Tuesday, December 21, 2010


It was a banner year. Some of my personal high points:

January: Presenting "Flip Your Library" with Laura Pearle and Buffy Hamilton at the YALSA Institute preconference at ALA Midwinter in Boston.

February: Presenting an Elluminate session on Google Searching for the Alabama State Department of Education Technology Initiatives.

March: Visiting Sedona, Arizona over spring break.

April: Hosting fifty-odd youth services librarian for an Alabama Library Association preconference

May: A long weekend in Chicago including Topolobampo, The Green Zebra, Billy Elliot, Avenue Q, and some terrific company.

June: Chairing the YALSA preconference on online reading promotion, WTF? They ARE reading.

July: Attending training at the Library of Congress as part of its Teaching with Primary Sources Mentor program, which included spending lots of time with Joyce Valenza.

August: Beginning coursework towards administrative certification, which helped me think about the library from other viewpoints.

September: A month marked with literacy as our Teachers as Readers group skyped with Alabama author Irene Latham, the public library comes to school to visit every ninth grader, and our book club orders cute, student-designed tee shirts.

October: I really start enjoying the Computer Applications curriculum I cobbled together for our College and Career Readiness curriculum, and at least a few juniors are as fascinated by location-based technologies and hardware as I am.

November: With both the YALSA Lit Symposium and NCTE/ALAN, November was a terrific month for talking about literature for young people.

December: The advertisement for a second librarian unit threw me into temporary paralysis, but everything seems to be resolving in an absolutely exciting direction. More on that in 2011!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hanging on

The interviewing for a second librarian position for our high school is underway, and I am riding a daily rollercoaster from elation to despondancy about this coming librarian. Some of the candidates have been top-notch, especially the ones who found out about the gig through social networking...more on that later. Others don't seem to have ANY qualifications and seem to be playing application roulette.

This has such great potential to change the culture of our school, but it seems like everyone has a different idea of what they want...

... some administrators are all about "getting you into the classroom to work with teachers on technology."

... some administrators want someone to design a better website. Difficult, when we are hobbled by the district's Microsoft Sharepoint software.

... some administrators want someone to work on the community library project.

All of which leaves me wondering, what about the library? The actual school library?

But, seriously, social networking has proven invaluable in turning up viable candidates. My administrators are taken aback that people are willing to come from distant states, leave academia, even, to come to work here, with me. If I had been left to the candidates who hadn't found out about the gig through social networking, they might be looking for TWO librarians.

Some things I have learned in general about interviewing for jobs:

Having a website? Can be impressive. Doesn't have to be fancy or hand-coded. They seem to like templates just fine.

Submitting a vita instead of a skeletal one or two page resume? Can be impressive.

And now, the most shocking thing. The fact that the administrators were able to dissect in detail the CLOTHES the candidates wore. I'm sorry, I was too busy trying to assess their skill level. But on that note, shoes matter. And you might want to tuck your shirt in.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Books of 2010

It's been a very good year. I could have added another dozen, but these are the ones which have stuck with me.

The real thing, and better than

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand/ Helen Simonson (2010) Major Pettigrew is a widower whose main concern Is reuniting the pair of guns he and his late brother inherited from their father, that is, until her begins a misalliance with the south Asian widow of a local shopkeeper. The two sensitive and intelligent creatures communicate in a pure and rare way that is more romantic than little else but perhaps the Moyes.

Zuleika Dobson/Max Beerbohm (1926) We all know Zuleika, but not only is she an innocent who cuts her way through Oxford society, she is refreshingly un-selfconscious in a way that presages Bridget Jones and every subsequent novel with a pink cover.

Aga sagas plus

The Truth about Melody Browne/Lisa Jewell (2009) is slowly following Kate Atkinson into the realm of the thriller. I loved this book because the twist is so extreme, I could never have anticipated it.

The Other Family/ Joanna Trollope (2010). Coming on the heels of Friday Nights, I’d say Trollope’s in her prime.

A Winter’s Tale/Trisha Ashley (2008) An adorable romance with a heady Shakespearean twist, sure to be beloved by English teachers everywhere.

The Last Letter from Your Lover/JoJo Moyes (2010). This structurally complex, riveting narrative follows the intergenerational, interrelated stories of an amnesiac. From the South of France to 1950s and current-day London, the book reeks of a romance too real to be puppy love.

Older teens

Ballads of Suburbia/ Stephanie Kuenhart (2009) If you’ve have a special place for flannel shirts and mosh pits, this is a book you’ll adore. A heartfelt and compelling story framed by an older narrator remembering the fraught incidents of her youth. A realistic depiction of the nuanced nature of female friendship over time, too.

The Hole We’re In/Gabrielle Zevin (2010) The economy sucks. But this family has been living beyond their means for a long, long time beginning when the assistant-principal father went back to school for a doctorate he never finished. The passage describing his advisor’s birthday celebration should be required reading for all graduate students.

Finding H.F./ Julia Watts (2001) The world needs more Southern lesbian YA, and Watts' voice is spot-on. Heavenly Faith and her friend Beauregard are two of the best-drawn teen characters I've encountered in a while.

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares/Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (2010) The third co-authored book from this winsome duo, it beats the Will Grayson any day of the week in my book. From the Glass family to the Strand to the OED, geeks of all persuasions will find much to love in this charming, quirky novella.


Leaving Gee’s Bend/Irene Latham (2010) I read this book twice, and each time Ludelphia became dearer as the heads towards town for the medicine that will save her mother. Latham’s narrative uses dialect and poetry to evoke mythology and folk tradition. A really nice piece of work with faithful attention to and reverence for the places Latham describes. Plus, our teacher book club skyped with Latham, and she was delightful.

Sources of Light/ Margaret McMullan (2010) I think of this as the anti-Help. A book where the depictions of people of different races that manages not to be patronizing or self-congratulatory. This story of a young girl who moves to her dead father’s Mississippi hometown with her bluestocking mother in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. They bear witness to the atrocities of that period.

Nemesis/Phillip Roth (2010) Who knew the story of a polio outbreak  in the Newark tenements could be so compelling, and Roth manages it in a book that manages to include a scant few curse words and only a couple of allusions to sex. Is this Roth’s bid for a curricular title?

Quirky Nonfiction & Graphic Formats

French Milk/Lucy Knisley (2007). Knisley draws (and writes) about a month-long trip she and her mother make to Paris after her college graduation. Full of youthful exuberance, true affection for all things Parisian, and a fresh approach to storytelling.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks/Rebecca Skloot (2010) While not the best-written piece of literary nonfiction , this book is all about one woman, her extended family, and the bizarre persistence of her cells. Strangely humanizes the world of cellular biology.

Smile/ Raina Telgemeier (2010) A charming, all-ages graphic novel about the transition to high school.

Mass observation

Nella Last’s War (2006)/ Nella Last’s Peace (2008)/Nella Last in the 1950s (2010)

I have been reading Mass Observation all year. It’s sort of an earlier equivalent of the web diary circa 1998, people just babbling away. My hands-down favorite Mass Observation contributor was Nella Last, and a third volume in her story was published just this October. It’s my dream to go to Sussex and see her papers, though entire months were lost in the archive. Nella’s story has also been turned into a television movie, which didn't quite do her subtle observations of her neighbors justice.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Will two librarians be better than one?

Last week, I got the happy news that my school would be hiring a second librarian. For the past seven years, we've been at the threshold for an additional unit. Until now it, the second librarian salary was going to the assistant football coach, make of that what you will.

I am DESPERATE for some help -- serving 80 teachers and 1300 students single-handed has me at the end of my tether. But will we get qualified applicants at midyear? I am encouraging our administration to consider tech-y librarians with public library orientations instead of teachers "leaving the classroom" for this position. I have taught both groups, and find students going into public libraries to be heads-and-shoulders above their school library counterparts. Sorry, but that's what I've seen from an instructional perspective. And ALA program accreditation matters.

I have started thinking about what this person needs to know.

First, the negatives:
  • I work a lot. I am here at 6:30, an hour before the school building opens, most mornings. I don't get a planning period, and I see classes most of the day, not the 60% recommended by ALSDE. Hopfeully, another set of hand may alleviate some of that workload.
  • We haven't had a materials budget for two years. I spend a lot of my own money on this program. I have been buying the cleaning supplies, the office supplies, and most of the books. If you're not willing to chip in, you had better be an ace fundraiser. We don't have a PTO.
  • On a related note, there isn't a budget for professional development. If you want to go to a conference or workshop, you pay your own registration and expenses. That said, they are quite kind about encouraging professional growth, and will always let you away from school.
  • Our teachers are spoiled. I will set up technology projects, pull books, fix their webpages and their gradebooks. Expect unrealistic expectations.
  • The computer network is locked down like Ft. Knox. You won't be able to do much of anything requiring plug-ins, and the filters are typically Draconian, but easily permeable when you don't want them to be.
The positives:
  • The administrators ROCK. They have tremendous support for what goes on in the library. Just don't expect any money, because there isn't any.
  • The students are, for the most part, well-behaved. There are few discipline concerns.
  • The collection is so much better than it was eight years ago -- lots of recent fiction, and nonfiction and reference are looking up, too.
  • Our paraprofessional aid is a real pro and knows the school culture quite intimately.
If you are interested, we are in Madison County Schools, District 8.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Affected or infected

It's World AIDS Day. Any mention of HIV make me think of my friend Tony. Tony and I worked together on the early morning news back in the mid-1990s. We bonded in the way that only morning people that go to work at 4 a.m. can do. The son of a Harlem-raised WWII G.I. and his Italian war bride, Tony told some hysterical cross-cultural stories. I still remember him demonstrating his mother's pasta puttanesca for a cooking segment, relishing the idea of proper southern women making a Neapolitan streetwalker's supper. Tony himself was a former Navy man, had been stationed at Guatanamo, and he was one of the best reporters in our region. When I started working at this school, I caught him on the morning show on my way to work. My husband teased me that Tony was my favorite reporter.

The last time I saw Tony was at a Nappy Roots concert in 2004. Only two months later, I was out of town when my husband gave me the news that Tony had died. "Of what?" I was flabbergasted. Tony made no bones about being "that way," as we say in the south, and it seems that, at the radio station where he worked, his declining health was an open secret. To me, the saddest part was that so many of his friends didn't know he was sick. But I understood his reticence. I lived throught he AIDS scare of the 1980s. Remember Alice Hoffman, the realist, with At Risk? I thought we were past that.


As Kanye says, Magic Johnson's got the cure for AIDS. I'm still sad Tony didn't find it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanks to libraries...

...for providing some interesting conversation this Thanksgiving.

I was forced to confront the fact that every clerk who wields a date-due stamp is considered a librarian, and their knowledge seems to represent the whole of profession, however the miniscule collections and occasional the open hours of the institution. "Well, the township library is only open one afternoon a week, and there are always buses from the senior center and day cares then, so the librarian can't help me with my geneology..."

And school librarians are not mandated by the state of Pennsylvania and are thus vulnerable to being cut, warned one cousin.

Another cousin, looking for electronic resources for homeschooling, reminded me that we all could do a better job of publicizing state-funded databases. She also opened my eyes to the tremendous potential homeschoolers represent for niche curricular marketers.

I remembered that classification is really what separates the amateurs from the professionals. Its inherent messiness was intuited by my husband's aunt, involved in cataloging a 4,600 item church collection. I shared methods of Dewey-snatching from World Cat and the Library of Congress catalog.

Wait lists for popular new materials seem insurmountable to an aunt living in South Carolina. Rather than be 40-something in line for a title, she gets her friend to borrow them from another county system. I go to great lengths to describe interlibrary loan processes -- go to the reference department, I stress, not the circulation desk -- only to have her produce a limp list of Nora Roberts titles. Do libraries ILL Nora Roberts? I did try to emphasize that many libraries scrutinize hold queues to order additional copies, that she shouldn't abandon all hope. Also, she seemed to be il fait with exact copy statuses -- "awaiting processing," or "in transit."

Their patron satisfaction seems to all boil down to better customer service, better communication. The collections and databases are useless if the library users don't know about them.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Willing suspension of disbelief

I heard author Ginger Rue speak at the Alabama Library Association conference last spring, where I won a copy of her first novel, Brand-New Emily, by answering literary trivia (and what an awesome way to distribute prizes was that?). Emily is about a girl who decides take the tenets of commercial marketing to heart to increase her popularity and appeal. It was a cute read, and I expected more of the same when I snagged an ARC of Rue’s latest novel at ALA Annual. It's Jump, published by Tricycle Press.

But while Emily is more middle grade, Jump is definitely YA (hooray!). Brinkley, a shallow and selfish cheerleader and star of the school play, has been ordered to therapy because of her nasty habit of tormenting other girls. As Brinkley begins “jumping” into the bodies of her classmates, -- walking a mile in their moccasins, but also bodies, clothes, and lifestyles -- she very gradually learns empathy. 

I felt for Brinkley as she was a product of benign neglect. Her parents throw money at her and give her precious little attention and no real boundaries or consequences. She recounts in one therapy session how, when she and her friend were caught sneaking out in the middle of the night, her friend was grounded for a month while Brinkley’s parents were either unconcerned or uninformed. Her parents are conveniently out of the country for the bulk of the book, so her strange disappearances (and reappearances as other people) are almost unobserved.  I think as many teens have always lived in the same way as Brinkley as have been under the scrutiny of “helicopter parents,” but it is interesting to see a portrayal of parents emotionally absent because of disinterest rather than their own addictions or mental health issues, which seems to be a recurring model in YA.

Brinkley is left in the care of her maid, Talullah, who she ultimately realizes may be the only one with her best interest at heart and, in Brinkley fashion, rewards her with a yellow Tory Burch bag.  In fine style, Rue incorporates many wonderful details about the school’s production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, with Brinkley playing Laura, despite, as she realized having a much more talented understudy. (Speaking of literary allusion, am I the only one compelled to start reciting Houseman given the author’s name, “With rue my heart is laden…”)

Brinkley takes the transition to other people’s bodies in surprising stride, and develops a new confidant in Miranda, the rather goth theater techie who was her first “jump,” and begins to have her doubts about her best friend Bette.  There are some rather fantastical plots holes. The principal orders her therapy. Hmm, I wish they had that discretion. And the “jumping.” Is it some sort of mystical technique employed by her therapist Irirangi? I went with it. I have mentioned that I tend to like science fiction, which tends towards overly-elaborate explanations for strange happenings, to the willing suspension of disbelief needed to read much fantasy. But this reminded me more of Melvin Burgess’s terrific Lady: My Life as a Bitch, where one individual experiences inexplicable fantastical personal transformation in the midst of an otherwise realistic universe. And of course, this doesn't apply to dystopias, because I'm naturally rather pessimistic, so it all SEEMS all too realistic.

After the bare-bones ARC, I was glad to see Jump's final cover displays Brinkley as she might have experienced her “jump” to Miranda. The cover art, like the ample fashion and pop culture references, could entice girls who might be a little like Brinkley at the beginning to think a bit about their classmates’ lives, their choices and challenges.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beyond good intentions

I am heading home from the second YALSA Literature Symposium with enough must-read titles on my list to see me out this calendar year. The Lit Symposium is a bi-annual event, and I feel very lucky to have gone to the inaugural symposium in Nashville two years back. Despite the logistical challenges involved in travel to Albuquerque – I had to take a personal day Monday, because getting there and back from Alabama is a day-long proposition – it was well worth the rally. To be surrounded by 450 other librarians, authors, and academics with a real interest in young adult literature was really invigorating experience.

The conference had a diversity theme, and while I know I immediately think of racial and ethnic diversity, the conference did make me think of inclusiveness in a new light. My Friday began with the excellent preconference (organized by the incredible Angie Manfredi, who  was also an excellent local hostess), which talked about Body Acceptance and Fat Positivity and how to connect young people with a range of books that discuss these important issues so they can begin to develop a sense of self-worth beyond the basely physical.

Other sessions expanded that knee-jerk definition of diversity to focus on the portrayals of disability, religious experiences, sexual orientation, sexual content, and diversity in graphic novels (with the extremely knowledgeable duo of Francisca Goldsmith and Robin Brenner) and historical fiction (Melissa Raby, with authors Christina Diaz Garcia and Ruta Sepetys). I also especially enjoyed meeting Megan Frazer, a high school librarian in Maine who is living the dream as author of Secrets of Truth and Beauty. The closing session with Lauren Myracle and Ellen Hopkins was phenomenal, as they shared  correspondence from readers. Hopkins believes all middle schoolers should read her books to discourage drug use and will supply compelling testimony from teens about the worth of her novels should they be called into question in your library.

The only thing I would like to have seen more of was on technology, perhaps the digital divide and as a diversity issue and how libraries help. The symposium was also rather short of take-aways in terms of programming and ideas for implementation in your practice, but I am sure the literary love-fest will affect all of our collection development as we attempt to fill these gaps with the resources showcased.

I have also been reflecting on how new media has completely changed my conference-going experiences from rather lonely to completely social. So many of my YALSA friends I got to know in various ways online before meeting face-to-face. Twitter was HUGE at this conference, possibly more so than at any other I’ve attended, not only for backchanneling sessions but for building community.  I had dinner with one tweep, lunch with another, and caught a movie with a third, none of whom I’d laid eyes upon before this weekend, but with all of whom I am eager to remain in touch.

I will point you towards Gretchen Kolderup's blog for more thoughtful analysis. I have a presentation to cobble together for NCTE in the meantime. The next YALSA Lit Symposium will be November 2-4, 2012, in St. Louis. I’ve marked my calendar!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Just sweet

In Fixing Delilah Hannaford, Sarah Ockler plays with that Sweethearts trope about meeting the boy who was once your best friend years ago. In this case, it's the dishy contractor-and-coffeeshop-crooner Patrick, who Delilah remembers as "Little Ricky," her grandmother's neighbor and the companion of her childhood summers. It doesn't help that Delilah has the worst "not-boyfriend" ever, Finn, back at home. There is some mild intrigue surrounding the reasons Delilah and her stressed-out mother stopped visiting eight years ago. Delilah pieces her own history together only after she and her mother return to Vermont to settle her grandmother's estate, but it changes both their lives.


This book is utterly charming, and it left me thinking about particular students to whom I would recommend it. I found it not dissimilar from

Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney. About three generations of women, all with their own issues. I think this tale resonates for girls who have or are seeking maternal ties in particular.

The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill Alexander. All she wants is to ride in the parade, and Austin decides raising chickens will win her the affections of the 4H. I love that she takes Ag and feel that her experiences are not far from many of my students'.

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern. Love the accuracy with which Halpern describes high school group dynamics. I think the bits about D and D will ring true for many survivors. of middle school.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford. This has some sad bits, too, but on the whole it's such a precious narrative, like Sara Zarr's Sweethearts, I think it does appeal to the same readers.

I heard Halpern at last year's ALAN conference and know Alexander is one of the finalists for that group's Amelia Elizabeth Walden award this year, so I suspect she'll be in Orlando. I'm excited to be presenting at NCTE alongside some amazing librarians later this month, and staying over to hear the authors at ALAN, my new favorite conference.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Do publishers need to rethink their approach to egalleys? Or, where I whine about my inability to get everything I want for free

It started when I read Michelle from Galleysmith's review of Carrie Philby by Caren Lissner. The heroine sounded quirky and independent, and I wanted to check it out. She had gotten it through NetGalley, but I couldn't find it there. I did find three other novels while browsing around to request. Imagine my disappointment when the first was returned within minutes with this email (identifying information removed):

I noted the suggestion about the profile, but my twitter, my blog, my website, and my K12 public school email address are all there. I don't know what other credentials I could supply for the publishers to vet me. I have used NetGalley lots, and have praised its excellent environmental model for delivering materials for selection. And since I am paying to have these files converted for my Kindle, I have a vested interest in being selective as far as requests and have made less than a dozen total.

This rejection plunged into a momentary crisis. Obviously, I had been judged by someone and found lacking to be granted access to this digital file. But the more I thought about it, the more offended I became. To me the refusal of the ARC was an absence of professional courtesy. I'm not a book blogger per se, but I have attended kidlitcon and have chaired and am chairing national library association committees. I write about books here and there, I present about ebooks and wrote about them for the June issue of VOYA. And I know I've sold dozens of copies of Sources of Light, which I first read on NetGalley, through glowing recommendation, and more than a handful of Wildthorn which I read from them as an e-galley, too.

But is it strictly a digital anxiety? I have have publishers mail me copies of ARCs, including the publisher in question. I could digitize and distribute those if piracy was my true intention. But it doesn't make me want to look for the ARC at NCTE or ALA Midwinter. Sour grapes, maybe, but still. So I began to think about what requires the publisher to mediate these requests in the first place. Was it an issue of which book I requested? It was a paranormal romance. Does that make it ripe for pirating?

One of my other requests was granted. I'm waiting to hear about the third. And Carina Press, the digital-only imprint, is going DRM-free...

Monday, October 25, 2010

ebooks: modern-day travel checkers?

One of my favorite moments of the School Library Journal Summit on the Future of Reading involved one of Frances Harris's self-possessed and articulate students saying he didn't purchase first-generation hardware. I admire him from a philosophical point-of-view, and while I believe all files should be device-agnostic as well, I have a real weakness for gadgets, even the ones riddled with the DRM the students also cannily rejected.

I remain convinced that the Kindle delivers the superior reading experience and am working on an ereader pilot project. But, unlike many librarians who have been lauding Amazon for allowing access for up to six simultaneous devices, I plan to begin by using only public domain text without DRM restrictions to manage manually. Isn't that utterly scalable? And we have enough call for spare copies of The Count of Monte Cristo, Ethan Frome, Edgar Allan Poe and Alice in Wonderland that Gutenberg alone could keep hundreds of devices in constant use. Of course, I believe the ultimate leap will be to student-owned hardware that kids can manage themselves.

I have been thinking about ereading for pleasure in terms of thinking about my own adoption of digital video. I purchased my first modern piece of Apple technology as soon as the video iPod became available. Prior to that shift, I had been using a Sony player with a similarly proprietary format and software management system. But the video capabilities proved sufficiently enticing to pull me to the other side. I found it fascinating I was able to download a digital file of a Hollywood blockbuster, a network series that updated itself each week, and converting my own files to watch on that tiny screen or hook into the television.  I remember watching Psych and Heroes for the first time from iTunes.

But my digital consumption habits have shifted in the past year. I realized that I have only purchased one series, from the BBC, in almost 18 months, and I haven't watched any of those episodes yet. The Kindle had supplanted the iPod video in my estimation. I have never used the Kindle daily, it was almost always a device for either travel or convenience, and sometimes for sheer novelty as with the videos or games. The fact of the matter is that there is too much good video content out there for free for me to continue paying the prices demanded for corporately controlled files which, as Francey's students noted as well, I cannot share or convert.   

Because the models are so unfriendly to libraries, the shift to ebooks produces equity issues as well. I bristled when one presenter mentioned requiring permission slips for ereaders. After all, those aren't required for texts of comparable cost or the reference books it's all the rage to interfile and circulate. And there are issues of access. I would never invest in browser-based ebooks (rather than downloadable files) because so many of my students wouldn't be ABLE to connect from home. I'm also concerned about prohibitions against simultaneous use, and 24-hour minimum checkouts when seven periods of students could be using the same print text. 

When I read about the Publishers Association suggesting that physical barriers to downloads limited to library premises, I realized I had to consider my own consumption habits. It's important to not to support models that don't take the missions of libraries and schools into account. On the whole, the Summit reinforced for me the absolute distinction between reading for pleasure and reading for information. Most of the speakers focused on factual retrieval rather than leisure reading, and while that is one role of the school library program, it is not the only one. I think of Elizabeth Hardwick, 

"The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination."

And, like the video iPod, I almost only opt to use the Kindle when traveling. And I wonder what the next miniaturized toy for the airplane will be? I once compared ereaders to electronic football games, but now I think they might be closer to those tiny versions magnetic of travel checkers. Effective and diverting, but no real threat to the more robust and pleasingly tactile objects.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My life as a reader

This meme was too fun not to jump into... Melanie Holtsman from Jacksonville my fellow NYC '08 Google Certified Teacher, is starting a fall blogging challenge, and for the first week offered this prompt:
What is your life as a reader like? Do you read for work, pleasure, instructions or emails? What is your favorite author and/or genre? What is your favorite reading spot? What did you like to read when you were the age of your students? 
Reading has been a constant in my life since before I was school age. I read for work, constantly scanning feeds for resources I can share with my faculty or ideas for student projects. Most days, I read blogs and tweets and articles online and in print. I also read for pleasure, averaging about four or five books a week, more if we're on vacation. As a high school librarian, I read a lot of YA literature, but my favorite genre is that of British domestic fiction, classics like D.E. Stevenson and Barbara Pym and newer comfort reading like Maeve Binchy, Sophie Kinsella, and Joanna Trollope. I adore Agatha Christie. Phillip Roth is another of my favorites, he seldom disappoints. I have also discovered over the past few years that I have a bit of a taste for science fiction. I still have a hard time with "fantasy."

When I was in high school, I read most of what I came into contact with -- classics, lurid Jacqueline Susann and Judith Krantz novels, some YA. I liked the Sunfire historical romance series and Maggie Adams, Dancer and Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington and Marjorie Morningstar by Howard Wouk. I re-read Gone with the Wind and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn regularly. I read American Psycho in high school, and, pretentiously enough, Ezra Pound's Cantos. I loved Katherine Anne Porter and Sylvia Plath and Erica Jong and Rona Jaffe pretty equally. I thought Absalom, Absalom! was the best book I was required to read for school, with To the Lighthouse a close second.

Thanks, Melanie, for giving me license to think about this for a little bit. I'm not sure I'll be in every week, but I'm excited for the Book that Changed your Life...


School, in books

I suppose we all choose to return to places where we feel comfortable. I've been reading a lot about school lately.

Not That Type of Girl by Siobhan Vivian. Natalie is an overachiever with her eyes firmly on the post-graduation prize, but she's susceptible to the charms of a bad boy...I especially enjoyed Natalie's conflicted relationship with Spencer, the girl she once babysat who is now running wild. It recreates a sense of high school competition rather faithfully. I think this will be popular.

You by Charles Benoit. Kyle is an sympathetic underdog who meets a Faustian newcomer out to exploit his weaknesses. This book starts strong, with a heady sense of adolescent obsession and a nice sense of sibling fidelity, but its ending was a little pat and did not really push the envelope. There will be inevitable comparisons to Cormier.

The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur. Set at Harvard, this book does a generally good job exploring the strange things that happen your first year away at college. Not terribly plot-heavy, and at moments strangely melancholy instead of frothy. Somehow, the characters seem younger than I felt at that age. First in a series.

Invisible Girl by Mary Hanlon Stone.  Not strictly a "school" book as it begins over the summer, but Stephanie's life with her abusive "bar slut" mother in Massachusetts is a crazy contrast with that of her prosperous family friends in California. They become suspicious of Stephanie after her insecurities cause her to misrepresent her life in Boston. Will appeal to the many teens who want to read stories of abuse and neglect.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A reminder about the importance of early childhood, from ALSC

I spent the three days last week in Atlanta, at the eight biannual ALSC Institute at the Emory Conference Center. The setting was a lush updated complex with high craftsman styling, as the librarians from the Chicago suburbs dotted with real Frank Lloyd Wright buildings noted archly. I attended sessions on everything from gaming to diversity to the Coretta Scott King award and saw three spiritually nourishing performances, and while the proximity to the incredible authors and outspoken and visionary professionals in the youth services field was stimulating, it was Susan Neuman's closing session that will stay with me. Neuman is a professor of education at the University of Michigan and a former Assistant Secretary of Education under the last presidential administration. Among her work is a joint PLA/ALSC project for public libraries to improve early childhood literacy skills known as Every Child Ready to Read, which sounds like a better notion that No Child Left Behind.
Neuman really punctuated the need for early access to literacy for all children, demonstrating amply that "it is poverty that is the determinant of success, not ability." The three most important actors in determining reading readiness is poverty (which trumps the other two factors handily), the mother's educational attainment, and the mother's command of language. The advantages of educated parents are illustrated when on an average the three-year-old children of professionals have vocabulary equivalent to that of parents living in poverty, said Neuman, a deficit that would require 41 hours of intervention a week to correct.

Nonetheless, said Neuman "it is remarkable what environmental stimuli can do." To bridge this gap, Neuman suggests cognitive challenging talk from birth, frequent exposure to words, and repeated reading and re-reading since vocabulary required 28 reiterations before it became integrated. Because children's book have more sophisticated vocabulary than adult television programming, Neuman suggested books are the most effective way to develop vocabulary.She stressed multiple encounters with text, at least three with each book, and advocated watching a video and then watching a book to reinforce the language introduced.

The new literacies were another issue. Neuman said children in poverty average one functional computer per 1000 children, suggesting that less expensive hardware has done little to expand access. And what happens when kids without experience use the school computer lab? They flail, says Neuman, uncertain what to do until their time in the lab is up. That seems to suggest their is a persistant digital divide, and the myth of digital natives inherent fluency with computing may be overestimated.

It was interesting to hear Neuman speak about early childhood literacy since school readiness is something that teachers often dismiss as outside their control. Being with public librarians, one can easily imagine whole communities where early childhood literacy is encouraged through partnerships with hosptials and health care providers, the kinds of partnerships that eductors can also leverage.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Everybody's up in arms

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention...

Some uninformed fool in a Midwestern business department makes incendiary comments about a book that's ten-year tenure makes it practically canonical YA. I know the conflation of rape and porn makes this irresistible for the biblioblogger types, but if any book can hold up to the scrutiny, it's Speak. I'm much more concerned with censorship that's systematic (Common Sense Media), institutional (the Burlington, NJ library) and from within the educational establishment (Humble, Texas), particularly against authors without Laurie Halse Anderson's support and accolades.

I didn't watch Oprah yesterday, but I felt the blowback from the twittersphere:

I saw the trailer for Waiting for Superman last weekend and wretched involuntarily. I am disappointed Oprah would be manipulated by that dreck. Anyone who has seen illiterate relatives attempting to sign the paperwork for their child or grandchild to drop out on their sixteenth birthday can foresee the end result of charter schools, schools without standards like the "segregation academies" run out of people's living rooms a few decades ago. As long as our culture refuses to esteem or fund education, public schools with governmental accountability will be the only way to teach the masses.

What I'm outraged about: fewer than half of those polled by CNN oppose gay marriage. Yet the family and consumer science teacher at my school gets called in for suggesting that gay marriage doesn't affect those outside the relationship. I suppose the Nontraditional Families unit in her Family Dynamics course of studies should be limited to blended families, to allow the church-going, only-sex-within-marriage, who-cares-how-many-marriages to salve their consciences? Meanwhile, I have a student who lives with her two mothers. Evidently she (and her teacher) should allow another student to indict her home and family, because it isn't conventional and, as the protesting student kept insisting, violates her religion. So now I'm stuck babysitting that conscientious objector because, as well all know, any student with problems with the curriculum should be redirected TO THE LIBRARY.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This long road

Image from Bob Jagendorf

Last weekend, I had an exceptional breakthrough in my dissertation work. Can Gerard Genette's concept of the paratext be used to understand the evolution of multimodal texts? It has produced some intellectual momentum I haven't felt since December 2007.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Comfort reading

Last month, the wise and witty British novelist India Knight used Twitter to crowd-sourced an amazing collection of comfort reads.

I have long decried the lack of availability of Aga saga, imported or domestic, from American publishers and booksellers and am constantly looking for anything which bumps into the genre, so the list was absolute manna.

Okay, well, I HAD read most of the books. But there were a few I hadn't seen, which sent me scrambling to order:

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson. I hadn't run up on any Stevenson in YEARS, adn never this one. This one is a fantasy we all hope will play out -- a quiet spinster pens an anonymous tell-all which sends ripples of speculation about its authorship throughout the community. This and the sequel (Miss Buncle, Married) both crossed the $25 limit for foxed and brittle paperbacks, but they were well worth it. If you are an aficionado of E.M. Delafield's Provincial Lady, these will enthrall you.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy. Dundy chronicles the European adventures of Sally Jay Gorse, living the expatriate dream in 1950s Paris, complete with DDT bombs for the bedbugs. I suppose it was the mild licentiousness which made this book the "cult" classic it appears to be. Vaguely reminiscent of Breakfast at Tiffany's, another book where a young woman's sexual activity is explored a decade before free love drew more attention. I particularly enjoyed Sally Jay's attempts to obtain a replacement for her lost passport, having had that experience at a foreign embassy myself.

Hens Dancing by Rafaella Barker. Two pages in, I was convinced I had read this book. Well, I had read one of Barker's books about a divorcee named Venetia with a baby daughter she called The Beauty. Turns out, I had read the second book, Summertime, published two years later as well as, I can now categorically say, the rest of Barker. Not sure how I missed this one. Maybe it was the image of poultry in terpsichorean splendor evoked by that title that put me off. But it's a gorgeous pastoral diary of a woman struggling with three children with a rather attractive builder disrupting the rural idyll. Fans of early Katie Fforde will love it.

The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates. I suppose this book attempts humor, but it's of a particularly coarse kind. When the fumbling tax assessor turns up, he's foisted upon Mariette, the oldest, already-pregnant daughter of a messy, hungry farming family. Give me the Grundys from the Archers any day. And there are four more of them, and a movie with Catherine Zeta-Jones.

But I thank India, and her more than 22,000 followers, for the exceptional effort, and know her My Life on a Plate would definitely make my own list of comfort reads any day.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The facebook thing

If you're one of my few fb friends, you've probably noticed I'm not there a lot. I find it impossible to navigate the privacy policies and frankly distrust the format, having no desire to expose myself, my desires and behaviors to nefarious uses by marketers interested in targeting their advertising even more precisely. And many of my tech-ier teens have cooled on the social networking tool, now that their grandmother is checking their wall...

But I'm confronted with fb on a daily basis. Student profiles on our school network are blocked from http://www.facebook.com/ But our district didn't pay a premium to block secure sites, so https://www.facebook.com allows you access, open sesame, and there's not a student that doesn't know it and consequently violate the district's acceptable use policy on a regular basis.

When I started working at my school, I really wanted students to have unlimited and, to a great extent, unfiltered access to the Internet. With fb, the purpose of use has become an issue for the first time because of the extremely limited resources at our school. Right now, two girls are regularly coming to the library to use the computers for fb fourth block, in some cases muscling out students doing research. We have only 14 machines, so most are being used instructionally at any given moment.

The official district fb blockage introduces other issues. Should I as a steward of network resources confront them for violating the usage policy? How could I do this equitably, when all students seem to participate? And what about students doing coursework who have fb open, too? In another browser window or with a document open, that seems like multitasking. And I keep wondering WHY these girls would choose the library to check fb. Maybe they don't have Internet access at home, to say nothing of the smartphones many students use to check fb in class (under the desk, or in the purse albeit). Is it an equity issue? There is that one math teacher who posts his course videos to fb, as well... I would limit access to instructional resources.

I'm sickened and daunted by the prospect of monitoring use. I once visited the library in the better-funded city school I graduated from twenty years ago, where software observes all activity at student workstations, and the librarian can close a browser session or send a note to the student's desktop. While I love that idea for bibliographic instruction, I'm not sure I want to invade their space, mechanically or otherwise.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Finally fall

Despite the wonderful daily input provided by the interwebs, back-to-school time has me still craving a little face-to-face learning. Fortunately, I have an insanely full professional development calender for the next few months. I'm really looking forward to seeing so much of my PLN and fueling this dissertation thing with some fresh thinking.

ALSC Institutue, September 23-25. Though my patron demographic is more YALSA than ALSC, ALSC always gets my vote for friendliest ALA division. Atlanta's drive-able for me and the Technology strand includes "Transforming Gamers Into Readers" with David Levithan, feeding my obsession with Scholstic's multimodal forays! As a bonus, I'll get to see Susak Kusel and Susan Polos, who I met through the amazing ALSC Newbery course taught by K.T. Hornig a couple of years back.

School Library Journal Leadership Summit, October 22-23. I love the SLJ Summits because they bring in really smart speakers instead of the usual suspects and also eliminate so much of the obligatory lowest-common-denominator element when it comes to the tech-y side of our work. I missed last year because it overlapped our fall break, but I hope to see much of my PLN in Chicago this time. The fact that it's underwritten by generous corporate sponsors (no registration!) and tends to happen in really nice places are bonuses.

YALSA Literature Symposium, November 5-7. I went to the first YALSA Lit Symposium in Nashville in 2008 and knew I'd never want to miss it again, so Albuqurque was a must. I think ALAN is the only place I've seen a similar constellation of YA luminaries, and the Morris lunch was a don't-miss. I signed up for Angie Manfredi's "Body Positivity and Fat Acceptance" preconference, too, which I just know will be awesome.

NCTE, November 19-21, ALAN November 22-33. I attended NCTE and ALAN for the first time last year. They, unlike ALA, still recognize my student status (I am currently enrolled in TWO graduate programs, but ALA still won't cut me a break...I tithe to ALA), which makes attending more affordable. The legendary "box of books" at ALAN offsets my registration, and the chance to hear from so many YA authors (albeit in a rapid-fire format) is compelling enough to draw me, even to Orlando.

So what aren't I going to?

The AASL Fall Forum, November 5-6. It's in Portland where my BFF happens to live, but it conflicts with the YALSA Lit Symposium, which was on my calender much earlier.

Kidlitcon, October 23. Kidlitcon is a wonderful amalgamation of librarians, writers, bloggers, and readers, which I enjoyed thoroughly last year in Washington, D.C, but which conflicts with the SLJ Summit this year. I'll visit Minneapolis for AASL next fall, and Chicago is SO MUCH easier to get to....

Where will YOU be this fall? Looking forward to seeing you.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Questing for books

The whole Mockingjay kerfluffle has made me think a lot about how getting books has changed in the past few decades.

As a young girl, I loved Nancy Drew. Before I knew the word completist, I was one. It was the yellow-spine era, and I spent a couple of years checking every bookstore I came across for any of the 56 hardbacks. Strange how the small bookstores that dotted our town and every other then seemed somehow to have more stock than the massive chains which have replaced them.

When I had all but three of the yellow Nancys, I was allowed to use the form at the back of the book to order the copies to round out my set. My parents wrote a check to the Strathmore Syndicate. It took six to eight weeks for delivery. It was magical when those three books arrived.

Aside from this, which now seems a rather Herculean effort, I always read what was around. At home, it was wildly age-inappropriate things scavenged from my mother and grandmothers. My senior year of high school, I had an after-school job in a used bookstore which did a brisk trade in mass market paperbacks, and I read my way through anything in their stock that looked interesting.

In college, I had ample access to almost anything I wanted to read via the trifecta of an Ivy League college library, an excellent independent bookstore (now, sadly, a Barnes and Noble), and a well-supported public library. I DO remember going to the Strand in 1991, looking for a biography of Gilles de Rai that appeared in the NYT without luck, but most of my bookquesting was fulfilled for a while.

After college, left the vagaries of used book stores and underfunded public libraries, I became a much more eclectic reader, borrowing anything anyone recommended or was new, but always with crumpled pieces of paper in the bottom of my purse listing books I was looking for, questing for, in every bookstore I passed…then everything changed.

In 1997, I was taking a class on Irish literature for my first master’s, and saw a review of The Dower House by Annabell Goff Davis, which manifested the Irish history we had been reading about in fiction, in the New York Times. That was just after I had read about Amazon in the NYT (and that was when we got the NYT by mail, the next day). And then, for the cost of shipping, just about any book in the world could be mine. When I consider all my reading over the last decade – deep forays into Angela Thirkell, Barbara Pym, and Margaret Forester – it overwhelmingly represents things I would never have been able to find locally.

I don’t read many bestsellers, so most of what I’m after is definite long-tail stuff, but I think the Internet has actually tripped me up on Mockingjay. Had I gone to Barnes and Noble, I could have read it Tuesday, but I preordered, Apple’s preorders having spoiled me. I didn’t want the Kindle version, because I wanted to share it with my students before our library copies arrived. So I didn’t get my Mockingjay until Thursday, and was left with that deep dissatisfaction which occurs when you miss the opening weekend of a movie everyone else was buzzing about… and a reminder that there are other, more expedient ways to get those popular books, rather than online.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Intellectual freedom at issue in Humble, Texas

The controversy surrounding Ellen Hopkins' being disinvited from the Humble,Texas literary festival hits a little close to home for me.

Last year, a mother complained to our assistant principal about the language in Burned. It was an exchange my administrator didn't mention to me, one I only heard about because he asked my paraprofessional to make sure the student hadn't accrued a fine when he returned the book. I have an administration who understand and even privilege the importance of access to books teens want to read. But we've already had six classes of freshmen in for orientation this week, and the Ellen Hopkins books were gone with the first group. I fought not to worry as the baby-faced ninth graders checked those books out. I'm sure they didn't have those at the middle schools.

And one thing is for certain, Hopkins' books are among my students' favorites, so much so that not one of our five copies of Burned made it back on the shelf this summer -- I definitely need to place an order there. No one who has read them could possibly think Hopkins' book glorify drugs or sex, and I have had students attest to their bibliotherapeutic qualities, either in reflecting the realities around them or warning them about pratfalls of reckless behavior.

Hopkins is among the fiercest teen advocates I know. Her posts surrounding the Texas incident, like those during the brouhaha in Oklahoma last year, are wonderful. The exclusion, and the subsequent author solidarity in reaction, is all over the biblioblogosphere,  but I especially appreciated Harmony's take as a teen:
NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT TO READ. NO ONE. My parents don't even tell me what I'm allowed to read yet ONE person whom most of the teens have probably never even met has the right to decide what ALL of them are allowed to read?
I enlarged Hopkins' 2009 Banned Books Week poem "Manifesto" to poster size. It hangs on our circulation desk, beneath whichever of books we happen to have just gotten back. We keep them there because they won't stay on the shelf for long.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Recent reading, and social networks

After reading Lauren Barnholt's One Night that Changes Everything with its shrugged-off cyberbullying, I've been thinking a lot about depictions of social networking technology in YA lit. My favorite iterations are those where the author creates their own nuanced social networks. Over the weekend, I read Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney, and was terribly bothered by the cycle of these women's frailty at the hands of men as perpetuated by the cell phone with tracking capabilities that Ariel's boyfriend urges her to take. She eventually discards the device, but it was such a negative and menacing symbol, I'm definitely going to track some of these appearance of social networks and mobile technologies and see how they track with larger trends. Somewhat ironically, my next read was Stephen Davies' fun parkour-and-cryptography lark Hacking Timbuktu, which presents facebook as the terrorism-abetting group-dynamic-riddled communication mechanism that could well be.

Speaking of social networks, there's nothing like the social experience of reading. When I opened up my browser, I was thrilled to see book bloggers discussing three of my favorite recent reads. Angie Manfredi takes on teen Kody Keplinger's debut, The DUFF, at her blog Fat Girl, Reading. At GuysLitWire, bookchic focuses on Martin Wilson's debut What They Always Tell Us. And at Becky's Book Reviews, Becky reviews the lyrical historical Leaving Gee's Bend by another first-time Alabama author, Irene Latham.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The great potential in our midst

While librarians elsewhere will be moving from campus-to-campus, or even back into the classroom, we are lucky enough to have three new librarians in our district. One elementary, one middle, and one high school librarian, and, for two of them, this is a new career. The third has moved into the area. And while none of the rest of us have materials funding, one lucky first-year librarian even gets money to build a collection at the new middle school next door. I'll admit to being a little jealous, as I shelve my fifty-five year old books...

But it's interesting to see the processes of what we do through new eyes. I spent yesterday afternoon showing Infocentre, our so-called automation system, with our transplant. We hit an impasse over barcodes. I have never printed my own, that being one of the few aspects of processing I am willing to outsource. She didn't know you could purchase barcodes or generate them outside of the automation system... and she was the experienced school librarian. But it's good to think about these things again. I've had to opine on everything from district-level policies about fines and fees to the local intellectual freedom climate over the last few days.

I think some of the success of my school comes from an almost anthropological sense of having been inducted and complying with the larger group norms.  Our county librarians' group is also a strong one. In what can be an isolating position as a school librarian, you need that constant counsel at the ready. I have found so many like-minded individuals in the biblioblogosphere, I can forget that my local colleagues appreciate community, too. I'm thinking helping these new librarians achieve enculturation into this most fundamental group of allies and advocates is about the most important way I can spend my time as school begins.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


...that's just how much of the coursework I've managed for this administrative credential. The first month was a good one. We went to campus and met with some other groups of students there. We took a Foundations course and a Technology one. There's a practicum up next.

Our instructor brought in guest speakers from our system to describe the use of technology in their specialty areas. Those conversations with department heads really did help us see aspects of the school other than the narrowly instructional. The administrative details of the Child Nutrition Program (including the process of evaluating families for federal support) were fascinating, and I really appreciate the central and remote control of the school plant which Dan Evans described. The certificate database with search capabilities which Ken Kubik demonstrated should be showcased, as it assures parents that our teachers are well-qualified, and I can see where it would be helpful when screening candidates.

I probably use technology in my work more than do many of my classmates, but I was quite impressed by how quickly my cohort picked up the read/write web technologies. It really demonstrated to me what our teachers are capable of, given exposure and support, in learning digital tools. I am heartened by the prospects for teaching and learning, given their obvious understanding of using technology for communication and leadership as well as instruction.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Inciting Inquiry with Library of Congress Primary Sources

I spent most of last week with an amazing group of teachers and school librarians, at a meeting of the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Mentor group. We met some of the specialists who get to engage with amazing resources full-time.

My big thrill the last time I was at the Library was a peek into the Adams building stacks; this time we got to visit the main reading room after hours, mug for pictures, and even check out the card catalogs.

One of my favorite discoveries this time: this amazing colonial map (1763). I think you could throw the Silverlight version up on a digital projector and spend hours pouring over it...

I've got a couple of related presentations coming up, and this is what I'm putting together:

Into the Past...Inciting Inquiry with Digitized Primary Sources from the Library of Congress

These collection represent our nation’s cultural heritage. Help your students remix, mash up and make that their own. This webinar will feature navigation techniques appropriate to the Library of Congress’s extensive electronic collections, highlights from flagship online exhibitions, and fresh ideas for integrating primary sources in read/write web projects across the curriculum.

Whether you’re in a classroom with a single workstation or a one-to-one computing environment, the Library’s curated collection of themed resources, lesson planning tools, and professional development modules can support the successful integration of this unequaled collection of documents, images, texts, and film. Come and explore the resources that will transport your students into the past...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cell phones, ereaders, and NATC

This week, more than 500 educators from 9 systems and 5 private schools came to Sparkman High School for the North Alabama Technology Conference, expertly coordinated by Vickey Sullivan for the sixth year.

My first session Wednesday introduced iNow, the new student information system. I sat with two members of my school faculty, which made the workshop more useful.

I found the keynote, delivered by retired detective and FBI consultant Richard Love and entitled "Child Sexual Exploitation via Media and Technology,"  to be designed to manipulate his audience in the worst possible way. I think using a clip from Saturday Night Live (which was itself terrible dated, as were Love's references to AOL chatrooms) really brought down the tone of his whole presentation. His caveat never to post a picture of yourself online seemed to somewhat contradict his proviso that we set up a facebook account to experience what younger people are doing. I found it quite telling that his own wife had ignored his expert advice. I think Love is a Luddite and a reactionary. Sexual offenders have always existed, and I have seen studies that instances of child sexual abuse have actually decreased over the last few decades because of awareness campaigns. I resent the implication that technology has facilitated this sort of predation, when it has simply recast it. I am disappointed that the conference chose to begin on a fear-mongering note rather than focus on constructive and innovative uses of technology. I think media awareness and literacy can largely mitigate the uninformed and reactionary anxieties that Love has evidently made his career feeding.

I gave a 3-hour workshop Wednesday afternoon on the Instructional Uses of Cell Phones (slides below, but the website may be more useful). Ironically enough, we didn't have cell phone reception in the classroom, so chose to make a series of field trips in search of a signal. There was palpable excitement as the participants practiced SMS-ing Google queries, responding to polleverywhere surveys, and writing to wifitti walls. Again, twitter let us down, only a handful were able to create new accounts, but I think they got the idea of backchanneling.

I won a 500GB hard drive in Wednesday afternoon's door prizes. It only seems to work with the Mac, but I guess it will be my new Time Machine device.

Thursday morning, I decided to forgo the Moodle session in lieu of some shorter concurrent session. The first I'd chosen was cancelled, and I ended up in another on Moodle after all, this time for language arts. It discussed some really interesting elements of Moodle design. When I mentioned these capabilities to two of my Moodle-using colleagues, they told me that they aren't able to upload a picture to the Madison County district Moodle server. That is the only disadvantage I see in having so many practice-based workshops with teachers from different districts -- the local policies and technologies do vary radically.

Then the next session I'd planned to go to was cancelled as well, so I ended up in one on Glogster... I had used a glogster for the splash page for my afternoon workshop. The presenter was a librarian who had seen the poster technology at AIMA (now ASLA) in June.

There was a small but enthusiastic crowd for my concurrent session on ereading (slides below). I had a petting zoo, too, so they could experiment with Kindle, Stanza on iPod Touch, iBooks, and Tablet ereader applications.

I ended the day as the only participant in a session on VoiceThread, so it became a private tutorial. The presenter put together a VoiceThread where second graders talked about their favorite books. Instead of a series of photos with a single voice or two voices in tandem, which is how my students have always used VoiceThread, these students all spoke over a single piece of clipart. It was interesting to contrast those different uses. She helped me figure out that you can only use the doodle tool when in recording mode with a live mic, and I had an educator account, which allowed me more VoiceThreads, which was something she had only just learned about at AETC.

It was a good conference, full of sharing and rather practical tips. I was really gratified to see so many teachers from my school faculty there as well as many librarians I knew. It seems to bode well for our district.