Thursday, September 22, 2005

Blog Interaction with Nancy McGriff - Thurs. Sept. 22 to Sat. Sept. 24, 2005

Nancy McGriff is a school library media specialist with lots of experience and a proven "track record." Her programs at two different school locations were given the Esther V. Burring award for the Exemplary Indiana Media Program (1992 and 1999). And she has reached outside her work location to lead in professional organizations, publish articles, and collaborate with and mentor colleagues.

To learn more, be sure to visit

It is appropriate to begin this semester's virtual visits with Nancy. You could start by focusing the discussion on program planning, grant writing, or the teacher librarian's role in reading, but feel free to jump in and ask a question in any area related to her work.


  1. Nancy,

    I've been looking through your involvement in the library world, and it is considerable. What a resource you will be for us! I also looked through the linked "monitoring the mission" website, and I liked what I saw. I like how you found your four key areas to be collaboration, program perception, collection development and reading. We've been talking about collecting data and using evidence to prove our worth as librarians, and your site appears to be right along that same line of thinking.

    Question: Have you used reading motivation programs in the schools you have worked in? If so, which ones have you found to be student effective, cost effective... and on the other side, which ones would you NOT use again?

  2. Anonymous4:33 AM


    Hi, and thanks for giving us your time!

    What are the most effective ways (strategies)that you employ to "hold up" your library program to staff members? How do you keep from becoming an island in your own school if the staff perceives the library as a rest stop during the day and not an integral part of student learning? Could you point out three or four ways (strategies)that you think would work to help raise awareness? If it includes the principal, how would you turn around a reluctant or uninformed principal to fully support an integrated media center into the curriculum?

    Nell Glover

  3. Anonymous5:32 AM

    Approximately 13 years ago when I was an elementary SLM in Michigan City I had two marvelous opportunities - SOAR - Stimulating Opportunities for Adolescents to Read and REAP - Reading Enjoyment and Paperbacks. SOAR was an attempt to get teacher, SLM, and public librarian to collaborate to promote reading and was a Danny Callison grant project. REAP was a grant funded by the Lily Endowment and designed to promote reading in upper elementary and middle school. Long story short both these PD opportunities changed my library media career.

    Okay, reading motivation...
    I think the most effective reading motivation program is
    1. all inclusive, roll everything and everyone into the program (all grades, all students, all other programs including Book It, etc.)
    2. easy to do
    3. cheap
    4. honors all reading, not just books with tests or books at your reading level or just books, but includes any reading that the student enjoys and doesn't violate a school rule
    5. get teachers, principal, parents, students on a committee and listen to them
    6. know the research

    I have had a reading motivation program here since 1998, called GEAR (Get Excited About Reading). The program is K-6 and we try to get ALL students to read 300 minutes a month (15 min. per day). Students fill out reading logs at home, initialed by parent, turned in to classroom teacher at the end of the month. We usually have about 80% participation. We have a big full school assembly kick off, we have monthly assemblies to honor students who read and pump them up and we have a big celebration at the end of the school year.

    GEAR was so successful I thought we should do something in the jr. sr. high so I talked to the principal about starting a program with junior high kids who just came out of GEAR. He "let me" pitch it to the teachers. I had a handout with the research and a proposal. STARS was born - Stand Together and Read Satellites - 400 minutes per month outside school reading. We split kids into groups and teachers are the group leaders (handout and collect reading logs) and they are very competitive for highest percent of participation.

    Also born out of this effort, we decided to have daily SSR for junior high and we couldn't find a single time of day so we have kids read 20 min. on Monday in English, Tuesday in Math, Wed. in Science, Thurs. in Social Studies, Fri. in rotation classes. It was so successful the high school staff asked to join in. Our kids read somewhere 20 minutes a day. We have STARS assemblies where we honor the group with highest participation and have speakers on occassion - sheriff, school board member, superintendent, coaches, teachers, etc. We have a celebration at the end of the year at Indiana Beach.

    I hear alot of talk about Lexiles and AR or RC. I think all those things have a place, but they are tools. We use RC testing especially for our K-2 students who are good readers and this allows them to read independently with some monitoring of how it is going. We tell students K-12 if they want to take tests fine, but it is NOT a reading motivation program, it is a tool.

    Some mistakes I have made - offering too many incentives. Initially we were giving away all kinds of prizes - we want them to read because it is fun. We now use the assemblies to pump up excitement and have just the one big celebration at the end of the year.

  4. Anonymous8:12 AM

    How do you deal with controversial material that is sometime challenged by parents or the community? Do you ever have to support your selection of books in these areas and if so how??

  5. Anonymous8:18 AM

    Nancy McGriff

    Since you asked for advice, I will give it.
    Working with administrators is essential. My experience is you have to assume they are under educated about library media programs so your first priority is to begin the education process. You also have to assume that you will be judged according to the past experiences this person has had with a SLMS. Sometimes it is positive and sometimes not.
    1. You need to also acknowledge that they are busy and have lots on their plates so keep your interactions short and positive, if possible.
    2. Give them short articles to read
    that point out the benefits of a library media program to students and then discuss your role. You should have a plan for how you are going to make that impact on students.
    3. Know what your SIP (School Improvement Plan) is and how you can make a difference. You may focus on staff development for your teachers, finding and promoting essential resources, reading motivation, collaboration, etc.
    4. Schedule a time to go through the AASL Planning Guide/Rubric with your principal. This will point out strenths and weaknesses and give you talking points.
    5. If you go in with a problem, have a potential solution that doesn't put down anyone else
    6. Be a team player

    I would be on the agenda at each staff meeting. Promote your resources, give an idea for collaboration you are willing to work on, talk about how the information literacy standards support the content standards, etc.

    I would define staff development opportunities - how to use INSPIRE, using the OPAC, etc. and schedule days and times you will work with teachers - before/after/during school.

    Find out who the movers and shakers are in your building. Who do other staff members listen to? Make that person your project. Collaboration should benefit students and teachers. Start small, you don't have to do a big project to win supporters.

    Offer to grade specific parts of a project. Lots of teachers feel intimidated about research because they weren't well trained, they don't have time to grade, they feel unsure, etc.

  6. Anonymous8:33 AM

    Nancy McGriff

    Yes I have had a few challenges over the years. First, make sure your have a selection/collection development policy and a challenged materials process. Remind your administrators every year that these things exist so if the challenge goes to them, they will follow the process.

    I always have to remind myself that I am selecting and defending materials for a diverse group of patrons. Materials are selected to meet the collection development plan and frequently for a specific content area. Everyone has a right to choose for themselves or their child, but not to choose for others.

    I meet with or talk with the challenger to find out the complaint. I try to listen and not be defensive, explain that they certainly have the right to choose for their child and they can come with their child to check out, send things back to exchange, etc. I try to offer solutions that involve only them and their child. Most people want to be heard. I have never had to actually remove materials, nor have I ever had a challenge go past me.

    Because we are a K-12 library media center and our OPAC is a single K-12 database with sub locations, elementary students ask to borrow from jr. sr. high "side". We permit it if the parent sends in a note with their 5th or 6th grader.

  7. Nancy,

    I have a question regarding programming in the school media setting. I have many years experience in a children's department of a public library, and was very involved with the programming that accompanies that setting....storytime, Battle of the Books, SRP, Junior Great Books sessions in the summer, etc. I enjoy bringing literature and reading experiences to different age groups in this way, and as I am now pursuing additional coursework to add to my MLS a certification as a school media specialist, I am curious where you think programming fits into that environment. So much time and effort goes into curriculum planning, collaboration, technology, and media center administration...I am wondering if you have had success in programming, and if so...what specifically have you done? I am thinking along the lines of YHBA, National Book Week, author studies, after school book discussions, etc. -- primarily middle school age. I would love to hear your thoughts or expereinces.

    Thank you so much for your time,

    Carrie Sanders

  8. Anonymous6:18 PM

    Have you ever done a school-wide collaboration? Do you have any tips or suggestions for a successful collaboration experience?

    Nell Glover

  9. Anonymous8:23 PM

    Nancy McGriff

    You are correct in stating that programming is difficult in a school media setting, but not impossible. I do the YHPBA with all K-3 graders. I read 10 books in the media center and the teachers read 10 in the classroom and the students vote in the media center as a culminating activity. I promote the YHBA books as well as the Rosies but neither are as popular as the YHPBA.

    I have 3 book discussion groups - SC Reads which is for grades 4-6, CAR (Crazy About Reading) for junior high which meets monthly and Undercover Talk for high school students.

    SC Reads is quarterly, I choose a book and promote it with all 4-6 classes and interested students can check out the books, take a brief paper/pencil quiz and get an invitation to our after school discussion and activity session. I have had as many as 30 and as few as 5 at our school which is located in a corn field so kids have to have transportation home. I ask teachers to help if we have a large group and the principal always comes. We have food and activities, it's fun.

    CAR and Undercover Talk vary year to year depending on the members. There are 3 other staff members who co-sponsor the book clubs and none of us get paid. This year we started with choice and are now reading Pay It Forward because our public library is doing that book for a One Book One Community event. We are taking a bus full of students to hear the author. Some groups want to read the same thing and other years the kids wanted to just talk about what they like to read. They like to know what our staff book club is reading and frequently want to read the same thing. In addition to the book discussions we plan a special event at the end of the year. Last spring we took a bus of kids to Chicago to the Historical Society because they have a display on the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and we read Devil In the White City which is about the exposition. Every year I take these kids to Barnes and Noble and give them $75 each to buy books for the media center. As you can probably tell, I have a good budget and I get support from the PTO and the building principal.

    Another big all school event I coordinate is Read Across America day. We usually have a 20 minute SSR, everyone reads in the hallways, and we have bookmark and poster contests, Name That Book contest, Tongue Twister Tournament. My book club kids run the events. We also collect books and/or money for our local women's shelter.

    I have had book discussion groups with 1st and 2nd graders where we met 2-3 times a week during the day. Sometimes we don't really have students that the teachers feel need that so it varies. Obviously I have to plan carefully because time is a concern. For the past two years I have coordinated an effort between our high school novels class (10-12 graders) and elementary students who are good readers and need enrichment. The high schoolers and elementary students meet 2 times a week and choose books to read and the older students must plan discussion questions, activities, etc. The high school kids are graded on the planning, etc. that they do. By the end of the year, they are fast friends. Because I am in a K-12 building we can do more cross grade level things.

  10. Anonymous8:28 PM

    Nancy McGriff

    If I understand your question correctly, the answer is no. Nearly all my collaborative projects involve all students at a particular grade level but not schoolwide. That is an interesting concept and if someone has experience or ideas, I would be interested in hearing about it.

  11. Anonymous4:48 AM


    The school-wide collaboration example I can think of involved a school in Indianapolis that used the specials areas,the MC, and the classroom students and teachers. It was shown as a video clip in out readings from the course. You can find it here:

    In this course, we are developing toolkits to help us as we navigate the job of SLMS. I can only imagine that your toolkit is extensive. Are there three or four resources that you have found particularly helpful when planning an MC project or skills class? I'd love to be able to add those to my toolkit.

    Again, thank you so much for your time.

    Nell Glover

  12. Anonymous4:54 AM

    Last try!

    Click on Dream Weavers from Fishback Academy.


  13. Anonymous6:05 AM

    Nancy McGriff

    Yes, Kim Kramer at Fishback Academy. I hadn't thought about that.

    I have used the AASL Information Power Planning Guide/Rubric with my principals and teachers. That has been beneficial in getting beyond what has always been done and does provide a vision. I would definitely add that to the toolbox.

    I have found that having a good collaboration planning sheet and evaluation is essential. When you sit down with teachers, the form leads you through the planning process and keeps you on task. I fill out the form, give a copy to teachers, and a copy to principal with my monthly report. I want them to know that I work with standards and how the projects benefit the students. Samples of these tools are on the Indiana Learns web site

    I have several forms I use with students 2-12. For example, I have a search log that students must complete as they search for information, what we require on the log gets more complex as the students get older, but the terminology is the same. I use source information sheets to aid in creating bibliographies. I use Inspirations/Kidspirations for project planning. I think it would be essential in a larger system to meet with other district SLMS and create that common vocabulary. You can get a great idea for student tools by going to Leslie Preddy's inquiry web site

    Finally, develop a way to communicate with administrators. I do a monthly report - hit the highlights. If you can't work out a monthly report be sure to do an annual report. I include my goals and how I accomplished them, an overview of how I spent the budget, programs, collaborations and standards, student and teacher comments, etc. One thing I added to the report several years ago was a cost/student analysis of our online databases. The superintendent was impressed that I could tell him that our Grolier Online subscription cost less than 2 cents a student.

  14. Nancy,

    I have read through the previous postings and have generated some new questions and comments from them.

    I am quite impressed with your school/district-wide reading program. You stated that students are allowed to read anything they enjoy as long as it does not violate a school rule. In the last school, I taught in for 9 years, students had 20 minutes of silent reading just one day a week. It seemed like we had to force the students to read and often times they just brought a magazine (and flipped through pages without reading). Do you find that a lot of the students choose magazines or do you think that because the program incorporates reading on a daily basis that they have opportunities to really get into a book?

    Your daily reading program, I would think would require your school to have a large percentage of fiction titles? Do teachers have a large number of titles in their particular rooms? Do you make purchases on student requests?

    I attended a local MS conference a couple of weeks ago. I found an overwhelming number of them with ridiculously low budgets. In fact one school was given approximately $2.38 per student to spend. You mentioned how lucky you were to have such a good budget. Can you give suggestions on how to promote reading with very limited resources and do you have any unique ways to get the school district to set aside more funds?

    Research indicates that schools that heavily promote reading usually show greater strides in achievement. Have you noticed that the ISTEP or local testing scores at your school improving as a result of your reading program?

    You mentioned getting away from incentives. I have to completely agree. My niece goes to a school that is completely reliant on incentives. She can earn bags of candy or pop in a typical week. She now has a weight problem and often tells us now-What are you going to give me? I so like the idea of long-term commitments to receive a year-end reward like the trip to Indiana Beach.

    Thanks for your time!


  15. Anonymous8:07 PM

    Nancy McGriff

    When we first started SSR in the high school teachers complained about students reading magazines or catalogs and flipping through the pages. My take is - if that kid isn't causing a problem or keeping anyone else from reading, then we are way ahead of the game. I think reading programs need to become part of the processes and culture of the school. That takes time and commitment and I think it is difficult to convince students it is important if you don't do it daily. You train students to be readers and yes we have more students reading books, carrying books around, checking books out. I remind teachers every year that we are validating reading by being reading role models and honoring student's choice. As adults do we always choose great literature as pleasure reading? I know we won't capture them all, but it won't be because we didn't try.

    We do have a large fiction collection at SC. I buy based on student and teacher request. I frequently go to the bookstore to buy a title if I think that will entice a kid to read. I get money from the PTO to buy books from our book fairs (1 in fall and 1 in spring), I use the profit from the book fair to buy books, I have a $12,000 book budget which has actually increased over the past five years because I am buying most of our reference materials online or as ebooks and the superintendent agreed to pay for the subscriptions from Capital Projects Fund.

    The year we started the jr. sr. high SSR program, I used the Title V grant for teachers to purchase books for classroom libraries because most of them didn't have materials. All our elementary teachers have classroom libraries and we encourage them to have students select and checkout books for a rotating classroom library.

    A good way to get more funding is to let the students speak for you. When I took the job at SC, the book budget was $1800 and the collect was grim. I started midyear, just as the juniors were doing a big research project and I had them fill out resource evaluations - they were scathing. I shared the evals with the superintendent and the next year the book budget was $6000.

    After I collected and analyzed reading data in 2001, (published in Knowledge Quest ) I presented our findings to the school board. At that time our school corp. was facing money trouble and I was worried about losing funding but I was told the board wouldn't consider cutting the library budget.

    I think you can do a reading program with little money. If you don't buy tests, software, incentives a reading program is not expensive to run. Being able to buy books is important but I think you can have book fairs and ask the PTO for help. I would even consider asking groups (Student Senate and Honor Society come to mind) to adopt the library.

    Our ISTEP scores are good - we showed improvement initially and now the scores are pretty consistent year to year.

  16. I know that I'm not officially "on" until Monday, but I'd like to respond to Jenni's post regarding book programs and SSR.

    I am a middle school media specialist in a building where only a few LA teachers and the reading teachers had any sort of classroom library at all. My budget is around $8000 and we don't have a PTO at all.

    We now have growing book collections in all classrooms, SSR for 20 minutes per day and reading has become the focus of our school improvement plan. Over the last year, the media center has been able to add over 2000 books to teacher collections for less than $800 TOTAL.

    You'd be surprised where you can find inexpensive books. While I kick myself everytime I tell someone about this, you really should check out large public library booksales. The Indianapolis Marion County Public Library has 5 per year. Young adult hardbacks are $1.00 on the Friends Preview Night and 50 cents during the regular sale. At the last sale I bought 82 books for teachers and spent less than $40.00 I was able to get a complete classroom set of HOLES for $11.00. I've bought the entire Harry Potter series 10 times over for $5.00 per shot. My biggest find, 20 complete sets of 2005 CultureGrams (4 books that retail for $130) for $20.00 TOTAL. These big public libraries buy an inflated number of books for the initial rush, but then must weed them quickly to make room for the next biggest thing. Sometimes there is a lot, other times there isn't. For elementaries this sale is a goldmine. The last one I went to had over 6000 easy readers, picture books and juvenile fiction.

    Another practice that has worked well for us has been to put together a couple of sets (4 this summer)of 30 or so books and have them ready for new teachers. I try to meet them in the first few days with my bookcart in tow. I give them the classroom library and briefly talk to them about young adult literature and how excited I will be to work with them to help them develop THEIR library. Now, the books we give them have already been prepped, that is, we have bookcards in the back with their roomnumber, title, etc. and we give them a basic organizer to keep track of their books in two easy steps. It's a completely ready-to-go collection. I then ask them about their favorite teen books, either from when they were kids or now, and then I always find at least one of these books to add to their collection. Then, once school starts, I hold periodic booktalks for the staff to let them know what is new, old or hot in teen lit. I try to make sure I am peppering the classroom collections with one or two books on a regular basis.

    Another practice that has really helped to get teachers on board is our book preparation service. Any teacher can send down any book they have picked up for their classroom library from any source and we will repair it, reinforce it, put a bookcard in the back and send it back to them ready to go.

    My point is that once you start looking for books you will be amazed at how many places you'll find them. As Nancy has said, it's all that software, incentives, etc. that make it expensive. Just remember, that helping empower teachers to make use of those books in a way that will help their students is a powerful tool to get them collecting on their own. Just giving them the books is not enough, show them the value in what is there.

    Just my two cents worth...

    John McDonald

  17. Anonymous10:37 AM

    Hi Nancy,
    My name is Kim Hardin and I am the librarian at a Southern Indiana middle school. What strategies do you use to get your overdue books returned? Do you have fines or is there a better method?