10 Things Your Library Can Do For You

With a new school year beginning very soon, I thought I’d write a bit about some awesome ways to collaborate with your school library and your librarian. Your library can be a valuable resource and help make your job more manageable. I highly encourage you to reach out to your librarian and open the doors for collaboration!

1. Increase technology integration in your classroom.
Many librarians are also in charge of technology integration on campus. Did you know that most state and national library conferences heavily include technology training? As part of library school, librarians are also exposed to the latest and greatest technology trends. If you’re having trouble using a specific tool, or if you’re just not sure what tool would best fit your needs, stop by the library!

Macbook, Apple, Imac, Computer, Screen, Laptop

2. Collaborate on engaging lesson plans.
In Texas, librarians are required to serve at least 2 years in the classroom. In order to best build our library resources, we stay aware of the current classroom curriculum in all content areas being taught on campus. If you are interested in jazzing up any lesson, your librarian might have some great ideas! From Breakout EDU to technology integration or Maker activities, your library might be able to offer an excellent change of pace.

Action, Analysis, Business, Collaborate, Collaboration

3. Help students develop research skills.
Your librarian is highly trained not only in finding information, but in teaching this skill to students and staff. If research is not your strong suit, or if you’d like a different voice to assist with struggling students, your librarian can definitely offer a helping hand!

Student, Typing, Keyboard, Text, Woman, Startup

4. Collaborate on fun projects.

There are many new trends sweeping the library world. From Maker activities to increased awareness of STEM/STEAM, your librarian can help you create fun projects to keep students engaged and support your curriculum.

5. Promote the love of reading.

When it comes to reading, librarians are very well-versed in the newest, hottest titles. We know what students want to read, and if we don’t have it, we know how to find it. And if for whatever reason we can’t find it, we can find something very similar. And when a student finishes a book they love, we can find something else they’ll enjoy, too. Seriously. Reader’s advisory is a librarian’s strong suit.

Books, Shoes, Person, Reading, Grass, Summer

6. Fight fake news.

We live in a world where people are constantly shouting, “FAKE NEWS!” If it’s true that almost half of America gets their news on sites like Facebook, it’s also true that a lot of it is coming from unreliable resources. Go to the library for assistance in finding quality resources to help your students learn how to spot fake news when they see it!

7. Develop strong digital citizenship skills.

Your library/librarian can help you and your students build digital citizenship skills. What does your digital footprint look like? Are you putting your best face forward? In the library, you can learn how to communicate with the world effectively. You can also learn skills to keep yourself safe from dangers like identity theft.

Social Media, Icon, Hand, Keep, Present, Presentation

8. Connect your classroom to the world.

Librarians are well connected. Are you interested in setting up a classroom conversation with students from another state? How about another country? Chances are, your library can help make that happen. Better yet, your library likely has the technology available to make this conversation take place even easier.

Smartphone, Mobile Phone, Finger, Touch, Spark

9. Be a test-area for new projects.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about librarians, we are ready and willing to try new things. A lot of the time, all a teacher has to do is throw an idea out there. Look at me, for example. I really don’t know much about computer programming, but I am teaming up with an innovative science teacher next school year to start a robotics team!

10. Advance the curriculum and connect with teaching partners.

Again, your librarian likely has his/her finger on the pulse of curriculum for every subject taught on your campus. If you aren’t meeting with your cross-curricular teaching partners, your librarian might be able to help you make those connections. Your librarian might also be aware of additional professional development opportunities (and ideas for funding!) as well.


Supporting Literacy in a School Library Makerspace

As a librarian new to the school library makerspace scene, it’s been fairly easy to become overwhelmed by makerspace ideas. Many of the school libraries leading the way in makerspaces feature programs that include electronics and circuitry, robotics, woodcraft, and other concepts I don’t necessarily feel comfortable teaching. I am an English teacher and book lover at heart, and I love investigating and practicing the latest library technology trends, but the idea of Makey Makey kits and building robots is intimidating!

Further, the idea of maker activities and literacy combined is important to me, and considering how many of my students are reading below grade level, it’s vital to my students as well. This blog post is dedicated to showing off some of the literacy projects taking place in my school library.

Melted Crayon Art

Middle school girls demonstrate their library makerspace project: melted crayon art.

For this activity, student read the book “Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm. We had several important discussions about how we maintain positivity in our lives, even when we are facing difficult situations. After brainstorming our own attitudes in day to day life, students created melted crayon artwork that featured inspirational quotes. The goal was for students to hang their artwork in their bedrooms so they’d be reminded each morning to start their days off on a positive note!

Green Screen Activities

Students engaged in library literacy program: Dr. Seuss Day Celebration using GreenScreen app by DoInk.

We completed this activity during Dr. Seuss week, though it has continued to be popular throughout the school year for many other purposes. While Dr. Seuss might seem too young for my middle school crowd, the girls enjoyed discussing prevalent themes in his well-known works and used the green screen to take Seussian photos. Other ideas for the green screen include creating book trailers and stop-motion animations to promote new reading.


DIY Bookmarks

Students demonstrate their library maker project: DIY bookmarks.

This project was ridiculously easy, but my students absolutely loved it. I picked up some paint strip sample sheets at my nearest hardware store and brought them over to my girls to design as they saw fit. Add some Sharpie markers, a bit of ribbon, and some scrap booking hole punchers, and we had a library makerspace activity that encouraged students to check out a book they liked. Students were asked to check out a book of their choice prior to creating a bookmark. Each student was able to create two- one for herself and one for her BFF.





Tech Talk: Using Canva in the Library

I am always looking to find new ways to use technology in the library. My favorite tools are the ones that are useful to me for everyday library management as well as great learning tools to make learning more enjoyable for my students.

This post is all about Canva, a user-friendly graphic design site for both desktop and mobile device use. Students and educators alike can use this powerful tool to create all types of visual aids, from infographics to library signage, social media posts, to email and social media headers.

Learning to Design with Canva

Canva is a highly user-friendly website. Once you create your account, you will be guided through a brief tutorial that will have you create your first original work. Canva offers a variety of different templates to choose from that you can ultimately edit to make your own. There are free graphics as well as options to purchase more designs for your use. Plus, you also have the option to upload your own images from your computer to add to your unique creations. Keep in mind that you should have full permission to use the images you are uploading. You want to be sure you are following copyright laws. When in doubt, use only images you have taken yourself.

Here is a simple video guide to creating your own graphics, provided on the official Canva YouTube account:

How Can Teachers and Students Use Canva?

Think of Canva as a way to totally change the presentation style in your classroom while also integrating new technology into your lesson plans. Think of your usual project habits. Oftentimes, we might have a group of students do some sort of research and then compile all their findings on a piece of butcher paper. How much wall space do we really have for all these posters? How much time do students waste hand-drawing their illustrations and carefully writing the information down like the little perfectionists they are? Canva gives students the opportunity to create professional-looking creations in a quick amount of time.

Blog Graphic

In the above example, students did a brief research project on American leaders of the American Revolution. Students looked for 6 important facts about their selected topic. In this case, students used a pre-designed template and just edited the text to include their information. This entire project took just one class period.

How Can Librarians Use Canva?

I use Canva to create signs for my book displays. Here is one I created for Halloween. I started with a template and changed it up to fit my own taste:


Here’s another I used just to promote a particular section of the library:

Blog Graphic

I also used Canva to create a logo for our local Battle of the Books Competition:

Central Texas


Possibilities are Endless

As you can see, there really is a lot you can do with Canva! I highly encourage you to check the site out and begin practicing with designing your own graphics. The available templates make it easy to get started, and once you are more confident you can begin to work on graphics from scratch.

How will YOU use Canva? Feel free to share your creations with me on Twitter (@meanslibrary) or comment below!

Build Your Budget with Creative Crowdfunding

As a librarian, I try to be aware of the way library services are evolving. Librarians want to be able to offer the latest and greatest in reading materials, but we also have to meet the needs of the 21st Century Learner. It seems like every professional development session I attend has a strong focus on technology integration and the Maker movement. But how can we bring our libraries into the 21st century when our budgets are barely enough to keep literacy programs moving forward? For this first post, I’ve decided to focus on expanding your library budget with the help of crowdfunding.

What Started it All

I’ve worked at 4 Title 1 schools throughout my 11 year career, so I am no stranger to having to make miracles with a minimal budget. Toward the end of the 2015-2016 school year, I decided to take a chance with crowdfunding. I created an account with DonorsChoose.org, and the impact was immediate.

My first project was what I figured my community would expect to see from a library- it was a request for about $800 worth of books. After posting on social media, the project was funded in about 3 weeks. The school year was nearly at a close, but I knew DonorsChoose.org was going to make a world of opportunities available to me for the 2016-2017 year!IMG_1395

During this school year, my funded projects have amounted to over $6000 in items ranging from print books and Playaways to robots and other tech equipment for my students’ use. As I gain more confidence in the project writing process, I find myself feeling that more educators should take advantage of this awesome program, and I’d love to share some of the tricks I’ve learned to building a successful project. Here are some of the things I feel have helped me be successful with crowdfunding.

Tips and Tricks for Getting Funded

  1. Keep Your Project Focused: Sure, there are a million things you can do with your requested iPads. Try to focus on one or two immediate lessons you plan to use your iPads for and describe them in your DonorsChoose.org project. Keep your project centered on acquiring just those specific items; you can always create a later project to add other tools (green screens, tripods, etc.) later.
  2. Keep Your Project Small: DonorsChoose.org has released multiple stats on which projects typically receive full funding. Their studies have shown that the majority of projects are $400 or less. Try to keep your projects under that threshold, and you will likely see the most success. Plus, when you are able to get projects wrapped up quickly, you can accrue points faster and create your next project!
  3. Find a Match Offer: Maybe your project doesn’t seem like it could fit a particular offer at first glance. Can you possible change it to accommodate an existing match? I made a request for some Makey Makey kits to keep in the library, for instance. My initial intention was to keep them here for student use. I found a match offer, however, that would support STEAM projects at home. After thinking on this a bit, I began to think, “Why shouldn’t my kids be able to take these kits home to show their parents and siblings what they’re working on at school?” Sure enough, the project was posted and funding very quickly.IMG_1158.JPG
  4. Get Your Thank-You Packages Submitted Quickly: I’ve noticed many of the people donating to my library come back and support my other projects. Try to make your thank-you packages meaningful, and send them out as soon as possible to get those credit points back! My students are already in the habit of writing their thank-you notes when we receive new items. I encourage them to make their letters personal; What did they especially like about the project? What did they learn? What was difficult? What will they do next? If your donors see the impact their contributions are having in your classroom, maybe they’ll be excited to come back!



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