Connecting with Authors via Twitter

by Jeff Vogt

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”

This quote from The Catcher in the Rye has stayed with me. It was a wishful thought by Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of the novel. It’s something I can relate to. After a particular interesting read, I, too would like to converse with the author. Now I can. Social media has made this easier.

Many popular authors are online—although where they are online may vary. If you want students to find an author you have to know where they are. Many authors today are active participants on the widely popular social media site, Twitter. I can remember the first time I reached out to an author on Twitter. I told her how much I liked a quote of hers and how I enjoyed her first book. She responded to me with some insight on the quote and gratitude for my note. I’ve had similar experiences with many other authors. Recently I engaged into a casting discussion with Eleanor & Park author Rainbow Rowell, who is currently adapting her YA novel into a screenplay. It meant so much to me that this multiple award-winning author not only took the time to read my thoughts about her book but to respond so favorably. Today, connecting with an author has never been easier.

For many students, connecting with an author whose work they admire might be intimidating. If you encounter this with your students, be sure to model those connections and talk to students about the connections you’ve made (ie: Did you read what John Green said on Twitter the other day?). School librarians can be the center of the reader-writer relationship. We should use our position to bring the two ends together.

Jeffrey Vogt

Jeffrey Vogt


A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

by Kate MacMillan

Everyone has earthquake stories, but not everyone has library earthquake stories… In Napa, we have the story and the photos to go along with it!

For those who possibly didn’t hear, Napa experienced a major earthquake on August 24th at 3:20 am. Most people living in the West have experienced an earthquake at one time or another and most of us shrug them off as some sort of a badge of honor. Personally, I have been through a few major ‘quakes, including one in Los Angeles years ago, and one in Napa in 2000, which shook us at 5.2 on the Richter scale. Fourteen years later, the familiar trembling hit again and this one was registered 6.1.

Normally we don’t really think too much about how big “really big” is in terms of earthquakes. I had forgotten when measuring earthquakes, each little number means big gains: every number is exponentially larger, meaning this latest earthquake was actually 22 times larger than the one we experienced in 2000. But at that precise moment when the quake started to rumble and the house began to shake … I understood how much stronger it was!

Except for a devastated downtown area and a horrific mobile home park fire, most of us lost chimneys, had some sink holes and foundation damage. Inside our homes was another story of shattered glass, lost treasures, broken appliances and terrified animals. Initial cleanup began right away on the day of the earthquake, but the aftershocks made it difficult at best.

Our libraries throughout the district, usually so organized and tidy, did not escape the chaos. Even though school was cancelled while all buildings were safety inspected, we did have to report to our work site. It wasn’t until a week later that we had our first re-scheduled library de-brief meeting.

From the school libraries within our consortium, staff shared what they found when reentering their workplaces:

Napa High School: Thousands of books were on the floor. Half of the textbook room is still roped off and we had some ceiling and light fixture damage. It took six people all morning to re-shelve the books but only four books were lost due to spine damage.

Napa County Library: All of the books were off the shelves but re-shelved within one day. The upstairs offices were damaged, and the microfilm machines were damaged beyond repair. (Napa County Library is downtown and is currently housing government offices that were red-tagged as too dangerous to enter).

Bel Aire School: Librarians here were pleased to find minimal damage, and were thankful for the retrofitting completed last year. Some shelves collapsed but there were no major problems

Librarians at Pueblo Vista School arrived to find this mess after the earthquake.

Librarians at Pueblo Vista School arrived to find this mess after the earthquake.

Pueblo Vista School: The earthquake occurred during a book fair, so staff was met with a huge, huge mess. Today there are still broken windows and lights have yet to be replaced.

Harvest Middle School: The school was in the midst of textbooks circulations… so there were textbooks all over the library, broken shelves and more books on the floor.

The earthquake damage at Harvest Elementary.

The earthquake damage at Harvest Elementary.

Northwood School: Almost all the books in the library were on the ground. Nine shelves broke and were ripped off the bookcases. It took five people about eight hours to re-shelve everything. Computer monitors fell on the ground and books jumped shelves.

From our experience, here are some tips and things we learned the hard way: remember to keep flip flops by your bed; a working flash light and batteries; have plenty of water and a battery-operated cell phone charger. And plenty of help for re-shelving books!

Included are photos that probably say much more than this brief posting.

Kate MacMillan

Kate MacMillan

The Challenges of Creating a Space Conducive to Learning and Collaboration

by Sandy Killian

Last year I posted a blog about the library at American Canyon High School that fully supported Bring Your Own Device (BYOD.) It was the first of a two-part blog that discussed the challenges of creating a space conducive to learning and collaboration.

Today our vision of a collaborative 21st-century learning library is finally coming true, three years after we began the process. Students in this very busy library are now working together or quietly chatting. It is a comfortable place where students can read or work, and not be disrupted by the whoops of joy as groups of gamers complete a mission.

To accomplish this change, we had to implement a few policies. First was a strict no-gaming policy. This policy severely cut down on the noise and number of students hanging out in the library. We also made sure students still felt welcome and weren’t banned forever, just in the wrong place for gaming. We were consistent with our policy—quietly asking students to leave if they were being too disruptive. Today, students are allowed to game during lunchtime only, and are really self monitored since they know they will be asked to leave if they are too rambunctious.

These days, the library is so popular, it frequently reaches the fire marshall's capacity

These days, the library is so popular, it frequently reaches the fire marshall’s capacity

The second policy was requiring students to sign-in during lunchtime, Access (a free 75- minute study period twice a month) and during class time. This helped set the tone as a more traditional library environment, and the following year, our expectations were set.

In addition to sign-in, the administration answered our pleas for help in monitoring the library during lunch and Access by allowing us to give students Community Service hours (a graduation requirement) for helping out. Also, if the library is over capacity we close the doors and students follow a “one in/one out” policy.

Over the last three years, these policies have helped the library evolve into the 21st-century collaborative space we envisioned. In addition, our ninth- and tenth-grade students became upperclassmen bringing much needed maturity to the school, the library clerk position increased to 30 hours a week, (I was moved to three high schools, a topic for another blog) and most importantly, the library culture became one of learning, collaboration and fun.

Sandy Killian

Sandy Killian