Looking @ A Customized Library Orientation for Teachers

Looking @ A Customized Library Orientation for Teachers - Since teachers have the most influence over whether students use the school library, it makes sense to create a customized library orientation for teachers. Read how featuring materials for topics of study in each subject area serves as an invitation to collaborate on student library lessons! #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #libraryorientation #teacherprofessionaldevelopmentAt the start of each school year, we have School Library Orientations for students, our goal being to encourage them to use the library and its resources. This does generate interest among regular readers, but it rarely puts us at the top of most students’ list of where to go for information or guidance on school assignments. How might we overcome that disconnect?

When we ponder what predisposes students to use the school library as a primary resource for learning, the answer is obvious: teachers have the most influence over whether students use the school library! If they regularly bring students to the library for class assignments, then students learn that the school library is the first, best place to go for answering questions and solving problems. So, just as we do with students, we need to familiarize faculty with what we can offer them and provide a library orientation for our teachers.


The twofold purpose of a faculty library orientation is to convince teachers we have exactly what they and their students need for any curricular activity, and to encourage them to collaborate with us on their lesson units. As when planning student library visits, we don’t inundate teachers with everything; we just offer what they need for their immediate upcoming task. Accordingly, our faculty library orientation need only show teachers our helpful library resources for their 1st grading period’s topics of study.

We must first determine what the school library has for each subject. Using subject-area curriculum guides or lesson plans, make a list of library resources that can enhance upcoming topic activities:

  • professional teaching materials
  • a cart of books for student use
  • online subscription database features
  • topical periodicals or realia
  • a particular library lesson.

Continue to add each grading period’s resources throughout the school year as a valuable planning tool for lessons, for unexpected teacher requests, and for purchases. (I have my lists as tabs on my Curriculum Matrix document.)

We may not have materials for every subject teacher need, especially as curriculum standards change or are refined into various types of lessons. School librarians get numerous materials catalogs through the mail, and we can organize vendor catalogs by subject so teachers can easily browse catalogs for purchase ideas.

Finally, the days before school begins are packed with professional development and preparing for students, so teachers need to see we respect their time. Don’t schedule a single teacher orientation, but rather, set up a self-paced visitation that is available throughout the day.


  1. Just as we capture student interest with a “hook,” we can hook teachers with food, especially desserts and sweets! If you don’t want to do all the preparation, ask the PTA to help provide goodies. Captivate teachers with a colorful personalized invitation and give the orientation a clever name (mine is “Desserts and Dewey”). Many online tools allow us to quickly customize a document with graphics for each subject.
  2. With students we focus on a single objective; we need to do the same for teachers. To fulfill our objective to show teachers what we have for them, create a thematic display of selected physical materials on a table for each subject area. Include professional items in different formats as well as student-use materials.
  3. Just as we give students a meaningful activity to practice what they’ve learned, give teachers an activity that directs them to other bookshelf materials after they’ve examined their table materials. We can create a “Dewey map,” or better yet, create a short scavenger hunt for teachers customized to their subject topics—I call mine What “Dewey” Have For You? (This can actually serve as the basis for a student scavenger hunt: merely combine some locations from each subject area for a longer hunt.)
  4. To show teachers we are responsive to their curricular needs, let them browse bid vendor catalogs for purchase requests that we’ll add to the library collection. Provide highlighters/markers and/or sticky notes so teachers can indicate needed material they haven’t found through browsing their subject bookshelves.
  5. Spotlight digital library subscription resources that support first grading period topics. Designate certain library computers for a subject’s relevant services for the first grading period, and facilitate exploration into articles or features with a brief “how to” or WebQuest. (This can serve as a basis for student WebQuests.) Group like-subject stations so those teachers can sit together to collaborate.
  6. Let teachers experience how you customize a Library Lesson. Set up a station with a short slide presentation or video about copyright and offer a copyright chart, with guidelines for fair use of print and digital materials. Make it a single sheet, printed on both sides and laminated, to take back to their classroom as a quick yet effective reminder during the rest of the school year. If we already have a Library Lesson for a 1GP topic, offer a copy of the Lesson Plan document to invite collaboration and a library visit. (Be sure your LP shows their Subject Standards!)


  • My personalized invitations include an “orientation lesson guide” to give teachers a preview of what they’ll do, and it allows them to work independently through the lesson whenever they choose to visit the library during the day.
  • For subject signs on tables I use the plastic magazine holders I’ve set up for vendor catalogs. I have colorful graphic sheets taped to the sides to identify the subject, so I just grab them and place in the center of the appropriate table.
  • To one side of the catalog container I put teaching materials like DVDs, kits, or idea books. To the other side, I offer a sample of a dozen or so books that are helpful for students. I include a topical list of other books for a classroom bookcart, and to promote teacher collaboration I suggest they begin a project with the bookcart in the library because there’s more room for students to spread out. (I keep these lists updated with new purchases because I use them to compile topical bookcart materials.)
  • Within pertinent subscription services, I bookmark articles or create folders so teachers or students (or I) can rapidly find needed resources at a later time.


A successful faculty library orientation results in an increase in lesson collaborations and scheduled class visits. We won’t have every teacher participate every year, but many return periodically to check out new materials, especially after a standards, curriculum, or textbook update.

With more teacher-scheduled Library Lesson visits we overcome that disconnect between student orientation and student use. Students become more familiar with library offerings and more comfortable seeking out the librarian and library resources.

If you’ve not yet had a formal teacher library orientation, I encourage you to plan one now. Showing teachers that we consider them a primary partner in library services goes a long way to making the school library—and the School Librarian—a valuable resource for the school.

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Looking @ Technology Training & Integration for Teachers

Looking @ Technology Training & Integration for Teachers - Of the barriers which inhibit effective use of technology in the classroom, the biggest is teachers who haven't learned to integrate it as part of their lessons. School Librarians are already adept at technology and integration, so we can provide multimedia technology training for our teachers. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #technologytrainingTechnology can bring creative enrichment to many educational activities, but it’s disappointing how rarely audio, video, and digital technologies are used to their fullest. Students need and deserve to learn a variety of ways to express themselves so they may be active participants in our global community.

The barriers which inhibit or restrict the effective use of technology in the classroom are from 3 sources: from teachers, from students, and from the technology itself.


Many tech-related problems have been solved as electronic hardware became more robust and affordable, and as digital products became standardized or accessible online. Multimedia technology is now available within most classrooms, and online access is widely available through the federal e-rate. Today we can find a tech solution for any educational need, many of them free.

Technology breakdowns are less frequent than in the past. School districts with older hardware or insufficient bandwidth for large-scale online use may still have issues; however, hardware, software, and online barriers are nowadays incidentally frustrating, rather than obstructive.

Many students still lack entry-level tech skills and/or equitable access to technology. The demand for tech-savvy graduates is pushing school districts to find solutions through grants, bonds, and corporate funding, and 1:1 initiatives are narrowing inequity. Keyboarding classes, once prolific, are now scarce, so incidental training during assignments is now the norm for students, and brings us to the biggest stumbling block to effective use of technology in the classroom.

Technology training for teachers has been a staple of professional development for decades, yet there remain huge gaps in tech proficiency among teachers. Even newer, younger teachers who we’d expect to have grown up using a wide variety of tech applications lack the skill and ability to effectively integrate technology into their classrooms. Clearly we still need to provide all teachers with time to pursue training in technology applications, but more importantly, we need to provide teachers with more focused training, enabling them to develop tech integration lessons for their students.


The typical manner of tech training for teachers is showing a whole group how to use a tool, expecting that they will effectively integrate it into student learning. While this method is cheap and easy, it isn’t the best way to do it: teachers merely add a shallow use of a tool to what they’re already doing—as in requiring final papers to be typed with a word processing tool yet still requiring a handwritten rough draft. Teachers need to see a different way of doing things—even as simple as using that word processing app from the start, then tracking changes when commenting, proofing, and editing within the tool itself, and doing so completely online.

Decades ago, Alan November said “the goal should be to train teachers not to master specific technologies, but instead to design learning environments in which technology helps children learn.” Yes, teachers don’t just need to learn how to use a tool, but to have an integrated model to take back to the classroom.

Bring together a small group of same-grade-level or same-discipline teachers and help them develop a carefully planned multimedia lesson or unit that incorporates tools with curriculum standards and objectives. Even a teacher with rudimentary tech skills can do this for more meaningful student learning, and creative teachers will supplement and enhance the unit for a truly memorable student experience. These tech-integration trained teachers then become facilitators for others in their schools, and more teachers become familiar with, and adept at, planning units to fully integrate multimedia into classroom experiences.


One of the most effective technology training paradigms I’ve found is the online Cult of Pedagogy JumpStart course.

JumpStart is a self-paced online technology course for the thoughtful educator. By guiding you through a series of hands-on projects, this course will give you the confidence and skills you need to make smart choices about the tech you use in your teaching.

What’s unusual about this tech training course is that it doesn’t look at “tools”, but rather at processes, specific ways of using technology that can be applied in a variety of classroom situations. You learn 10 key processes and complete a hands-on project to practice that process with one tool. You’ll can transfer that process to your own classroom, using the same tool or a similar one of your choosing. Here are the 10 processes:JumpStart Your Technology Training for Teachers - School Librarians can help teachers integrate technology into their lessons by providing customized multimedia technology training or encouraging enrollment in Cult of Pedagogy's JumpStart online course. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #technologytraining #CultofPedagogyJumpStart

  1. Blogging
  2. Online Collaboration
  3. Mind Mapping
  4. Curation
  5. Screencasting
  6. Flipped Learning
  7. Digital Assessment
  8. HyperDocs (playlists)
  9. QR codes
  10. Podcasting

The JumpStart course offers 2 options: Basic, where you take the course on your own, at whatever pace works for you; and Plus, where you get the support and accountability of a community. The JumpStart Plus course is only open for enrollment five times a year, and enrollment for the July 2019 training is open June 23-July 3. (There is also an October 2019 training with enrollment from September 22-29.)

I was in one of the early JumpStartPlus groups, and though I consider myself technologically adept, I learned more than I could have imagined: not only processes and tools, but a completely new vision for how to help students learn technology within a flowing pattern of applied multimedia techniques. I heartily recommend the Cult of Pedagogy JumpStart course for teachers at any tech level, novice to expert.

(I am Cult of Pedagogy’s Pinterest Marketing Specialist,
but I receive no compensation for this
 JumpStart endorsement.)


As a School Librarian we can offer a variety of technology training opportunities to teachers, from new ways to use a common tool to full-length design-based integrated technology units. We need to treat professional development for teachers with the same consideration and planning we give to student lessons. I use my Library Lesson Planner for technology professional development so I stay focused on just what teachers need—nothing more, nothing less.

Here are 3 ways to offer technology PD to teachers:

  • Short faculty meeting presentations
    These are 5-10 minute show-and-tells which demonstrate a new facet of a tool teachers are already using. It’s important to make this use part of standard classroom activity so teachers can immediately put it to use, rather than figure out on their own how to incorporate it.
  • Topical training before/after school or during common subject planning
    Many teachers are willing to come into the School Library before or after school for 20-30 minute tech sessions. These, too, need to be designed as time-savers or enhancements to already-in-use systems so teachers can take them back to the classroom and apply them right away. Some topics I offered my teachers were webpage training, using our email app for lesson scheduling and time management, student blogging and discussion forums, and creating videos from slide presentations.
    Another option is to offer a series of training sessions during common subject planning periods. For example, I created weekly presentations about how to integrate Design Thinking and Technology into lesson units. I provided a pocket folder with brads to hold guided worksheets that teachers used during the various sessions and then kept for reference. I included suggested projects for various subjects, and created a narrated version of the presentations so teachers who were absent or future new teachers could view them. I received several teacher requests to further help integrate technology into a lesson!
  • Extended rotating workshops during beginning-of-school-year staff development
    Teachers become “students” and spend 45-50 minutes each at 2-3 hands-on stations working through a classroom lesson using new technology tools. This model requires the most planning, strong support from administration, and a cadre of trained colleagues to assist the teacher-students. One year I designed a series of WebQuests using library online subscription databases for informational projects teachers assigned during the school year. My Library Lesson Matrix was invaluable to customize the WebQuests for each subject, which were so successful that teachers had me schedule those same WebQuests with their students!


It’s no longer enough for School Librarians to promote reading and give lessons on research skills. We need to learn, use, and then integrate multimedia technologies into student learning, and teach our teachers how to do it. We are the best person on our campus to do this: we are the only one familiar with all subject curricula and we are already skilled at integrating into classroom activities. Make it a goal this school year to provide some tech training for your teachers!

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Looking @ ELA, the Workshop Model, and Classroom Libraries

Looking @ ELA, the Workshop Model, and Classroom Libraries - The School Library can't just be about reading books. School Librarians need to rigorously contribute to student learning by fully integrating Library Lessons with all subject curricula. Otherwise, we can't lament a lack of appreciation for the library when curriculum changes affect our circulation. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #ELA #classroomlibraries #readerwriterworkshopLately I’m seeing a lot of librarian posts that run something like this:

The English Language Arts department adopted a reading & writing workshop model with classroom libraries. Students choose books in their classrooms and read for 10-minutes at the start of class, so teachers no longer bring them to the library. Our library circulation has plummeted and I don’t think students have the time and freedom they previously had for free reading.

Friends, this is why our library program MUST be more than just books and reading! If we focus only on promoting reading and checking out books, we will suffer when classroom libraries and reading workshop programs are implemented. Our school library must be a multi-faceted learning space, not just a book repository.

I’m a School Librarian who has gone through this experience, and I can tell you that, because I built strong curricular relationships with ELA teachers, I wasn’t adversely affected when our district adopted such a program. Well, we did follow the “rules” for the first 9-week grading period, but teachers were very unhappy with our reading results, so by the middle of the second 9-weeks we reverted to our already-successful regular recurring ELA library visits with sustained silent reading. Yes, because of our long record of DEAR/SSR, we were able to see the shortcomings of the new model.


  • 10-minute reading doesn’t allow story immersion
    Students need 2 or 3 chapters to really get into a story, and that takes a lot longer than 10 minutes. Teachers found that students weren’t continuing to read a book they’d chosen the day before, but would look for a new one. Limiting their browse time didn’t solve the problem (of course not!) and students just grabbed any book off the shelf, read for the allotted time period, then put the book back and grabbed a new one the next day. Students weren’t really “reading” nor finishing books; they were just fulfilling a “requirement.”
  • 10-minute reading doesn’t foster comprehension
    Try it yourself. Pick up a new book and read for 10 minutes, then mark your place and put it away. The next day, pick up the same book and begin reading where you left off—don’t reread—for 10 minutes. Do the same thing for a third day, and when you put the book down, write a short summary of the story. The fourth day, start a brand new book at the beginning and read for 25-30 minutes, then write a short summary of the new story. Compare the two summaries: you’ll shake your head at the shallow understanding those short reading periods gave you and how much more you got out of the longer reading session. You’ll also want to continue reading that second book!
  • 10-minute reading doesn’t build reading endurance
    When we reverted back to our regular library visits with DEAR Time, kids would look at the clock after 8 or 9 minutes to see if the “10 minutes” they’d gotten used to was over—and then they’d get restless and disruptive. Even upper grades who had enjoyed extended reading in prior years did this. We cajoled and stuck with it–providing the same long DEAR Time in classrooms in the off weeks–and eventually students settled into reading for 25-30 minutes.

So ended our experiment with daily reading as a “bell-ringer” activity. In all fairness, the workshop model is supposed to provide lengthier reading times, but all too often curriculum writers make the “reading workshop” into a text analysis activity instead of free reading.


With classroom libraries I had fewer intermittent students coming in during class to get a book, but that wasn’t a huge contributor to circulation. I was actually happy to have teachers building classroom libraries. I rarely purchased more than 2 hardback copies of any book, even if popular, because I’d found they sat on the shelf after the first burst of interest and would be weeded for non-circulation within a couple years. Since classroom libraries were predominantly paperbacks, teachers could get several copies of best sellers and by the time the “newness” wore off, the books were pretty worn out anyway.

Two problems the ELA teachers had were a lack of shelf space for books and a lack of funds to keep purchasing new books. Because they were so supportive of the library program, I decided to help:

  1. The 5-foot high oak bookcases in our school library are a perfect height for middle school. I have 3 shelves of books and use the bottom shelf to display new books or featured themes. Each bookcase came with 4 shelves, so I had over 100 extra solid oak shelves on the bottom shelf of bookcases.
    I designed a 6” deep, 2-shelf bookcase that would fit under whiteboards in ELA classrooms and had a high school construction class use my excess shelving to build 4 for each ELA teacher. You can imagine their surprise when I gave each teacher 20 feet of additional paperback shelving that didn’t eat into their classroom space!
  2. I’d been running a school store in the cafeteria during lunch for a couple years. I sold school supplies, all priced from 25¢ to $2, that were fun & flashy, and the students gobbled them up. Income purchased more supplies, but by the end of 2 years I had accumulated some significant profits. After replenishing supplies, I donated $385 of school store profits to the ELA department for purchasing new books for their classroom libraries.
    If ELA teachers were delighted with the bookshelves, they were over-the-moon about the money! They met at our local brand-name bookstore that very weekend and chose dozens of new books–substantially discounted, thanks to a supportive store manager. They praised students for helping to get those books by supporting the school store, and my business boomed even more during ensuing weeks. At the end of the school year I donated another $160 to ELA teachers.


In its simplest form, the workshop model has 4 parts: opening, mini-lesson, work time, and debriefing. This coordinates well with the 4 instructional steps of my Library Lesson Planner: direct instruction, modeling & guided practice, independent practice, and sharing & reflecting, so it made sense for me to configure our library visits as Reader Writer Workshops:

Warm-up – I share Learning Targets and allow for the return of books.
Mini-LessonDirect Instruction and Modeling & guided practice to the whole class.
Workshop is Independent practice. Usually we have Reader Workshop where students browse for new books and have DEAR Time free reading. Sometimes the lesson is Writer Workshop where students complete an activity.
Sharing & reflecting – The last several minutes of the period is our by-table book checkout and I can talk to each student about the books they’ve chosen.

From the first Library Orientation visit, 6g ELA teachers liked my adoption of the RWW model, but their big concern was moving students for the half-period each of classroom and library every other week. (If you know anything about 6th graders, you understand!) After studying their new curriculum I could see opportunities to bring certain activities into the library for a more enriching experience covering the entire class period.

6g ELA teachers and I began to work together, customizing Library Lessons with their Literary Text Unit Themes and integrating their classroom learning activities into a full-period Library Lesson visit. These new Library Lessons are quite extensive, often with us co-teaching, and yet still allow plenty of time for book browsing and silent reading. Because we collaborated, 6g English Language Arts is intricately woven into every-other-week library visits, and the content and pacing of curriculum is not just preserved, but enhanced.

I’ve adapted 6th grade Literary Text Units for use by any middle school librarian. Narrative text, Expository text, and Persuasion units are available from No Sweat Library, my TeachersPayTeachers store. A poetry unit and units for 7th grade are under construction.

NoSweat ELA Narrative Text Unit for 6th grade (as Reader/Writer Workshops) NoSweat ELA Expository Text Unit for 6th Grade (as Reader/Writer Workshops) NoSweat ELA Persuasive Unit for 6th Grade (as Reader Writer Workshops)


I clarify that my school library program wasn’t negatively impacted by the workshop model and classroom libraries for 3 reasons:

  • We’d already established regularly scheduled library visits with silent reading every other week for all ELA classes.
  • I’d already created short Library Lessons for some visits that supported classroom learning.
  • The strong relationship between School Librarian and English Language Arts teachers prompted collaboration to overcome the deficiencies of the workshop curricular plan.

The School Library can’t just be about reading books. School Librarians need to rigorously contribute to student learning by fully integrating Library Lessons into all subject curricula. Otherwise, we can’t lament a lack of appreciation for the library when curriculum changes affect our circulation.

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