A Retrospective

It’s been over a year since I retired, and my former library assistant asked me to write up a bit about my work with the library. Although the job certainly has its ups and downs, I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish.

After 8 years of library experience at all grade levels with the adjoining county schools, Beth came to the current middle school in 2006 as its Librarian. She was the first certified school librarian to hold that position. She came on board in July 2006, just as the new middle school building was nearing completion.

Beth was given a dream budget of $10,000 to buy books for the new library. After spending the summer carefully selecting books, she planned the layout of the library and moved the collection onto the shelves. She and her Library Assistant opened the new library in October 2006, when the new building opened.

Although the architects were unaware of the teaching role of school librarians, Beth knew this was a crucial part of her job, and set up a classroom area with an interactive computer screen in the library. She collaborated with many classroom teachers to help students understand and implement information literacy. This included the basics of inquiry, understanding the influence of media, and teaching complete research projects, including grading student work.

Beth combined her adept use of technology with a love of literature, and encouraged students to explore books at regular class checkout times as well as individually. She worked with classroom teachers to help students discover their own reading interests. She was able to address almost every student by name, increasing student engagement with the library.

In 2009 the district eliminated the Library Assistant position from its school libraries. This threw a major wrench in the works for the library program. Beth managed to maintain basic book circulation, and worked to keep up with instruction, but it was an overwhelming task for one person, no matter how energetic or well trained. Her husband provided essential help with book fairs, and occasionally substitute teachers were able to assist with shelving books. After five years the Library Assistant position was reinstated. Presently the Library Assistant is an integral part of the library program, and continues to assist the current librarian.

In 2018 Beth spearheaded a transformation of the library space into a Library Learning Commons. This collaborative project involved district and school administration, and the Maintenance Department. In November 2018, Beth and the Library Assistant held the Grand Opening of the new Library Learning Commons. This was accompanied by a revamping of the library’s online presence through the Canvas learning management system used by the district. Thanks to the efforts of the Library Assistant, students and teachers especially enjoy the cozy reading area around the fireplace.

The COVID pandemic created a huge disruption for schools worldwide. Bethl found that she was still able to collaborate with teachers online, and work with classes and individuals. She drastically increased the electronic books (eBooks) collection to continue to provide students with reading opportunities. She held lunchtime remote read-aloud sessions for any students who wished to attend. She and the Library Assistant worked with the other district library staff to run a weekly Bookmobile so students would still have access to print books.

Throughout her tenure, Beth sponsored several student clubs, including a Rock Music Club, the Library Guild, and the Gaming Club. She worked with the IT department to provide free Minecraft accounts for interested students. Minecraft, a sandbox virtual world, facilitates thinking skills, collaboration, and creativity in people from elementary years through adulthood. She was able to continue offering after-school Minecraft gatherings remotely until her retirement.

Beth has facilitated information literacy and inspired immersion in stories, in whatever format they are available, from 1998 to her retirement in 2021. She is adept at balancing student needs with maintaining the library collection, assisting other teachers with professional development and curriculum design, and running daily library operations.

Game Over!

Tomorrow is my last day of work as a school librarian. I’m retiring, finally! I know it seems odd to leave in the middle of the school year, but this is the earliest that I could make it work. I still love my job, but I’m tired of being tied to the school calendar and the school clock (7 am start times! Yikes!) Also, I’m tired of beating my head against the wall between me and effective collaboration with our teachers.

My husband has been retired for 12 years already. He was in law enforcement, so he could retire at an earlier age.  We love camping and being outdoors, especially in Maine. We’re really looking forward to being able to travel in the middle of the week, during the seasons when the weather is really beautiful. Working from home during the pandemic reminded me of how much I like being home–that was a little taste of what retirement might be like. I don’t expect to ever be bored, between camping, reading, and virtual world explorations.

Libraries: If you don’t use it, it will leave

We have a beautiful library with a wonderful book collection and a very capable and tech-savvy instructional partner (if I do say so myself). All of these are vastly underused. I understand many of the reasons for this–the standardized testing atmosphere pervading public schools in the U.S., the lack of time to “cover the material”, the reluctance to let someone else into the classroom–but it does a disservice to our students, who are badly in need of what the library has to offer (information literacy, media literacy, and the love of stories, for starts). I think maybe my personality doesn’t mesh well with some of our teachers, and I hope they will collaborate more with our next librarian.

This goes for books, too. A school library is a living collection, not an archive. We take a hard look at circulation statistics when weeding a collection. If something has not been checked out in several years, out it goes. It’s hard to remove books from a collection that are years old but still in  pristine condition, especially when I purchased them myself, but there isn’t room on the shelves for things that aren’t used by the patrons – they’re just clutter that obscures the valuable things.

Thanks for the memories!

I have many, many wonderful memories of my time in this and other libraries, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity. I’ve worked with a lot of talented, hard-working teachers, enthusiastic, caring students, and the best library colleagues a person could ask for. Like I always say, it’s a good gig, if you can get it!

Remote School Librarianship – 4th Quarter 2020-2021 (cont’d)

Minecraft with the Gaming Club

This has been the highlight of my year. Although not a lot of students show up to play on our shared server, most of them are regulars. What a great group of kids! They are generous and kind, and when they make a mistake, they apologize for it. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s a different group of students, but it’s worked much better to do this remotely than in person. I hope I’ll be able to continue this next year.

Overdue Books

I have no idea how to get the checked out books back from our students. I’ve felt so overwhelmed about the whole thing. I’ve tried sending out Canvas notices, and have put numerous articles in the weekly newsletter. I’ve explained how students can tell what they have checked out, and I’ve begged them to return their books. I have not figured out an expedient way to send out individual overdue notices. I would have to hand-email each student personally, and it’s just not practical with our numbers. I’ve just marked the books Lost that were due before March 13, 2020, and our Library Assistant is putting them into our school’s billing system. I’m sure I’m going to get lots of “But I didn’t know I had that!” and “But I returned that last year!”.

I’ve always felt torn about overdue book policies. On the one hand, my primary responsibility is providing students with access to materials and information. On the other hand, the library can’t afford to just let all of the books walk away. I’ve never charged overdue fines at all. I do charge the replacement cost for lost books, but if a student or parent says they cannot pay it, I’ll waive it.

Having the buildings closed during the pandemic has been an added challenge. Students couldn’t return books after March 13, 2020, and they couldn’t return them easily this year. I’m going to have to eventually mark all of the overdue books Lost, but I’m on the fence about charging replacement costs for them. I might have a limit, like charging no more than $10, for instance. Once the students are back in the building next year, I can send out paper notices, and hopefully see them all in orientation classes at the beginning of the year. I may have to spend a lot of next year’s budget replacing books, but I don’t want to replace them before I have a chance to get them back.


Once some students returned to the building, it was even more rare to have someone show up to Lunch Bunch. It took a while for the IT department to make it so I could host a shared world while I was at school, but once that happened, there were students joining me every day. Hopefully they weren’t missing class to do it. I think all of them were joining from home, not school.

I spite of my starfish theory, I have felt really useless as a teacher-librarian this year. I don’t take it personally, although this has always been a challenge at this school. I can’t even imagine how overwhelmed and overworked our teachers have been, just trying to “catch up”. There have been no allowances from the state about goals. Teachers are expected to “cover the material” (I hate that phrase), and students are expected to pass the same standardized tests as in previous years. The other phrase I hate is “falling behind”–falling behind what??!? We are all in the same boat with this pandemic, and it’s not even over yet. I get really angry when I think about how unnecessarily unfair this is to our teachers and our children.

That being said, I have been able to use this year to get a lot done with the collection. Hopefully that will pay off as more students return to the building. More students are reading eBooks, and using our online catalog. I think students have missed being able to come in and browse the shelves. I’m grateful that I had the chance to work with our 6th graders some, at least. I finally learned to edit videos. And I loved working from home! I especially liked video conference meetings, because I could hear everyone. I’m not going to forget this year, and I’m going to try to remember the things I’ve learned.

Remote School Librarianship – 4th Quarter 2020-2021

Amazingly, next week is the last week of the 2020-2021 school year. This has been the longest school year ever! I have to say, I always work hard, but it’s nothing compared to what the classroom teachers have been doing. Our teachers have had to totally revamp their teaching at least four times this year.

  1. 100% remote at start of school year
  2. Some SPED and ESOL students in building, most teachers still working remotely
  3. Back to 100% remote
  4. All teachers return to building, teaching remote and in-person students simultaneously; some SPED and ESOL students in building
  5. All teachers teaching remote and in-person students simultaneously; about half of the students in building on alternating days

It’s enough to make your head spin. I have never been so grateful to not be a classroom teacher (and to not be a parent of a small child).

Collaboration with 6th Grade Teachers

Oddly, the only teachers I’ve collaborated with at all this year have been 6th grade teachers. I was able to do an orientation to the virtual library for all of the 6th grade language arts teachers, then I did some read-alouds to support their curriculum. I also worked with all of the 6th grade students through their science teachers. It was awesome for the students to see me as more than just a language arts support. I haven’t been able to work with any classes since we returned to the building.

I’ve felt very useless this year. Truly, though, I get it–teachers have been so thoroughly swamped that they don’t have time to even think about collaborating with me. I did what I could, and I really enjoyed learning how to teach remotely. That’s something I can build on in the future.

Collection Development Project

Since I’ve been working very little with classes, I’ve had time to finish up the massive weeding project that I started before we began our renovation in 2017. I went through the 800s (literature) and 900s (history and geography), and removed almost half of the books.

Before – shelves were so crammed we couldn’t fit any more books in

After – plenty of room to display a book on each shelf

Although the term “weeding” brings to mind a garden, I think it’s more like a refrigerator–books, like foods, have an expiration date (especially nonfiction). Books get worn out (and sometimes actually moldy, although not in this library). If something is not used in quite a while, even if it looks new, it needs to be removed to make more room for newer stuff. Libraries, especially school libraries, are not archives–they are living collections of books, to be used by our patrons. If something is not useful to our community, evidenced by the lack of checkouts, it needs to go. Use it or lose it!

Why New Print Books?

I have ordered a lot of print books this year, in spite of the lack of easy opportunities to check them out. Why?

  • Because publishers are taxed on their current inventory, they are not able to keep books in print for very long. Once books go out of print, it is almost impossible to buy copies of them.
  • We have a budget for books that includes print books.
  • Our students will want current books to read, and the latest in their favorite series, when they return to the building.
  • As part of our collection development project, we need to order updated titles to replace some of the ones that were weeded.
  • Because so many books have not been returned, I’m anticipating having to spend a large part of next year’s budget replacing them.

To be continued…

Remote School Librarianship – 3rd Quarter 2020-2021 (cont’d)

Well, as you can see, my reflections dropped of rapidly once we returned to the building. I’ve been working on a big collection development project; more about that later in 4th Quarter reflections.

Returning to the Building

All staff was required to return to working in the building on February 25th, except for Mondays (asynchronous days). We’ll be continuing this until the end of the school year. I was very nervous about this, on two counts: the risk of COVID-19 infection, and the challenges of being able to understand what people are saying. The latter was the most worrisome to me.

Auditory Challenges

I have had a hearing impairment since I was 5 years old, and have worn hearing aids for most of my life. This resulted (in my non-medical opinion) from a severe reaction to the pertussis vaccine at that age. The result was nerve deafness, which basically means brain damage. There is nothing physically wrong with my ears. I have come to realize that increasing the volume level is only part of the solution to understanding. Auditory processing difficulties are a large part of my hearing impairment. This means that I am constantly gathering clues from a number of sources, including sound, context, and reading lips, to understand meaning. Under normal face-to-face circumstances with a small number of people, I can do this quickly and accurately enough that people don’t realize I have a hearing impairment. COVID-19 has changed this.

As you can imagine, everyone wearing masks has been a nightmare for lip-readers. My audiologist explained that my midrange hearing loss means that I have trouble distinguishing between consonant sounds. Lip-reading replaces that information. Without that, I’m basically hearing only vowel sounds–try that and see how it works for you. If I have context, I can make good guesses about what’s being said, but if someone starts talking to me and I have no idea what they’re talking about, my guesses get pretty random. Sometimes I can’t even tell that someone has started talking to me, leading people to believe that I’m purposefully ignoring them.

Here are some things I’ve tried:

  • Clear plastic masks don’t help. It doesn’t work if I’m the one wearing it–everyone else has to be wearing them for it to work. Also, they steam up, and often press against the wearer’s lips, so I can’t read their lips anyway.
  • Having people stand 6 feet away and pull their mask down is not recommended, but often is the quickest way to understand them.
  • Having paper and pencil so the speaker can write to me is very helpful, but extremely awkward, especially for students. Sometimes that’s the only way I can understand proper nouns, or names.

Fortunately our meetings are still held in Zoom, but sometimes people need to wear masks while they’re attending. Most of the time, to be honest, I stay in my office and avoid talking to people.

Library Lunch Bunch

The bell schedule changed once teachers and students started to come back to the building. Now, instead of 4 blocks with an hour for lunch, we have 8 blocks with 24 minutes for lunch.
The four lunch shifts run from 10:36 to 12:36. I expanded my office hours to run from 10:30 to 12:40, Tuesday through Friday. I rarely have anyone show up, but every now and then Yordy comes in to hear more of my read-aloud of So You Want to Be a Wizard, and sometimes Gaming Club players come in to play Minecraft. At least I’m remaining available.

Gaming Club: Minecraft

Quite a few students have signed up for a Minecraft: Education Edition account. They have to fill out a Google form to join the Gaming Club Canvas course, then they have to fill out a Player Agreement to get a Minecraft account. Our Network Engineer is usually very prompt about creating accounts. Only a few students play on our shared server, which I run during lunch and during Gaming Club, but they’re welcome to play with other Gaming Club friends, too. I’m betting their thinking skills will improve just from playing.

Business as Usual

On Mondays I go out with the Bookmobile. Tuesdays through Fridays I’m available for Library Lunch Bunch. I spend most of Wednesdays in grade level meetings. I submit a weekly newsletter article for publication on Fridays. The rest of the time, I’m either ordering new books (eBooks and print) or cataloging new books.

Library Plan for Hybrid Instruction

Here’s the email that I sent to staff. I don’t know if anyone actually read it.

As of now, this is our plan for hybrid instruction:

  • The library is used for Ms. Bollinger’s classes
  • The Reading Terraces (outside, next to the library) are open for anyone
    • First come, first served
    • Please let us know when you need one unlocked
    • Students must be accompanied by an adult
  • Library stacks (shelves) will be closed except for library staff
  • Students and teachers may continue to put print books on hold (reserve) in the library catalog
    • Reserve books for hybrid students delivered to ELA classrooms upon request
    • Reserve books for remote students placed in front office for pickup
    • Reserve books for all students placed on Bookmobiles on Mondays, weather permitting
  • Instructional collaboration is still strongly encouraged
    • Library instruction will be remote from library office
    • I am happy to pull print books and/or recommend online resources for you
  • Library Lunch Bunch continues on Zoom
    • Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm (all lunch blocks)
    • Students are responsible for getting back to class on time

As always, please let us know of any way we can help you. We are here to support your instruction and your students’ learning.

New Books

Most of our books come in fully processed and cataloged, but I still tweak the records, and often the spine labels. One advantage of running my own library is that I get to decide how things are organized. Here are some changes I make:

  • change the copy price to the actual retail price, rounded up to the nearest dollar
  • add Genre tags (655) and Local tags (658)
  • remove subject headings from Library of Congress (the Juvenile fiction sub-tag makes it look like nonfiction in our catalog)
  • change 741.5 classifications to F for fiction, or the Dewey class for nonfiction – the only books that stay in 741.5 are biographies and how-to books
  • series books have Vol.x at the bottom of the spine label, and the series name added to the book title in the catalog record (I wish that for multiple series by the same author, I had used Vol.1a, Vol.1b, etc., so shelvers could keep series together more easily.)
  • if a series is written by multiple authors, I classify the books under the series name
  • sometimes I change the Dewey class if it makes more sense for our collection
  • sometimes the catalog record we receive is wrong, so I fix it

Although the books are fully processed, we still need to stamp our address inside and check the books in before displaying or shelving them. We also put a New Books bookmark in each one. Our Library Assistant takes care of that. Since students aren’t directly using the library, we’re just shelving the new books.


I feel vastly under-used this year. I’m not letting myself worry about it, since I know the classroom teachers are overwhelmed from the constantly changing situation. It seems like as soon as we get used to one way of conducting classes, we have to change to something different. I’m grateful that I have plenty to do behind the scenes in the library, both remotely and in person. I’m also very thankful that I have my own office to work in, both for safety and for focus.

Remote School Librarianship – 3rd Quarter 2020-2021

Well, 4th quarter has already started on April 6th, so I’ll have to think back to 3rd quarter.

Snow Days!

Looking back at the calendar, 3rd quarter started with a snow day! I had thought that with remote learning, snow days would be a thing of the past, but thankfully, they’re still happening. Nobody looks forward to snow days as much as teachers do!

Winter Book Fair

This quarter also started with our online Scholastic Book Fair. I had high hopes for this after the meager response from our Junior Library Guild fair in the fall, but we sold even less, despite the plethora of popular titles. I think the $25 minimum for free shipping was partly to blame, but the lack of participation by teachers and classes probably had more impact.

(See next post for more…)

Remote School Librarianship – 2nd Quarter 2020-2021

The school year is almost half over! Here’s how things stand presently. We had some students back in the buildings last fall (some special education [SPED] and English language learners [ELL]), but when COVID-19 infection rates went up, we went back to 100% virtual. I am really thankful that our district is looking out for our safety. A very large neighboring district, which shall go unnamed, still has some students and teachers in the buildings. I’m very grateful that I don’t have school-age children of my own, as that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, as we say around here.

I am still working almost 100% remotely. I go in for the Bookmobile on some Mondays, and when our Library Assistant is out I go in to pull book holds for students when they come up. We don’t have many students who come out to the Bookmobiles, but the number of books on hold is increasing, and the number actually picked up is increasing, too.

I liken my work this year to that old story of the man and the starfish on the beach. Once upon a time, a man saw hundreds of starfish stranded on the beach at low tide. He started picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean so they wouldn’t die. Another man came along and commented that it wouldn’t make any difference —  the other man couldn’t possible throw all of those starfish back in. The first man threw another starfish back in and said, “Yeah, but it made a difference for that one!”


I may not be making a difference for everyone, but I am definitely helping the students and teachers that I have worked with.


Also on the plus side, Minecraft! Some of the other teachers formed a Gaming Club, online after school. The principal emailed me and asked if I would be willing to lead a Minecraft component for the club. I said Sure! and got to work. First, I needed to convince district admin to allow an application that had been blocked (for distracting students from classes). This was denied at first, then a few days later I got a request for student names, and accounts were created for them. Apparently the per-student fee is included in our district’s Microsoft 365 license, so we don’t need to pay anything to play Minecraft. Each student who signs up has to have a Microsoft account set up for them, and permission to download and install the Minecraft client on their Chromebook. So far there are over 100 students in the Gaming Club, and over 30 with Minecraft accounts.

I discovered after the first session that the students are able to host sessions in their own worlds. Given some of the disputes which arose in Minecraft in the previous Games Club that I ran, I was skeptical about this. So far, however, students seem to be getting along and helping each other out. Only a small number of the students have actually come to Gaming Club, but the ones who participate seem to be enjoying it. I have them fill out a Google form in which they agree to be kind, respectful, and responsible when playing. Hopefully this sets the tone. A couple of days ago I started running the Minecraft server during the lunch break, and several students have come in to play then. This is yet another way to build student relationships, to help them become more resilient.

Information Literacy

Information literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, and use information to solve problems. We use this for everything  from simple tasks like finding a friend’s phone number, to complex problems like finding a cure for cancer. Especially today, we are swimming in a sea of so much information, much of it wrong, that we could drown in it.

I believe that information literacy is the most essential quality that our students need to have by the time they leave school.

Years ago, at another middle school, I was able to collaboratively teach a 2-3 week research project for each grade level, every year. I’ve been trying to achieve that at my current school, to no avail. Research is now a part of our state Language Arts standards, and every language arts class in our school does a research project, but I am rarely even aware of what they’re working on, let alone helping with it. I don’t know where the disconnect is, and nobody else seems really bothered by this. I do what I can, when I can.

This quarter I sent out information about our eBook resources to the science teachers. A 6th grade science teacher asked if I would show her students how to access these resources. After I scheduled her classes, the other 6th grade science teacher asked if I would come to her classes, too. I happily agreed. This year the science and social studies classes are taught year-long, on alternating A and B days, for full block classes. I came to each class’s Zoom session for 35 minutes, during which I did a hands-on workshop showing the students how to use the resources, and where they could find more help on the library’s Canvas course. I encouraged student engagement by giving directions both in voice and in text, and asking students to type a Y in chat after they had completed a step. The classroom teachers also monitored student activity with GoGuardian, which lets them see what students are doing on their laptops in real time. They could also use this to help students troubleshoot problems.


On a personal level, I know I’m probably in the minority, but I am really enjoying this time. Aside from the worries about the world outside, I love being home. My husband is here with me, and we keep each other company. I’m introverted, so when I’m alone, the solitude feeds my soul. Everything I need is here. I’m getting to the age where I’m thinking about retirement, and this is a nice little taste.

On a professional level, I am very slowly, but steadily, adding to the number of student and teacher connections that I’m making. I feel like I’m making a lot of progress with 6th grade, but I’d like to figure out how to get involved in 7th and 8th grade classes, too. In the meantime, this gives me time to work on basic library operations like ordering and cataloging books.


Remote School Librarianship – 1st Quarter 2020-2021

Our district just completed the first quarter of this school year, mostly remotely. Because of rising infection levels of COVID-19, the second quarter will be completely remote. Here’s how this is playing out for our middle school library.

Our mission is to help students and teachers to be successful in the quest for information and good stories. Although it’s easier and more effective with a physical space too, there is much we can do virtually. In fact, I’m able to work almost completely remotely, while still maintaining the library program.

I want to be clear about one thing: Our library is not closed. Only the physical space is closed. Our virtual library is very much open for business!

Bitmoji - Reading eBooks

Of course, I made a Bitmoji!

We have actually had a virtual library since 2006, starting with our online library catalog and website. Of course, this has expanded exponentially recently, especially since March 13, 2020.

I stay connected with quite a few professional learning communities, on social media and in virtual worlds: librarians, middle school teachers, colleagues in virtual worlds, and more. I get ideas from everywhere, so what I’m doing is by no means unique. Here are a few of the things I’ve tried so far:

Weekly Newsletter

I’m very lucky to have such a supportive administrator on my side. Before the school year even started, my principal asked me to have a short article ready every week for our parent newsletter. He said (and I completely agree) that the library program needs to remain visible so it is still seen as necessary. The newsletter goes out by email and phone texts every Friday. Sometimes I make videos or custom graphics to include.

Custom Graphic for Newsletter


I’m also very lucky to have an actual budget to buy books and materials during the school year. Almost all of my purchases so far this year have been eBooks. I started out with an order for almost $1000 worth of eBooks to support diversity and anti-racism. I continue to buy books that students and teachers request, and I spent another $1000 to buy eBook versions of some of our most popular print books.

Getting students to actually read eBooks has been a struggle over the last few years, but now we’re finally gaining some ground. Right now there are 9 students with eBooks checked out. There were 189 eBooks used so far this quarter, and 46 just this month. There were 71 eBooks used during all of last school year, and that was an increase over previous years. I made a video showing how to read eBooks, and worked with all of the 6th grade classes to introduce it. I’d like to work with the 7th and 8th graders too, but haven’t been able to so far.


Our Bookmobile

Even with increased eBook usage, we still need to provide access to the thousands of print books in our collection. I’ve worked with the other four librarians in our district to develop a plan to use bookmobiles for remote delivery of print materials. Amid a fluctuating environment of food and supply deliveries, we were able to arrange for two district vans every Monday. During the lunch break, one goes to each side of our small city, and students can pick up and drop off materials while we’re there. The secondary librarians and assistants have worked out a schedule to staff the bookmobiles. Unfortunately, because our elementary librarians are tied to fixed full-time class schedules, they’re not able to participate at this time. Students can put books on hold in the online library catalog, or they can email us to request them. The books are held in the front office for pickup for the remainder of the week.

Online Read-Alouds

Mrs. O'Connell on Zoom

Mrs. O’Connell on Zoom

Our classroom teachers have daily office hours during their planning times, which vary by grade levels. (We’re on a 4×4 block schedule.) The whole school has a lunch break at the same time every day, so I hold library office hours then. I started out doing a read-aloud of one of my favorite novels, So You Want to Be a Wizard, by Diane Duane. I check out the eBook and share my screen so students can read along if they want to. I’ve branched out into showing book trailers occasionally, along with recorded author interviews and some live online conference literary events. Currently I’m starting to read The Best Christmas Ever, by Barbara Robinson.

Canvas Course

Library Canvas Course Home Page

The heart of our virtual library is our course in Canvas, the Learning Management System that our district uses. Our library course has evolved since 2015, when our district adopted Canvas. I just revised the home page again last week to incorporate buttons instead of text. I hope it will make it easier to navigate. In the interests of transparency, I include blocks in my schedule that show what I’ve been working on behind the scenes – cataloging, updating Canvas, weeding, etc. I provide resources that the classroom teachers and students can use; my next step is to make my slideshows into videos, since I finally learned how to do that in August.

Online Book Fairs

Usually we have an on-site book fair with Scholastic Book Fairs in February, combined with an online book fair that runs concurrently. This year we cancelled the on-site fair, and added another online book fair with Junior Library Guild (JLG). Usually we gross over $3,000.00 at our on-site book fair. At the JLG book fair that just finished, we made just over $55.00. I’m expecting to sell a little more at the Scholastic fair, but I’m not expecting a lot. Our community as a whole struggles with being online, and just like the rest of the world, the pandemic is having a significant negative financial impact on many. That said, there was no negative impact to having a virtual book fair. It was easy to set up and manage, and there were no costs involved.

Our main goal with all of our book fairs is to promote literacy and encourage student ownership of their library collection, and I don’t know that we did that, either. In January I’ll be looking for ways to encourage both of those things, including possibly visiting language arts classes to do previews.


I feel like there is a lot that our library can offer to our students, teachers, and parents. However, I think our actual impact has been minimal so far. I have been able to build connections with the students with whom I’ve interacted, and that’s priceless. I’m also building on last year’s connections, as with the student who, with her mother, donated books and a gift card to the library in support. I will keep on being here, and doing what I do, and continue exploring how I can maximize the help we can give. I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love, remotely.

Remote School Librarianship

Me at my remote library office

Me at my remote library office

Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, our school buildings, along with most of the rest of the world, have been closed for almost two months now, and will be closed for the rest of the school year. We have been teaching and learning completely online since Friday, March 13, 2020 (Friday the 13th, after the start of Daylight Savings Time and a full moon).

It’s a challenge being a librarian from a distance, but we can curate online resources as well as physical ones. The challenge, as with physical resources, is getting people to use them. I really enjoy being able to attend staff and content area meetings online, and I’m able to meet with the other district librarians weekly instead of annually, which is wonderful! I’ve been able to communicate with a few students through Canvas (the Canvas LMS, or Learning Management System, https://www.instructure.com/canvas/), and I’m using some Canvas features more. It’s really unfortunate that we had to spend the rest of our budgets before the schools closed, because now we don’t have the funds to provide the online resources that our students are asking for.

I have to tell you, I am so proud of our teachers and administrators for the way this teaching-from-home is working for our school district. Our administrators had the foresight to begin implementing our 1:1 laptop initiative AND staff training years ago. Our teachers and students were already used to using Canvas and other online tools, which made it much easier (not easy, but easier) to go completely online. In talking with other teachers around the country, it seems like the plan that many districts made was “Let’s hope it doesn’t happen”. Our school had a few meetings before the closing, and then we were pretty much ready to go. We just had to make sure everyone took their laptops and chargers home.

We didn’t think we would be out for longer than a few weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out for the upcoming school year. One thing is for sure–things will never be quite the same again, and that might be a good thing for education.

Library Learning Commons Transformation – Part 3

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

It took a week longer than we expected, but on Monday we had our Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting!

Once the floor was in, there were lots of finishing touches needed. Over the weekend one wall was painted, and the whole place was cleaned. Our Library Assistant and Guidance Secretary put up balloons and streamers (in our color theme, no less!)

Our Library Assistant and Guidance Secretary

Decorated, but not yet revealed!

The Executive Assistant to the Superintendent helped me with a press release that she distributed after the ribbon cutting.

Our Library Assistant runs our Makerspace before school every day, and she worked tirelessly to organize our new space. Here’s before and after:



So much wall space now!

Our Grand Opening was wonderful, attended by administration, teachers, and scores of students.

Librarian and Principal cutting the ribbon

Party in the Reading Zone!

Party in the Fiction Books Zone!

Party in the Instruction Zone!

and all of that without refreshments! Middle school students love to socialize, and they enjoyed exploring their new space. Lots more students have been in since, and all express amazement at what the library looks like now. We’ve already had several teacher requests to use the library, which enables us to make some innovative changes with the library program.

Thank you so much to our entire team–this was a truly collaborative venture!