Friday, November 30, 2012

"Outgrow" your Public Library?

Babies outgrow boo-boo bunnies, Skippy bears and cribs.  Toddlers and children outgrow their clothes,  and shoes, and favorite shows. They outgrow G rated movies, tiny furniture and finger-pointing reading. Sadly, they outgrow the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. The last hold out: they outgrow believing in Santa Clause. They move beyond training wheels and T-ball stands, as those are only meant to give them a helping hand. Little fingers stretch and lengthen, going from clutching a chunky crayon to the fine motor skills of playing an instrument like piano or guitar. Teens outgrow fads and trends, favorite colors and sometimes favorite friends. At times, teens' bones outgrow their body causing great growth pain in knees and hips along growth plates, if the rate of growth is too rapid.

In a rural region such as ours, children are bussed distances to community-based K-8 schools. These children really have to get along because they spend every school day from kindergarten through eighth grade together, as one class per grade for each school. That is more time than most adults spend with colleagues and coworkers. These children often outgrow the confines of that school and all it has to offer. They outgrow each that they are nearly desperate for high school to start, where these four little-world K-8 schools come together or collide as a new ninth grade class and everything has suddenly changed. Further bussing, larger different building, staff, administration, resources, even friends. Throughout those nine years, their public library has stayed exactly the same.

With all of that said, like many things in childhood, is it possible to "outgrow" your public library?

As part of my final for LIBR 285, I hope to construct a research proposal that might lend itself to shedding light on all of the possibilities for why our teens rarely or no longer use the public library in their small rural town. The survey is the first step, and it is am I.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dynamic Youth Services

First, I want to say that I really liked reading this book - although the more I read, the more I realized that I was not going to be able to complete a Programming Proposal for my final project as I had hoped. Clearly outlined in DYS, no one librarian can do it all - and trying to create a YA program in my school district by utilizing space and resources at our local public libraries (to defray transportation costs and ensure attendance of teens) is not possible - as most of our libraries do not have strategic plans, or vision/mission statements. These libraries (sadly) exist as a repository of book; they offer access to a few computers; they offer story time for little children.

 As a school district, I do have access to a mission statement for both the district and the high school. Our World Cafe last spring has led to committees, so we don't yet have a strategic plan, vision or market research - but it is being worked on. Good to know now.

My hope was to begin to provide programming using a mobile model, which could work effectively for things like gaming nights and such. All four of our town libraries either have a room within their library or a room within the same town office/community building they are located in.

Since transportation is the biggest issue for my YA students, I propose a mobile system where I transport all of the necessary components. I have a great start with an LCD projector and portable screen. My college-bound children in away so I also have access to a PS2, Dance Pad, and a number of popular video games still popular with our teens.

New plan: research proposal realizing the obvious, on average the last major change to any of our public libraries was in the smallest town with the construction of a combined new town office and library in 1991. All four have one librarian, only one of which has a degree and specialized library training, two have volunteers while the other two choose not to have volunteers (I've been trying to help them both for almost a decade now). Besides the books, nothing has changed.

I want to know why my teens really stopped visiting, or are they just saying they stopped. Are there reduced visits? Why? Parent control? Transportation? Quality of collection? Too old for story hour? What are their reasons? What would get them back?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

NCTE conference

While I may have been away from my computer, and my SLIS courses, between November 15th and 20th - it seems I couldn't escape noticing connections to research.

Typing an oral history transcript during the flight (terrible fear of flying), I kept going back to how the island of Ireland was broken into two so that Northern Ireland would remain faithful to the United Kingdom, while the Republic of Ireland could begin its own governance. Originally four districts, Ulster was the most northern portion of Ireland. If, when the country split and it had been retained all of its district - there would have been a tremendous shift. For the first time, Catholics would have outnumbered the Protestants and been in clear majority. What would that have done? Changed everything. My oral history narrator shared how the housing authority, the police, and the political organizations like the Orange Men and the Apprentice Boys of Derry dominated the areas, controlled the housing placements, and created a greatly segregated country. Belfast is considered the "most segregated city in the world" and Derry, the hometown of my narrator, is not much different although not as noticeable to the outside and no"peace walls." He raised the question of terrorism and asked, "Was George Washington a terrorist?" He and his revolution was no different in allowing the United States to attain its freedom from the United Kingdom. Isn't that what the IRA did for Ireland?

Sir Ken Robinson spoke of the changes we've seen all around us as research proves out old theories. For example, he had those over the age of 40 raise their hands if they had their tonsils removed. Many hands shot up because the medical solution to continuous colds and throat maladies was to remove that "extra flap of skin." There were almost no hands raised for those under 30 years of age because medical research proved that removing tonsils was no longer a recommended medical necessity. However, we are still teaching children using the same predetermined industrial timeframe (bells ringing, equivalent to first shift) using formats that have gone unchallenged for far too long. "Children in school right now will hold positions that don't even exist yet", but still we educate with 19th and 20th methodology.

Assembly of Literature for Adolescents of NCTE-ALAN: Breakfast with guest speaker and honoree Scott Westerfeld led to many laughs and great discussions about how he went about researching for his Leviathan series...told from the perspective of two adolescents: a would be heir to the throne and a young girl pretending to be a boy to fly with their military air service - both of whom lost their parents. The idea for incorporating all of these fantastical military machine graphics arose from the outrage of his American fans of the Uglies series when the series was published in Japan with pictures as a manga. Scott did a great deal of research and discovered that the newer 'technology of the camera' replaced so many professional artists who up until that time were held in higher esteem. In HG Well's War of the World, the illustrator/artist received top billing with larger, more noticeable font. When Scott challenged the idea of a crazy walking machine Keith (his artist) rendered, he was sent back original military drawing of just such a machine. The entire trilogy was created around research, of the time period, place, technology, political alliances, royalty & rebellion. ( )

Throughout the day, every other author who shared experiences about their writing also referred to the necessary research that goes into each book. They must build creditability with a reader, which is key so that when they toss in a bit of surreal or impossible, there can be a 'suspension of disbelief' and the reader continues on in his reading still accepting the narrator's storyline.

And I suppose, since every author has his or her own writing group, in research terms that equates to a focus group where elements can be tested and challenged. So that some bits and pieces of the story will become part of the final publication, while many other bits and pieces need adjustment or removal.

An educator who was to be the winner of an award during the Children's Literacy Assembly (CLA) - David Shannon celebration breakfast, who couldn't be there to accept because she was conducting research in Japan. Wouldn't that be fun to say. I'm invited to receive some prestigious literary award, "Sorry, I'll be in Japan." Her current research is centered around resources for children with ASD - Autism Spectrum Disorder. By initially using focus groups and then individual sessions with children, their parents, and their educators - she is hoping to determine which reading materials are most beneficial and valid for those suffering from ASD. Her acceptance speech, presented on her behalf, included terms like authenticity, reliability, validity, qualitative, discourse analysis, and social construct. I searched through my notes and the conference program, and couldn't seem to locate her name anywhere. Unfortunately, I no longer have the 396 page program as it was either that or a signed copy of a book for my YA students. Clearly, not a tough decision! The online program, an exact replica of the print program only shows the chair, committee and honored author/guest. No mention of awards or award winners. (

Its funny how things come full circle, sometimes more quickly than anticipated. Big news in education in Texas. Can you imagine teachers using curriculums that show how the Boston Tea Party is considered an act of terrorism? Parents are outraged, so I've heard. My own husband challenged the notion. Which is really funny considering he was part of a militia reenactment group for a number of years so knows the intricacies of battle of that time period more than most people. (see NCTE: Thursday's notations)

Sleep-deprived yet high on meeting YA authors experience - is a great motivator talking with my students about reading and writing. Shared Chris Crutcher's story of how high school was easy. He found his brother's assignments for every paper in every class, organized and practically gift-wrapped. So, great grades for Chris (never caught), but it meant that he never ead books he should have. So, when he reached his late twenties and wanted to become a writer, he discovered "You can't ever be a writer until your a reader." He had to go back and read at age 30 what he should have been reading in high school; lesson learned (and shared!).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Whittier Road to remain closed; FEMA grant pending nearly completed fish study

"Meanwhile, the town has applied for a $227,000 federal emergency management agency hazard mitigation grant to install bank-stabilizing root balls and boulders to fend off the river.
That process stalled after FEMA required the town to complete a biological assessment under Section 7 of Endangered Species Act, in order to determine the potential impact of the project on the local salmon habitat. That assessment, Jones said, at this point is 90 percent completed. Once the fish study is completed the grant application process can proceed.
Castonguay believes the town should find out if the grant is to be approved by mid-winter."

I understand how some would consider this road repair a critical need that should be corrected immediately, mostly the neighbors and school district who are required to use an alternate route. But, I am struggling with this road repair plan for several reasons. 

First, this is not the first time the road banking has eroded and washed away. When they build a road against a steep river bank, a river that fluctuates greatly with rainfall and snow melt and floods every single year, they should expect issues. Stupidity should not be rewarded by allowing it to happen again and again. In my common sense world: if a road washes away; move the road! 

Second, this alternate route cost them $30,000, which is reasonable for a back road in Maine. $227,000 for a new road is NOT a reasonable pricetag!!!

Third, FEMA isn't some magical cash-making organization. FEMA is the tax dollars of those of us working, and in Maine right now - that equates to about 45% at last count. We are the second worst state in the country to try to make a living in. Is there a correlation? Is it because we tend to create priorities where common sense should prevail? 

Fourth, as a state we have spent millions of dollars removing old dams to support the salmon habitats in our rivers' waters. Over the past decade, college students have been hired each summer to catch, tag, measure and release these salmon in order to determine their migration and reproduction patterns. Imagine: earning $10 an hour to go fishing?! That said, I would like to know who is conducting the "fish study" that is "90 percent completed." Clearly, this is a gathering of quantitative data - as qualitative is not possible. So, then I begin to wonder how the data is gathered, by whom, and what motivations drive the gathering of this data.

Finally, $227,000 would employ 7.5 new full-time teachers ($30,000 Maine minimum) or purchase over 11,000 new YA books. That is nearly double of what we have in our high school fiction collection. 


Source: Daily Bulldog November 14, 2012 - available at 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Literature Review

I completed a complete, polished draft of my Literature Review this afternoon; I am both exhilarated and fearful. I sent a copy to a classmate in my Youth and Libraries group, as I am most comfortable with her support. Using the Patty Oey examplar helped me to organize my thoughts. And, for the first time in my life, I actually wrote an outline (nearly a month) before I wrote the paper.

As I usually do, I jumped into the research early and after a few false starts, I began to see a few trends. I expanded my search, not trusting that what I had was of a high enough academic caliber. I searched again, and again. I mined limp articles for their resources and sought those out as stronger support for a direction I was beginning to find for myself and my needs to answer some key questions. Once the outline was complete, I was better able to target gaps in the research to ensure I had gathered enough. Being particular, I tried restricting my resources to those that are of a scholarly nature and were peer reviewed. Based upon what we've learned in class, I can have much more confidence in the validity and reliability of research articles published in this manner.

I believe I learned a great deal about the interests and needs of young adults....and since I had an 8-10 page limit, I reduced the scope to the environment and resources best suited for young adults as students, social teens, and developing citizens. I have enough material to write another literature review covering programs and services for these same three personas of the young adult.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Quantitative Research

Considering, I've read twice in a week, how school libraries and the staffing and resources they provide directly impact test scores of young adult students - I want to know what other factors might have contributed, yet weren't considered. How many volunteers do the schools have supporting classrooms and libraries. What sort of funding changes were initiated? Did anything else major change? (eg. the rollout of a one-to-one laptop program)

Also, I am curious as to the impact, looking only at test scores, of having our own K-8 school libraries cut to half time as of 2007. At the same time, the high school had been cut for two years, but brought back to 75% time with my transition from the classroom. What isn't fair, and could contradict my suspicions is that while our librarians (paid at the lowest possible rates) are only receiving half-time pay, most are spending a great deal of their own time (unpaid) in order the complete the duties of their positions. It has come to be expected, almost required, by the administration and school board. Over the past four years, I have spent countless evenings, weekends, and school holidays catching up on work that eluded me during the course of my daily schedule.

So, I'm thinking:
  • review the five years prior to the reduction in hours to determine benchmarks, as well as high, average and below average ranges of test scores (in each of the four K-8 schools)
  • review the five years prior to the reduction in hours to determine benchmarks, as well as high, average and below average ranges of test scores (for each grade in high school)
  • review five current years with the reduced services (in both staffing and resources) to determine impact on student assessment (in each of the four K-8 schools)
  • review two years (2007-2009) with reduced services to determine impact on student assessment (for each grade in high school)
  • review four current years with increased services (in both staffing to 75% and resources) to determine impact on student assessment
  • all to look for patterns and correlations between staffing, funding and test scores
  • must consider degradation of student success and what other factors might have led to how Ivy leagues schools accepted some of our students between 2000-2004 and MIT 2006, but it is no longer attainable for acceptance into by our students since 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Full-Time School Librarians Boost Test Scores

For the first time in nearly a decade, the state of PA commissioned a study that showed a direct positive link between having certified school library media specialists available to students in grades three through eleven and improved reading scores. And, for the first time ever, the data also supports that school librarians can greatly improve students writing test scores, as well.

Similar results were recently posted in the American Libraries November/December 2012 pg. 23: "Australia: findings from Softlink's annual Australian School Library Survey have revealed a positive link between literacy results and school library resource levels. The April 2012 survey found that students attending schools that received above-average levels of library funding and staffing placed a higher than the national average on National Assessment Program-Literacy and Numeracy test scores. - Softlink.

On first read, this looks impressive - and supports their logic that a stronger financial support will provide greater returns. But then, I began to wonder:

  • what other factors were not mentioned? 
  • I understand that to be a good writer, one must be a good reader - but what else changed? 
    • were there new summer reading programs (to prevent reading loss)?
    • was the complexity of the tests consistent with prior tests?
      • switching from CAT testing to NWEA will NOT equate
  • If every school had a certified school library media specialist:
    • did they also have larger budgets to purchase update materials?
    • did they retain all of their teaching staff?
    • were there any curriculum changes?
    • was the Common Core initiated prior to the testing?
    • was there a shift in the socioeconomic status of those students tested?
    • did the test takers parents achieve a higher level of education than previous test takers?