Friday, November 21, 2014

Member Spotlight: Christina Kover, The Chapin School

Christina Kover and the Misnomer of "Classroom Libraries”

Recently, on our own HVLA listserv, I caught a post that mentioned Chapin’s beloved Lower School Librarian, Christina Kover.

Michael T. Clark, the library director of The Stanwich School recalled an “amazing” comment Christina made over lunch during BookFest about  “[moving] away from the misnomer of “classroom libraries” & start[ing] a clearer conversation about the expectations of what would be in the collection… and who put it together. “

Since it’s a topic that concerns so many of us, I thought I’d use this member spotlight entry to have Christina elaborate even more.

Christina, although you’ve been at Chapin for 12 years, you began your professional career as a children’s specialist at the New York Public Library.  How has that influenced your understanding of what a library should be?

At the time I started, when things were becoming more privatized and less accessible,  I was struck by what a genuinely altruistic institution it was.  There was a sense that this was an institution that was really there for everyone. I loved that.  It felt really good to be part of that.  There was a genuine and sincere desire to think about how to best service New York City. 

Could you clarify the unique position of librarians, who we are, what we do, and how it’s different from teachers?

Librarians are not only teaching their own curriculum but there is also the potential to be the supporting cast members of a production.   The production values are not necessarily as good without our presence, support, and influence.   A lot of us are generalists – we know a lot about a lot or at least know where to find it.

The classroom collections are usually developed with specific curriculuar areas and skills in mind.  That’s fine, but if a child is interested in deep sea creatures and they just want to pore over the images, or if they want to get mulitple books on the topic that then branches out into biographies, or learn more about a specific animal, or if they want to read outside of their reading level, a classroom collection just doesn’t have that volume or breadth necessary to explore different avenues.

When it comes time to defend your library’s value over classroom collections, what arguments come to mind?

Libraries lend themselves to allowing the student to discover who they are thanks to their sheer variety.  Some students feel restricted because a classroom teacher’s main concern is their reading level.  A librarian’s concern is their interest level.

Many thanks, Christina!  
--- Natasha Goldberg, Middle School Librarian, Chapin School

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Three November Events of Note

#1 Books of Wonder 

Monday, November 17th, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Books of Wonder, 18 West 18th St., NYC
Join us on November 17th as we present the 2014 National Book Award Finalists! 
JOHN COREY WHALEY explains how losing your head isn't the worst thing that can happen; 
DEBORAH WILES regales with tales of the Sixties; 
ELIOT SCHREFER introduces readers to the elusive chimpanzees and those who live around them; and 
STEVE SHEINKIN educates readers with an astonishing civil rights story.

DEBORAH WILES for The Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy #2
ELIOT SCHREFER for Threatened
STEVE SHEINKIN for The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
#2 WORD Bookstore (Jersey City)
Little Failure with Gary Shteyngart
Word Bookstore - Jersey City --  11/12/2014 - 7:30pm
This event will take place at our Jersey City location. (GMaps)
Gary Shteyngart joins us for a reading and signing in honor of the paperback release of his New York Times bestselling memoir, Little Failure, which has been hailed by NPR as "dazzling . . . a rich, nuanced memoir.”
Facebook RSVP encouraged, but not required.
#3  92nd St Y (92Y)

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Mock Newbery Newbie Shares Her Tales from the Frontlines

There’s an epidemic – no, not ebola – spreading through our fair city and it’s the Mock Newbery Club movement.   As Malcolm Gladwell might point out, I was not one of its “early adopters.”   I only began this past September, following an invitation from fellow HVLA-ers to stop by Packer for a Mock Newbery party held to celebrate (or was it to rue?) the announcement of Flora & Ulysses.

I had such fun being a fly on the wall of this party.  I took in the kids’ impassioned defenses of Counting by 7s and Better Nate Than Ever, watched some boy’s book trailer for Doll Bones, all the while thinking – I have to bring this magic to Chapin.  

Fast forward to a feverish volley of emails between me, Kristyn Dorfman (Packer) & Hannah Mermelstein (Saint Ann’s), guiding me through the Mock Newbery basics (of which, Hannah rightly pointed out, many online guides already exist).   

Unfortunately for Kristyn and Hannah, I’m a sucker for getting my story firsthand (especially from talented librarians I’ve determined, at some HVLA meeting or other, are exciting role models!)

So here’s what I learned.   The first step is coming up with a list of 2014 titles you think stand a shot at the Newbery.  I did this over the summer, adding my personal touch – a brochure to distribute to the kids.  The SLJ blog, Heavy Medal, can be useful for compiling the initial list of candidates but also give you some bum steers depending on your students’ tastes.   My advice?  Choose what you think your community will gravitate to first.

Next, order the books.  I ordered 2-3 copies of each title in the  brochure, plus digital copies to read on my iPhone en route to work.  (Thank you, oh gracious Head Librarian, Barbara Lutz!) Then, I designated a cart in the library where the books could be easily found.   In September, I made a goofy (but well-received) i-movie Trailer announcement that I played to the entire Middle School community (classes 4-7) and created an online voting form in Google docs that put the Newbery criteria into kidspeak. 

Inspired by the HVLA partnerships I saw happening in Brooklyn, I also reached out to Chapin’s traditional rival across the street, Brearley.   The fabulous Head Librarian there, Amy Chow, was eager to partner and begin planning afterschool Mock-Newbery events that I pray will not result in an East Side Story rumble.

I’ll be updating you about what books are trending best in my upcoming blog post, but feel free to reach me at with any questions in the meantime.  As I’ve learned through my ten years as a member, sometimes an email from an HVLA pal makes all the difference.

- Natasha Goldberg, Middle School Librarian, Chapin School

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sound Sites on a Tricky Night

Building your Twitter PLN or seeking new sites around the web? Here are a few sure to delight:

Twitter #:











A few sites:

Nerdy Book Club


Nov/Dec Horn Book Mag Preview

WP Article: Teacher Shadows Student for 2 Days

Fundraising for We Need Diverse Books campaign

October 31 Neil Gaiman at NYPL

Please share your favorite Twitter hashtags and/or favorite library-related sites in the comments section!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Member Spotlight: Susan Harris, The Harvey School

This week, we asked HVLA member Susan Harris to share a little about herself and her program!

1) What is your role at The Harvey School?
 I'm currently the Director if Educational Technology, Teacher, Advisor for Community Service, and Girls Rugby Coach. I was doing all of those things as the sole school librarian (6 - 12)  until we hired Sumana Shankar this year to take over the library and work more with grades 6 - 8.  My home is still in the library, as it should be.  I also develop and organize faculty professional development programs. 

2) With what age range do you primarily work?
9 - 12, although in Edtech I work with MS faculty and students as well. 
3) What is your view on the balance of materials (print, digital, otherwise) available to students for checkout in the library? (both dream and reality!)
We tend heavily towards online resources.  Our students rarely refer to non fiction print, and demand for fiction in print has really dropped off as well.  
4) What are the top three information skills all students should learn and have?
Locating, evaluating, analyzing information
5)  Makerspaces are a hot topic for schools right now. What is the mission of the makerspace at your school?
We've just begun this fall and are still wrestling with a lot of issues, like staffing (in a remote location on campus), faculty buy-in, and dedicating time during the school day for student use.  In my view, the mission is: To provide a space for students and teachers to explore and learn together with no agenda and no right or wrong answers.  
6) What is unique about your makerspace?
I'm not sure anything is really - we've used existing models and drawn on experience of other schools.   

7) What was the best professional development experience you've had in the past two years?
NYSAIS NEIT conferences at Mohonk, for the past two years.  
8) What are two of your favorite digital/book blogs/websites you read regularly?
Freetech4teachers; Mindshift​

9) What is the best book you've read this year?
The Dinner by Herman Koch.  His second, Summer House with Swimming Pool was a disappointment - too formulaic. 
10) If you could turn any book into a movie, which would it be?
Swamplandia - lots of opportunities for crazy scenery and some special effects.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Upcoming Literary Events

There are some great things happening both in the metro NYC area and beyond! Please add any others you would like to share in the comments section below.

1) Saturday October 25: Bank Street BOOKFEST

As of 6:00pm on Tuesday October 14, there were still 10 tickets left for this fantastic event. Matt de la Pena will be the keynote speaker, and many authors and favorite literary figures will be on hand leading inspiring discussions. Small group participation in discussions will also be offered. Books (and signings) will be available for purchase throughout the day.

2) Dreaming of writing that novel? NaNoWriMo is coming November 1!

This month-long online support group encourages writers of all kind to get their words on paper. With badges and goal setting, this program might just be what you need to start that novel!

3) Author/Illustrator Event with Julie Salamon and Jill Weber Sunday November 2, 2pm

Cat in the City is a darling of many readers in the 8 to 12 year-old set. Come meet the author, Julie Salamon, and illustrator, Jill Weber, and hear about their process at BookCourt bookstore in Brooklyn.

4) Darien Public Library presents Dana Cowin, Food & Wine editor-in-chief, November 11, 7pm

For those of you who love to cook - or who wish you were better at it - this is the event for you. The Darien Public Library brings Dana Cowin to share her brand new cookbook Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen.

5) November 14, 6:30pm-9:30pm, Bronx Stories

Held at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, this spoken word event aims to share the stories of the Bronx. Members of the community will share their stories to build an understanding of the borough as well as encourage "a deeper understanding of the arts."

Monday, October 6, 2014

The School Library Space Debate

For many of us, our memories of our school libraries include shelves and shelves of print books, a few computers, a printer perhaps, and a circulation desk with a librarian. Selecting books for pleasure, performing research processes and developing perfunctory tech skills constituted a solid library program and space. Within the last decade, the services school libraries provide has changed dramatically. What does the space look like now?

  • Split of print materials and digital materials with guided instruction on how to use them effectively and safely;
  • Devices and digital material for check-out;
  • Self-checkout stations starting in the Lower School;
  • 3-D Printers, some in staffed spaces, some available for sign-up;
  • Laptops or tablets utilized for creating and/or sharing student work within the school community;
  • Cafe offerings, such as tea or coffee service
  • Experimental or beta-phase tech equipment
  • Online reading or tech communities with virtual meetings or live meetings
  • Maker kits for check-out
  • "Library" changed to “Learning Commons” or “Information Station”
  • Additional makerspace materials including, but not limited to: origami, book making supplies, robotics, magnetic poetry, Legos, other craft or tech centered activities;
  • Gaming materials including, but not limited to: board games, card games, console systems;
  • And more!

What implications and applications do these have for our profession as independent school librarians? Our spaces? This is a relevant issue, and one that marries disciplines and departments as seen in the recent profusion of workshops, seminars and webinars related to the changing face of the library and role in the school. This topic has also been increasingly written about in scholarly research and professional journals.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) states in the introduction of Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action (2009):
In recognition of these demands, the American Association if School Librarians
(AASL) has developed learning standards that expand the definition of information literacy to include multiple literacies, including digital, visual, textual and technological. (p. 5)

Our role as librarians is no longer offering finite experiences with reader’s advisory, navigating print materials or a handful of online databases and websites for research. Our responsibility is to offer fluid learning experiences and exposures that evolve on a schedule that moves at the speed of our technological lives and those of our students. But more so, it is providing mindful, just-in-time learning opportunities students will apply in both their educational and personal lives. This may require shifting departmental roles and labels. It may require a serious, informed review of curricula. It may require a shift in teacher and administrator perception of library class or library time. And offering a space that resonates and accommodates these shifts in use and role will dramatically figure in our daily work today and for days and years to come.


American Association of School Librarians. (2009). Standards for the 21st century learner in
action. Chcago, IL: American Library Association.

Please add to the conversation in the comments section! Share your makerspace components, current research you’ve read, or recent changes you’ve made to your space to accommodate the variety of literacies libraries serve to meet.