Librarians Know How to Find Stuff

Using Innovative Techniques to Promote Information Literacy and Student Buy-in

Matt Upson (formerly of Miller Library, McPherson College) and C. Michael Hall (who couldn’t be present)

Creators of Library of the Living Dead

Guide can be printed from here

Downloaded 1.3 million times. Cited in LJ, SLJ, ALA journals.

This isn’t how to make a comic. It’s more to inspire the audience to do what works for their libraries & inspire creativity. The comic book worked for McPherson College.

Developing the relationships.

Quotes from Education Nation; one by George Lucas in the foreword & George Leonard quote on p21.

“We want students to know how to find information, how to assess the quality of information, and how tto creativiely and effectively use information to accomplish a goal.” –George Lucas, foreword to Education Nation

“We must consider the possibility that students are justified in being bored, that we have been too cautious and unimaginiative….Perhaps the moment has come to show our young people that school [or a library] is where the action is” p21 of Education Nation


Before Matt came to McPherson, the library was pretty deserted; didn’t come into study; didn’t even know the library existed. Handouts in in-class instruction were about as useful as a seatbelt in trying to reach students.

How to get the students in the building?

They published a comic book.

Mike was an illustrator, non-conventional student.

Introduction to the book explains the purpose of the comic book/guide.

Made it attention-grabbing, yet informative. Followed the ACRL standards.

It was a small college–they saw a need and tried to meet it.

In creating a unique guide, break stereotypes, poke fun at yourself.

12 page introduction to the library. Their attention was grabbed. Then the instructional handouts are then incorporated into the comic book.

Goals to do so…

  • Provide an excellent intro to library services
  • Be creative and a little irreverent
  • Save time
  • Encourage familiarity with the library
  • get students involved in the process
  • let the students know that the library cares about their academic success and is actively involved in their education
  • quality product
  • took the talents they had in-house to develop it

Unintended Results

  • Well over 1 million hits — provided great marketing for McPherson College
  • McPherson wants to hand these out at college fairs
  • Unique artifact that no other school has.
  • Advocacy tool. Unique resource that grabs the attention of your school board or board or leaders.
  • Other libraries are now using this tool; didn’t plan for it to be utilitarian.
  • It looks fantastic as a digital version on mobile devices and tablets.
  • Quickly got around library community, as a digital resource, thanks to social media.

Milton Chen comment: This is proving: A lot of the best curriculum can be taught through story.

Back to the comic.

They took cues from the real library, photographs, photos of people to build it. The characters are never named. It’s just a story in a familiar place. Students were transferred over into comic form.

Get your community involved

  • teaser poster of the cover
  • Facebook
  • Signing Party: 40 students showed up
  • QR Codes

He contacted LJ, American Libraries, pestered them to look at his resource. People finally did and wrote about it, and it took off.

He’s connected with many people all over the library community in the US and the world.

Anyone can use it and has, in their libraries.

What can you do?

  • Fun: The OH COOL Factor
  • Different: Make them (students, faculty, parents, admin) see the library in new ways
  • Quality: do something that can be done well
  • Involvement and Buy-in: include reps from all areas of your school. Who are the stakeholders? Can you find a sponsor or collaborator?

Can share your ideas and resources with the entire world, even unexpectedly.

They are working on comic guides for several other libraires.

Placing a Hold on the Love of Reading: A School and Public Library Partnership in Atchison, KS

Cathy Coronado, Atchison Middle School Media Specialist

Diana Weaver, Atchison Public Library Director (as of right now; she’ll be the new director at Basehor Community Library at the end of April!)

How it all began….

NEKLS Summer School Librarians Workshop in 2009, featuring Tasha Squires, author of Library Partnerships: Making Connections Between Schools and Public Libraries

The information at the workshop was great, but the best part was the driving to and from the session. Diana and Laura (new elementary librarian) and Cathy never had really talked before; Diana was the new director of the Atchison Public Library.

Building our Partnership:

  • Breakfast w area school librarians (4 schools (Lutheran, Catholic private schools, and public schools). wanted to meet again but never could
  • Personal visits over coffee
  • Participation in MS in-service on school discipline
  • Library is a block from the MS. Teen problem. No consistency in policies and discipline enforcement. Things in the library did change, but still didn’t change completely. Not just the library’s problem to solve. Library went to MS inservice on discipline. Brought back info to library staff with mixed results, but did start a conversation. Building read over a million words. Public library wanted to be a part of this.
  • Meet w the school district superintendent to support the reading system: school had a courier system. Diana asked if the courier system could stop at the public library.
  • Public library staff visit to all AMS reading classes to demonstrate how to place holds through the NExpress shared catalog system. If the kids didn’t have a library card and their parents wouldn’t give them a card, a building card was created so holds could still be placed.

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Read in Every Child, Donalyn Miller

“Part of wearing a reader’s clothes is learning how to navigate a library and feeling at home in one” (Miller 59).

Wanted to make the middle school kids feel at home in the library.

Students Tour Atchison Public Library: All 6th, 7th, and 8th grade reading classes toured

Students learned about:

  • the YA book collection, including graphic novels
  • available tech like laptops, audiobooks and video games
  • upcoming and ongoing teen events
  • how to get their own library card
  • what homework resources are available

The Process to send books to the Middle School Library

Atchison Library (already processes 80+ holds per day as part of NExpress):

  • AMS has its own card to place holds and checkout (with Cathy’s permission) — has checkout out 400+ books on the AMS card since October
  • Items are transferred between the school and public library through the school district courier.

The Process at AMS

  • Students can place holds on books at the APL Online Catalog Station
  • Students write the title of the book they want and their name on a slip of paper and deposit it in the box.

“Because so many students’ reading choices are dictated by their teachers, they never learn how to choose books for themselves. How can they shape a self-identity as a reader if they never get the chance to find out what they like?” (Miller 28)

This is all done through one card. Kids who have local cards, can place holds, but then have to pickup at the local library. Teachers are now starting to use the service as well — quick access to the public library.

AMS Process Continues

  • There are in and out boxes for the books
  • Each book is checked out to the student using a temporary number
  • I use the code APL at the beginning of the call numbers of all the books
  • I periodically check the holds and books checked out to see if they match my records

The Benefits of our relationship

  • Public libraries have more funding for materials and resources
  • School libraries have direct access to young readers

Public library Benefits

  • Kids reading our stuff
  • Cooperative collection development
  • Better behavior in the library (Cathy said the library staff were her friends on the visits)
  • Student volunteers
  • Library board members
  • Presence in community
  • Teachers also visiting us more

School library Benefits

  • Supplements our collection (no money for collection)
  • Reference books and books written primarily for adults are available
  • Provides a service to teachers who love to read
  • Teachers try out classroom sets of books
  • Keeps students interested in reading when they can have the book they choose

School wide competition in 2nd quarter. AR test system used as a quick test system. Word count. 100 million words goal w teachers. Teacher teams — 1 hr for lunch given to winning team.

Teachers taken out of the equation, and only kids the second time, made it to 99 million words

“Our national discussion of reading has been reduced to a talking point a measurement score. How can we get our students to open books and start reading when, in many classrooms, the focus is on test performance?” (Miller 180).

Now, drill and skill. Demoralize teachers.

Word counts of what students had read tracked by library (thanks to AR tests — just to be a check, not accuracy of test scores). Principal looked at the bottom of the words lists.Cathy plotted # of words where the person’s score was. Anyone under 100,000 words typically was not passing assessments. Lightbulb went off in principal’s head.

Practice comes from what the kids want to read. Not specific books.

We Both Agree: The most important thing is creating life long readers and future library users. Thank you! Blog

Comments/questions from audience:

A homework pass for every 2 hrs students read. 25 teens typically participate. 170+ teens participated after the homework pass project. (Can’t remember now which library — maybe Bonner Springs??)

If you can hook that one person, it builds that relationship and can get passed onto others.

What do you do if your town’s school librarian wants nothing to do with your public library? Can you go directly to the teachers? Yes.

People are going to be more receptive to the public library-school library partnership because budgets are in bad shape.

HS/MS brings the public library books in the summer, 300-500 books per year during the summer. Teen section is tiny at public library.

At the beginning, discussed who’s responsibility is it to pay for the books? Certain loss involved. Price of doing business.

Haven’t lost many books through the sharing. Cathy’s loss rate is better than the public library. She has a captive audience

Homebound patron category that doesn’t accrue fines used at the public library to check the books out to the middle school. That’s what the school uses.

The high school students participate but not at the same level. The teachers love the library.

The private schools in Atchison also use the public library (the teachers particularly mentioned from these schools).

The students are being trained at the middle school and will hopefully take their love of reading onto the high school level.

Building a culture of reading.

“Ask for forgiveness, not permission” philosophy. Brief discussion about ages and book challenges.

I was really glad I attended this session. Diana, why is this the first I’ve heard of your successes there?? 🙂 You and Cathy need to share this success widely. And I highly recommend the book mentioned at the beginning of this post by Tasha Squires. NExpress libraries, it’s in the NEKLS collection — request it through NExpress. Other Kansas libraries not on NExpress, request through the KLC. Outside Kansas, request through your local library!

Session Four & Day Two of Summer Institute

I unfortunately had to leave the Summer Institute after the third session yesterday, and missed session four of Buffy’s talk on Tools for Transparency, Advocacy, and Instructional Leadership. Check out her LibGuide resources for Part Four to see what she covered. I will post a link to her slides here when they are posted online.

I left the Institute, because I went and picked up author and illustrator Mark Crilley from the airport. He was to speak today to the Summer Institute group about his books and his career as an author and illustrator. I had a great time visiting with him on the trip back to Emporia, and discovered along with his writing, he also has a YouTube channel where he demonstrates a lot of drawing tips. It’s worth checking out!

I also missed Mark’s talks today, along with Mickey Coalwell & Royce Kitts’ presentation on graphic novels, because I drove Buffy Hamilton back to the airport for her flight out. If I become aware of any online resources from either presentation, I will post it here.

Update: “The Cat” from the State Library of Kansas has a great summary post about day 2 of the institute up over on the State Library of Kansas news blog. The post includes links to the slides from Royce & Mickey’s presentations.

I had a wonderful time visiting with Buffy on both trips to and from the airport. Such an amazing and inspiring librarian. If you haven’t checked out her own online resources, or her school library’s resources, you really must! It was really great to have her in Kansas. I hope all the school librarians who were able to be at the Summer Institute enjoyed her presentations and the discussion times & if you weren’t able to be there, that these blog posts were helpful to you in some way. Here’s several links to those resources (but I realize it’s not everything).

Session Three: Tools for Transliteracy

Couple more things on Session 2:

Important to share what we’re all doing, so we learn from each other and find new ideas. LibGuide for Session 3 Tools for Transliteracy (wishing the entire Libraries & Transliteracy crew could be here, including Bobbi Newman & Brian Hulsey) Transliteracy term. Been around 20 years, but last 6-9 months lots of conversation around it. Librarian circles, language educators, especially.

  • “help our students learn multiple ways of reading and writing today’s world by acting as sponsors of transliteracy”
  • Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tool and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks (not just technology).
  • “a sponsor of literacy includes any agent who enables, supports, teaches, and models, as well as recruits, regulates, suppresses, or withholds it” –Deborah Brandt, Literacy in American Lives, ethnography story about literacy. Libraries were rarely mentioned in this study, surprisingly; study from 10 years ago)
  • “Literacy is the energy supply of the information age” –Deborah Brandt
  • Bobbi Newman sees key literacy in next few months as the literacy of privacy issues (Facebook; Google; other sites)
  • Danah Boyd & Clay Shirky have been also writing a lot about literacy topics the past several months
  • “as new and powerful forms of literacy emerge, they diminish the reach and possibilities of receding ones” –Deborah Brandt
  • Doug Johnson, “Blue-Skunk Blog”, “Are we moving toward a post-literate society?”
  • Are we helping students learn these new literacies? Are we bridging the digital divide gap?
  • Henry Jenkins
  • “The idea that literacy is only print materials is about to disappear”
  • “We’re on the cusp of profound changes in what counts as “text” and literacy”
  • “Helping patrons and stakeholders understand the expanding definition of literacy is a muddy but playful endeavor”
  • “We have to make sure schools and libraries invite critical and active uses of media that strengthen our democratic potential.” –Deborah Brandt
  • Example of night school class researching and writing persuasive essays about the 2008 presidential election. Primary sources? Candidates YouTube channels, Twitter stream. Students suddenly engaged & interested. Also had side conversations about are these sources unbiased, accurate?
  • Knight Foundation recommendation 6: integrate digital and media literacy as critical elements for education at all levels through collaboration among federal, state, and local education officials.” (Link is to the full report)
  • As sponsors of transliteracy, libraries can close the participation gap; we may be in a better place of introducing these tools

What does transliteracy look like in a school library?

  • Privilege and support multiple containers and pathways to information; can’t just have books. Don’t throw away the books, but what are other alternative containers for info. Doug Johnson “It’s the content, not the container”
    • eReaders
    • fight the filter to give access to other sources of info like YouTube
  • Teach students multiple and dynamic ways of connecting with real world experts to help answer their questions
  • Teach students collaborate tools for creating and sharing knowledge
    • Voicethreads used in research projects
    • Skype
    • Blogging
    • Wikis
    • Social Bookmarking
    • Diigo
    • Evernote
    • Student created netvibes portal — definitely exhibits a multitude of these literacies
    • This doesn’t replace text literacy, necessarily. But if it enhances learning, and especially engages students, it’s worth it. Those that struggle with traditional text, might shine with alternative literacies and representing their work and resource.
    • Differentiating instruction and Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligencies
    • “Three Little Pigs” eBook iPhone app, written & illustrated by a 1st grader
    • Virginia and Her iPad (almost 100-year old woman reads again and publishes poems thanks to her iPad)
    • Using their phones to talk about books (Texting) — Wendy Stephens
    • Haiku poetry through Twitter (@AllieTweetTweet)
  • Instead of writing a reflection on a blog, record a vlog.
  • Tips for Writing an Email (and other things you assume students know)
  • Google has lots of pre-existing videos
  • Sue Thomas lecture on transliteracy video
  • Everyday Transliteracy video from Brian Hulsey
    • Blueberry smoothie recipe
    • Send info through email, share a link through Twitter, Facebook, write about experiencing the blueberry smoothie on a blog, call people about the recipe, telling someone in person, write it on a sticky note, print the recipe
    • Info was sent to multiple people through multiple tools.
  • Not saying we throw out traditional literacy, but there are multiple ways of interacting with information

Discussion comments

  • These new literacies, from touch devices to Facebook, it’s affecting all ages, from toddlers to the older folks
  • New research out on how the brain interacts with text
  • Chris Harris
  • Accessibility issues do come up. Assessment of using the tools.
  • Those who are reluctant learners might be more apt to read on a technology device (many tend to be gamers)
  • Gaming is becoming a new literacy “Libraries Got Game: Aligned Learning Through Modern Board Games” new book from Chris Harris and Brian Mayer

Session Two: Tools for Content Creation and Networked Learning

Wrapup comments from last session: Building tribe (Seth Godin’s book Tribes) — getting buy-in. That’s part of participatory librarianship. Helps students see that research in the library isn’t just for school work and homework that stops when you’re out of school.

Look at the resources on the pathfinder — lots of real-life examples are there, at different grade levels.

Part 2: Tools for Student Content Creation and Networked Learning: Media 21 Project

  • “learning is the process of creating connections and developing a network.”
  • connectivism learning theory (how do we help students connect the dots of learning
  • Michael Wesch at K-State was an inspiration for this. Digital Ethnography. Teach Web 2.0
  • Wendy Drexler second inspiration. “Networked Student” focus not on shiny tools, but how you apply them for practical learning.
  • Comment: Media 21 is a district level program
  • Lots of Goals: research is ongoing… (and other points) see slides later.
  • This was not a separate curriculum; it was identified and embedded into a sophomore English class.
  • Empowered students to become own information filters…
  • Two sections of Honors Literature/Composition; Buffy was a co-teacher. Conceptual model of librarian and classroom as co-teachers in the classroom setting.

The chemistry and collaborative partnership with the teacher. Interviews available with the collaborative teacher on the section page. Partnership worked because of teacher’s willingness to take risk & to share the classroom. For so long teaching is seen as a solitary act, but some of that is changing. Librarian can help facilitate this change for 21st century learning.

Beginning of program (august 2009)

  • introduction of concept of “networked student”
  • intro of essential learning tools and cloud computing (wikis, gmail, google docs, blogs) (digital native a myth? many of the students had never heard of these tools; even email attachments was a new concept; can’t assume background knowledge; must be willing to adapt to students’ beginning knowledge & do what’s best for them)
  • exploration of social media & culture at large, as an info source for research (evaluating Wikipedia, for example)
  • Focused on wikis, exploring tools; intro’d class blog.
  • Learned about Google tools
  • Learned you didn’t have to be tied to a flash drive – use cloud computing tools
  • Many students didn’t have computers at home or had software at home (like Microsoft Word)
  • Build in the time for teaching the students the tools; many students won’t pick it up intuitively. Provide the support. If you support them in the beginning, and spend time up front on learning the tools, it will really help with student buy-in and use of the tools.
  • Students brainstormed pros and cons of using social media in education
  • Reflections: time: more needed for this type of immersed learning for the students; For teachers: more time needed for planning, creating, reflecting; students were engaged; embrace the messiness & chaos; students were patient & open-minded

September 2009

  • inquiry into social media for social good (essay & conversations in class)
  • Book tasting Menu. An overall theme was there (Africa). Students sampled the books, reading for 5-7 minutes, and then rated the books, choosing which one they wanted to read in a group.
  • Student reflections were ongoing during the program.
  • “when I blog….I feel like people are listening”
  • students extended learning to real-world situations
  • Students loved the Google tools & blogging
  • Mixed feelings about wetpaint; switched to Google Sites
  • students loved group & collaborative activities
  • students indicated they needed help with certain writing strategies

October – November 2009

  • intro to research initiative
  • original content creation
  • reflection and transparency
  • knowledge building
  • lit circle meetings, maintaining notes from these meetings & reading
  • Diigo used to bookmark web-based resources, also Noodletools (Subscription)

Learning Artifacts: Issues in Africa

  • blog posts
  • lit circle
  • wikis
  • diigo bokmarks
  • noodletools list and notes
  • a written paper, required 3-5 pages, but many students wrote 10-12 page papers of their own free will; students really got into their research; flexibility given for resources.
  • five multigenre articacts and relcections
  • online learning portfolios built using google sites brought all of this together


  • Students loved Google news & Gale Global issues in context database
  • This project was the first time students could take ownership of their learning (Testing generation)
  • Some resistance to this type of learning.
  • Students couldn’t just read off their research; they had to embrace it as their own.
  • Students embraced the principles and concepts of presentation zen
  • Students overcame their fears of public speaking
  • Project was originally only for the semester, but students asked for this type of continued learning, instead of a return to the traditional mode.
  • Assessment felt murky. “New Assessments for New Learning” –Will Richardson post from yesterday.

Veterans’ Issues (March-May 2010) (took a two month break)

  • personal learning environments with netvibes/info dashboards to be shared publicly
  • social bookmarking with evernote
  • google sites portfolios
  • interviews with real world experts <– new requirement for the program
  • presentation zen
  • Class site
  • Students began creating information dashboards for their project. Visual way of telling the story of research. Videos; RSS Feeds from resources + from fellow students; Google Books; Databases widgets; several students went above and beyond, creating multiple tabs for different types of resources.
  • Real student work examples linked on over on the libguide
  • One student had a realworld expert get in touch with him via his project blog; engaged the person online & ended up interviewing him.
  • Most valuable research skill obtained was learning to come up with a realworld expert — letters of inquiry.
  • Students came in on lunch hour on their own free will; students cared about their topics & went above & beyond as a result.

Learned overall

  • baby steps are okay
  • anticipate pushback
  • learning isn’t linear
  • value collaboration and teamwork
  • building own personal learning network; teachers were the guides on the side. Students were taking ownership of their work. Saw fruition of the program’s vision through what the students were doing.
  • Trick is cultivating the partnership with the teachers.

This isn’t THE model, or the way to go. But this is one way to embrace those standards and guidelines for school libraries. More teachers have seen what the class has done, heard the kids talk about it, and now more teachers want to it.

Why Diigo, not Delicious? Diigo has a group feature. Some networking issues also were present. Students were given choice of Evernote or Diigo second semester, since there were mobile apps available for Evernote. If Firefox had been available, Delicious could have been used.

Blogathon: Louisville Public Library flooded; social media for social good being covered, and library world did an online blogathon to raised money for their efforts. Library Society of the World headed it up. Students wrote about why they loved libraries. “libraries are the places where dreams begin,” one student comment. Students were sponsored for their blog posts.

Presentation Zen: minimal text; pictures; not just reading slides word-for-word. Not “death by powerpoint”

Cell Phone Usage: how do you get past schools blocking them? Buffy started emailing principal articles & blog posts about cell phone usage in the classroom in spring 2009. Also talked to him a lot during the summer. He also saw his own kids using these devices. When the school came back in session, he told his teachers that it was permitted for education usage. Cultivated the culture to show why these tools should be used. Even if at first the ideas sound crazy, keep trying & feeding information. Very gently feed them pieces of information & back into it.