Tuesday, June 3, 2014


About a year ago, I decided to give listening to podcasts a try. I started with some comedy and news ones, but also wanted to listen to something related to school librarianship. Unfortunately, I was only able to find one or two and they hadn't been updated in quite some time. So I decided to wrangle some friends together and start my own. In October, Sarah Murphy of Browning, Angie Ungaro of Brooklyn Friends, and myself launched Watchers Podcast: School Librarians Saving the World.

Our namesake, Rupert Giles - School Librarian and Watcher over the slayer.

We record monthly and now have eight episodes under our belt. Each begins by sharing what we're reading, then explore three topics of interest (summer reading lists, citation tools, lesson plans, etc), and end with sharing our "new favorite thing." Each episode is under around an hour and is filled with conversations about issues that we all share as school librarians. We also recently had author Mitali Perkins on (episode 7), which was a fascinating conversation about author visits and books as mirrors and windows.

There is certainly no shortage of topics to talk about, although we're definitely interested in finding out what librarians want to hear about. You can find out more information on watcherspodcast.tumblr.com, emailing us at watcherspodcast [at] gmail.com, or following us on twitter @watcherspodcast. Our episodes are available in the iTunes store and on Podomatic.

Here are a few additional podcasts you may want to check out, as well. Feel free to share what you're listening to in the comments.

Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates bring Oxford-style debate to America - one motion, one moderator, two panelists for the motion and two against. From clean energy and the financial crisis, to the Middle East and the death of mainstream media, Intelligence Squared U.S. brings together the world's leading authorities on the day's most important issues. Join the debate online and cast your vote for each topic at www.iq2us.org.

Learn Spanish with Coffee Break Spanish, bringing you language-learning with your latte! Aimed at total beginners, this podcast will help you get to grips with the Spanish language. (Also available in French!)

The Great Courses brings engaging professors from the best universities to our learners, creating a "university of the best" with our customers participating in every step of the process. Discover scientists explaining the latest findings from the fields of astronomy, particle physics, or neuroscience; historians exploring the implications of the latest archaeological findings; medical experts making sense of current health alerts or medical breakthroughs; and literature professors bringing fresh insights to classic literary works. 

StarTalk Radio is the first and only popular commercial radio program devoted to all things space and is hosted by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Captivating subjects—such as space travel, extra-terrestrial life, the Big Bang, the future of our Earth and the environment, and breaking news from the universe—will all be explored. Hilarity ensues as Tyson is joined each week by comedian co-hosts, celebrities, and other special guests.

From World War II to the Arab Spring, history as told by the people who were there. Presented by Max Pearson. The History Hour goes out weekly on Saturdays.

On Radiolab, science meets culture and information sounds like music. Each episode of Radiolab® is an investigation -- a patchwork of people, sounds, stories and experiences centered around One Big Idea. 

And my personal favorite NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour - NPR's entertainment and pop culture round-table podcast features spirited discussions of movies, books, television, nostalgia, and — every time — what's making us happy this week.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Must Read Blogs

Everyone has a collection of resources they use to keep current with library news and find out about new books. Though I find Twitter to be useful, I feel like I would miss a lot if I didn't also have a collection of blogs that I follow through RSS.

Here's a list of some of my favorite sites:
  • 100 Scope Notes -If you work with lower school students, you should definitely familiarize yourself with school librarian Travis Jonker's blog which covers news and reviews.
  • AB4T (Adult Books for Teens) - Because I work with upper school students and this site covers an abundance of adult titles with appeal for teenagers, this is one of my favorite resources, though I should disclose that I recently started reviewing for this site as well.
  • Early Word -This site is great for announcing recently published books. They also run a GalleyChat on Twitter for librarians to rave about upcoming books.
  • Fuse #8 - Betsy Bird's blog focuses on reviews and news for the younger set through middle grade.
  • Heavy Medal - Jonathan Hunt and Nina Lindsay discuss Newbery possibilities on this blog that is highly active from September through January.
  • The Hub - YALSA's blog with content by teens and librarians is full of great themed booklists.
  • Library Stuff - This is a great stopping point for general library news.
  • Never Ending Search - If you are a school librarian and aren't already familiar with Joyce Valenza, you should remedy this! She always posts great digital teaching tools and resources for librarians. I also recommend following her on Twitter.
  • No Shelf Required - Sue Polanka's site is one of the best places to get updated news on ebooks.
  • Someday My Printz Will Come - This blog is the place to go for a discussion of literary merit in YA books and speculation on the possible winners of the Printz award. It's most active later in the year before awards season.

Do you have a favorite that I didn't mention? Please add it in the comments!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Innovative Library Spaces

Last Thursday, the HVLA librarians gathered at Collegiate for our spring meeting and heard from a wonderful panel on "Innovative Uses of Library Spaces."  Thank you to our panelists,  Karen Grenke (Williamsburg Northside School), Annah Jones (Marymount School), Karyn Silverman (Elizabeth Irwin High School), LaShawn Ross (Riverdale) and moderator, Kerry Roeder (Professional Children's School.) While all of our panelists used different strategies based on their own school culture, each demonstrated innovation in their own way.

Karen Grenke, our sole lower school panelist, spoke about utilizing the art studio next door as a collaborative partner. When deciding how to decorate the front windows into the library, she elected to ask the kids.  Giving the kids ownership over the space resulted in great ideas and a fantastic display.  Karen has moved spaces before and is looking for innovative ideas since she will be again moving into a new library space.

Annah talked about adding faculty resources to her library space in order to bridge the gap of support services the kids need. With a learning specialist in the library and spaces for reading, writing, or math labs, kids have their learning teams working together in the same space. There is a Maker Lab across from the library, and Annah talked about the importance of being nearby but having separate spaces because of all the equipment, noise, etc.

Karen Silverman is constantly questioning how to be innovative within the space given to her, which is considerably smaller than many other HVLA libraries.  Exciting tools they have added to their library include board games, tea service, knitting baskets, a 3-D printer, legos, coloring books, sudokus, and brain teasers. The entryway and main space of her library is purposefully set into collaborative tables with no screens and technology driven work occurs toward the edges of the library. Karen also uses the interactive bulletin board outside the library to connect with patrons that may never set foot inside the space.

When LaShawn came into her library, she saw room for improvement and decided to speak with her Head of School about it. Together they looked at the space with fresh eyes and the help of a set of students from Pratt Institute.  Ultimately, it was decided to give the kids more ownership over the space.  Resources like a writing center and language center were also added to give students additional support.

Our moderator Kerry Roeder also spoke about keeping maker kits behind the desk at her library that kids could check out. When kids are getting antsy and need a project, she comes over and invites them to make a banana piano.

Overall, it was a stimulating conversation with many ideas shared and questions asked. If you had an additional takeaway from the meeting, please share in the comments what resonated with you.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Library and Literary Events

Looking for something literary to do in the coming months? Here is a list of upcoming events:

HVLA Events:

Misc Happenings:
  • May 5-9: National Library Legislative Day - Read more about what you can do on ALA's Everyday Advocacy Page
  • Through June 14: Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution at NYPL's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture - Read about this and other NYPL events here

Authors, Illustrators, and More:

  • May 8-September 2: Peter Sis: Cartography of the Mind at Czech Center NY at the Bohemian National Hall - Details here
  • May 10, 4pm: Gotham: Writers in the City Rachel Kushner at Brooklyn Public Library, Central Library, Dweck Center - More info here
  • May 10, 7:30pm: YA Lit at 92 Street Y: Samantha Shannon in Conversation with Kendare Blake - Tickets and more info here
  • May 26, 10pm: YA Lit at 92 Street Y: Casandra Clare in Conversation with Maureen Johnson, Holly Black and Kelly Link - Tickets and more info here 

Do you know of another event coming up soon?  Share in the comments!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Book Club

Join us for delicious snacks, smart conversation, and good company.

Thursday, May 22 @ 5:45

LREI - Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School
40 Charlton Street (between 6th and Varick)

What We're Reading:
What We Hide by Marthe Jocelyn
Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Join our Goodreads Group!

Books We're Currently Reading
HVLA Book Club 21 members The official book club of the Hudson Valley Library Association. We read a middle grade and young...

Books we're currently reading

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Storytelling: A Guest Post by Constance Vidor

This post comes to you from Constance Vidor, the Director of Library Services at Friends Seminary.

It took a few decades, but finally, this year, I got up the courage to try storytelling. I signed up to do a story concert at a Lower School assembly and spent the next 2 months wondering if I had gone crazy.

I picked three stories, all funny folk tales, two short and one long. All three have opportunities for action, gesture, and audience participation.
"The Hungry Wolf " from Folktales Aloud by Janice Del Negro
"The King Has Hairy Goat Ears" adapted by me from The King Has Horns, and retold by Richard Pevears
"The Stubborn Old Woman" from Noodlehead Stories by Martha Hamilton
I memorized the stories by telling them to my bedroom window many times over. When I knew the stories well enough not to need the text I practiced whispering them aloud on my subway commute. Just another crazy lady on the metro!

My assembly went amazingly well! The biggest glitch was with the microphones. I had rehearsed with a lavalier microphone (the kind that is strapped to a belt) a few weeks ahead of time with a member of the technology department, and all had gone well then. Just before the performance the person running the AV offered me a different kind of microphone, which she (and I) thought might work better because it attached to my head—like the ones you see people using on TED Talks, except this one was cheaper and turned out not to work very well.

Lesson learned: only perform with a microphone you have used before, don't go with the "new" or "better" microphone unless you have rehearsed with it. And if you use a lot of movement in your storytelling, don't use the head-attached microphones unless they are TED Talk quality!

While this blog is not the place for unseemly gloating, the point of this post is to encourage librarians to try storytelling, and the message would not be complete without saying that I have never in my career experienced the almost adulatory appreciation that both students and teachers expressed for the storytelling. Try it, I think you will like it!

There are some great resources for finding tellable stories and learning the skills. The National Storytelling Network runs a blog, an annual conference, and publishes an excellent magazine. This year's conference is July 24-27th in Phoenix, Arizona and includes performers and storytelling teachers from throughout the country. 

Closer to home, The Connecticut Storytelling Festival and Conference takes place April 25-26.

To find "just the right" story for the occasion and your particular storytelling strengths, The East Asian Story Finder and The Jewish Story Finder by our own HVLA colleague Sharon Elswit are superlative compendia of information about folktales. These books contain summaries of hundreds of folktale retellings in both print and media formats with complete publication information and indexes by theme and geography.

Finally, did you know that a series of premier, nationally known storytellers perform every Saturday all summer long at the Hans Christian Andersen statue in Central Park? Take a look at the website to see the range of awe-inspiring tellers. These performances are free, and can give us all a university level education in the art of storytelling. Tell your students!

Editor's Note: Great, live storytelling can also be found in NYC courtesy of The Moth, a not-for-profit organization committed to the art of storytelling. The Moth hosts many events throughout the year and all around the country, including performances, competitions, and classes. They also produce a great podcast, which features performances from various Moth events.