Monday, October 10, 2005

Blog Interaction with Jane Kokotkiewicz - Mon. Oct. 10 to Wed. Oct. 12, 2005

Jane Kokotkiewicz is a school library media specialist in a highly acclaimed private school. She is department chair for the library media services with three library media centers; one serving the Hilbert Early Education Center and Lower School, another serving the Middle School, and a third serving the Upper School.

Learn more about Jane Kokotkiewicz at

Discussions with Jane might begin with comparing and contrasting work in private and public schools and involvement in curriculum and program planning. Feel free to move on to other aspects and interests.


  1. Hello Jane!

    What would you say are the biggest differences in working in a private school library media center versus a public school library media center? Which one gave you a bigger budget for materials?

  2. Hi Jane,

    I have a question about student privacy. At a conference I attended in September, we discussed how to handle the follwing privacy issue... A parent calls the MS to find out the titles of books checked out by their child and not returned. The reason the parent calls is because the report card is being held until payment is received for the lost books. The parent wants to know what they are paying for. How would you handle this situation?
    My other question is...How different (if at all) is your collection policy in a private school versus a public school?

    Thanks for your time.

    Jennifer Beach

  3. Hello Jane,

    I noticed in your online bio that you are interested in program evaluation. I have recently begun my "Freshman Orientation" of the media center and am having them complete an evaluation. With over 500 freshman scheduled to come through, do you have any advice on how to handle the evaluation.

    I truly want to learn from the experience, but I don't have the man power to do a detailed analysis.


  4. Jane, I am also curious about your collection policy in comparison to one created in a public school enviroment. Do you watch state standards as closely as media specialists do in public schools? Are you led by parent interests at all...or are you free to order what you want, following school curriculum, goals and mission statement?

    Also I am curious how you balance programming for all three are an elementary, middle, and high school media specialist all in one!...all requiring very different programming needs. Do you work to the various ages/needs, or do you focus on one-school programs?

    Thanks so much for sharing your time with us --


  5. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Good evening. I also wanted to ask about your collection policy: do you feel that you are at liberty to collect a more diverse range of materials in the private sector? (i.e.: do you face the same number of parental challenges to materials? Can you collect materials that may be 'too edgy' for public schools, or is it the other way around?)

    Also, on a different subject, since you are responsible for such a large and diverse collection, what are you supplied with in terms of support staff? Do you utilize student helpers as well?

    Thank you,
    Sadie Smith

  6. Just a simple question...

    I'm curious as to what led you to make the move to a private school setting after all your experience in public schools (according to your bio).

    I taught in New Orleans at a school very similar to Park Tudor (Newman--the school the Manning boys went to) and am now in a public setting... How would you describe the differences you have observed--public vs. private?

  7. Regarding the differences between public and private school library media centers...
    Like public schools we rely on our curriculum, goals and mission to drive our acquisitions. Private schools vary so much that I can only speak for the private school where I work. Generally speaking, Midwest private schools have smaller school library media centers and smaller collections, so there is more immediacy. If we need titles for a class project, we can have them on-hand in a matter of days. That compares to months, in some of the large districts where I have worked. Our private school has 3 libraries. We have 3 full-time library media specialist positions. Actually, 2 media specialists share the middle school position. We also have a full-time AV coordinator for campus. We also have 2 ½ support staff persons. We also rely heavily on parent and student volunteers.

    East coast private schools are generally heavily endowed and have libraries housed in separate buildings with large collections. However, the size of the collection is NOT a reflection of the library media program. There are independent schools in Indianapolis with tiny collections that have excellent programs. Salaries vary widely among independent schools, but they tend to be lower than public schools. In my school, the salaries are equivalent to the local public schools. School library media specialists tend to be better paid than their academic or public library counterparts. Plus, it is the BEST job in the universe!

    The budget at my current school is certainly adequate for our needs. However, in a recent conversation with our CFO (Corporate Financial Officer), she stated that we may be looking at a 10 % cut in all areas for next fiscal year. Our fiscal year is July – June. (In public school it was January – December). In November I will begin the budget planning process for next year.

  8. Regaring JJGraham's question on student privacy...
    If a parent is paying for a lost item, we would certainly identify the item that they are paying for. What a child reads is between parent and child. However, when a parent wants to decide what other children are allowed to read, our collection development policy kicks in! They would need to complete a Request for Reconsideration of Material form.
    There is no difference between the collection development policy we have at Park Tudor as compared to a large suburban district, such as Washington Twp. Schools (North Central High School).

  9. Elizabeth K asked about freshmen orientation.
    At Park Tudor I have about 100 freshmen to orient. At other schools where I have worked, I have had as many as 900 freshmen. One big advantage I have is low turnover. Only 30% of the freshmen class is new to Park Tudor, since they attended in middle school. We are concentrating on a higher level of their information literacy skills in the Upper School.
    I have ceased doing an orientation in a "skills in isolation" format. I begin the freshman orientation in their speech classes. I taylor the presentation to address just the tools they will need to access for their speech assignment on that first visit. A 50-minute class period is so short, so I do a quick survey at the end, asking them to list 3 things they learned that were new. I cover Boolean searching, our catalog, and some online databases. I give them homework to complete before our next visit. They need to bring in 2 articles from the databases we covered. I show them how to cite in MLA form using a tool called NoodleTools. Their next assessment measures how well they cite the sources. They turn the sources in to me and I score them using a rubric. I meet with each speech class twice.
    We have a separate study skills & tech skills class where freshmen learn to use our email package, proper scanning, and ethical use of technology.

  10. Carrie asked about what motivated my move to a private school setting...
    Prior to coming to PT, I worked in a large Indpls. suburban school. I was director of information services, which constituted the equivalent of 3 jobs! I was department chair, I managed the school's network, and I chaired the school improvement planning team (which meant I was in charge of writing the NCA report for the school, as well). I was working 10 hours days and each weekend, and my kids were young. I work long hours currently, but I spend my long hours with students -- big difference. I would much rather use my time for a field trip with the student book club, or at a student competition,as opposed to taking care of servers and technology infrastructure.

  11. I have a question for all of you. Are any of you tackling curriculum mapping in your schools? We have just started and are using Rubicon Atlas. Our Lower School media specialist entered her information literacy info last year. This year we are doing middle school and upper school information literacy.
    I have a great cohort group(Indianapolis/Marion Co. library media specialists). We frequently help each other on professional issues, but this is an area where we seem to lack experience.
    Jane Koko

  12. Jane,

    Thank you so much for your helpful to get different real-life versions of school librarianship! I am currently working as an aide in the Media center at Zionsville Middle School. I know that ZMS has been heavily involved with curriculum mapping in the last year, and I will check with our Library Media Specialist, on Wednesday, regarding her contributions for Information Literacy.

    I was also curious about your programming at Park Tudor. Do your media specialists concentrate on programming for their own age group, or do you all coordinate with any all-school reading programs?

    Thanks again -- Carrie

  13. Anonymous5:26 PM

    Hi Jane!

    We have been discussing the importance of weeding in our course and have been exposed to the CREW method, among others. How often do you weed your collection? Do you have a time built into your schedule or is it an on-going process? It seems like it would be easy to put weeding on the back burner in favor of more immediate needs. Any thoughts or advice you have to offer would be most helpful!

    Elizabeth S.

  14. Hello Jane,

    I'm interested in how you begin to approach collaboration when you begin at a school. In your experience was this beginning process exciting? Did you have to break down some stereotypes? What was your first successful collaboration project?

    Thanks for your time,

  15. Anonymous8:05 PM


    This is my first year as a media specialist in a public school in Fort Wayne. Like Nicole, I am interested in collaboration. You commented earlier on working with the speech teacher on a project, but what are some other types of projects you work on with teachers? What suggestions do you have for getting teachers to warm-up to the idea of collaboration?

    Kelly Bordner

  16. Anonymous7:58 AM


    Like Elizabeth I am courious how you do your weeding with virtually 3 separted libraries??? Is is ran by the individual librarians that coordinate each age level or is it done more on a master plan level?? Do you weed solely on content or do you go more by the age of the material??

  17. Carrie asked about programming...
    We are in a unique position in our school. On one campus we have 3 yr. olds thru grade 12. We are always looking for creative ways to get students from different divisions together. I have several active book clubs. We started with one club a few years ago, but then students asked for a Sci/Fi Fantasy group. Then recently we had another spinoff of students and teachers who want to read Reading Lolita in Tehran. We have done some amazing activities with the regular book club. Last year we read Devil and the White City. We went to Chicago and did a literary tour of the city and saw some sites from the book. We also paired with a local retirement home and did a joint read, A Girl Named Zippy. The students enjoyed the experience so much we are going to do another book with them this year.
    Spring Break I am taking a group on a Literary Tour of England. I am using a school travel company,NECT.
    We have had many notable authors and illustrators speak to our kids, including Richard Peck,Madeleine L'Engle, Avi, Reeve Lindburgh, David Diaz, James Crowe Ransome, to name a few. I love the creative energy generated when you see authors and illustrators and students dialoging.
    This year I am working on a collaborative read with a high school in Slovenia. Where is that - you say? Get out your atlas. I traveled there last summer with Univ. of North Carolina's graduate library school to visit schools and libraries. There, I connected with my counterpart in a public school in the capital, Llubliana. We plan to read the same book and have our students connect via blog and hopefully web cam, so they can learn about each other. I can't wait to see what happens with this.
    Also, this year we are going to use high school students to lead middle school book clubs. We will probably do it before school, since that is when the middle school club meets.
    I also have a group of high school students who mentor younger students in creating National History Day projects. NHD is a wonderful program where students use primary resources to explore the past. In doing so, they often discover some interesting connections regarding their own roots. Check out the site htt:// It fits in nicely with state and national standards for social studies, language arts and information literacy. We have had several national winners. I traveled to Maryland with them to see them present their projects.
    I also coach Academic Super Bowl. We field teams in math, science, English, fine arts, social studies and interdisciplinary. It is a competition sponsored by Ind Assoc. of School Principals. We have students enter projects in Media Fair and International Student Media Festival (also Project UXL & Prelude Arts). For editing we primarily use iMovie. We have Final Cut Pro, but with only one copy, it is not practical to use in a lab setting.
    Our programming is also student-generated. If they want a talent show or poetry slam, then we will figure a way to do it. The variety of programming keeps me involved with students of all ages and interests. In the past few years we have really developed a community of readers, although I have some stellar movie-makers who still balk at reading.

  18. Ah weeding...Not my favorite thing to do. We have a weeding policy that is part of our collection development policy. They always say don't do it all at once, but we had a library move a few years ago, and I did not want to move outdated materials. It was a huge job and took 1 1/2 years, but we cleaned out a lot. We actually found a science book that says "Someday we will land on the moon!" I kept it and share it with students when I talk about the importance of current information.
    I use the expertise of many to help me with weeding. My student assistants know to look for worn or damaged items when they are doing inventory. I use the history or science dept chair to deselect outdated books.
    Books removed from the collection are given to student or teachers, or given to the public library book sale. I have been tempted in the past, to sell a book on eBay. However in a public school library the eBay profits would probably go into the school's general fund, so there is no great motivation to do this.
    In short, we weed, but we are neither thorough or consistent!

  19. I am passionate about collaboration! That is one thing that will help to sell your program. I also firmly believe that collaborating with classroom teachers enhances student achievement. Sometimes it feels as if you are in sales when you are attracting a partner to work with. I pick 2 new teachers to work with each year. I select my victims (I mean lucky teachers!) carefully. Perhaps they used the media center for a class project that was turned out mediocre, but I could show them how to make it incredible. One you have a few successful experiences, you reputation will preceed you. Then it becomes much easier to attract teachers. I tell teachers that my role is to assist them and make their jobs easier. I can help in designing instruction, creating rubrics, or developing assessments. With regard to rubric, I think some of the most effective ones are student-designed. I can also come to their classroom to assist with the research components of the lesson.
    You may not be successful with all the teachers in your building. Collaboration is partnership. If a teacher wants you to "do it all", that is not a partnership. It is like a marriage. You must define your roles and you each need to take responsibility for your own part. As in marriage a happy partnership can be magic. (Some of us know the other side of that coin.)
    This year I have chosen our Spanish VI and World History teachers to collaborate with. In Spanish VI we started the year with film study. We identified our content objectives, as well as information literacy objectives. We also decided on the standards we want to address. The students have viewed several foreign films. I instructed them on using databases to find background on the films. Now they are constructing a short video on some aspect of Latino culture. They have taken their cameras into the community and have pulled some video clips from United Streaming. I will help the teacher grade their projects. Most have never made a video, so this has been a stretch for them. Great time to talk about ethical use of information. Later in the year they are reading a Latino novel, Senderos fronterizos. We are planning a virtual author visit with Francisco Jimenez.

  20. Anonymous1:41 PM


    I read that you accompanied Dr. Saye and other UNC graduate students to Slovenia last summer. Do the schools in that country have libraries that are comparable to those of the U.S.? Were you able to visit any elementary schools or libraries and if so, could you share some of those experiences with us?

    Elizabeth S.
    (UNC SILS grad student)

  21. Jane,

    Thank you for the wonderful programming info, as well as wealth of info re weeding, collaboration, and overall viewpoints as a private school media specialist. I did not have a chance to gather it today, but I will pursue finding out details about curriculum mapping for you. (from Zionsville) Thanks again for sharing your time and insights with us.


  22. Elizabeth,
    The libraries in Slovenia mirror those in the US. It is a very unusual country. 99% literacy rate and extremely high GNP for a central European country. (They don't refer to themselves as Eastern European.) I did not see an elementary school library, but saw MANY other types of libraries, including a high school. They have lots of technology and the libraries were lovely. We saw many libraries that were gracefully renovated inside old castles and monestaries. I am sure they showed us the best of the best. I know in the rural parts of Slovenia, they must rely on book mobiles. I observed a strong commitment to libraries and literacy on the part of the government. Dr. Saye and his counterpart in at Univ. of Llubliana, Dr. Alenka Sauperl, were wonderful. I highly recommend the UNC-SILS summer seminar program. I would love to attend the ones in Prague and Oxford. I was not seeking graduate credit, so I was not required to write a paper, but what a fun way to get 3 credits, if you need it. I am in process of making an imovie of my experience.

  23. Dear friends,
    Thank you for the stimulating conversation. If you have questions,or want to chat, please feel free to email me. I have enjoyed the experience.
    Jane Koko

  24. I am not sure if I am too late to ask you this question but... you said you give weeded books to teachers, students or the public library. Do you have or recommend having a policy addressing what is done with weeded materials?