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?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Research is EVERYWHERE!

Just like when you buy a new car and suddenly notice how many others purchased the same make and model...before the purchase, however, you paid little mind to what others drove.

Research is the same for has always been around, but only recently have I been awakened to the abundance of it. I find myself challenging the intent behind it, wondering who funded it, wanting to explore the methodology, interpreting the results, and confirming how the application of what was learned can help bring about positive change.

For example, a week or so ago, one of my students shared a research study conducted in Japan that found that people who viewed photographs of kittens and puppies (as opposed to cats and dogs) were more relaxed and more receptive to input such as new learning. My first thought - where did they get this crazy idea. My second: people are starving around the planet and this is what millions of dollars are being spent on instead. Hmmm...

Another study shows how struggling readers, especially those just learning how, can better learn to read aloud in a less threatening environment by reading to a dog instead of peers. While other children, who notice errors may respond and upset or embarrass the struggling reader, a dog can be a patient and non-judgmental listener. This study was the impetus for programs to spring forth in public libraries around the country, promoting special reading times just for this purpose.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Live action research...

A middle of the night thought this week: I realized that one of my favorite positions (a 5pm to 2 am shift) was in fact a research and development project put into action. I shall explain...

I was hired by Nike at the end of the summer in 1982 for a special position that was going to last until the following summer...there were 15 of us in all. We worked in a separate building with its own security - a walking bridge over the Saco River that was tenuous at best, and keypad entry with only 20 people having the code.

Over the first few weeks, two of the guys tested different mil rates to determine the exact thickness necessary to hold without waste or greater expense. The job was to work a pair of machines that took ordinary rolls of two-layer plastic that molded and cut them into heel shapes. The seam had to be thick enough to hold during inflation, yet thin enough to still feel comfortable in a fully-constructed shoe.

There were six teams of two women, one to inflate a little plastic heel to be inserted into a sneaker and one to seal the opening made from the inflation. Our first weeks were spent learning the correct angle to hold the basketball needle attached to a pressurized tank of air. Every time a heel shape exploded upon inflation, we had to put it aside - labeling which person inflated and attempted to seal the hole left. That part of the process was to press a pedal allowing two opposing steel rods energized and hot to meet and melt the plastic in between, ensuring the needle hole was part of the meld. We had to randomly test, applying pressure with mallets to see if the weld would hold up and the heel stayed inflated. If it failed, it was labeled and placed in a different bin. We had a bin for each step in the process, in addition to a bin for each worker as sometimes it wasn't the machine setting - but the person working it.

Our one boss could assist with every position and was also part of quality control.

Every morning, one corporate type (R&D) person would arrive and test every one of the heels that we produced and inflated - with a repetitive pressure tester. The rejects (aka blowouts) were placed in one box; the still inflated into another.

Because our inflation teams kept our work separate, the testing would show which teams held better and machine adjustments would be made to the all of the other machines to try and make them match.

Once we had mastered the production, and a very high success rate (still inflated) - the process was ready to be mass produced and placed back within the confines of the factory. For our efforts, each of us had been paid well, kept it a secret for nearly a year, and got one of the first pairs off the assembly line once they were incorporated into the new sneakers.

We had just created the Nike Air...and had no clue how this would all work until Michael Jordan stepped in to put a marketing face to our new product, and Nike sales shot skyward.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Maine Leaders Predict Gen Y Change State - Robert Long

     "The next wave of Maine homebuyers will value cellphones more than cars and prefer to live in communities where they can walk to work, shop and socialize, according to Evan Richert, former director of the State Planning Office.
     Speaking to a crowd of more than 400 municipal officials, business leaders, development professional and planning specialists Tuesday during a GrowSmart Maine summit at the Augusta Civic Center, Richert said to the maturation of Gen Y - which he defined as people born between 1983 and 2001 - will alter the way Maine communities grow and function in the coming decades.
     About 301,000 Mainers - 23 percent - fall into the Gen Y category, compared with 381,000 baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, according to Richert.     "In 2006, the leading edge of Gen Y was just entering young adulthood," Richert said. This is a longtime market that we are talking about." Richert listed four key changes that have occurred since 2006, when GrowSmart maine first released "Charting Maine's Future: An Action Plan for Promoting Sustainable Prosperity and Quality Places." The great recession, higher gas prices, greater online connectivity and the initial influx of Gen X into the "household information" market are driving changes in how Maine communities should prepare for the future, he said.
     "Wherever they go, they will demand choices - technology in affordable homes, places where they can experience life in a different way than the low-density suburbs," Richert said, citing data compiled by the Urban Land Institute.
     GrowSmart Maine had commissioned the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program to complete the comprehensive report on how Maine could adapt government, education, business and other institutions to position the state for success in the 21st century.

 - Lewiston Sun Journal -- October 24, 2012 -- B7 & B8 -- 104 Park Street, Lewiston, Maine 04240

Imagine the potential for community libraries. If we have a new generation of citizens who prefer to walk within their social neighborhood, then they will be moving closer to its cities and municipal services. A community library within walking distance, near the markets and restaurants they will frequent means convenience. A community library that offers open wi-fi means those residing close enough can benefit by accessing the Internet through their servers, thereby saving money by not using as much bandwidth with their own provider or even being able to avoid having another provider relationship and the associated expenses.

A community library with musical cd's and movie DVD's mean one less expense borrowing from NetFlix services or Redbox or even not having to purchase the most recent movies from the all-powerful Wal*mart. While some of the Gen Y are nearing their teens and the services a community library could provide to support their youth development, the upper end of the age range of Gen Y are nearing college graduation, beginning their professional careers and becoming parent-able within the next decade. For both of these groups, they could could participate in a community library's programs and services such as storytelling, story hours, activities, movie nights, and gaming - they could become the mentors and adult role models so desperately needed by the younger of Gen Y. Community libraries could partner with other municipal services to provide support to help mold their future community leaders and citizens.

Being within walking distance means more frequent access to the community library. Convenient and extended hours means adapting to the working schedule of the typical Gen Y and providing services around their hours. A community library's meeting room or auditorium is a value-added feature that could enable a telecommuter working from a home nearby the ability to host meetings in a convenient location where all of the expenses associated with that space are already paid for (ie electricity, heat, Internet). Some libraries do have policies about using space for profit-ventures, so one couldn't run a business out of a community library, but colleagues meeting to share information and resources isn't any different than students working together on a school project.

I have many friends whose children were born in the early part of Gen Y range...and those employed  in more tech-savvy fields prefer work schedules that greatly differ from the industrial schedule of their parents or their parents' parents. No longer a 7 am to 3 pm or even a 9 am to 5 pm schedule. Those I know in this group prefer a 3 pm to midnight or a 5 pm to 2 am schedule. As one with experience for a 5pm to 2am schedule, I can say it was my favorite schedule I've ever had. It better matched my natural biorhythms of young adults. As more and more of our workforce is in collaboration with colleagues in varying timezones around the planet, it makes sense that schedules adapt. And a community library can adapt right along with it, especially since they equate to nearly a quarter of the population the community library is supposed to serve.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

data analysis...

Accepting Dr. Kevin Morrell's supposition, I am lucky to have at least a "nodding acquaintance some common statistical tests" conducted in quantitative research and data analysis (slide 33).
It was also interesting to see Morrell's reference to the caution that should be exercised when using the word 'signifcant' when one is writing relating to research, as it is a "quick way to show up ignorance" (slide 23).

Going back to some research articles that I've read over the past year, the term seems to be used more frequently than I would expect. Is it because that researcher is so passionate with his or her study, and the results, that no other term would suffice? I can also now note that not only do they use the term, but they use its strength to their predictions or inferences that they draw from their data.
I found it interesting that it is critical to have a pre-research or sampling, when I have not really found much evidence of this being done with many of the articles I've read ("ready, fire, aim" Morrell, slide 22). How does this impact the overall research?

And most curious, how would the data present a different result if all non-responses were counted. I notice in my articles that they were mentioned, but it did not clearly indicate if they were coded and analyzed as part of the whole.

Of this week's sources, I did find Poynton's presentation short, but very helpful in its format and language. I had to review Morrell's slideshare multiple times - and it made the most amount of sense after reading our overview a second time and Poynton's presentation. Reviewing Chapters 8 and 9 again were helpful, as it put it more in context with other resources and the language is becoming familiar (not yet comfortable or natural).

I attempted to download and test out Poynton's EZAnalyze software, but having a state-issued Mac with controls set by my school district - I was not able to install and utilize the software. I am hopeful that our technology department, the gatekeepers of all things evil and risky, open it up and help me next week. We shall see...

Friday, October 12, 2012


"I'm finding similarities with the idea of a pre-interview to be fascinating, as it is exactly what I'm learning in my Oral History class. It is important to build a rapport and trust in creating this unique kind of relationship. While at the same time finding a balance to be comfortable before the interview or research, without mistakenly thinking I've been upgraded from an 'outsider' to an 'insider' in the process."

While passing through our state's capital city this week (about 80 miles from home), I noticed two teen inmates being escorted into the county courthouse. They were in teal jumpsuits and sneakers without laces, instead of adult orange jumpsuits, and were handcuffed, shackled and connected to each other. They wobbled like toy robots until finding a rhythm that allowed a slow forward progress. Both were talking and laughing...neither looked frightening in any way, with the exception of the armed sheriff's deputy and all the steel chains and noise associated with them.

And then I would one go about a pre-interview with one of them? Build a rapport? Could that person ever really be anything more than an "outsider"? Would it require prior experience as an inmate to build a bond? Or simply someone who will listen? Without judgement?

How did their circumstances come to be so that we shared about three seconds of time in a relatively close space (and will probably never meet again)? Did their family fail them? Did their community fail them? What would they suggest as a means to keep other teens from their fate? Once settled, what do these teens need to help alter their youth development so that they can become contributing citizens to our population?

Being an adult already seems like the opposite side for so many of our teen population, when I observe reactions of adults around teens - or those especially who try avoiding interacting with teens...and it upsets me how so many of those adults are quick to judge a teen based upon his or her appearance. Some of my favorite teens, those who have the biggest hearts and most solid moral compass are covered in piercings and tattoos. They are the first to offer assistance for anything, they are last to leave someone in need, they speak their mind often in whispers and only to a select few. They are emotional...they are human, and need interactions.

Sidenote: I've met one of the librarians at the Maine State Prison...her sense of humor surpasses the best comedians I've ever seen.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Oral History questions...

It seemed a challenge, but I generated a list of questions for my narrator for our first (MIHC) oral history interview to be conducted within the next week or so. His childhood was rich with recorded information (about the turmoil and civil war), so the intent of this interview is to glean a different perspective - that of a child, and what it felt like as a teen to watch peace finally come to his country.

Taking pride in my research skills, ever improving, I devoured books and scholarly articles and local publications (new and old) to develop a sense of the history of Ireland. I dove into the deep end, and I lost sight of my narrator. I created questions built around the history I had read about; I was prepared to wow him (did NOT do purposefully) with my new knowledge so that we could hold a conversation. But, an oral history is not a is not a documentary. It is similar to a dance, where the leader is supposed to be the narrator. My background research is designed to help me ask better follow-up questions; it is designed to allow me to help him if he loses a particular detail that could distract him to the point of derailing the whole interview; it is designed to make the narrator more comfortable in our relationship as narrator and interviewer. Every oral history recorded is a reflection of this relationship.

So, I need to start again...and here's is my base point, so far. After the biographical questions, about family and where he attended school...I asked:
  • Have you taken advantage of the freedom of movement to travel in any of the EU countries?
    • where have you been?
    • where would you still like to visit?
  • Can you share some of the history of Ireland (the island) and show how it became two countries: Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?
  • Can you tell me more about the differences, as you understand them, between the IRA, IRB and other paramilitary organizations?
    • what types of action did they take?
    • what were the results of their efforts?
  • What was the root cause of all of this civil unrest?
  • Describe what a typical childhood day was like during "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland?
    • which factions were causing the civil unrest?
    • did you ever see any violence?
    • did you see evidence of violence - the aftermath? such as?
    • what was the primary method of violence?
    • do you recall any significant exchange with any of those men that you want to share?
    • looking back, did you understand their intentions in talking to you?
  • What did you see as the reality of the violence?
  • How did the media portray those instances of violence to the world?
    • how did that make you feel?
  • As a kid, did you feel safe on the streets during this time?
  • When did the majority of the violence stop?
  • What was it like for you family watching the peace process come together?
  • How did the signing of the Good Friday Agreement change your life?
  • What changes did you see happening in some of the larger cities around Ireland after peace was achieved (1998-2003)?
  • How did those changes affect your family?
  • What else changed or shifted?
  • What happened in Ireland and Northern Ireland when the economy started failing?
  • Last week, the Maine Irish Heritage Center honored Senator George J Mitchell for his role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. When Mary asked that all Irish born join him for the presentation of the Claddagh award, what were you thinking as you approached the stage?
  • What did it mean to you to meet George Mitchell?
  • Did you speak with him?
  • How has moving to Portland, Maine changed your life?
  • Looking back, how do you think all of your childhood experiences shaped who you have become as an adult?
  • Which parts of your Irish history and experiences will you share with your own children?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Final three abstracts: a quality draft

Fisher, H. (2003). A teenage view of the public library: What are the students saying? Aplis, 16(1), 4-16.

This study examines the relationship between young adults and the public library in order to advise staff on strategies to improve services. To gather qualitative data, a written survey was generated and distributed randomly to fifty students each from grades 7 through 12 in a nearby high school. Broken into seven sections, the first section addresses a student’s use of the public library, while the second allows students to share their visions for an ideal library. Additional sections include referred use, resources and technology, library staff, and library environment. Of the 42.4% of students who use the library, most students agree that having the catalog available online should be the highest priority. Additional suggestions include having a cafĂ©, a comfortable YA area, more student friendly staff, and programs that are well promoted. There needs to be a mutual understanding that public libraries should support students’ academic needs to become a place teens want to visit. This study also shows a need for both the public and school libraries to work together, supporting each other for the betterment of services to their shared patrons: the teens.

Alessio, A. & Buron, N. (2006). Measuring the impact of dedicated teen service in the public library. Young Adult Library Services, 4(3), 47-51.

This study was intended to evaluate libraries with new teen services in order to compare them with libraries that had programs in place for five+ years. A survey was distributed by direct mail, email and as a handout at national library conference. The data collected is considered more anecdotal than statistical due to the professional connected to those responding. Results of the 225 respondents, showed that over a third had a full or part-time teen librarian. This had the greatest impact on increases in circulation, partnerships and teen programs. Nearly half had a full or part-time shared librarian, with almost as much success as the teen librarian. In addition, nearly 93% worked in partnerships such as community organizations sharing resources and supporting each other’s programs. While teen services appear to be on the rise, budgets specific to young adults materials and programs is still a rare exception in a public library budget. This study shows the importance of having professional librarians working with teens, and that working in partnerships can improve services for teens.

Williams, P. & Edwards, J. (2011). Nowhere to go and nothing to do: How public libraries mitigate the impacts of parental work and urban planning on young people. Aplis, 24(4), 142-152.

This study examines the impact of public libraries that provide space and resources specifically for young adults and their psychosocial development. Using a mixed methods strategies approach, librarian interviews were conducted in five of the ten case study communities. As a follow-up, two of the five libraries were selected for their best practices and semi-structured interviews were conducted with a range of stakeholders including teens, parents, other adults, staff and key community members. Results show the need for teens to have access to spatial, social, and developmental resources. Teens are often caught between being excluded from adult spaces while no longer fitting into children’s spaces. A public library can provide a safe place, access to resources, adult support, and social interaction. When a public library addresses teens’ needs, their development can have a significant long-term positive impact and it can help build a stronger citizenship.