Monday, November 14, 2005

Blog Interaction with Robyn Young – Mon. Nov. 14 to Wed. Nov. 16, 2005

Robyn Young is director of school media at Avon High School.

Learn more about Robyn at

Robyn Young would be an excellent person to e-talk about library media center newsletters, annual reports, and program assessment. Feel free to expand discussion to any related topics for school library media.


  1. Anonymous10:38 AM

    Hi Robyn,
    I actually have one of your annual reports. Bonnie Grimble gave it to me when I visited with her during my internship. She was showing me her annual report, which I complimented. Then she said something to the effect of "It's okay, but look at THIS!" and she handed me yours! It really is fantastic. I would appreciate any information you could give us regarding how you stay on top of your data that you collect (organization, not getting behind...) and how you decide what facets of your program you want to measure. It looks like you have a great program in Avon. Thanks, Sandy H.

  2. Anonymous6:33 PM


    I see that graphic novels are an interest of yours. I know that you work in a high school, but could you recommend any titles/authors/series of graphic novels appropriate for elementary age students? What answers do you have for those parents or teachers who are skeptical of the literary value of graphic novels?

    Thank you!
    Elizabeth Stitsinger

  3. Robyn,

    I notice one of your interests is budget planning. We just finished exploring that topic in class. I find it hard to connect with the complexity of the terminology since I don't currently work in a library. How did you learn how to plan your library budget when you first started out as a professional? There's so much to learn in this one area alone!

    Emily Morris

  4. Anonymous7:17 AM

    Hi Robyn,
    Thank you for participating in our class blog. I have a couple of questions. How often do you create your media center newsletter? Is this distributed both in paper copy and online? How do you know that people are reading/using it? I have found with teaching that most students (and parents) do not bother to read newsletters, whether they come from the school or classroom teacher.

    I was also interested in your findings about graphic novels. What effect did they have on reading comprehension, test scores, and overall class performance? Are you doing research at your school with this? I look forward to reading your comments.

    Julie Mansfield North

  5. Thank you for allowing me to comment on things - what fun!

    Annual Reports
    The one thing that I like to keep in mind when publishing my annual report is what my patrons would most like to see. Because of this, the content of my annual report changes with each year and with each new principal and/or administrator.

    My previous principal was a very touchy, feely kind of guy and he liked the human interest stories and the stories about my interaction with students. I made sure that I included a lot of those. My new principal likes data and pictures, so now my annual reports include a lot more of those. I try to include more pictures and less writing because that is what he has said that he would read. I've also asked what info he would like and he said, "More pictures, more data."

    So my advice on this topic would be to ask patrons, principals, teachers, and district administrators (a media advisory board works great for me) what type of information they would like from you to support that you have an effective program. If they aren't sure, pick and choose carefully and make sure that everything you put in shows your support of students, because ultimately, that's what we are here for!

    Keeping on top of statistics isn't that time consuming. The library automation systems will spit out just about every kind of data regarding your collection that you can think of. Last year I wanted to show that we needed newer books, so I made certain I included the average age of the collection.

    I also include figures on how often the media center is used by classes or students coming in from study hall. My schedule is on an online calendar system and the students sign into a database when they enter, so everything dumps into a spreadsheet pretty easily. The more you can automate the data, the better!

    I distribute a newsletter via email to my teachers three times per year (we are on a trimester schedule). I try to include information that will be useful to them and their students, and the newsletter always includes information that they aren't going to get anywhere else (rule changes, schedule changes), so I have been pretty lucky with people reading them. I usually have 10-15 people who come down the day I send it and say that they saw something in the newsletter that they want to use.

    I know that we won't get everyone to read the annual reports, but I still think that they are extremely worthwhile and important in showing that we are accountable for what we do. Teachers have grades that they give to students and regular classroom evaluations. I have an annual report to showcase what I have done.

  6. Graphic Novels

    Graphic Novels are a big interest of mine and it is a tough area in which to develop a collection. When starting my collection, I found that many of the recommendations provided by sources (SLJ, Booklist) were not acceptable for my clientele. I turned to my students for answers.

    Many of my students got me interested in graphic novels in the first place, so I figured that if I had a question about whether an item should be in our collection, that I would ask them. There were times when they told me that an item that I had purchased was not acceptable (mostly GNs that contained graphic sexual images) and there were times that they thought something was OK that I questioned. I have a great group of students that I can bounce ideas off of and we usually come to some sort of collective agreement.

    When I presented on this topic at AIME, I was asked what sources I use for collection development. I honestly had to answer that my students are my biggest help in that area. They haven't steered me wrong yet and they let me know what GNs I need to purchase. I also go to Barnes and Noble or a local comic store and see what they have that might be of interest to my students. answer the original questions...there are some great new "classic" graphic novels that are coming out that are appropriate for elementary age. Many companies are also coming out with sports figures as the topic - they look promising and of high interest to many readers. I would hate to identify any one series/author because it has been so long since I taught elementary school (although my daughter enjoyed some of the Bone series by Jeff Smith - she's a 3rd grader). Captain Underpants is another one that she enjoyed. Both also seem pretty safe to most people.

    Regarding parents/teachers being skeptical, the research study that I completed showed that the students who were non-readers and got hooked on reading graphic novels, increased their reading ability tremendously (the actual data is at school and I'm at home right now -- sorry I don't have the actual figures) and students who had never passed ISTEP, passed the Graduation Qualifying Exam on the first try after reading a lot of graphic novels. Additionally, these students who saw themselves as non-readers, now viewed themselves as readers.

    When I've had teachers question me about GNs, I just tell them that and they are all ready to jump on the bandwagon! But it did take some time to educate the teachers and show them what the GNs could do.

    For future help in this area, I'm working on the article to accompany this research with Dr. Marilyn Irwin.

  7. Budget Planning

    Wow! That one was hard when I first started, but I just use the basic principles that I use when I pay my bills or plan for future spending at home. I treat the school's money as if it were my own - and I try to be VERY careful with my own money.

    The first year, I really didn't try to plan anything. I just watched and listened to see what I might need for the future. The second year, I started planning a little further out than just the immediate spending that I needed to do.

    I also relied on the wonderful media specialists in my school district. They had been through all of it before, and really helped me to determine what I needed to do.

    I'm not exactly sure what information you have discussed on budgets, so could you provide me with some more details or more specific questions that I might be able to answer on that topic?

  8. Uh-oh, so the SLJ reviews aren't the place to go. I'm new to GN's and even though I am not personally a fan, I am excited by their value to the collection. I'm really enjoying the new ALA book "Graphic Novels Now" by Francisca Goldsmith. Anyway, on to my actual questions:) Do you keep your graphic novels in a special area or do you interfile them with the rest of the books? Also, how do you feel about the classics in GN form? That's the one area that about GN's that bothers me. If you have any in your collection, have you gotten any feedback from your lit/English teachers about whether or not they help the lower level readers? I kind of think of them as the McDonald's version of the classics and I just don't know if they're helping anybody. Finally, how big is your collection of GN's, when did you start acquiring them, how many do you buy each year? Wow, the questions just go on and on. Only 2 more, I promise: when they wear out do you generally replace them with the same title or do you opt for new ones? Do you find that kids who weren't considered reluctant have any interest in them? I think that's exceptional that former reluctant readers are benefitting so much from your collection!

  9. The SLJ reviews are getting much better. When I first started my GN collection five years ago, I purchased from the SLJ Best list and I had at least 5 that I removed from the collection because of sexual and violent content. That's not bad odds, it has just left me with the feeling that I can't completely trust SLJ for my clientele (for others, it may be fine...I'm just not comfortable with the graphic sexual or violent content, but that is why I discuss it with my students).

    In the past year I think that the SLJ reviews have gotten much better and I haven't had as many problems; however, every time I get a new graphic novel, I look through every single page before I put it on the shelf.

    I keep my graphic novels in a separate section with the call number prefix GN. I put the graphic non-fiction there as well - but I am in the process of separating fiction and non-fiction. (When I told a lady from OCLC that I kept them all together, I thought she was going to have a heart attack! But I did what was best for my students and what moved the most books off of the shelves!). I'm going to change it so that I have GN FIC and GN with the appropriate Dewey. As I've gotten more graphic non-fiction, this seems to make more sense.

    BTW - my students were the ones that requested that I put all of the graphic novels together. Once I did that, they just flew off the shelves!

    Regarding the classics in graphic novel format, we have a lot of readers that are having trouble with the regular version of a novel, so I have given them the classic graphic instead. It does help them to get the idea of the story, but I agree with you in that they are the McDonald's version. I wish the publishers would realize that they don't have to change the language or shorten the story, just put some pictures with it. It bothers me that many of the classics that are coming out in GN format are so short and not true to the story. However, I do feel that if you have a good version that it helps the reader understand the concepts - just like we might give them the movie or an audiobook to help. A graphic novel is just another format to help reach the students.

    I currently have almost 500 GNs in my collection and I have a wide variety of readers - not just reluctant ones! I add 75-100 per school year. I try to replace the series GNs - the kids don't like it if I have one missing. I also do some work with the graphic novels before I put them on the shelf and this helps them last longer (I use staples, book tape, Kapco covers).

    What experiences have you had with Graphic Novels (if any)? What are your philosphies about them?

  10. Anonymous6:12 AM

    Hi Robyn!
    Thank you for the helpful comments about adding graphic novels to a collection. I attended your AIME session this month and was motivated to focus on building up a GN section in my middle school media center. The only graphic novels in the collection I inherited last year were a few badly damaged copies of Captain Underpants. I am determined to use a significant portion of new budget money in January for this purpose, but I am very nervous about selection. I love the idea of using students as advisors, but at the middle school level I’m not confident that I can rely on their discernment as my primary collection development tool considering that I am totally unfamiliar with the genre myself. You mentioned that SLJ reviews were sometimes unreliable…do you recommend any specific publishers or series that might be good, “safe” choices for a starter collection?

    Kelly VonGunten

  11. Some of the new Rosen Publishing books seem very safe for younger level kids - I haven't seen many in person though, so I'm not sure if they are of interest to the kids. Some of the lower level Tokyo Pop GNs are good too.

    I hope I haven't given the wrong impression about the SLJ reviews - I've just found that with any GN, I feel that I need to look through the book completely and I can't completely rely on any review. I do feel that SLJ has done a much better job in the past year telling the appropriate grade level and many of the reviews now state what might be offensive.

    I think that you might be surprised about your middle school students though...I think that they would let you know what they like and what is appropriate. I taught 7th and 8th grade Language Arts and Social Studies for 10 years and I often used those students to tell whether or not something should have been in my class library. My daughter is in sixth grade and she tells me when she thinks a books is too mature for her also. Of course, I wouldn't make the students my sole source for collection development on GNs, but it is a nice place to start and really allows the students to become a vibrant part of your program.

  12. Anonymous6:25 PM


    Our school Book Fair is going on this week, and so far our sales have been disappointing. Our school population has changed a lot and we have a very large Hispanic community. Can you recommend any ways to bring those families into our media center and encourage the children to check out books? What is your opinion of having a collection of trade books printed in Spanish?

  13. Anonymous7:12 PM


    Can you elaborate further on what information you include in your newsletters? Do you share collaboration success stories? Do you think the newsletters encourage teachers to collaborate by showcasing what you have to offer?


    Chad Heck

  14. Thanks for the great info. on GN's. I'm glad to hear that all types of kids (not just the reluctant readers) are interested in GN's. The size of your collection is impressive. I'm doing my field experience at a high school with approximately 1,800 kids and we only have 75-80 GN's. We just bought Art Spiegelman's "In the Shadow of No Towers". I haven't had a chance to read it yet but I'm worried that kid's won't find it because it will be housed in the non-fiction collection. I don't think we have any other non-fiction GN's. Have you ever read "The Rat" or "Stuck Rubber Baby"? I've read "The Rat" and found it horribly depressing and I only flipped through "Stuck..." and thought it was way too racy yet they are both on a bunch of suggested lists. If you've read either of them, I was wondering if you think they are too mature for a school collection.

    Although our GN's are currently interfiled, my media specialist said that she would consider buying one of those spinning bookstore-type racks for them. She currently keeps fantasy and sci-fi paperbacks on one. I noticed the same regular kids consistently checking out GN's when we had about 20 on display at the circulation desk. I wonder if they actually take the time to look for them on the shelves.