Stacked in Our Favor

Thoughts about libraries, education, children's literature, writing, art and being connected

Monday, December 7, 2015

Library Catalogs

It's been a while since I set my thoughts down on this blog. Now seems like the perfect time to revive this platform. 

This year I'm offering an opportunity for Professional Development for my colleagues. We will be looking deeper at the myriad free resources available through the library and digital sources. We will start with familiarizing ourselves with our library catalogs and catalogs beyond. So in thinking about the many different catalogs we can use I decided that I would should share them widely. 

1. The first catalog is our school library catalog. Currently that is available only on campus so I won't provide a link here. Starting locally is the way to go. 

2. CWMARS is our regional consortium. Their catalog can be found at: 

This is where we can go to see what is in our local library's collection or see about holdings in the region. If one of the member libraries has the book we can order it through Inter Library Loan (ILL for those in the know.) If you are not from Central Massachusetts check your resources. More than likely you have the same kind of system through your local area. 

3. In Massachusetts there is a digital archive of historical photographs from Massachusetts towns called Digital Commonwealth. I use this resource each year when Third Grade does their study of local history. We look at these photos to see what in our town is the same and what is different. We examine a variety of aspects of everyday life such as clothing, transportation, and architecture. Look up your town and prepare to be amazed.

4. The New York Public Library has an extensive digital collection which is broken down into topics. With almost 850,000 items, this sorting into collections is a helpful way to make searching more manageable.

5. The International Children's Digital Catalog features digitized children's books in many different languages. Click on the Read Books! button in the middle of the page to get to the search interface. You can search by length of book, age, language, subject and even color of cover.

6. From the National Archives Experience comes the Digital Vaults. You can search through the wide selection of primary source materials and even curate your own collection.

These are some of my most popular catalogs. I hope you will enjoy trying them. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Reading in public

For every profession there are clich├ęs. Librarians are no exception. What annoys librarians? Buns and shushing noises are laughable. What really gets under our skin is when people say “It must be nice to be able to read all day.” They usually say it in a tone of voice that lets us know that they are at once envious and looking down on our profession.

We laugh sardonically about how nice it would be to be able to get some of our required reading done during our working hours. (As a school librarian I have to wonder what working hours really means, but that is another story. One that my teacher friends can write as well as I can.) When do we get our reading done? At home, in the evening, on the weekend, during those summer “vacations”, waiting for the doctor, dentist, child’s soccer/baseball/football/dance/swim/etc. practice. On the bus/train/plane/etc. Listening to some of them via books on tape during our commutes. Waiting for the laundry. I’ve even been known to sneak a few pages in during a wait at the grocery story or department store. Especially during the long Christmas lines.

We do our reading by stealth, trying to impose on no one. Cramming as much work in while on location and then indulging our guilty pleasure in the dark recesses of privacy. Reading is our lurid secret.

And, did I mention that since I became a school librarian I’ve read only a handful of novels aimed at adults? I’m mostly in the middle grade trenches. I read these, even the types I dislike, so that I can find the perfect match for my students. Sometimes it is hard to plow through them.

And this was my pattern until a few weeks ago when I saw an article by Stephen Krashen. (see below if you would like more information.) I admire his work. In fact, I began using Sustained Silent Reading as a foundation for my classes after reading a number of his posts some years ago. This article jogged me. The one thing I wasn’t doing was reading during SSR. I was using SSR as the opportunity to take care of book check out. So I started sitting in the midst of my students, cheek-and-jowl and reading. It was refreshing. But to be honest, I felt like I was going to get in trouble for not doing my work. I felt like I was goofing off. Regardless, I do find that much more reading goes on when I am in the middle of the class.

The absolute kicker happened on Friday. It was my lunchtime. I don’t often eat lunch during this time, I use it to change gears and ready myself for the afternoon. Friday, however, I was dying to know how the chapter I had been reading ended. I thought I’d give myself a few minutes to find out. A student walked into the library, one of our youngest, an said in sheer innocence

“Oh, Ms. Shoup! You read too?”

I was shocked. I read books to this student all the time. I thought it was obvious.

She knew the difference. Adults read to children, but that doesn’t mean they read themselves.

Librarians need to come out of the dark places where we read and be caught in the act.  I need to stop worrying about whether someone thinks I’m taking it easy and start acting on the knowledge that being a visible reader is the most effective advertisement for reading.

Von Sprecken, D. and Krashen, S. 1998. Do students read during sustained silent reading? California Read 32(1): 11-13.