring them to the Little Free Library. I also use books and materials that are donated to the library by other community members from time to time, materials that we cannot use in the library. I also add any books that I have weeded from the library collection as well as a place to put bookmarks, activity sheets, etc.

So far, our students really love it and are bringing books from home to trade. This is great for our students, considering 80% of our students receive free or reduced lunch, to have free reading materials in their home.

Valley Elementary School

All of our special areas teachers did a collaborative lesson with 2nd grade using a fiction and nonfiction book. The books chosen were “Creepy Carrots” by Aaron Reynolds and “Rah, Rah, Radishes” by April Pulley Sayre. The books were introduced in library where we read and discussed how books are carefully crafted to create a mood or feeling when it is being read. We looked at the choice of words, text features, choice of colors, and layout. The students then created songs in music to fit the mood of the book. In art they carefully looked at the illustrations and used the same techniques to create artwork of their own. In computer they used word processing to write about their favorite or least favorite vegetables. In PE they completed the lesson by test tasting lots of unique vegetables to discover something new.

Inverness Elementary School

Presidents' Day Lesson Plan

3rd grade Language Arts Goal #31- Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (teacher led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topic and texts, building on other’s ideas and expressing own clearly.

Ask students how a person prepares to be a president of the United States of America. Give each child a different book on a president. I used the Checkerboard series by ABDO. They were expected find: when the president served; where the president was born; if the president went to college; if the president was a lawyer; if the president was a member of Congress; if the president was a governor; if the president served in the military. After completing research, the students were asked to line up according to when the president served. Students raised their hands to show which presidents were born in the original 13 colonies. We noticed many presidents early in our history were from the northeast and students were able to explain why. Children noticed how many presidents had been lawyers, members of congress, governors and served in the military. We discussed how these jobs helped to prepare them for the presidency. Then I asked them what they would want to accomplish if they were elected president. Their answers were commendable.

Sylacauga High School

For Dr. Seuss birthday and Read Across America Week, our library had 122 students, ages 3-5 years old, from 5 local day care centers visiting. The visits were done over a 3 day period. Dr. Seuss and different school administrators read to the students, sang songs, and played games. Afterwards, they were served cookies and juice boxes. Library Club members helped with the visiting students. We had such fun! This is an annual event for our library.

Cullman City Primary School

At our K-1st primary school library, young students aren't quite ready to take off with the online catalog so we created a number/color system to help them independently locate books in the nonfiction section. Each row is given a number and each shelf is labeled with colored tape. It wouldn't work everywhere but is very successful in our little library. A bulletin board with images of many of the popular sections serves as a reference point for the students

Battle of the Books

Three schools in North Alabama competed in a Battle of the Books competition in February 2014. Sparkman Middle School in Madison County, Liberty Middle School in Madison City, and The Academy for Academics and Arts in Huntsville City joined together to promote reading through teamwork and competition. Students who participated had to read 5 out of 6 selected novels and write 20 questions and answers for each book. Students reviewed the books and questions on their team during the month of February and competed at the Madison County Middle School Battle of the Books on February 28.

Sparkman took home the championship trophy with a score of 84 correctly answered questions. Liberty was the runner-up with a score of 56. The Huntsville Academy came in third with a score of 39. This was Huntsville’s first year to participate. This was the second year for Sparkman and Liberty.

Alabama Library Association (ALLA) Annual Conference

Mark your calendars – the Alabama Library Association (ALLA) Annual Conference will be held in Huntsville April 23rd, 24th and 25th, 2014. And if you’ve never been to ALLA before, as the President-Elect and a member of the conference planning committee, I’d like to welcome school librarians in particular to the event and to my hometown. The cross-pollination between academic, public, special and school librarians is always fun and stimulating, the accommodations at the Embassy Suites are beyond comfortable, and the conference committee has been working hard to ensure there's something for every library professional in our state, as we stand "at the crossroad of information and literacy."

And if you can only get away from school for one day, make it Thursday. All Young Adult Service Round Table (YASRT) programming is scheduled for the 24th, as well as the President’s Luncheon which will feature Julie Danielson, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blogger and picture book writer for Kirkus. Julie is co-author with NYPL's Betsy Bird and the late Peter Sieruta, of Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature.The much-anticipated book will be out in August, but Julie will give us a sneak peek, "taking us behind the scenes of many much-loved children’s books, promising secret lives, scandalous turns, and some very funny stories."

YASRT sessions at this year’s ALLA conference include lightning booktalks, Alabama and regional authors including Irene Latham, Beck MdcDowell, and Laurel Snyder, and workshops on grant funding and planning computer animation programming for young people. The YASRT business meeting will round out Thursday’s events. In addition to those sessions, information literacy guru Esther Grassian will present the opening keynote on Wednesday, bestselling thrilling writer J.T. Ellison will speak Thursday morning, and LibraryBox creator and technology innovator Jason Griffey will speak at Friday morning's closing event. We're excited to bring all three of these high-profile speakers to Alabama for the first time.

We hope to see you in the Rocket City this spring.

Wendy Stephens, Cullman High School

ASLA Officers and Board Members

Carolyn Starkey, President

Molly Bates, President-Elect

Elizabeth Hester, Past President

Heather Mays, Secretary

Terri Elder, Treasurer

Sheikla Blount, Board Member

Liz Loegler, Board Member

Nikki Robertson, Board Member

Savan Wilson, Board Member

Michelle Barnett, Board Member

Sandy Brand, Board Member