SCASL Conference 2014

Last week, I attended the annual conference for the South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL). This is the only professional development opportunity in the state designed solely with librarians in mind.  I’ve attended every year since I started library school, and I’ll probably keep going as long as I’m an SC school librarian.

The 2014 conference was once again in Columbia at the Metropolitan Convention Center. This is a great venue, but I will say that the WiFi access was less than desirable.  It’s difficult to have a technology-infused conference when you can’t guarantee Internet access for presenters and attendees.

My conference experience started off with a bang.  I attended a preconference session Toni Buzzeo titled “Meeting Common Core Reading Literature Standards: A Picture Book Author/Librarian Shows You How to Lead the Way.” While the title of the session was less than exciting, I was thrilled with what I got out of it.  Toni Buzzeo went into detail on how librarians can help teachers meet literature, informational text, and speaking and listening Common Core standards using picture books. Each person at the session brought a picture book and designed discussions and activities that would work with one or more grade levels in their own schools.  (This was something we worked on in the session and could implement as soon as we returned to school.)  The book I chose to work with was John, Paul, George, & Ben by Lane Smith, and I was able to devise activities that I could use with my 3rd and 4th grade students. I also took away many other activities shared by my colleagues and Toni Buzzeo.  This was probably the best SCASL preconference session I’ve ever attended, and I’ll be using what I learned for a long time to come.


After my morning preconference, I took a little time for myself. I enjoyed a quick lunch, did a little shopping, and checked into my hotel.  Following just a bit of downtime, I returned to the convention center for the first concurrent session.  I chose to attend a session on ereaders presented by Julieanne Kaye and Keri Reaney (both librarians I’ve worked with before). I chose this session because many teachers at my school recently purchased Kindles, and I was apprehensive about managing them through the library.  I’m so glad I attended this session because it alleviated some of my concerns and provided information that I was able to share with my principal and teachers when I returned to school on Monday.

Following this session, the exhibit hall opened, and I was able to visit several vendors. I will say that I was kind of disappointed with the number of vendors in the exhibit hall.  Only two that I saw (Scholastic and Barnes & Noble) were selling books, and a couple had not even arrived in time for the opening. SC EdTech definitely has the SCASL Conference beat when it comes to exhibits.  (Also, at this point in the year, I don’t have enough money to commit to large purchases with vendors. Another plus for EdTech. That conference is in October.)


Thursday morning came way too soon for me.  I was presenting first thing. My presentation, “Making the Most of Your Library Blog,” was on a familiar topic, but I was still nervous. About twenty people were in attendance, and I think most of them came away with at least one thing to add to new or potential library blogs. I could tell that I overwhelmed some people, but I tried to remind everyone that I had been blogging for six years.  Their sites probably wouldn’t look like mine overnight.

Making the most of your library blog

*My session was at the same time as something else I was supposed to attend–the Regional Network meeting.  Next year, it may be a good idea for conference planners to check the list of Regional Network Coordinators with presenters to make sure no one misses this meeting!*

After my session was over (and I could breathe easily again), it was time for the first general session and business meeting. The keynote speakers were Gail Dickinson and Ann Martin, and they spoke about paths to leadership.  The basic gist of their address was to say “Yes” a lot and to leave fear at the door.  Not easy feats for me.  I do have something to think about there. Speaking of leadership, though, at the business meeting, next year’s slate of officers was presented.  I was on the slate as a Member-at-Large, which essentially means that I’m on the Elections Committee. So I guess I am doing something to show that I am a leader in my organization.

During the lunch hour(s), I used my time to visit the vendors. I bought several of the Picture and Children’s Book Award nominees for the next school year, and I relaxed a bit.  A bit too much, in fact.  There weren’t really enough vendors to fill a two-hour lunch break. :-/

Two more concurrent sessions were scheduled after the lunch break, and I attended an extremely intimidating session from Greenwood 50 librarians on integrating technology in the library and a session on using QR codes in the library. (I also found time to get a book autographed during the too-long break between these two sessions.)

*Side note: I thought it was kind of crazy that Thursday, the only full day of conference, only offered four sessions to attend. There was too much down time, and the conference day could have started at least 30 minutes earlier.*


On Friday, we had one more general session first thing.  The keynote address during this session was given by Toni Buzzeo, who reiterated a lot of what I’d heard in her preconference session.

The final two concurrent sessions I attended were on MakerSpaces (which are great in theory–if you’ve got the actual space for them!) and “Don’t Worry, Be ‘Appy!” This last session featured some rock star librarians (Cathy Jo Nelson, Valerie Byrd Fort, Heather Loy, Jennifer Tazerouti, and others) talking about their favorite apps or websites to use with students.  I took a lot away from this session–some things to use with my students and some to use with my nieces!

After that last session, my conference came to a close.  I was sad to miss the Authors’ Luncheon, but I did receive word on the SC Book Award winners as soon as I got home. Yesterday, I created the graphic below to advertise the winners to my students.  (Many of my 5th graders read both The Running Dream and Divergent, so they were interested in seeing the winners at every level.)

2013-2014 South Carolina Book Award Winners

Overall, I was moderately pleased with this year’s conference experience, but there is definitely some room for improvement.  I’m sure that next year’s conference planners will address the few problem areas and will work to make the 2015 SCASL Conference–and the 40th anniversary of the organization–one of the best we’ve ever seen!

2014-15 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees

Finally, for the young adult enthusiasts among us, here are the nominees for the 14-15 SC Young Adult Book Award. Feel free to use this video to promote the South Carolina Book Award program in your school!  (This video is also available on YouTube.)

2014-15 South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominees

For all of you middle grade people, here are the nominees for the 14-15 SCJBA. Feel free to use this video to promote the South Carolina Book Award program in your school!  (This video is also available on YouTube.)

2014-15 South Carolina Children’s Book Award Nominees

I meant to get this video promoting the 14-15 SCCBA nominees out on Wednesday, but a “winter event” and district server problems prevented me getting to this until today.

But…without further ado, here is a video highlighting next year’s SC Children’s Book Award nominees.  You’re welcome to use it if you like. It’s also available on YouTube.

2014-15 South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominees

As promised, here’s a short promotional video for the 2014-2015 South Carolina Picture Book Award nominees (which were announced yesterday.)  Feel free to use in your own classrooms and libraries.  This video is also available on YouTube.

2014-15 South Carolina Book Award Nominees

This morning, the South Carolina Association of School Librarians  released next year’s Book Award nominees.  (Here’s the list if you need it.) I’ve already examined the list in detail and started making promotional videos for my students.  (I’ll post those here in the next couple of days.)

What really strikes me about these lists is how much I haven’t read!  I’m usually pretty good about staying on top of things, and I normally would have read about half of each list–yes, even without knowing which books would be on the lists.  This year, though, I guess I’m a bit behind.  I’ve only read two books on the Picture Book Award list (Each Kindness and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore), two books on the Children’s Book Award list (Capture the Flag and Ungifted), two books on the Junior Book Award list (Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip and The False Prince), and–this one shocked me the most–only one book on the Young Adult Book Award list (I Hunt Killers).

It looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me!  I’ll read all of the PBA and CBA nominees. (I am an elementary librarian, after all.) I’ll try to read as many of the JBA and YABA books as I can, but I make no guarantees that I’ll read all of those!  Since I’ve read so few of the nominees, I can’t really judge how balanced the lists may be.  We’ll see how I feel about that in a few months!

What do you think of next year’s Book Award lists? Are they balanced lists (fiction/nonfiction, multiple genres and perspectives, etc.)? Is anything missing? I’d love to know what you think!

2013: My Year in Books

Early last year, I started a display highlighting all of the books I read each month. My goal was to encourage my school community to set goals and keep track of their own reading.  I also wanted to push myself to meet my reading goal of 400 books in one year. (If kids constantly ask how many books you’ve read in the year, it does keep you on your toes!)

Well, today is our first day back to school following winter break, so I finished my 2013 reading display this morning. I had hoped to stretch the display all the way down the hall, but, since I share a hallway with our music classroom, that was not possible.  Still, I’m pretty happy with how things turned out.



As you can probably see, I exceeded my goal of reading 40o books by just a bit. I read 408 books in 2013. This number included picture books, children’s, middle grade and young adult novels, one cookbook, two professional books (that took me forever to get through), several ebook novellas, and a fair share of romance novels. (Note that those are listed as “love stories.” I didn’t want to subject my elementary school students to romance novel covers!)

This display has generated quite a bit of discussion in my school. Kids (and adults) ask me what I thought about the books I read and what I would recommend for them.

If you’re curious, I created the monthly posters using PowerPoint and book covers from Goodreads. I simply exported each PowerPoint slide as a jpeg and enlarged them on the school’s poster printer. Easy peasy.

I’ll take this display down at the end of January, and I want to put up a new display to highlight what I’m reading in 2014. I’m sure I’ll browse Pinterest for ideas, but I’d love to hear from you! How do you advertise what you’re reading?

For those who would like to see close-ups of each month’s reading, here’s a handy-dandy slideshow for your enjoyment!

2013 Holiday Stocking Contest

This year, in an effort to boost family involvement in my school library, I decided to hold our first ever holiday stocking contest.  The rules were simple: 1. Decorate a plain stocking or create one from scratch. 2. Make sure the decorations are library- or book-related.

I think my expectations for this were a little too high because I only got twelve contest entries. In a school of over 700 students, only twelve participated in what I was sure would be a hit. Four of the stockings submitted had absolutely nothing to do with libraries or books. It should go without saying that I was disappointed.

I had someone outside of the school to come in and judge the few stockings submitted for the contest. I told him the contest guidelines–all two of them–and I stepped back and let him pick his favorite. After judging, I created a video of all of the entries, and played this video on the morning news show to announce the winner. (See below.) The winner received a basket full of books and other goodies. All other contest participants–regardless of whether or not they met the contest guidelines–also received a book and a couple of other knick-knacks.

In the future, I’m hoping that word of mouth will promote this family event.  I also plan to do more promotion on my school website, library blog, and via social media. (I did all that this year, but I guess I need to do a bit more.)  I’m also hoping to find a way to get students and teachers involved in voting for their favorite stockings. Maybe this will generate more support–and participation–in this contest.  If you have any ideas, I’m open to them!

YouTube and my school library

When I was transferred to an elementary library several years ago, I noticed that there weren’t very many book trailers targeted to young readers.  Instead of complaining and doing nothing about the problem, I decided to create my own book trailers.  I started with the South Carolina Picture and Children’s Book Award Nominees, and I went from there.  Now, if I can’t find a book trailer on YouTube, I make one myself. I use tools like Animoto, Photostory, and Windows MovieMaker to create these videos, and, most of the time, I upload those videos to YouTube so that other readers, teachers, and librarians can use them.

My school library now has its own YouTube Channel. This is kind of my one-stop shop for all things video. It keeps track of videos I like (usually book trailers or technology tutorials that other people have created), and I can upload videos that feature books in my library or other school events.

There’s only one problem here…my students can’t access YouTube at school.  (On a good day with no bandwidth issues, my teachers can.) Even so, the YouTube channel is there (and linked to my library blog) so that students, parents, and other stakeholders in my school can see how we’re promoting reading at Fork Shoals School.

Feel free to take a look at the Fork Shoals Library YouTube channel, use whatever videos you like (but give credit where it’s due), and consider developing your own library YouTube channel!

A new year in the Fork Shoals Library

This year is my ninth year as a school librarian and my fourth year at Fork Shoals School, a K-5 elementary school in Greenville County, South Carolina.  While I may not always like everything that comes with this job (technology troubleshooting being the thing I dislike the most), I really can’t complain about my library.  To put it mildly, it’s a great place to be.

This summer, things in the Fork Shoals School Library got even better.  Local artist Joe McKinney spent some time this summer painting murals around the library entrance and over several of our nonfiction shelves.  I didn’t see the final product until late July, but I was blown away by what he came up with.  What do you think?

Needless to say, I’m very pleased! Hopefully, we can get this amazing artist to do even more work in our school this year!

I also spent part of the summer getting a few new displays ready. Since we decided to do away with AR (Hallelujah!), I needed to put something in the place of our regular AR displays. I decided to adapt an iRead display I originally found on Pinterest. That display features books with QR codes that take library patrons to reviews and book trailers on my school library blog.


Also, since I’m such an Anglophile and was obsessed with the Royal Baby Watch this summer, I decided to create a “Royal Reads” board.  This board features covers of books that have something “royal” about them.  Many of these books are biographies, but I also included some popular fiction and nonfiction titles.  Take a look!

Royal Reads

I also did something simple with an oddly shaped empty space (previously used for desktop computers).  Students are always asking me for book recommendations. I’m sure many of you have been asked “What’s a good book?”  Well, I decided to simply show my students the books that I thought were good.  (My library has only been open for checkout for three days, and I’ve already had to refill this display six times, so something is working here.)


Finally, I’m continuing a display I started last year: “How many books can Ms. Knight read in 2013?”  Here’s what it looks like now:


I hope to share more display successes as the year progresses, but this is what I’m starting the year with.  What displays have given a good start to your school year?