Sunday, May 31, 2009

365 Project: May

With warmer weather comes more time spent out-of-doors, and my photos are starting to reflect that change of focus. Sometimes the "perfect shot" was no further than my own backyard.

Most viewed image was The View from Stark's Knob

The largest numbers of comments were generated by Lilies of the Valley

and Morels

A personal favorite has to be Sentimental Journey: Saint Brigid's School, since that building is where I received my (formal) education from Kindergarten through 8th grade.

It was the beginning of quite a Journey, one that won't end any time soon, I hope!

You can see a slideshow of the 31 May photos here or view all of my 2009 photos to date here.

The two groups to which I contribute are 365/2009 and 2009/365.

Friday, May 29, 2009

For Cathy, On the Occasion of her Birthday

"Friendship consists in forgetting what one gives, and remembering what one receives." -Alexandre Dumas, fils

"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that." -E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

"Friends are the sunshine of life." -John Hay

Happy Birthday, Cathy!

Monday, May 25, 2009


Although it began as a day to remember those who died in the American Civil War, Memorial Day (once know as "Decoration Day") now honors all U.S. men and women who died while in the military service.

I thought this would be an appropriate time to visit one of our local cemeteries, where grave markers and flags indicate the final resting place of those who served in our armed forces.

Some of these men and women returned home to finish lives interrupted by war. They are recognized on Veterans Day.

Others died in faraway places, fighting for the country that they loved. These are the honorees on Memorial Day.

The peace of the morning was briefly disturbed by the sound of a parade on a neighboring street. There were to be patriotic songs played and heartfelt speeches given at a war memorial in the city park.

I preferred to linger a while with the dead.

"Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold."
-Rupert Brooke

"We who are left how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?"
-Wilfred Wilson Gibson

"United States Flag" by tomsaint11

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Job Description

Our 8th grade students are required to complete a career project. If one of them had done a keyword search for Librarian - Job Description, they might have read this:
Maintains collections of books, serial publications, documents, audiovisual, and other materials, and assists groups and individuals in locating and obtaining materials: Furnishes information on library activities, facilities, rules, and services. Explains and assists in use of reference sources, such as card or book catalog or book and periodical indexes to locate information. Describes or demonstrates procedures for searching catalog files. Searches catalog files and shelves to locate information. Issues and receives materials for circulation or for use in library. Assembles and arranges displays of books and other library materials. Maintains reference and circulation materials. Answers correspondence on special reference subjects. May compile list of library materials according to subject or interests, using computer. May select, order, catalog, and classify materials. May prepare or assist in preparation of budget. May plan and direct or carry out special projects involving library promotion and outreach activity... -Career Planner

Although the above profile might have been accurate when I received my MLS - in 1973 - it hardly reflects the nature and scope of our profession in today's world.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about libraries and librarians.

Doug Johnson explores The Essential Question on his Blue Skunk Blog: "
Does a school need a library when information can be accessed from the classroom using Internet connected laptops?" He offers no easy solutions, reminding library professionals that "The new question is uncomfortable, messy, and incredibly important and not restricted by any means to one particular school. It is one to which all library people need a clear and compelling answer."

In Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians, Joyce Valenza asks
"What does a 21st Century librarian look like?" then draws the portrait of an effective education leader who models modern information tools and techniques for both students and staff members.

Which brings me to a discussion that's been occurring in my area of New York State. Some of my fellow School Library Media Specialists view library skills as separate from technology. They advocate teaching a foundation of "basic literacy skills" before utilizing "extras" like blogs, social networking sites, etc.

They know my viewpoint:

"As Information Specialists, we MUST be familiar with new tools so that we can help our students and staff communicate, collaborate, and create in our increasingly connected world. Library walls are coming down. We need to keep up or we'll become obsolete."

Few of them share it.

Karl Fisch, Darren Draper, and a number of other interested parties recently conducted a Twitter conversation about the role of librarians. The question was asked, "What's the point of having a media specialist if they aren't specialists in the media forms of the day?"

As school districts look to trim budgets in a time of reduced funding, the answer to this query becomes increasingly important. Library Media Specials who can't articulate their value and relevance may find their careers in jeopardy, their positions "covered" by technology teachers and clerks.

There is a social technographics ladder, shared by Cathy Nelson. She asks, "Where are you on this ladder?"

Joyce Valenza puts it bluntly, "In my mind, if you are not an expert in new information and communication tools, you are NOT a media specialist for today."

Carolyn Foote advises "as we each sort out the answers to those 'essential questions,' as Doug calls them, we should post our answers on our doors and windows for the school to see... We should let everyone know what we consider our core mission to be in simple, concise terms. And then we should live that mission daily in our policies and practices and purchases."

It's time to update that job description.

"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." -George Bernard Shaw

"ARCHIMBOLDO, Guiseppe The Librarian c. 1566" by carulmare

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Those Were the Days

My friend and fellow librarian, Cathy Nelson, tagged me with a meme. It’s called “Those were the days” and it began over at the Books, Bytes, and Grocery Store Feet Blog.

Since I've been around for quite a few years now, I have a LOT of memories to share. In the interest of brevity (and to highlight some previous posts), I'm responding with selected photos and blog links.

Children of my era were expected to spend a lot of time outdoors. We all had bikes, wagons, dolls and/or trucks...and big imaginations. A favorite game was the very non-PC "Cowboys and Indians," inspired by Saturday morning TV shows and Saturday afternoon matinees. My first heroes were cowboys, and that larger-than-life frontiersman, Davy Crockett.

School and church were a key element in our lives then, and, along with most of my friends, I sang in the choir. We gave two concerts a year, with a mixed program of show tunes and religious hymns. As a special treat one year, we were all taken to see The Sound of Music performed on Broadway, with Mary Martin as an unforgettable Maria. I'm not sure if I could still read Gregorian chant, but my choir experience gave me a wonderful heads up when I studied Latin in high school.

Every home I've ever lived in had a yard with lilac bushes. Their scent brings back memories of ragged childhood bouquets for mom and shady spots for playing, reading, and dreaming.

Birthdays were a special occasion, and we celebrated with fancy parties in our homes. Little girls wore their best dresses and shiny patent leather shoes. Frilly little baskets held nuts and sweets; cake and ice cream were served on the dining room table, with lemonade or, a rare treat, soda. We played games, and gifted the birthday child with paper dolls, board games, and outdoor toys. Sometimes there was a shiny new bike; children's books were only available in hardcover, and were treasured accordingly.

Ah, yes...books! Although they didn't have a lot of money when starting out married life, my parents always made sure there were books in our house. A voracious reader, I worked my way through the great illustrated children's classics: The Brothers Grimm, Pinocchio, Robin Hood, Heidi. Some of the stories were difficult to comprehend (Collodi's Pinocchio is quite different from Disney!) but I devoured them all. When I was in the upper elementary grades, I biked to the local public library with friends; during my high school years, the Troy Public Library provided an interesting assortment of novels and short stories, usually from the adult section, since YA literature was not yet a real literary genre. My love of reading began early; it has never left me.

That's a sampler of memories, enough, I think, for a meme response. I invite any who stop here to contribute bits of their personal history. We could create an interesting memory quilt, an everyman's history book.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Prom Crash Friday

Every year, our district hosts an activity for high school Juniors and Seniors, plus invited guests from another area school, on the Friday before the Junior Prom.

The intent is to graphically reinforce the idea that drinking and driving lead to bad decision-making with potentially tragic consequences.

Two years ago, we lost recent graduates to a horrific crash. Responders at the scene were local residents; a young volunteer had to pronounce one or both young men dead just a year or two after going to school with them each day.

As the police officer in charge of the presentation reminded students, rural roads, inexperienced drivers, excessive speed, and alcohol or drugs are a deadly combination.

There will still be those young people who make bad choices. But if the Prom Crash demonstration and follow-up discussion save even one life, they will be well worth the time invested.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bouquet of Lilacs

Today is Mother's Day, and my daughter presented me with a bouquet of lilacs. She has shared similar nosegays through the years, just as I do with my own mother.

I have written about lilacs before, and will probably continue to do so each spring.

The sight and scent of these lovely flowers evokes memories of times gone past, hopes for times to come: sweet nostalgia, lavender longings.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Zombies: A Teachable Moment

"Zombies Night of the Living Dead" from Wikimedia Commons

You just never know when opportunity will present itself!

A few Study Hall students were discussing an article they had seen online, purportedly from the BBC, which announced the appearance of a dangerous new Swine Flu variation:

There has been a small outbreak of “zombism” in London due to mutation of the H1N1 virus into new strain: H1Z1.

Similar to a scare originally found in Cambodia back in 2005 , victims of a new strain of the swine flu virus H1N1 have been reported in London.

After death, this virus is able to restart the heart of it’s victim for up to two hours after the initial demise of the person where the individual behaves in extremely violent ways from what is believe to be a combination of brain damage and a chemical released into blood during “resurrection.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alert to phase six, its highest level, and advised governments to activate pandemic contingency plans...

I did a quick online search and shared my findings:

According to Snopes, versions of this hoax have been making the rounds since April 1, 2005, where the "Zombism" was allegedly caused by mosquito bites. Since an actual BBC article was cannibalized for the joke, the page appears authentic at first glance.

Entertainment Weekly pointed to the Zombie Swine Flu report while chastising Twitter users for spreading misinformation.

Internet searchers and surfers of all ages, child, teen, or adult, need to be aware that good digital citizenship requires users to check and verify sources they are sharing. In an educational setting, learning how to evaluate websites should be a prerequisite for research projects.

There are a number of resources available to teachers:

CyberSmart! Education Company addresses Evaluating Websites in its free K-12 curriculum.

Kathy Schrock focuses on grades 6-8 in her "Critical Evaluation of a Web Page" unit.

A collection of bogus websites, posted by the Australian Department of Education and Training, can be used to test your students' skill at detecting inaccurate sources - and provide material for some interesting class discussions!

Information literacy is a key concept in our connected world. Without guided practice, students will be unable to effectively function as critical information users, collaborators, and creators.

Full disclosure: I am a part-time employee of CyberSmart! Education Company as well as a full-time teacher librarian

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I am now 62 years old. Strange to see it written out in uncompromising numbers and disinterested letters.

I don't feel different inside, though my mirror assures me that changes have indeed taken place.

If anything, my dreams and desires have increased over the past decade or so: I want to do and see and become so many things.

I'm still evolving.

The Journey is just beginning.