Monday, November 28, 2016

Literary Events Around Town: December 2016

Even though literary goings-on might not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of December, here are actually some interesting events you might want to catch.

Books of Wonder (18 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011)
There are always so many amazing authors and events here but these ones especially caught my eye.

  • Meet R. L. Stine on Saturday, December 3rd - 1:00pm-3:00pm
  • Pop-Ups and Interactive Books Celebration on Saturday, December 10th - 1:00pm-3:00pm
  • December Picture Book Bonanza on Sunday, December 11th - 1:00pm-3:00pm
  • Fantastic Teen Reads on Friday, December 16th - 6:00-8:00pm (three authors including Neal Shusterman)

Barnes and Noble (Central Plaza, 2614 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10710)
Chris Grabenstein presenting Home Sweet Motel at 6:00pm  (to be followed by the Harry Potter Magical Ball)

Children’s Books on Tour: NYC - Literary Networking Event on Thursday, December 1st 6:30-8:30 pm
Join the German Book Office of New York on December 1 at the Goethe Institut NYC (30 Irving Place, 4th floor) for a panel on translating children’s books, followed by a networking session.
  • Daniel Slager (Publisher and CEO of Milkweek Editions and renowned translator of German)
  • Emily Clement (Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, Inc.)
This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to Riky Stock ( by November 28, 2016.

Barnes and Noble, various locations, on Saturday, December 3rd - 9:00am on
Educator Holiday Shopping
Pre-K through 12 educators are invited to a special holiday shopping event --- just for you! Educators will receive a 25% discount on books, toys, games, movies, music and more. Plus, 10% off Café consumables and select NOOK® devices. 

Sarah Kresberg, Library Director
The Allen-Stevenson School

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A First Experience With a Writer-in-Residence

To be honest, I had never considered sponsoring a writer-in-residence before I attended the AISL conference in Florida a few years ago. One of the sessions was a writing workshop with the children’s author Adrian Fogelin. As I was going through the experience I kept thinking about how much the boys at my school would get out of attending a workshop like that. Further, I realized that teachers observing the workshop could take the ideas and implement them themselves in future years.  As happens with many big ideas at conferences, however, many of the details of this one got pushed to the back of my mind as I got on with the daily activities of being a school librarian. And yet, the seed had been planted.

Later that year I was fortunate enough to go to Columbus for the AASL conference. At a session about the Coretta Scott King Award, I heard talk about the poet and photographer Charles R. Smith Jr. Several people spoke with great enthusiasm about what an amazing presenter he was. Intrigued, I looked him up online and saw that not only did he do school visits, but he also gave writing workshops. The idea of a poet with dynamic presentation skills coming to my school to teach writing was irresistible. I had to look into it.

I’ll say it upfront; booking a writer-in-residence is no small undertaking. First, of all there is the issue of cost. I happen to have a healthy budget for visiting authors but even so, committing my entire author budget so that we could have three full days with Charles R. Smith, Jr. made me hesitate a little. In order to get a second opinion (and some much needed reassurance) I invited my department to join me for a Skype visit with Mr. Smith. On the video call we talked for about half an hour about what a visit to my school could look like. At the end of the call I got the thumbs up from my team and felt confident to proceed.

The next step was a flurry of emails with Gillian, Mr. Smith’s wife, since she handles his bookings. We negotiated the dates, fees and program, ending up with a commitment to teaching eight writing workshops, as well as four large group presentations. Once everything was locked in place we showed a video of Mr. Smith performing a poem and asked which teachers would like to have him teach a class. Before the video was even over, teachers were passing me notes (actual notes) asking to be involved! It was late winter and we had the main elements worked out in time for his visit in November.

Early October saw me working on the visit again, this time doing what proved to be the hardest thing of all; scheduling all those workshops and presentations. I had twelve events to schedule over a three day period and umpteen things I had to avoid if I didn’t want to mess stuff up for other people. I laid it all out with post-it notes which I kept moving until things ceased to be problematic. The next task was easy; sharing Mr. Smith’s poems with our boys during library class. My 4th and 5th graders especially loved his biography of Mohammed Ali that he tells in verse. They also got a kick out of Hoop Kings and, since chorus is very popular at our school, the poems about the Boys Choir of Harlem.

November 14, the long-awaited first day of the residency arrived and with it came a feeling of relief - our author showed up on time and, as evidenced by the first classes and presentations, was going to be great! His workshops were highly engaging and I say that with some authority as I actively participated in them five times! Most importantly, this was the kind of guy our boys could look up to. They soaked up his message of looking after mind, body and spirit and were riveted as he described his personal fitness goal of taking part in American Ninja Warrior as the Poet Ninja.
Our culminating event was a workshop for faculty. The residency was taking place during our annual Allen-Stevenson Book Week and the library traditionally organizes the faculty meeting that week. We could think of nothing we would want more for our teachers than a chance to experience the workshop for themselves. We regaled our faculty with prosecco and home-baked treats and then settled down to learn from Mr. Smith. At the end of the session Mr. Smith shared his teaching resources so that teachers could implement his lessons after he was gone. Given what has been happening in our country of late, many teachers were enamored of the idea of creating a book along the model of Mr. Smith’s book I am America.

With the residency over, we still had two more days of Book Week to run. Without doubt, extending the traditional one-day author visit to a three day residency added to our exhaustion by the end of the week. If we had to do it again, would we? If we find a writer that is a great fit for us again, absolutely!

Have you ever had a writer-in-residence? How did it work out? Do you have any tips to share? Would you do it again? Leave a post and let us all know.

Sarah Kresberg, Library Director
The Allen-Stevenson School 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Realizing a Different Sort of Bucket List: A Librarian Travels to England By Way of Narnia, Middle Earth and Wonderland

Every librarian has a literary bucket list: places they wish to visit because they are connected to a favorite book or author.  My list is nowhere near complete, though I did manage to make headway this past summer.  British children’s literature has a special significance for me; they are the pioneering classics that serve as touchstones for the genre as a whole today.   I was fortunate to spend two weeks examining the origins of the stories so many of us have grown to love.  The experience was a balance of structured didactic and self-directed exploration. 

The first week was spent as a participant of the Oxford Teacher Seminar, in a course entitled “Literature and the Fantastic.”  It was an analysis of the forefathers of fantasy fiction--Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien, as well as two of their modern successors, Philip Pullman and J. K. Rowling.  The course itself was relatively rigorous and informative, but the in vivo experience of walking down the streets and through the halls that these authors used to weave their stories added a new dimension to understanding their novels.  Indeed, to see the landmarks that figured imaginatively into their tales gave historical and contextually creative meaning to their works. The second week was spent in London experiencing various aspects of the cultural birthplace of notables such as J. M. Barrie, Michael Bond and Beatrix Potter, as well as sampling icons of British history relevant in children’s literature. 

Upon applying and being approved for a travel grant to undertake this study I quickly realized that, while I have read all of these stories, I was little prepared to optimize the opportunity before me.  In preparation I reread the titles I had not read in a long time including Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, the Chronicles of Narnia, both Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials trilogies, selected titles from J. K. Rowling, Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter.  I was fortunate to find Mark J. West’s book A Children’s Literature Tour of Great Britain, which helped me to establish realistic goals for my two weeks from what could be an exhaustive exploration if one had unlimited time. Another serendipitous finding was Charlie Lovett’s NY Times article "Finding Alice's Wonderland in Oxford," which essentially provided me with a step-by-step guide for the Lewis Carroll portion of my trip.  Finally, in my prep work I discovered the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.  This was an invaluable resource for locating information about Dahl’s life as well as his writing process, which prepared me for my day trip to the author’s hometown, Great Missenden.  I left the museum with a treasure trove of ideas to share with my students for celebrating Dahl’s centennial anniversary.

Even though my luggage has long been unpacked, I continue my self-study of British children’s literature, by exploring women writers of fantasy, particularly E. Nesbit and Philippa Pearce. My long-term goal is to be able to add to my reader’s advisory repertoire of authors of different ethnicities and cultures dedicated to writing fantasy for children.  On a more personal note, I continue to indulge my childhood love for Dahl, the author that inspired my literary bucket list, as I read the latest biography, Love From Boy: Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother

Angela Perna
Librarian, St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Presentations and Resources from the Fall Meeting

What a terrific turn out we had for our Fall meeting last night on the theme of encouraging reading! I'll be posting any resources presenters share to this blog entry. I hope you all find something of use here.

Presentation: Allen-Stevenson Book Week Celebrations and Back to School Book Club

Monday, November 7, 2016

Partnering With the Technology Department

For several years, one of my workplace struggles has been how to integrate the library with the technology department. For starters, I couldn’t figure out what integration would look like for us. Also, I didn’t see, given our traditional modes of operating and the various personalities involved, how it would be possible, even if I did have the vision. The definition of integration means to put together parts or elements and combine them into a whole. Deep down I sensed that an integrated whole would be greater than the sum of its parts and that, if we could pull it off, it would be highly beneficial for our school community. With this in mind I began to wrestle with the dilemma.

My first step was to reach out to the HVLA listserv to find out which schools had already merged their library and technology departments. I phoned some of the librarians who responded to my question to see what I could learn. In the meantime, our two departments began to meet every other week. In all honesty, it was pretty awkward in the beginning, like a first date that never got any better. I blame this partly on the fact that we had no clear overall objective other than to ‘get closer’. Some weeks, people even forgot we had a meeting! Clearly, this was not a promising start. The following year the administration put the meeting on everyone’s schedule and this helped to solidify the expectation of attendance.

I realize now that what we needed were projects, a chance for us all to pull together! Opportunity knocked when the school decided to introduce a one to one laptop program and a learning management system in the same year. Suddenly our meetings had a purpose, as we began to plan together how to roll out these new initiatives to the faculty and the boys. Meanwhile we ran an event together on our professional day where we showcased tech tools, including library databases and ebooks.

The capacity of the team increased greatly when the technology department gained two extra people, both with Apple Genius experience. At around the same time, the library and technology departments  became neighbors. Previously, members of the technology department had been scattered around the school but with the advent of construction work in preparation for an expansion of the facility, they were relocated to our library classroom. What we lost in teaching space, we gained in collegiality and serendipitous conversations. The impact proximity had on our relationships really cannot be overstated.

Another benefit of the current construction and subsequent expansion of the school is that we will be turning the library into a Library Tech Commons. This will allow us to gain a tech office, a maker resource area,  and some new teaching spaces. As part of the planning process we had a series of meetings after school in which we developed a shared vision of this new Commons and deepened our connection further.

Our most recent venture is the launch of Tech Tuesdays, a monthly series of presentations/discussions with parents. As of yet we have only done one but it was a strong start. Our topic was Apps for Education: What Educational Tools Can Do For Your Boys. We started the meeting by doing a Kahoot so that parents could experience the excitement our boys always feel when they play. Next we showcased some tools we find really useful such as Ed Puzzle, Explain Everything and Kahn Academy. Parents shared some of their favorites too. We laid out chairs for about twenty parents but had more than fifty attend! Afterwards we built a webpage to share the minutes from the meeting for those who couldn’t attend and to bookmark all the tools. You can check it out here. Next week we have another Tech Tuesday which will be on the topic of screen time and that will be followed in December with a session on coding.

It’s fair to say that things are now going very well. We have plenty of items on the agenda at our meetings now and I always break the ice by bringing cookies from different part of the world. Some of us have started to attend conferences together and on Wednesday we are going on a night out to an escape room (after a few drinks!) We didn’t end up merging; we are still two departments but we are one library-tech team and it feels like this is just the beginning.

Have you experienced success in partnering with your technology department? It would be great if you could share any ideas or thoughts you have on the topic below. 

Sarah Kresberg, Library Director - The Allen-Stevenson School