Reading More Nonfiction, Thanks to the Common Core Standards

by Colette Crowther

I have to confess I do not read nearly as much nonfiction as I probably should. However, with the advent of Senior Projects and Common Core Standards, I have been obligated to find and read nonfiction to promote to my high school students and I am pleasantly surprised to find these books have come a long way since I was in high school.

Narrative nonfiction is what we are focusing on acquiring these days. Nobody wants to read the single-topic books for fun. What I am looking for is a true story with a factual foundation, lively characters, and a vivid setting. My logic is if I find it interesting, so will my high school clients.

One such book is Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. I became aware of this book since the author is a Pulitzer Prize winner and this book earned a National Book Award. It takes place in the Annawadi slum of Mumbai and follows the lives of two families. The reader can smell the odors from the sewage pond in the slum’s center, see the brilliant colors of the women’s saris, and feel the desperation as these people struggle to survive. We get a glimpse of how they came to live in this place and why it is so hard to escape from these circumstances. It was so much more interesting to read than a country book about India.

packing for mars

behind the beautiful forevers
I have come to learn the names of some authors who write nonfiction winners. Mary Roach (Stiff, Packing for Mars, and Gulp) takes icky, uncomfortable topics and spices them up with snarky comments—perfect for a high school audience. Simon Winchester (Krakatoa and Atlantic) takes us to far-away times and places. I can also recommend Malcolm Gladwell (Outlier and Tipping Points) and Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse). I know that any title by these authors will be well researched and approachable for the high school student.

snow child

Presently reading: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Colette Crowther began her career as a deck officer in the Merchant Marine, where she worked on tankers, freighters, and bulk carriers. After that, she moved into the ‘harder career as a mom’. For the past ten years, she has worked as a library clerk, presently at the Napa High School library. “My biggest joy is bringing students together with books.”

Colette Crowther

Colette Crowther


Random Thoughts on How Technology is Improving Collection Development

by Kate MacMillan

Last month I responded to a request from a librarian in West Africa who was having issues with a book fair. I forwarded the post to another librarian in the UK, who in turn forwarded it to staff in India. This quick and easy exchange makes me reflect on how technology has changed the very nature of our work and certainly our ability to collaborate and communicate on a global level.

Rather than living and working in our own isolated libraries, we have expanded our roles to reach out to libraries that fifteen years ago we didn’t even know existed! Using a Listserve, the librarian in West Africa was able to request; I was able to respond; and a UK librarian was able to resolve! Maybe these three R’s are the true essence of collaboration…..

This led me to another thought about how technology has radically improved collection development. Gone are the pesky little hand written title lists; the dreaded purchase orders with the laboriously typed book orders; the hand mapping of the library; the catalog cards and the time consuming shelf list! Now, of course, these are things of the past and most libraries use Titlewave or another vendor’s ordering/mapping system.

I have been in this business long enough to remember the first Titlewave CDs and how overwhelmed we all were with this new technology! And then all of a sudden Titlewave was online and the library world as we knew it was never the same again. Has it lightened our work load? Probably not, but it has redefined it and given us the tools to retrieve necessary data to make accurate decisions.

With Common Core now a reality for most states, Titlewave is an important tool with resources that are remarkable… I especially like the tags!

So that brings me back to my new-found Listserve friend. I have emailed her to ask if she uses Titlewave and if she does, I am going to see if we can begin a Titlewish partnership.

One last thought… isn’t technology grand?

Kate MacMillan

Kate Macmillan

Kate MacMillan is Library Services Coordinator and Digital Resource Project Manager at Napa Valley Unified School District and Napa Valley School Library Consortium. Her office provides library services to a 35 K-12 school library consortium representing three school districts, the local County Office of Ed’s curriculum library and three private/parochial schools. Kate has been a public library commissioner and currently serves on the California Department of Education’s Recommended Literature Committee. She is also a board member for the local public access television station.

A Year in the Life: Challenges and Cheers from the Napa Valley School Library Consortia

A series of blog entries by the librarians and staff at Napa Valley School Library Consortium

Napa Valley School Library Consortium is a 3600-square mile, county-wide library syndicate composed of three districts, two private/parochial schools, the adult education school and the county office of education’s curriculum/assistive technology library. Now in its ninth year, we have morphed into a model that provides services in unique ways to a variety of school libraries.  Looking back, I am amazed and humbled by the collaborative partnership that has emerged among these very different districts, sites and staffs.

Join us for an interesting and already crazy year as we continue the BYOD implementation at our middle schools and remaining high schools along with the IPad project for K-2. With the easy accessibility of devices, we expect the use of digital resources, including eBooks in the  library and classroom, to increase dramatically.

Just in case we get a little complacent, Common Core State Standards, Project-Based Learning (PBL) at the high schools, middle schools and now elementary sites, along with the new transitional kindergarten are just a few more things to add to our schedules. We will be very busy!

Over the next year you’ll hear from a very different cast of characters who will share their successes and frustrations—many of which are probably very similar to yours. We look forward to giving you an accurate picture of our libraries and some insight into the remarkable people who staff them. We hope you’ll take the time to follow us as we set out on another year in our library life.