Thursday, June 1, 2017

Meet the New Members of the HVLA Board (2017-2019)

Gili Warsett, our new Vice President, joined Brooklyn Friends School as a Pre and Lower School Librarian in the fall of 2016. Prior to BFS, she worked as a school librarian in a New York City public school, and in a Montessori school, and as an academic librarian in Brooklyn. Before becoming a librarian, Gili taught Creative Writing and English to students ranging from the middle school to graduate school levels. She has served on the board of Friends of the Brooklyn Public Library for the past four years. Her writing has been published in various publications including Bookslut, The Rumpus, and The New York Times, and she sporadically blogs at She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and an MS in Library and Information Science. She maintains an ever-growing list of children’s book ideas with every intention to get those words on the page someday soon. Gili lives with her partner, children, and basset hound in Manhattan. When she’s not in the stacks, she is frequently swimming at the Y, where she imagines she’s training to become the next Gertrude Ederle, “Queen of the Waves.” She has found that being a librarian is the best outlet for her information insatiability.

Celia Dillon will be our new Communications Coordinator. She is the lower school librarian at The Brearley School, a K-12th grade independent school for girls. She began her career in education as a first grade teacher. As a teacher she saw the importance of having librarians that instilled a love of reading in students and admired the way school librarians were able to collaborate with classroom teachers to create and share effective instruction. She decided to pursue a degree in Library and Information Science from Queens College in a part-time program as she continued to teach first grade. She graduated from Queens College in 2014 and began her school librarian career as a K-8th grade librarian at a DOE school in Brooklyn. She came to Brearley and has happily been there for the past two years. She is also a reviewer for School Library Journal. Outside of working as a librarian, she loves hiking, running, bike riding and eating.

Dacel Casey, our new Membership Coordinator, is an Upper School Library Media Specialist and the Upper School Community Service Director at Trevor Day School. In her role as the Upper School Library Media Specialist, Dacel collaborates with a number of teachers on implementing research activities and projects into their curriculum as well as helping English teachers incorporate and promote independent reading into their courses. When she isn't working on those tasks, she's coordinating and running the High School Community Service Program, which involves advising a student community service committee, planning and executing school-wide community service days, as well as organizing (and leading) service trips to places such as Washington, DC, Arizona, Ghana, India, China, and Haiti. Dacel has a strong love of reading (especially Young Adult Literature), traveling, and community service.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Anytime, Anywhere Professional Development

By Sarah Kresberg, Library Director
The Allen-Stevenson School
As we head into summer some of us dream of taking a complete break from school libraries while others look forward to finally catching up on those blog posts and TED videos we have been meaning to review! Personally I am very excited to be going to the ISTE conference for the first time. I'll be attending with another librarian as well as a colleague from the tech department and it feels like perfect timing as we work towards bringing our two departments ever closer together. You don't have to go to far off places like San Antonio to experience professional development of course. There is such a wealth of resources for us to improve our practice, from newly published books and journals to webinars and online learning communities. Let's curate a list together so that we can see a variety of options in one place. I've started a Google table with some things I recommend and encourage you to throw on anything you find to be helpful. Imagine how valuable this resource would be if everyone added just one tool they find useful!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Spring Meeting Panel Discussion

By Sarah Kresberg
Library Director, The Allen-Stevenson School

On Wednesday, May 5th, HVLA members gathered at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn for our spring meeting, a panel discussion entitled Librarians: Critical Thinkers in Critical Times.

After a warm welcome from Vince Thompkins, Head of School, Hannah Ehrlich from Lee & Low Books, introduced our panel. Our participants were Kate Angell, Assistant Professor and First Year Success Librarian at the Brooklyn Campus Library of Long Island University, Victoria Law a freelance journalist, and the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, and Lydia Willoughby a Research and Education Librarian at the Sojourner Truth Library at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Our moderator, Hannah, asked a series of thought provoking questions that brought forth a range of interesting ideas and resources. The discussion was fast-paced so I cannot offer a comprehensive overview but here are some of my takeaways. This is a combination of ideas from both the panelists and the audience.
- As librarians we have a responsibility to source and share less accessible documents
- Our students need to become familiar with the term News Literacy and understand why it is important
- We should teach students to try to get news directly from the source, for example by following a reporter on Twitter, track a news story through the course of a day and use a number of different sources
- Teaming with classroom teachers we can break down and explain the parts of the newspaper and teach students how to recognize native advertising
- When it comes to teaching advocacy the advice is to start when children are still very young and to help them to understand issues by putting it in terms of that child’s world; the trick is to find age-appropriate resources
- Librarians can encourage students to become politically active, call members of the city council, run for office at school, start a chapter of an organization such as a GSA; this helps them to apply classroom knowledge to the world
- We can bring in or Skype with activists, especially those whose work pertains to the curriculum; they are a strong role model and can help us to build empathy
- Librarians can set up a letter writing station to make it easy for students to reach out to representatives
- We can help students to notice the things in their own lives that are under threat and also help them to imagine what it is like for others who don’t have those things at all
- College students have more power than they might think since they are the very reason that colleges exist
- When setting up a protest, a poster creation session helps to bond people around the issue as does distributing flyers
- Zines are another way that students can communicate issues they feel strongly about; schools can set up zine electives or circulate zine kits
- Schools as a whole can recognize and act as one when a situation demands it, for example the school that asked all the students to wear a hoodie in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death
- Libraries themselves are a form of activism since they give access to resources such as the Internet and information that is vital like food stamps, job opportunities etc.
- Not having access to the Internet is an issue but so is not having a fast enough connection
- Libraries can play a role in teaching adults computer skills because many people are only used to using mobile devices and it is particularly hard for ex-prisoners to adapt to computers
- We need to teach students that they have a right to be protected online and a right to privacy although this is hard when many schools have parents fill out a blanket agreement giving consent to the school to post photos
- Some public libraries are using Tor browser which is free software that prevents others from learning your location or browsing habits
- Students should understand that they have the right to not be online and that it is a good thing to exchange ideas in real life
- If you are worried that you may be overstepping in your advocacy work, always look to your mission statement
- Vague language can be very helpful so that we avoid steering children politically, for example wording like “free people read freely” can be interpreted in a number of ways
- Students need to be taught that their identity has valuable, both to themselves and others who would like to profit from them

Digital Resource Center: Center for News Literacy from Stonybrook
Lots of up-to-date materials for teaching news literacy.

How to Choose Your News Ted Talk by Damon Brown
The inside scoop on how opinions, facts and false facts make it into the news and how to tell them apart.

How to Teach High School Students to Recognize Fake News

Article in Slate magazine about media literacy lessons.

I Taught My Fifth Graders How to Spot Fake News
Article by Scott Bedley on Vox

5 Ways Teachers are Fighting Fake News
Profile of Scott Bedley’s work on NPR

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

Tor Browser

An anti-encryption browser.

Electronic Frontier Foundation
A non-profit organization that defends digital privacy, free speech and innovation

FemTechNet is a network of scholars, students, and artists who work with technology, science, and feminism in a variety of fields including Science and Technology Studies (STS), Media and Visual Studies, Art, Women’s, Queer, and Ethnic Studies

Points of View Reference Center

Opposing Viewpoints in Context

Free Bresha Meadows

Website supporting incarcerated 14 year-old who defended herself against an abusive father and featuring book drives for incarcerated women and girls.

Many thanks to the crew at Saint Ann’s, Ragan, Denise, Rebecca, Hannah and Nan, for hosting us and providing delicious snacks and much needed support to HVLA.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Making Connections in Botswana

I had the exciting opportunity to visit Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone, Botswana in March right as New York was hunkering down and preparing for the blizzard. I was supposed to leave on Tuesday of that week at midnight, but the storm pushed my departure to Thursday at midnight, cutting off a few days on a planned visit set up by Maru-a-Pula’s Headmaster, Andy Taylor. Andy had been a Middle Division humanities teacher at Horace Mann School for years, and his tenure at HM overlapped with mine. Since leaving HM in 2004 to take on the Headmaster role at MaP, Andy has made yearly returns back to New York, and each time he’s stopped by to visit the Katz Library. During his visits over the years, Andy has frequently mentioned trying to get his library to be more like our library, especially in terms of circulation. We have a similar population to MaP – around 740-750 students ages 13-18/19 – and yet the library there just hasn’t been used by students the way ours is. This past year, in an attempt to figure out why, Andy asked me to come and do a review of the library at MaP, concentrating on the collection, the space, and the staff. This whirlwind evaluation ended up happening in just three days instead of five because of the blizzard, but it was a wonderful trip nonetheless.
            The trip for me began almost the moment I landed on that Friday when the staff at MaP whisked me off to a weekend game drive on the Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa where I spent an absolutely life changing weekend at Tau Lodge. If you’ve never seen elephants, giraffe, rhinos, and lions in their natural habitat and have only experienced them in a zoo, a game drive will blow your mind. I fell in love with the game drive experience – stopping at sunset to watch a large bull male elephant drink from a watering hole while we sipped wine was fabulously surreal moment. We saw so much in the five three-hour game drives I did over my two-and-a-half days at Madekwi. My pictures, taken with my cell phone, don’t do justice to the experience, so click on the links to Madekwi and Tau and see the wonders of this magical place!
            When I returned to MaP on the Sunday evening, we got right to work with a dinner with all of the library staff and the library evaluation committee, made up of teachers mostly from English and History. We talked about what they were hoping to get from my visit – another set of eyes from a school similar to their own and someone who could help them think about how to make their library better for their community of day and boarding students and faculty.
            Over the three days I was at the school, I meet with students from every form and I talked about reading, gave book recommendations, showed them our Katz Library page and our research resources. Students were popping into the library all day or stopping me on campus to get book recommendations, and I showed them how to find the recommendations we post every other week on our webpage. While hanging out and chatting with students about books, I also had the great privilege of meeting two young women in the Fourth Form – Bonolo and Dineo – who asked me if I could give them pointers on how to start a library. The question so intrigued me that we ended up chatting for nearly an hour about their project.
Both girls grew up going to primary school out in the bush in Botswana, at the Galaletsang Primary School, which had no library at all. When the girls arrived at MaP for First Form, they felt incredibly behind their peers. As part of a community service project requirement at MaP, the girls are determined to start a library at Galaletsang, and the primary school has agreed to give them a room to use. If everything can be arranged on this end, I will be returning to Botswana in August for a week to help the girls put together the library using about 20 cartons of books for 5-12-year-olds that we culled from this year’s MD/UD Book Fair at Horace Mann. Using some of the funds we raised from the Book Fair, we will be shipping over these very gently used books – and me – and we will use the week I will have with them to catalog and set up a very simple system for checking out materials. The girls are excited that their dream may soon take shape and become a reality, and a retired librarian who contacted me through the AISL listserv has also been in contact with the girls and she hopes to work with Galaletsang in the 2018-2019 as a volunteer when she and her husband plan to spend a year in Botswana.
Horace Mann hopes that this connection to MaP continues to grow. We have already had various other teachers who have visited, and several recent graduates of HM have done gap semesters or years at MaP working with the students there. We are excited that this new connection to Galaletsang will be another opportunity for HM students and faculty to reach out to the global community and make help make a difference in the lives of others.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Professional Development by Maria Falgoust

Professional development is a great way to stay current, grow and network. It’s so important to get out of the library and visit other school libraries for inspiration. HVLA is an excellent resource for this.

There are so many conferences to choose from! They run the gamut: from huge, in terms of scope and size (Hello, ALA Annual!), to intimate and focused (Hi, Friends Council on Education!) My personal strategy has been to dabble and try out as many as I can to see for myself.

Advocating for professional development funds and the time off takes time and effort, and reflects your dedication and passion for school librarianship.

Are there any conferences, courses, or workshops you would highly recommend? If so, do share in the comments.

Local Groups

Childlit is a moderated listserv hosted by Rutgers University. Members include librarians, scholars, authors, and many others interested in children's literature.  

Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) is a non-profit organization where New York’s librarians and archivists come together to learn, share ideas, and collaborate.

A DOE list-serv that focuses on issues, concerns, and celebrations of public and non public school library personnel in the NYC School Library System. NYCSLIST Registration Instructions

Professional Development Opportunities


ALA Annual Chicago, IL June 22 - 27, 2017  

American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Phoenix, AZ November 9 - 11, 2017 “Beyond the Horizon”

Book Expo NY, NY June 3 -4, 2018

IBBY Regional Conference Seattle, WA - October 20-22, 2017 Radical Change Beyond Borders: The Transforming Power of Children's Literature in a Digital Age

International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) Annual Conference, Long Beach, California August 4-8, 2017. "Learning Without Borders".

New York Library Association (NYLA) Rochester, NY, November 7-10, 2018

NYCSLS Fall Conference Queens, NY November 2017

NYAIS NEIT New Paltz, January 24-26, 2018

NYAIS Teaching with Technology  NY, NY,  April 25, 2017

SLJ Leadership Summit, Nashville, TN October 7-8, 2017 “Confronting Our Literacy Crisis”

YALSA Symposium Louisville, KY November 3 - 5, 2017

Online Webinars/Webcasts/Classes

Maria Falgoust is the Librarian at the International School of Brooklyn, a Nursery–8th grade independent school in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, NY. ISB offers French and Spanish language immersion programs as well as an International Baccalaureate curriculum, which is reflected in their multilingual library collection. She serves as vice president of the Hudson Valley Library Association.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Interactive Displays in the Library by Constance Vidor

Inspired by some of the new directions in museum displays, I’ve been developing my own interactive library displays in order to experiment with different modes of learning in this space. Here are few of my ideas for interactive displays. I think they could work in many different kinds of libraries--maybe you will work for you!

Poetry Month:

I found poems from nine different countries (in English). I printed them out on small posters with the flag of the country and a map of the world showing location of each country. I'm inviting classes to come through and collect a favorite word or image from each poem, and then see if they can create their own poems from the inspiration of those collected words.

An alternative activity is for students to pick a favorite poem and then research the country and create an Acronym poem about that country using the country's name for the Acronym and facts from their research in the content of their poem.


To celebrate a particular holiday or theme, invite groups of younger and older students to read aloud to each. Choose books carefully that are easily read-aloud-able by a middle school student and that will appeal to a lower school student. Consider including books that are easy enough for a lower schooler to read aloud to an older buddy (place a red dot or other indication on those books).  Consider themes that will encourage students to create a small piece of art-work or word-art in response to the book. For example, a Read-in that celebrates “Values and Virtues” might ask students to read to each other books that show various good values, then create a postcard that says what value they saw in that story. Post-cards or other art can be displayed around the library. A Read-in that celebrates the accomplishments of particular culture group could ask students to write the name of the person they read about and what that person accomplished. Use colorful paper and pens or markers.


To celebrate various picture book awards, photocopy illustrations from a variety of award-winning picture books. Try to choose illustrations that are all the same size and page orientation. Photograph and print out those illustrations (no more than one from any one book) on card stock. Laminate, and cut into 5-7 pieces. ALL pieces should shaped exactly the same. Students will be re-assembling the puzzle pieces and you want them to use only the cues from the art itself, not from the size or shape of the puzzle pieces.

Place just one piece of each page-puzzle in each location around the library---on the ends of book stacks or on any empty wall space you may have. Place a lump of sticky gum in each location.

You will distribute baggies with puzzle pieces to students. Each baggie should have at least 4 puzzle pieces from four different pictures. Students must look carefully at the art in order to match their puzzle pieces and post them in the right places using the sticky gum.

Second step is for students to identify the books from which their illustrations were taken. Have a large display of award winning picture books out and available. Students will enjoy paging through them to find “their” pages.

This is a fun way to get students to explore a wide range of picture books and make close visual observations.

QR-Code Explorations:

Black History in 20 Objects: For Black History Month a few years ago I found pictures of 20 different objects that represent moments of pride or achievement in black history (an image of Ruby Bridge’s leather school satchel; an image of the Academic seal of Wilberforce University, the first university owned and operated by African-Americans:  an image a flag that was carried by marchers on the Selma to Montgomery Freedom March are some examples). I printed each image of heavy card stock and posted the images around the library. Each image had its own QR code, which led to a page describing the meaning of the image.

Groups of students were invited to come to the library in pairs. On first entering, each pair was given a worksheet with 20 thumbnail images. Walking around the library, students were asked to identify or make guesses about the significance of each object. After completing the worksheets, students were given ipads with QR code reader applications. They scanned the codes and read the texts aloud to each other.

Inspiring Quotations: This year for Black History month I worked with our Director of Diversity to select inspiring quotations by civil rights leaders and other changemakers. I created craft packets of black lined paper, glo-pens, and silver or gold paint markers. Each middle school student chose a quote, copied it in pencil (so the teacher could check it for accuracy), then traced over it in gold or silver and decorated the border with glo pens. The completed quotations created a beautiful display. I posted QR codes around the library that led to a single padlet page with post-its giving information on each of the authors of the quotations. Students viewed and discussed why they chose the quotation that they copied.


Invite classes to come to view and discuss some short films. You can get some great discussable films from  Can you work with a club or a class to have students help you to create a “Film-In,” in which students select short films and create discussion guides to go with each? Students could then help set up the library for a Film-In with laptops bookmarked with different short films and two headsets connected to each laptop with a splitter. Classes may be invited in to rotate around several of the films and discuss them or complete the activities created for them.

Constance Vidor, Director of Library Services, Friends Seminary, New York, New York

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Five Things I Learned After I Retired

The Five Things I Learned After I Retired
by Maggie Dixon

After 32 years, I retired from being the Head Librarian at the Collegiate School. I had loved every day I had worked there and it was sad to go but the timing was right. I had begun to call some of the boys by their fathers’ names, which wasn’t just the result of the boys’ looks but based on flashbacks of their Dads’ shenanigans in the library many years before. If I were on the carpet reading, I would avoid irritating bad knees by pulling myself up in a less than graceful manner. When the boys began to look apprehensive about how they were going to get me up, I thought maybe it’s time to go. The best reason for being ready to go was that I was leaving my library in trusted hands and I had always had dreams of having more time to travel and volunteer. After retiring, I have traveled, volunteered at PS 63 and at a small Catholic school library in East Flatbush, and substituted at several schools. These past four years have been the best professional development of my life. These are five things that I have learned about being a good librarian:

1.    Learning from the youngest
The last years at Collegiate I spent a lot of time developing curriculum for high school information literacy, working with gifted, learned colleagues from other departments. I am still fascinated by the best practices of teaching high school students. In fact, since I retired I have become an edweb junkie Edweb is a site that provides webinars to librarians and other educators on curriculum development. Substituting in the kindergarten and 1st grade at Collegiate, and watching the Lower School librarian at Chapin, Christina Kover, have opened my eyes to how sophisticated and analytical curriculum development has become for the youngest children. I always looked at learning to read as a miracle – it just happens if the boys listened to enough stories. Now I know, for most children, it’s a complicated learning process where teachers provide sights, sounds, smells, tactile experiences, and tastes to teach them reading. I have been impressed by how they teach visual literacy from books and use storytelling, poetry, bookmaking, technology, and research to support the more traditional skills of word recognition and comprehension. They also teach the students how to read non-fiction using both informational text and narrative books. I was in one 1st grade where they were pulling information from the text and writing on note cards for their big frog research project. I learned how I would like to have taught older boys how to use NoodleTools note cards.

2.    Collegiality is a magical ingredient in developing and carrying out curriculum. Since librarians’ most successful work depends on team-teaching, I was always trying to tease out how successful collaborative work happens. I usually blamed my collaboration failures on the lack of a mandated time to work with my colleagues. When I started substituting in the kindergarten and 1st grade at Collegiate I noticed something special had happened in those teams that promoted a spurt of creative curriculum development that had something to do with the chemistry of the four people working together. Each grade in lower school is made up of a four-member team, and all the teams are expected to spend time and energy planning together in a collegial spirit. What I observed about the eight people on the K and 1st grade teams were that although they were very different (race, gender, and teaching style), they respected each other, had defined but flexible rolls in the group, shared a similar work ethic, and had a clear child-centered vision of their goal. But the big difference seemed to be that they really liked each other, complemented each other’s gifts, laughed at their colleagues’ jokes, and were honest but not hurtful in their feedback. How would a librarian replicate the magic? Since we are rarely put on teams or have a mandate to make time for collegial planning, the only way to develop meaningful curriculum would be to make time to reach out personally, build relationships, and exchange your curricular dreams as kindred spirits. You also have to laugh at their jokes.

3.    How do you become an educational leader in your community?
My friend Cheryl Wolf is the librarian at PS 63 for two schools in one building on the Lower East Side. She has become an educational leader for the whole community. Her literature expertise is revered and since there is no technologist in the building, she not only teaches informational literacy but educational technology as well. She became an educational leader for her community by working hard, writing grants, volunteering to be on book selection committees, being kind, being available, and constantly looking to grow as a librarian by doing professional development (she has gone to more Google workshops than anyone I know).  Recently she has had the added gift of being acknowledged by one of the Heads of School as the go-to-person for teachers to improve their practice by selecting better literature or learning some of the Google tools to help their students. There is nothing better than a shout-out from the principal that the librarian is the one to go to if you need help devising curriculum.

4.    Teaching girls is fine, especially if you get to work on the perfect research project.
During Angela Carstensen’s sabbatical leave, I did a personal sociological experiment by asking myself – Would girls be fun to teach? I was apprehensive about teaching girls because I had spent my career enjoying the antics of boys and had raised three sons. Girls are different but I spent a wonderful semester at Convent of the Sacred Heart. The CSH girls were welcoming and the community really works on the school’s values of kindness, charity, and hard work. The best thing about the job came from inheriting a yearlong research project that was co-taught by Angela and the Religion teacher, Katinka Vanderbauwhede. At Collegiate we had developed research paths and LibGuides for many projects and worked collaboratively with our colleagues but had never had the luxury of spending a whole year with every 11th grader coming to the library once a week to gather and document information for a presentation. The project provided a rich opportunity to teach informational literacy through Google Web pages that Angela had set up with lessons on how to access a wide range of resources including specialized databases, EBooks, and a superb collection of religious monographs and periodicals. There were also instructional web pages on citation and the use of NoodleTools, how to search and evaluate webpages, and the use of Google Docs for the project. The girls were also encouraged to use the New York Public Library, museums, and religious organizations. They were taught how to recognize and contact scholars in their field. The project was truly a collaborative effort - with the debate coach teaching speech techniques and the technologist teaching presentation tools. The students demonstrated a keen understanding of their topics, and connected their conclusions with documented sources. I learned a lot from those women and they learned how to be smart sophisticated consumers of information, which is so vital in today’s political climate.

5.    How to run a one librarian library but never being alone.
Volunteering at PS 63 with Cheryl Wolf and substituting for Rebecca Duvall at Brooklyn Heights Montessori School, I learned what it was like being the only librarian in the building. I was skeptical that it could be done because many library tasks take the same amount of time, whether you are a large or small library. Technology has only intensified this paradox. What I learned is that they aren’t a one-woman show. They are very rarely alone because they have charmed, cajoled, and begged for help. Parents, teachers, students, college work-study students, Library students, and retired librarians flock to their libraries because they are the most exciting, joyful places in the community to be. There are many days when it would take a lot less time and frustration to just do the tasks than welcoming, managing, and training volunteers. But there are the added benefits of volunteers: word spreads - the library’s mission is communicated to the entire community, positive parent/teacher bonds are built, library financial support increases, you are provided an educational opportunity to share your gifts and expertise with others, and most important you are not alone with 300 books to shelve.

This is a picture taken at PS 63: A One librarian library
Christine Nassar - Rutger's library graduate school student, Cheryl Wolf - librarian, Olivia Strong - parent volunteer, Maggie Dixon, retired librarian volunteer.