Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pinterest, copyright, intellectual property, & pirating

Why would you pirate books? Well, I read this very well-reasoned explanation proposing piracy of a huge range of digital media as a fundamental need to review content, something providers aren't aknowledging in the theft/purchase dichotomy. I have been thinking about this a lot lately with Pinterest, and Tumbler, and other sites really grappling with re-use of intellectual property.

I wouldn't have said that was a problem with my students. That was, until we started circulating ereaders, and a student asked me to transfer some files she had loaded onto the library Nook she had checked out onto another a second Nook her friend had checked out. Files of a book that, rather notoriously, wasn't even an ebook yet.

That necessitated a conversation, and I was aware I sounded irrational as I tried to get around the legalities of the issue. For my student, it seemed irrational. Most of my students are omnitextual. They want content in multiple redundant format, sometimes for different purposes. They are really over the notion of owning an image, or even a concept of an image, and plain text doesn't seem like a commodity of any sort to them. And I think they would agree that sharing (as Smith points out) only leads to a wider audience and more sales.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Flexibility matters

I have been fielding some questions from administrators in my district about "what to look for" in a school librarian. A year ago, I would have been more confident in my suggestions. But now it seems to me that many of the ideal dispositions for school librarianship are either abstract or affective. Well-educated -- with a strong general background and well-read enough to recognize the major topics in each discipline and have some familiarity with the canonical authors. Energetic -- working before school, after school, and all day without a break. Generous -- willing to support the program with your own resources. And, perhaps most importantly, Flexible.

As we have been recovering from the tornado last week, our school community has really come together. Contractors began repairing the roof the afternoon of the storm, enabling most classes to carry on without relocating. The science classes spent time in other areas of the building on Monday. JROTC will not have a building until the next school year, so they're meeting in the library third block.

Most of us are just happy to have everyone here, but the commotion in the library is driving some of the faculty nuts. We have itinerant special education teachers and retired teachers doing one-on-one coaching in the library -- either in the two small conference rooms, the office, or off to the side -- most days. We frequently have more than one class come in each block, including double-booking when one class is working on research and another just wants to check out books.

Flexibility matters, especially now. Nothing bothers me as much as a teacher that thinks the entire library should be cordoned off for the exclusive run of their class. In a building of more than 1300, we have to share. I have the luxury of having the largest instructional space on campus, and I am really committed to keeping it open to students. On a happy note, we are not a venue for the Alabama High School Graduation Exam this coming administration. I have long argued that maintaining access to books for the students warehoused during testing should trump the convenience of using the library to test a handful of students, so I am thrilled.

Friday, March 2, 2012


This morning the intercom went off just before the mid-morning break. Tornado Warning, places in the halls. I had a student actually wait to finish typing & print a paper, so it was a few minutes before I joined my student aides Austin and Emily downstairs. Another former student had been tutoring math students in the small conference rooms, so the four of us chatted about last April's storm until the lights went off.

We had been in the hall in the dark for almost an hour when we were told to turn towards the walls and cover our necks. My assistant principal squatted beside me, one of my aides on either side of us, at the end of a hallway, and the interior doors all began rattling, banging, and anything affixed to the walls or ceilings started blowing down the corridor. There was a terrible roar for about fifteen seconds. One of my aides kept asking "What's happening?" and the other kept repeating that his life was flashing before his eyes.

When the noise stopped, you could see daylight where the drop ceiling had collapsed and the roof was gone above it. My AP asked if I felt "glue" on my head and I worried that she was bleeding because she was hit with some of the ceiling, but I think it was just the dust in the air, the same thick black dust I later realized had gotten under my fingernails.

When people started moving around, I went up stairs to check the library. It was, amazingly, intact. I had just walked through a school littered with debris and seen the blown-out window at the end of the hallway, and then the old farmhouse across the street from the school had been demolished, and I didn't even see the barn. Eventually, I looked towards the faculty parking lot and realized my car, like many there, was totaled. It looked as if a dumpster had been picked up, smashed against the row of cars, and deposited in the field across the street. The damage to my car was so bad that the head custodian told another teacher her white Toyota had been totaled, since you could mistake my Prius for her Pathfinder.

The roofs around the campus are gone, so there's no telling when we'll be back at school. Again, the cell phone grid froze the minute it all happened, making communication practically impossible. The tornado picked up my Royal Doulton mug from my cup holder, filled it with dirt, deposited it intact on my floorboards. Strange stuff. But, miraculously, no one was hurt, which makes me giddy with relief.