In my previous life, I was a high school biology teacher. By volunteering in my sons’ schools over the years, I have learned that I also love to work with the elementary age students. So I am transforming myself into an elementary school librarian. Therefore, I decided to focus this blog entry on reviewing blogs written by practicing elementary school librarians. I wanted to see how they used these blogs as part of their library media programs. My hardest task was finding the blogs! Very few of the 2010 Edublogs Best librarian/Library Award nominees are written by practicing elementary school librarians. I ended up reviewing two blogs written by elementary school teachers and one general blog that included information about the elementary level. Interestingly, two of the three blogs were written in countries other than the US.
Blog Name: Two Libraries One Voice
Who Writes the Blog: John Schumacher (i.e. Mr. Shu), librarian at Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook, Illinois (who was also named Library Journal’s Xtreme Librarian) and Shannon Miller, librarian at Van Meter Elementary in Van Meter, Iowa (who was a nominee for the 2010 Edublogs Best librarian/Library Award for another of her blogs, Van Meter Library Voice) met at the School Library Journal’s Leadership Summit in Chicago and decided to try to connect their students via technology.
Purpose of the Blog: This blog has a very specific purpose: to inspire the love of reading and literacy by connecting the students from the two elementary schools. In the process, students learn about their peers from a different school.
Types of Posts: Made chronologically, entries are posted by either Shannon Miller or John Schumacher. Only a few entries are written per month. However, each post is usually very long with many photos and videos of students and their work, as well as links to other resources they discuss. I found myself wishing that some of the posts were divided into a number of smaller entries because there were sometimes multiple topics discussed in one post (See Our Great Beginning to a New Year). Most posts seemed geared toward showing other librarians what they are doing. There is a bit of self-promotion, such as in Library Journal Movers and Shakers, but it seems much deserved and done in a way that feels like they really want to share their experiences with you, such as in Presenting Our Summer Reading Program on TL Café. I think their students would like to follow this blog to see themselves and their work in the photos and videos.
Analysis of Blog: This is a great example of how a blog can be used to develop collaboration between librarians and their students! As I browsed this blog, I couldn’t help but think of Joyce Valenza’s Fully Loaded article in which she emphasized that all librarians should know “how best to present the elements of (their) program online.” John Schumacher and Shannon Miller definitely do this on their shared blog, by highlighting their work together and some of the best parts of their programs. Getting kids excited about reading is given a clear emphasis in this blog, as is seen in the entry Van Meter and Brook Forest Celebrated Dr. Seuss’s Birthday in which 3rd graders from Brook Forest read to kindergartener from Van Meter over Skype. There is a lot to learn here about ways to enhance collaboration through technology. For example, they introduce their summer reading and writing program in which they used Edmodo, a social networking site, to inspire their students (from both schools) to read and share together over the summer. They set up a general discussion and a book club for 4th, 5th and 6th graders on Edmodo and made an Animoto trailer to get kids involved and excited. Although this blog does not really assist teachers specifically with integrating information literacy, I do think some of the activities do integrate grade-specific content, like reading and writing poetry.
More Information: If you are looking for more good elementary librarian blogs, check out one of Shannon Miller’s other blogs called Van Meter Elementary Library Voice . I did not review this one because it is similar in many ways to Two Libraries One Voice. Miller also is involved (with other teachers in her school) in writing a brand new blog, called Seven States Away written about connecting students in Van Meter, Iowa with those in New Hampshire.
Blog Name: Heart of the School
Who Writes the Blog: Caroline Roche created this blog in September of 2010. She writes the main blog but she showcases work from librarians in schools, both primary and secondary, all over the UK. Many of the “pages” on the left-hand column of the blog are written by librarians in various parts of the UK. The blog was a nominee for the 2010 Edublogs Best librarian/Library Award.
Purpose of the Blog: Roche explains that she created this blog out of frustration and anger at seeing her school librarian friends lose their jobs due to budget cuts. She wanted to show all that librarians achieve and the importance of having a library and librarian in all schools to improve student learning. This struck a chord with me.
Types of Posts: Posts written by Roche are organized chronologically and made often. Most posts are fairly short and some contain photos, screen shots, video etc. Entries made by the librarians across the UK are cataloged by topic on the left side of the blog.
Analysis of Blog: I found this site to be inviting. I loved the quote by Stephanie Harvey on the homepage: “Libraries should be the beating heart of the school, not mausoleums for dusty books.” So true! This is a huge blog with a wealth of information, which can be somewhat overwhelming. Even though it is geared toward librarians in the UK, it has some useful information for librarians in the US. At the top of the blog are tabs used to organize some of the information. Of particular interest to me was the Evidence Base tab which includes links to research that show the positive impact of school library programs on student achievement. I think this is a good resource for information that you could share with your principal about the importance of maintaining a strong school library media program. Improving information literacy was addressed in a number of entries but most notably under the Presentation tab which included slideshare presentations about topics such as embedding information literacy into the curriculum. Roche also reached out to help librarians with professional development using a “School Library Document” box on the right side of the home page. Librarians are celebrated in the Day in the Life entries which describe all that a librarian does and achieves in a given day. These are written by librarians from all different kinds of schools. I did find a some of the pages on the left-hand column to be lacking, such as the Collaborative Projects page.
Blog Name: Booked Inn
Who Writes the Blog: Ian Mclean writes the blog about his experiences as a librarian in a primary school in Australia. He started the blog in January 2008. The blog was a nominee for the 2010 Edublogs Best librarian/Library Award.
Purpose of the Blog: The purpose is not clearly stated as in other blogs. Based on the entries, it seems that the main goal of his blog is to highlight the best parts of his program such an author visit , illustrator visit , student work and technology use.
Types of Posts: The posts are organized chronologically. Most are short and to the point. All have lots of visuals such as photos, videos, slide shows etc.
Analysis of Blog: This blog is very easy to follow. I liked it because I felt like it is closer to the kind of blog that I could possibly do. I have looked at all of the 2010 Edublog nominees and many have so much information that I found them to be overwhelming to follow. I like how Mclean chronicles what is happening in and around his library. He does a good job of incorporating classroom content and technology in lessons such as the Guided Inquiry: Endangered animals slide shows. Librarians can get a lot of good, practical ideas by browsing his blog. However, one area I found weak was the lack of entries on integrating information literacy. I also wish he included more in his entries about the process of collaboration with the teachers. From some of the end products, it is clear that he is working with classroom teachers but it is not clear exactly how. I found Shoestring Makeovers to be a good resource for this present climate of budget cuts. Finally, he includes an impressive list (with links) of useful articles he has written, mostly about using technology to enhance student learning.
Conclusion: I will take away some very valuable information from reviewing these three blogs. I will definitely use some of the professional development ideas in my own librarian blog, such as providing a tab with presentations from conferences, tutorials on how to use technology, and providing active links to other resources. I also think a blog is a great place to process and share all that you learn at conferences. I came into this assignment knowing that a blog can be a great way of showcasing collaborative work that one does with the classroom teachers in your school. I never thought of using a blog to collaborate with a librarian and students from a different state. I will continue to learn about this process from Two Libraries One Voice.