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Genealogy on a Shoestring with Guest Blogger Cathy Burnsed

Genealogy on a Shoestring by Cathy Burnsed, LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library – Woodville Branch

Most people have heard of Ancestry.com; that may be the reason your patrons showed up, having received a DNA kit as a gift. But how can you help the new genealogist who doesn’t have access to a paid account to Ancestry? And what if your library doesn’t, either?

Some of the best known websites for genealogy require a paid subscription, but there is also a lot of free information online. I’m going to highlight some of the biggest free websites, but there are many more resources out there. Knowing how to find them is the trick!

Sites that Organize the Internet

http://www.cyndislist.com organizes thousands of genealogy and history websites by topic. I like it because Cyndi thinks like a librarian.

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Main_Page is the Research Wiki for FamilySearch.org. The availability of genealogy information in places around the world is given in research guides specific to the county level in the United States. This is the place to go to be pointed to local government offices who can be contacted for questions about records, which may or may not be online.

https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/search is the catalog of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Searchable by surname, subject, and place, you can view the book, microform, and digital holdings of the largest genealogy library in the world. Some digital holdings are viewable from your home computer; others can only be accessed through a Family History Center associated with the LDS church. These centers are manned by knowledgeable volunteers and open to everyone.

Sites that Offer Free Data

https://www.accessgenealogy.com/ is a growing site with online data from around the US. Take a look and see what you can find!

http://www.archive.org is a site you may have run across before, the Internet Archive. They have tons of digitized books, including old county histories, which are fully keyword searchable. They also have all of the US Federal Census microfilms through 1930 scanned and available here, though not indexed.

http://www.archives.gov is the home of the United States National Archives. They have a lot of finding aids although very little of their information has been placed online so far. This is where to go when people want military records. The 1940 census is available here, as well.

https://www.familysearch.org/ also has searchable databases of names gleaned from various records as well as family trees. Use caution when recommending this to beginning researchers since there are a lot of undocumented family trees with conflicting information and it could easily become overwhelming.

http://www.findagrave.com is an online cemetery database. Some names have additional information added, such as photos (of headstones and/or the person), obituaries, and family information.

https://books.google.com/ Don’t forget about Google Books, which has millions of books fully keyword-searchable, though most will need to be purchased or interlibrary loaned in order to read the full content.

http://www.genealogycenter.org/ is the website for the 2nd largest genealogy library in America, located at the Allen County Public Library in Indiana. The site is not limited to Indiana information and also offers an email Ask a Librarian service.

https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger has 65+ million passenger records of people who passed through the Port of New York and Ellis Island between 1820-1957. You can view the ship manifests with a free account.

http://fultonhistory.com/ is an astonishing one-man venture: Tom Tryniski of Fulton, New York, has single-handedly scanned and made available online over 44 million pages of newspapers from the US and Canada…and it’s growing every week. The website can be tricky to navigate and is prone to periods of downtime, but well worth exploring.

https://www.raogk.org/ is a directory of volunteers who perform Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness by looking up records in specific locations around the world. Some offer courthouse research, obituary lookups, or headstone photos. There is also a Research Guide providing information about what kinds of records are available in different localities.

http://www.usgenweb.org/ is the launchpad for the USGenWeb Project, a collection of websites independently created and maintained by volunteers. Each county in the US has a website that is linked from each state’s website. The content of these sites varies wildly, depending on the ability of the volunteers running them, but you may find information here that isn’t available anywhere else. The http://www.worldgenweb.org site lists other countries with similar projects.

Other Things You Can Do

There are many other resources and outside organizations you can recommend to your patrons, in addition.

Genealogists love talking with other genealogists. Your community may have a genealogical or historical society with regular meetings. Provide contact information to your patrons, and, if your library has meeting space, consider reaching out and offering it to these societies.

Make a point of finding out about the genealogical holdings of libraries and archives around you. For example, even though my library system doesn’t, the State Library and Archives of Florida offers patron access to Ancestry.com and has many newspapers from around the country on microfilm. Genealogical libraries within a few hours’ drive can be a nice day trip for a researcher.

Don’t forget about your local Family History Centers. They are not restricted to members of the LDS church and usually have very knowledgeable volunteers who can help anyone use their resources.

There are countless Facebook groups for genealogy. City, region, state-specific, obituary lookups, cemetery photos, DNA, adoption help, etc. A good group for beginners is simply called Genealogy. Most people in these groups are very helpful. Some offer to look things up for others using resources available to them or help brainstorm when someone can’t read old script. There’s even a very talented group of volunteers who edit scanned photos to fix blemishes, creases, or sometimes even draw two people together to create a portrait where there wasn’t one before.

Obituaries from other libraries can often be obtained through a reference request, but libraries have varying policies on how to go about requesting them. Some require ILL requests for the microfilm, while others will scan and email you an obituary. If your library’s policy is not already on your website, please consider doing so. Also, consider adding your library’s genealogy/obituary policy/information to the Ask a Librarian Knowledge Base, so that librarians around the state are better able to point patrons to your resources.

Subscription Sites for Your Library to Consider

If you sense continued interest from your patrons and are given the opportunity, here are some popular databases or services to which libraries can subscribe:

African American Heritage through ProQuest

America’s Genealogy Bank through NewsBank

Ancestry.com

FindMyPast.com

Fold3.com by Ancestry

Heritage Quest through ProQuest

Newspaperarchive.com

Newspapers.com through ProQuest

Best wishes in the new year with your patrons’ newfound interest in genealogy! Anything that brings patrons to (or back!) to the library is a good thing!

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StoryCorps in the Library with Guest Blogger Sara Ratliff

By Sara Ratliff, Warrington Middle School

8th-grader Adia Payne interviews her principal, Brent Brummet

In the age of smart devices, students are digitally well-connected, but a Tweet or a Snap lacks the depth and connection that a face-to-face conversation delivers. In the school library, there is a unique opportunity to observe many student behaviors throughout the day. Some of these behaviors include failure to greet others, to make eye contact, to wait for others to finish speaking, to ask follow-up questions, and, most importantly, to listen and respond to an opposing point of view. Students have every communication tool at their disposal, but it is a great disservice to them if active listening and thoughtful questioning skills are not fostered. I thought about what could I do in the school library to foster more meaningful conversations among my students, and that is where StoryCorps came in. StoryCorps is a non-profit organization that provides a free platform for people all over the world to record interviews with each other. There are different ways to record with StoryCorps, but all interviews are curated and archived at the Library of Congress. Since the launch of the StoryCorps app and StoryCorps in the Classroom initiative, it has never been easier for schools to participate in StoryCorps.

Recording with the StoryCorps app is completely free if you have a smartphone or tablet with access to the app. However, to create palpable excitement for my StoryCorps project, I envisioned creating a recording studio within the professional library room. I wrote a grant for the professional recording equipment, which included a MacBook Pro, two Blue Yeti microphones, two Knox pop filters, three Tascam headphones, Belkin headphone splitter, a neon “Recording in Progress” sign, and a collection of books about StoryCorps from its founder, Dave Isay. My students have used the StoryCorps app to do practice interviews with each other, but the recording equipment would allow my students to learn about editing.

Prior to recording interviews, I sent home permission slips for students to be allowed to be recorded and share personal information. Students have to be at least thirteen years old to have a StoryCorps account, and my students share their names, ages, location, and a photo for each interview. I partnered with an eighth-grade language arts teacher for this project who sends a small group of students to work on this project in the library. StoryCorps in the Classroom has lesson plans, instructional videos, a question bank, and helpful tips on their website to get started. My students have learned how to write good interview questions, how to conduct themselves during an interview, and how to use the recording equipment. For their first interviews, my students wanted to interview the principal and the assistant principal. They will continue to interview teachers and classmates before we reach out to the community for interview requests.

8th-graders Adia Payne and Nicholas Bowers interview their assistant principal, Derrick Thomas

One of my favorite things about StoryCorps is that the interviews are all student-led. I have worked with students to compose good questions and do practice interviews with them, but I have a silent role during the interviews. I push record and stop and encourage the students to keep going if they stumble on their words. Part of the project is for them to learn how to edit a sound recording. One thing my students learned early on is that no interview will be the same. Some people are natural storytellers and will engage easily in conversation, whereas others will give short responses to questions. I try to keep our interviews no longer than twenty minutes, depending on the interviewee. Over time, students will learn to be better listeners and to think on their feet in order to draw out responses from their interviewees. After every interview, a picture is taken with the participants. Then the interview and photo are uploaded to the StoryCorps Archives. I prefer to upload all interviews on my account so that I can monitor content. There are different privacy settings if disclosure of student information is a concern.

My students were challenged early on by learning how to use Audacity, a free sound editing software, so that they could seamlessly include an extended response to one of the questions in their interview. After each interview, the students also complete a reflection sheet about how they think the interview went so that they can see their growth as they accumulate interviews. In addition to sending an email request for an interview, students send a follow-up thank you email along with the link for the interviewee to hear their interview. We plan to create our own website to archive our work with StoryCorps and eventually learn how to animate our interviews like StoryCorps does. StoryCorps celebrates diversity and supports my mission to teach my students that everyone has a story to be told, and everyone deserves to be heard.

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A Rewarding Career with Guest Blogger Vielka Forbes

By Vielka Forbes of the Hurlburt Field Base Library

I have often wondered if working at a library was the place I was supposed to be. I arrived in the United States in 1986 and the following year landed my first job at Mather Air Force Base Library in California. It was a bit intimidating working as a Library Aid while not knowing anything about the new country I now called home. I remember the first time a patron asked for the Sacramento Bee — the local newspaper. I had no idea what they were referring to. So I made it a point to memorize every single periodical by name and type.

It was a time where the only computer in the library was used by a few staff members, and each book had a card that, upon checkout, was filed under the patron’s name at the circulation desk. Some of my fondest memories included the large wooden card catalog, the microfiche reader, the vertical file, and the typewriters that were used to type every spine label.

We left California in 1992 and arrived in the Florida Panhandle. After the birth of my son, I decided to volunteer at an elementary school and the Contracting office on base. Later on, I returned to college and received my degree in Computer Science. At the time, I felt ready to conquer the world and set forth to find that high paying job everyone else was seeking, but as I quickly learned, living in a military community…it was not going to be that easy.

The Panhandle Job Fair was being hosted at the Fairgrounds, and I decided to attend with the intent to land that big information technology job and got very discouraged every time I was asked, “do you have a security clearance?” Well, of course not. So on my way out the door, I was told about a Library Technician job at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base. At the time I felt a bit disheartened by the idea of going back to working in a library, but I took a chance simply because it was a full-time federal position with benefits.

After 20 years of librarianship and serving the military community, it has become one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have a better understanding of what sacrificing oneself for the betterment of others really means. Whether helping families through tough times, conducting briefings to deploying soldiers, or teaching spouses how to use our resources to go back to school and earn a degree, I feel a sense of job-well-done when a patron returns to simply say, “Thank you.”

Over the years I have seen many patrons and co-workers come and go, but the library is a place where the patrons are greeted by a warm hello and sometimes a cookie and, not to mention, the co-workers and patrons I now call “friends.”

So, if you ask me… I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

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Mini Golf Math in the Media Center by Guest Blogger Becky Nation

By Becky Nation, Avalon Middle School in Santa Rosa County

Media lessons, research, and digital literacy just go hand-in-hand with language arts classes, so first priority has always been given to those teachers when scheduling library time. With the focus on STEM and incorporation of science and math initiatives, I began looking for ways to get math classes into my library. The initial project came in the form of literacy-themed mini golf courses in the media center.

I began the project by approaching two sixth-grade math teachers with the idea of using a mini golf course to collect real-world data for students to use when calculating mean, median, and mode. Both teachers were receptive, so we set a date, and I got busy creating book-themed greens and scorecards for data collection. The teachers reviewed the content vocabulary in class, divided their students into groups, and prepared the students for their day in the library. I set up nine holes using either the bookcases or PVC pipe as the bumpers for each course. Thankfully, our PE department had golf clubs we borrowed and one of our teachers who golfs donated used golf balls. I later found clubs at a local thrift shop and picked up twelve for under fourteen dollars. For each hole, I used several copies of the title I had chosen for that hole as well as a few physical obstacles that related. For example, for the book Killer Pizza, I asked the local Dominos for empty pizza boxes and used the book as another obstacle.

Mini golf day arrived with lots of excitement. Imagine twenty-five sixth-graders per class period with golf clubs moving around in the library. Amazingly enough, there were no injuries. The teachers and I set clear expectations as we explained the flow of mini golf, etiquette, and process for recording the scores. When students had cycled through the entire course, they returned to their table to calculate totals, mean, median, and mode. We discussed the data as they made connections between the activity they had done and the numbers on their scorecards. They truly understood the meaning of the data they had collected in relation to the vocabulary being taught in class.

With any new activity, there is always a trial and error aspect that results in lessons learned. For the first class, I did not have backdrops on the course that kept the balls from going out the back of the green. For the remaining classes, we used foldable cardboard study carrels to close in the backside of each green. We had also used very light practice balls that bounced all around the room. We switched to actual golf balls for the rest of the classes which were able to be controlled much better.

I chalk up this activity as a success, not because I achieved anything literacy-related other than creating book-themed courses, but because this partnership with math shows the students that the library is for everybody in every subject area. The greater success occurred when the math teachers asked how we could collaborate on further projects. Those standards for ratios and percentages will be taught soon, so we’re working on an idea for collection analysis by Dewey Decimal category.

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Super Cool YA Fantasy Novels with Diverse Protagonists and Why Your Library Needs Them with Guest Blogger Sarah Blackburn-Lancaster

Fantasy painting of floating islandBy Sarah Blackburn-Lancaster, Valparaiso Community Library, Circulation Assistant

It’s been two decades since J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series took the world by storm with its school of wizardry, and its popularity doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. New movies are continuing to be released. There’s a play on Broadway. In 2018, big-box retailers are selling newly released dolls. The genre is booming, and we, the library, are the best source for patrons to get their fantasy fix.

There’s a lot going on in the world of libraries today: technology changing at an exponential rate, budgets that have never fully recovered after the recession, and government officials who question our relevance to the communities we serve. With 3-D printers and virtual reality becoming as common on the shelves as copies of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Jane Eyre, why on earth would someone write a blog post about fantasy fiction for young adults?

In short: because it’s important.

Okay, so it’s not cancer research. Fantasy novels aren’t going to perform brain surgery or settle Mars, but they can open the mind to new possibilities, creating new neural pathways which can, in turn, open the door to creative problem-solving. Fantasy stimulates the imagination. And isn’t that what leads to colonies on new planets or inventive new treatments for the illnesses that plague humanity?

Another advantage to reading fantasy novels, especially for younger audiences, is that it takes difficult issues that seem insurmountable in reality out of the constraints of this world, making them less daunting. Xenophobia, racism, classism, sexism, and the like, seen through the lens of fantasy, without the political or societal systems that seem to tether them in place, can be called into question. A wizard who seeks to enslave non-magical beings because he views them as lesser is, without question, a villain who must be stopped. Parallels are then drawn in the minds of readers, and young people make connections in their own world. They then begin to ask the question that is the first step to change: Why?

Here’s the catch: it’s difficult to make these connections when the reader can’t relate to the protagonist. If young audiences can’t see themselves as the hero in a fantasy novel, how can they be one in the real world? We’ve all heard the phrase, “If they see it, they can be it.” That’s why toy companies are creating dolls and action figures of a wider variety of ethnicities and representing different career fields. And seeing other groups represented is helpful to young people who belong to the majority as well. They become more empathetic when exposed to the viewpoints of others and that, in turn, leads to more harmonious interactions. It, therefore, makes sense that representation in literature is incredibly important for young readers who belong to both minority and majority groups.

Here is a list of YA fantasy titles with diverse protagonists to add to your library’s collection (in alphabetical order by author’s last name, of course):

And these are just a few of the offerings out there! Do you know of an excellent YA fantasy novel or series with a diverse set of characters? Share in the comments! Happy reading!

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Book Recommendation by Guest Blogger Sonja James

Cover of book DarkfeverBook Recommendation by Sonja James of the Gadsden County Public Library

My recommendation is not a book, but a series. The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning is a wonderfully dark, thrilling, and suspenseful series that grabs the reader by the neck and never lets them go until the very climax of the series.

Even then, you’re begging for more.

Full of very dark characters that give the illusion of being bad — but the line is so gray that the reader doesn’t discover the true motivation of the characters until the end.

This series is not for the faint of heart, but it’s an adventure I think everyone should try. No other series has captivated me like this one has. I guess it’s the way that Moning writes that makes you care about the characters, and you as the reader get to watch them grow into their full potential.

Plus, there’s Jericho Barrons, who, outside of Roarke in the J.D. Robb In Death Series, is the baddest, sexiest character I have ever read in a book or series.

The series consists of 10 books:

  • Darkfever
  • Bloodfever
  • Faefever
  • Dreamfever
  • Shadowfever
  • Iced
  • Burned
  • Feverborn
  • Feversong
  • High Voltage

I suggest reading them in order or you will be lost.

You are going to Thank Me Later!

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From Partnerships to New Programs with Guest Blogger Kris Odahowski

Photo of people playing chessBy Kris Odahowski, Gadsden County Public Library System, Youth Services

The McGill Library Chess Club was about to begin, and the instructor was late. A new student decided to join the club, and when the instructor arrived, the student’s jaw dropped as her principal walked into the room. The student was taught to play chess by her principal at the library that afternoon.

This experience reinforced to me the power of active partnerships in the library and how they can bring totally new, unforgettable experiences to the young library user. The chess instructors are members of the alumnae chapter of a national fraternity with the goal to provide mentorship and learning opportunities to youth.

Are you ready to build new partnerships or would you like to see your partnerships develop into shared activities at your library? I want you to know there is power, growth, and benefits in shared activity program partnerships.

Monthly, I work with over 15 active partnerships. Some of these partnerships have developed over my work career and others are a part of a new effort to work with local groups, schools, and business representatives. Having these shared activity partnerships has encouraged me and supported my mission while providing new programs when funds are not available.

To grow and maintain active partnerships, there are some partnership building practices I do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I try to be open to adults in the community and build new relationships. I strive to be open-minded when talking to anyone I meet through my work, and I try to suggest shared interests which may lead to a partnership. I share my contact information and business card widely so it can be shared or passed on as a referral.

Partnerships are unique, and the shared activities presented are often created through brainstorming meetings with organizations and groups. These meetings provide a time for give-and-take which helps partners and the library staff create the best activities so that everyone benefits.

Partnerships should be nurtured. Many of the partnerships require supervision of volunteers, recruitment of volunteers, and the negotiation of new goals and guidelines for volunteers. Partnerships bring many new opportunities to your library, but they take work and they demand you keep an active working relationship with those volunteering time and donating resources.

Active, unique, and nurtured partnerships can thrive in a library setting, but they demand attention to the relationships. I contact partners regularly about schedules, volunteers, and material. Sometimes I take a supervisory role with volunteers from partnering organization, but I also encourage the group to supervise their own volunteers through their own volunteer guidelines.

Both our library system and our local community have reaped the rewards of these partnerships. A recent partnership with an alumnae chapter of a fraternity provides skilled training and mentorship for students during our weekly Chess Club. Other partnerships provide free new books to students at Read Aloud programs sponsored by a local women’s organization. Professional child development trainers and providers have partnered with the library to hold child development screenings at the libraries.

These partnerships are mutually beneficial. Partnerships that produce shared activities and provide new programming and resources to the community bring a potent in-kind contribution to public libraries.

They provide the library with needed resources and strengthen services to both the community and the library. With care and dedication, you too can build programs from partnerships in your community.

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The Breakdown on Breakout Boxes with Guest Blogger Becky Nation

By Becky Nation, Avalon Middle School in Santa Rosa County

Photo of breakout boxesEscape rooms are all the rage these days and for good reason. Everyone loves a challenge. Think about the fact that people willingly let themselves be locked in a room from which they can escape only if they solve clues to free themselves within an allotted time period. Social media pictures abound detailing each team’s success or lack thereof. The interesting thing to note about these pictures is the smile on each participant’s face regardless of the sign they’re holding saying whether they escaped or that they came so close. With the process as the focus, the positive outcome is just the icing on the cake. This same concept holds true for using Breakout boxes in the library.

Breakout boxes offer the escape room experience by challenging students to break into the box rather than out of a room. Breakoutedu.com offers complete kits for sale, but boxes can be just as easily assembled on your own. Anything that is capable of having a lock put on it can be used as your container. Examples include bags with two zippers, tackle boxes, tool boxes, or wooden boxes with a latch. There are typically multiple locks like three and four digit, word, directional, color, or key locks. The locks used can be customized to fit your game. A hasp with multiple holes is useful for putting multiple locks on the box.  Kits also contain a black light and invisible ink pen for writing clues. If designing your own box instead of purchasing the preassembled ones, you are only limited by your imagination and budget.

After purchasing or gathering the materials for the physical box, the next step is to either create your own breakout game or use one from the Breakoutedu.com library.  A free account gives access to many games in a variety of subject areas. The games come with a background passage that sets the stage for the context of the breakout along with lock combinations, a video with setup details, and files for the game that are typically shared via a Google drive. These resources are there, but the choice can also be made to create an original game to meet your particular needs. The Breakoutedu.com site has blank forms to guide in the creation of an original breakout.

Photo of breakout boxesAfter choosing or creating the breakout game, the boxes must be set up according to the game instructions. I was given some really great hints that I’ll share with you to make the actual playing of the game go more smoothly. Use cable ties or zip ties on the hasp and then hook the lock through the loop of the tie. If the lock accidentally gets stuck, the wire tie can be cut to free it. In the school setting when boxes have to be quickly reset between classes, I only cut the wire ties if all combinations have been solved and locks removed. Then the locks can be quickly added back to the hasp without reassembling the entire box. Another helpful hint is to use the lock parking lot that can be printed from the Breakoutedu.com website. As locks are removed, have participants place the lock on the appropriate parking space so that combinations aren’t accidentally reset. I also labeled all of the boxes and locks for each so that materials were easily reassembled after a game.

The items that are placed in the box or container can lead to other clues or might possibly be treats for the winning team. Signs for breaking out or almost breaking out can be located on the Breakoutedu.com website or you can make your own. Participants enjoyed having their team picture taken with the signs even if they didn’t make it through the whole game.

Photo of breakout boxesI would be remiss if I made the whole breakout box experience sound glorious and did not share my first experience with you. The game I chose to do first was way too hard for my group of students and the allotted time too short to allow for completion. As I watched the students struggle with the clues and tried to provide some guidance without helping them more than I needed, I was beginning to feel like a total failure. In the back of my mind, I was thinking this would be my first and last breakout. My mind was quickly changed while doing the reflection discussion with the students at the end of the period. They were totally undeterred by the fact that the game was too hard and time was limited. They were still excited about the activity and asked if they could do another one soon. They actually wanted to continue the same one the next day, but due to scheduling, that wasn’t possible. We discussed what went well and the challenges they faced. The overwhelming response was that they had never done a breakout prior to that one and had no idea how to attack the clues. They also said that they felt next time would be better since they now understood how the process worked. Even though they thought critically, collaborated, and communicated, they didn’t breakout, but a breakthrough was made. The success was not in the final outcome but in the process itself.

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Collaborating for a More Effective Library Program by Guest Blogger Becky Nation

By Becky Nation, Avalon Middle School in Santa Rosa County

Photo of breakout boxesHave you ever felt like you were spinning your wheels even when constantly working hard to bring quality books, information, and skills to your library patrons? Does it seem like everybody else has the latest, greatest program going on in their libraries and you’re behind? This is the point I was at before attending ALA Midwinter. As I soaked in the sessions about Makerspaces, coding, augmented and virtual reality, new and exciting educational apps, and creating spaces where patrons really want to be, I reflected on my program and ways that I could make a more positive impact in my library. Thus, the journey toward a more effective, collaborative program began.

Each school year starts with two weeks of orientation followed by two weeks spent introducing the RARE (Random Acts of Reading Enjoyment) reading program as I do book talks, book passes, and thirty-second brain dumps using the SSYRA books. Because students need this information, these two lessons are non-negotiable; however, the rigid two-week rotation of library lessons for every student in the school is. Library activities are now planned around content being taught in each language arts teacher’s classroom at the time of their visit, which means that some visits are for checkout only. Planning library visits like this has enabled me to open up the library to meet the needs of other subject areas while teaching skills in context so they are more relevant. It has also allowed me to create STEM lessons that tie into other subject area teachers’ curriculum.

Photo of breakout boxesTo give a better idea of what this looks like in practice, I’ve been collaborating with each of the language arts teachers to determine their scope and sequence. We have then brainstormed to plan activities in the library where I teach students the process they need and their language arts teacher then applies that process to the content or skill being studied in class. For example, sixth-grade students struggled to locate books needed to meet their class reading requirement, so we used a GooseChase scavenger hunt to familiarize them with materials location and reinforce library procedures from the previous orientation lesson. Two other language arts teachers are focusing on setting and characterization using the horror genre. We’re collaborating to have a “campfire” and tell scary stories in the library at the end of October. Students will then use the experiences from our storytelling as examples when writing their own stories. A seventh-grade teacher is trying to motivate her students to read from a variety of genres, so a book shopping activity is in the works. An eighth-grade language arts teacher is looking for a creative way to teach context clues, so I’m currently brainstorming ways that I could turn a traditional lesson into a STEM activity in my media center. Another upcoming lesson involves teaching students the process for using ebooks and the language arts teacher introducing her debate project using an unlimited access Thinking Critically ebook that covers both sides of the topic. Through these collaborative lessons, I’m still teaching those same processes that I would have taught during my old two-week rotations, but now they’re relevant to classroom content and are being practiced in context.

While still working consistently with language arts, having a more flexible approach to programming has allowed me to focus on other subject areas who don’t normally frequent my space. In an effort to lure math teachers into the library, I am creating a nine-hole mini-golf course using a different book theme for each hole. Sixth-grade math students will cycle through playing each hole and gathering their real-world data on scorecards to use for practicing mean, median, and mode. The seventh-grade civics classes needed a way to recognize Constitution Day, so we collaborated to set up ten Breakout boxes in the library. Breakout boxes are similar to an escape room, but students solve the clues to break into the box rather than out of a room. Thirteen classes cycled through to attempt the constitution Breakout while learning about the Bill of Rights and Articles of Confederation. Another Breakout box about fossils was the result of collaboration with a seventh-grade science teacher.

Through collaboration with teachers from every subject area and a focus on creating lessons and activities that encourage critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication, my library program is more relevant and beneficial to our students. Skills are no longer taught in isolation but are practiced in context for better retention so students make connections to the standards being taught in class. Those collaborative relationships with teachers are being developed so they are now coming to me asking how we can work together to create a STEM activity in the library. The wheels are still spinning, but now we’re actually moving forward together.

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Bringing Health, Beauty, and Fun to Your Local Library with Guest Blogger Tabitha Washington, Gadsden County Public Libraries

By Guest Blogger Tabitha Washington, Gadsden County Public Libraries

About 3 years ago I decided I wanted to bring a health and beauty series to the Gadsden County Public Libraries. The communities that we serve have a lot of women who are looking to improve themselves physically. So I decided to incorporate Zumba first to help with the fitness aspect. I attend classes on my own in Tallahassee, so I reached out to my instructor, and she was more than willing to help. Zumba has been successful at the libraries for a couple of years.

I next decided I wanted to do something out the box for the women of Gadsden County. I called in a few favors from friends with various talents and put on a makeup glam and a hair seminar. My personal hair stylist is Aveda-trained in hair, makeup, and eyelash extensions. Together we put together two amazing programs for women. The presentations both included PowerPoint presentations, hands-on tutorials, sample products, and a live demonstration (with me as the model). Guests had a chance to ask questions, take notes, and there was even a drawing for door prizes. I was also able to obtain nice refreshments from a local caterer at little to no cost. Both events were well attended and greatly appreciated. I scheduled them close to Mother’s Day in 2017 and 2018, to draw more women in.

A month prior to the event, I had a poster-size flyer made of the event. I also had a display table made as a teaser to the event. The day of Ladies Glam Night, the meeting room was decorated in pink and black. I used plastic tablecloths from Walmart and made the tables look like gift boxes. On each table were containers with eye pencils, concealer, sponges, toner, and wipes. These items were used for participants to practice drawing eyebrows on each other. The beauty consultant gave them a demo and later went around and assisted the guests.

The grand finale was the live full makeup demonstration featuring me! I got a full face of makeup, false eyelashes, and my hair curled. I thoroughly enjoyed getting glammed up, and my library patrons did, too!

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