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 https://www.nfb.ca/explore-all-films/.  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