Red Clover Nominees 2017-2018 Presentation #vted #vsla

The link below will take you to my May 23, 2017 Presentation at Dynamic Landscapes.

Red Clover Nominees 2017-2018 Presentation


Student Voice is Part of Our Culture @resvt @mmmusdcesu @aasl #stuvoice #vted

Last week the American Association of School Librarians paid me the enormous compliment of naming me as a finalist AASL Social Media Superstar as “an individual who effectively uses one or more social media channels to empower student voice.” A link to the nomination and an explanation of the awards is here: AASL Social Media Superstars.


Student vlogger from a fourth grade classroom at Richmond Elementary School

But here’s the thing: in my school district in rural Vermont I’m just one among many, many educators promoting student voice through the use of social media. From blogs to Twitter to Instagram to YouTube, our educators help students share their lives, their learning, and their questions with the local community and the world beyond. It’s part of our culture and it’s brought amazing connections for our students.

If I individually listed every Twitter feed, blog, YouTube channel, Instagram account, Vimeo channel, Facebook page, and other places our students’ voices can be heard, this blog post would go on for pages. Fortunately our district Twitter feed, @mmmusdcesu, collates and shares social media from all nine of our schools. It’s an incredible resource for anyone looking for ways that educators can help students broadcast their authentic voices. The real superstars here are the students; we’re just helping them share.



A Year of Change: Final Thoughts and What Helped (Logistics and Communication)

The library media center at my school, Richmond Elementary in Richmond Vermont, has received an enormous gift: a pilot year with a flexible schedule. It’s the ideal situation for school library work: an opportunity for collaborative teaching and creative learning far beyond what fits into a fixed schedule of once-a-week library classes. Please join me for the journey.

I consider myself and my elementary school very fortunate to have had this year with a flexible schedule. Going into the 2016-2017 school year, it looks like the library will be able to continue with this model.

A few logistical details helped get this model off the ground. First, I had an administrator who understood the library program and what it could offer for students with a flexible schedule. Many other librarians have written about the need for good communication with your administrators: @jenniferlagarde has been writing for years that librarians should know “what keeps your principal up at night” and should make sure principals know how the library fits into solving those problems. This kind of two-way communication was critical when it came time to ask for the change to a flexible schedule.

Second, my students already have six “specials” blocks per week, enough for classroom teachers to have a preparation period every day without including a weekly visit to the library in the Unifed Arts schedule. They attend Art, Music, Spanish, and Enrichment classes once a week and Physical Education classes twice a week. As my district has increased the time required for mathematics and writing in particular, teachers have been looking for ways to spend more time with their students in their classrooms. A collaborative library model frees up one period a week for classroom time, plus it allows me to go to classrooms to teach or co-teach research,  citation, and technology lessons along with teachers. This gives students more learning time and more teacher access, because both the classroom teachers and I are there for follow up on the lesson during writing or social studies time.

At the conclusion of my library’s Year of Change, I would encourage school librarians in general and elementary librarians in particular to push for a flexible schedule. It’s the best practice for school library work, and it’s best for students. Thank you for joining me for the journey.

A Year of Change: After Two Trimesters


animal blogs

Second graders researching and planning informational blog posts

The library media center at my school, Richmond Elementary in Richmond Vermont, has received an enormous gift: a pilot year with a flexible schedule. It’s the ideal situation for school library work: an opportunity for collaborative teaching and creative learning far beyond what fits into a fixed schedule of once-a-week library classes. Please join me for the journey.

After the first two trimesters of the 2015-2016 school year, it’s clear a more flexible library schedule has brought new opportunities for my elementary students. In the past, kindergartners, first graders, and second graders visited the library once a week on a fixed schedule. Their classes consisted of a 40 minute period divided into a 20 minute readaloud or lesson, and 20 minutes for book selection and checkouts. Third graders had a combination of 40 minute readaloud-and-checkout classes on a fixed schedule, and “embedded” research and technology lessons in their classrooms. Fourth graders had combined enrichment library class on a fixed schedule, and did their book selection individually whenever they needed new books.

This year, during the first six weeks of school every grade level visited the library on a fixed schedule. This gave students the chance to relearn library expectations and the locations of their favorite materials. Third graders also did hands-on learning with the library’s online catalog. This six week introductory period gave classroom teachers the time to meet with me and collaborate on units for the first trimester. This collaboration included planning content, and scheduling times for classes to visit the library or for me to teach in classrooms.

After the first six weeks of school, the library program moved into new flexibly scheduled lessons. Classroom teachers and I have repeated this process of collaboration and planning for the second and third trimesters.

Here is what the library program was able to provide for students under the new flexibly scheduled system:

Kindergarten: Small groups twice a week for library learning and for literacy work in their classrooms. Half a kindergarten class at a time comes to the library for lessons, readalouds, and book selection. The other half remains in their classroom for small group writing work. I spend twice as much time per week with kindergartners under this model as I would have in the past. It has been completely worth the extra time, because I can give more individual attention to each student as he or she learns how the library works. The kindergarten teachers have been happy with more small group time for literacy in the classroom. After two trimesters, I am finding that the kindergartners have a much stronger understanding than in past years of  what kinds of books are in the library and how to find them, check them out, return them, and share them with friends. It has been a win-win-win for students, teachers, and the library.

First grade: Readalouds connected to classroom literacy units. First grade classes visit the library once a week on a schedule determined by the classroom teachers and librarian. The first half of class is a readaloud and the second half is book selection. In past years the readaloud stories were not connected to classroom curriculum. This year, by collaborating with the first grade teachers I was able to plan readalouds that reinforced classroom lessons on nonfiction text structures, reading comprehension, and story elements. This has made the library readalouds more valuable for the students than in the past.

Second grade: Informational blog posts, Voicethread biographies, Culture eBooks. Second graders have worked on a variety of units combining science and social studies content, research and citation skills, writing, and technology. Before each unit, the second grade teachers and I meet to design the learning and final projects and to set up a schedule. Students work on their projects during time with me in the library, school computer lab, or their classrooms. Each class also visits the library for a 20 minute book selection time each week. As with kindergartners,  I am spending more time each week with second graders than in past years and I think it has been completely worth the extra time. The students have done some amazing, creative learning that would never have been possible under the previous fixed library schedule. Below are links to some of their projects; this is a huge difference from readaloud-and-checkouts every week which was the second grade library model in the past.

Third Grade: in-classroom teaching and support for research and technology. After a scheduling  challenge in the first trimester, the third grade classroom teachers and I decided that I could best serve third graders by teaching research and technology skills during their writing blocks. I spend 45 minutes to an hour each day in third grade classrooms, switching classrooms each day unless the teachers request that I stay with a particular classroom for a certain project. As with kindergarten and second grade, I am spending more time with the third graders than in previous years, and I think the extra time has truly paid off.

Students have learned to use databases, Internet searching, and citations as needed for writing assignments. At the same time I have been able to teach the information skills required in my library curriculum as part of classroom units, rather than as standalone library unit. This makes the skills more relevant and easier for students to remember in the future. I also helped students learn to use technology such as blog commenting and Voicethread. Below is a link to one Voicethread presentation for which the student did excellent research about gerbils. The third graders visit the library whenever they need new books, using the self checkout station if I am teaching another class.

We Need a Pet Gerbil – Third Grade Opinion Writing

Fourth Grade: Enrichment Library Class. This class looks the same as in previous years. Fourth graders have a combined enrichment library class on a fixed schedule, and they do their book selections individually whenever they need new books.

Going Forward: Based on these first two trimesters, I would like to continue the flexibly scheduled library model. I have seen deeper, more connected, more creative learning for students at every grade level where this model is in place.

In a final blog post in this series, I plan to write about the logistics that made this pilot schedule possible for a year. If you are reading this post and have any questions, please let me know in the comments. Thank you!


A Year of Change: This Library is Always Open (Self Checkout) #tlchat #vsla #vted


The library media center at my school, Richmond Elementary in Richmond Vermont, has received an enormous gift: a pilot year with a flexible schedule. It’s the ideal situation for school library work: an opportunity for collaborative teaching and creative learning far beyond what fits into a fixed schedule of once-a-week library classes. Please join me for the journey.

Self Checkout: The Why

As I planned for a flexible library schedule this school year, one of my challenges was to make sure that my students would be able to read library books without a fixed, once-a-week visit to check them out. I’m the only library employee and my (fabulous) volunteers aren’t available for full coverage of the whole school day. In the past when I was out of the library teaching in a classroom, or in the library but busy teaching a class, the library was not accessible for students to get new books. One answer to this concern seemed to be a self checkout station, so that students could visit the library any time they needed new books.

I set up our new self checkout station in early September and so far the results have been very encouraging. I often see third and fourth grade students on their way to the library as I am headed elsewhere in the building, and for the first time I don’t have to tell them to turn around because their library is closed. I actually got rid of my “library closed” door sign. For these students, their library is always open.

Self Checkout: The How

As shown in the photos above, I set up a desktop computer with a barcode scanner on an existing lower-level section of my circulation desk (I have since moved the keyboard out of the way because it’s not needed). I installed my vendor’s self checkout software. Then I printed out students’ barcodes plus names on labels, and put the labels on bright pink index cards. The larger size and bright color makes the cards harder to lose than standard wallet sized library cards. They also function as a kind of hall pass; when students walk down the hall or into the library with big bright pink cards in their hands, it’s very clear to adults where they are going and what their jobs are.

Each third and fourth grade class came to the library for a group lesson plus individual practice on how to use the self checkout station. Because the cards all looked very similar, I handed out markers and asked students to put their names plus a small decoration on their cards. This way they can easily find their own cards in a class set and not accidentally checkout books to the wrong account.

After each group lesson, I presented the classroom teacher with a special holder (really just a plastic index card box) for their class set of library cards. I also made a card for each teacher, both for teachers to use themselves and for students to use when they check out books on their teachers’ accounts for classroom projects. When students want new library books, their teachers give them their cards and send them to the library.

I plan to teach second graders to use the self checkout station later this year. I have cards made already for kindergartners and first graders, but I’m waiting until I have a good sense of what skills are needed to use self checkout before introducing it to my youngest students. My system shows students’ names after they have scanned their cards, and I have asked my vendor if they could possibly add student photos to this confirmation screen. That would be a big help for my prereaders.

Self Checkout: Addressing Concerns

The biggest concern I have heard about the new self checkout system is book loss. Some staff members and parents have asked me if I’m worried that the library will lose books if I’m not checking them out myself.

My response has been some version of, well, the library loses some books anyway because students forget to check them out at the end of library class even when I’m there. And the books almost always find their way back to the library anyway; our overall loss rate is very low. Our school community also has an established culture of trust around loaning out library books; students take home 10 library books each over the summer and the return rates are always very high.

But even if I begin to see a higher loss rate with the self checkout system in place, I will think very hard before I consider removing it. Everything in education has a cost, and if the cost of increased library access for students is a slightly higher loss rate then the trade off will be worth it. In many ways it’s a matter of perspective: are librarians book police, most concerned with keeping books safe? Or are we book promoters, most driven to get (awesome, life-changing) books into students’ hands?

A final note about book loss: my third and fourth grade students are having so much fun being independent and checking out their books themselves that I’m predicting my loss rate will go down. I have yet to see a single student forget to check out a book as he or she leaves the library.

If you have any questions about self checkout at my school, please feel free to contact me through this blog or at my school email,

A Year of Change: The Inspiration #tlchat #vsla #vted

Expect the miraculous

The library media center at my school, Richmond Elementary in Richmond Vermont, has received an enormous gift: a pilot year with a flexible schedule. It’s the ideal situation for school library work: an opportunity for collaborative teaching and creative learning far beyond what fits into a fixed schedule of once-a-week library classes. Please join me for the journey.

In May 2015 I was fortunate enough to hear Athens, Georgia library media specialist Andy Plemmons speak at the Dynamic Landscapes conference in Burlington, Vermont. I have followed Andy and his library media center on Twitter for several years, and I was looking forward to hearing more about the amazing learning that goes on in his library. Students at Barrow Media Center benefit tremendously from their media center’s innovative programs, which Andy documents on his media center blog, Expect the Miraculous. Andy’s keynote presentation was fantastic: you can see his Google presentation here and and the video of his keynote here.

At Dynamic Landscapes I learned Andy is able to provide these programs because his library media center has a flexible schedule and a schoolwide commitment to collaborative teaching. Andy and his classroom teachers meet quarterly to plan library work for the upcoming months. This flexibility allows classes to visit the library when it makes sense for them, in connection with their curriculum units, rather than once a week whether that fits with their learning or not. It also gives Andy the flexibility to plan activities like a student book budget group that uses a whole host of cross-disciplinary skills to identify new books to order for the library — talk about Problem-Based Learning! The Barrow Media Center can also offer this kind of flexibility because students are empowered to visit the library and check their own library books in and out regardless of whether another class is already using the library.

As I looked at Andy’s library and at mine, it was clear there were three major differences. Additional budget and staffing was not one of them; our libraries are very similar in terms of staffing levels, and Andy’s library actually serves more students and more grade levels than mine. The differences lie in the Barrow Media Center’s flexible schedule, culture of collaborative teaching, and students’ ability to check their own books in and out. So these were the areas I decided to work on during this year of change.

image is from the blog Expect the Miraculous at

A Year of Change: The Reasons Why (Benefits of Flexible Library Scheduling) #tlchat #vsla #vted

60496147_c3dbe9df6b_oThe library media center at my school, Richmond Elementary in Richmond Vermont, has received an enormous gift: a pilot year with a flexible schedule. It’s the ideal situation for school library work: an opportunity for collaborative teaching and creative learning far beyond what fits into a fixed schedule of once-a-week library classes. Please join me for the journey.

Moving from a mostly fixed to a completely flexible schedule will be a big step for my elementary library media program. Although high schools and middle schools have largely adopted flexible scheduling for their library programs, elementary schools are more likely to have fixed schedules in which each class visits the library at a preset day and time each week.

A fixed library schedule benefits schools in some ways: it assures that each student visits the library at least once a week, and it provides a preparation period for each classroom teacher if he or she doesn’t coteach the class with the library media specialist. But it also comes with some drawbacks: it’s difficult for librarians and teachers to collaborate on instruction under this model. It can also prevent students from accessing the library at the times they need it, whether for research or for finding new books for independent reading.

A flexible library schedule benefits students in many ways. It allows teachers and library media specialists to work together to plan instruction that is “dependent on learning needs rather than a fixed library time.” (AASL position statement…more on that below). Rather than working around fixed classes in the library during the same blocks every week, classes can visit the library during the times that best fit their own schedules. A flexible schedule also encourages individual students to visit the library media center at the times they actually need it, whether for research or for independent reading materials.

There are many studies and resources that speak to the learning benefits of a flexible schedule. Several are listed below, but the most persuasive to me is the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) “Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling.” AASL is the primary professional organization for school library media specialists in the United States, and has researched best practices for learning in school libraries for over 60 years. In part the statement reads,

The integrated library program philosophy requires an open schedule that includes flexible and equitable access to physical and virtual collections for staff and students. Classes must be flexibly scheduled into the library on an as needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and utilization of technology with the guidance of the teacher who is the subject specialist, and the librarian who is the information process specialist. The resulting lesson plans recognize that the length of the learning experience is dependent on learning needs rather than a fixed library time. Regularly scheduled classes in the school library to provide teacher release or preparation time prohibit this best practice. Students and teachers must be able to come to the library throughout the day to use information sources, read for pleasure, and collaborate with other students and teachers.

Collaboration with classroom teachers to design, implement and evaluate inquiry lessons cultivates high level learning experiences for students and is the catalyst that makes the integrated library program work. The teacher brings to the planning process knowledge of subject content and the student needs. The school librarian contributes a broad knowledge of resources and technology, an understanding of modern teaching methods, and a wide range of strategies that may be employed to help students learn inquiry skills. Together they are able to provide differentiated and adaptable experiences for students of all abilities and interests to meet the requirements of the curriculum.

Resources on the benefits of flexible library scheduling

American Association of School Librarians. “Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling.” American Association of School Librarians. American Library Association, June 2014. Web. 15 June 2015. <>.

Library Research Service. “School Libraries Impact Studies.” Libraries Research Service. Libraries Research Service, 2013. 16 June 2015. <>

The resources below were provided by the Fairfax County, Virginia public school system at

Clocks image: Reynolds, Leo. Squared Circles. January 22, 2012. Online image. Flickr. January 22, 2012. License information at