Sunday, October 22, 2006

Blog Interaction with Carl Harvey II - Mon Oct. 23 to Wed Oct. 25, 2006

Carl Harvey II, library media specialist at North Elementary School (Noblesville, IN) is another 'blue ribbon' guest and return blogger. You can read last year's interactions at this site: Oct. 24-26, 2005

Carl is a prolific figure in School Library Media, active in the profession in leadership roles at the state and national level, a frequent author of professional articles, and presentor at conferences. He's a co-chair for next year's AASL National Conference in Reno, NV. He is also a frequent mentor to others who are just starting to get active in the professional field.

Learn more about Carl's professional activities and accomplishments at


  1. Hello everyone!

    A little about North: We have approximately 420 students in grades PreK-4th. We are located in the heart of Noblesville not far from the town square.

    I'm excited about the discussion opportunities over the next few days.


  2. I'm curious to hear what you're biggest challenges are being an elementary media specialist.

    I'm somewhat familiar with the Noblesville area, several well-healed families feed their children through your district. I'm wondering if that presents a different set of challenges than say someone in a more rural less well to do area?

  3. Anonymous8:48 AM

    Dear Carl,
    I am at a middle school, but the elementary school is one the same campus in a separate building. I try to be a help to the library aide that runs the elementary library. She is booked solid each week with classes coming into the library, usually without the classroom teacher. She is finding it very difficult to get any of her other responsibilities done (shelving, ordering, repairs, etc.) Do you have any suggestions?

    -Kim Hardin

  4. Nicki Kirchoff1:05 PM

    This year I started a once monthly after school library event which has been a big hit at the middle school level. Do you plan any after school library activities for elementary aged students? If so, what are they? Do you have any big ideas for the future in terms of event planning?

  5. Ben -

    The biggest challenges in an elementary school....well, I guess I would have to say they are likely the same anywhere. Time is our biggest enemy. There just isn't enough of it. There is always more I want to do, try, plan, teach, etc. and there just never is enough time to get it all in. Schedules at elementary school aren't quite in blocks like secondary, but with all the other things pulling at teachers (special ed, gifted and talented, specials, etc.) it can be hard sometimes to fit it all in. The plus for me is that my staff is absolutely amazingly flexible. So, even when the schedules are tough, they are very open to working around it as much as we can.

    There certainly are some affluent parts of Noblesville. However, our school covers the entire spectrum from those kids who aren’t lacking to those who have nothing. Our building has about a quarter of the kids on free or reduced lunch. We have many rooms in our building that have as much as 25-30% of their kids who qualify for special education services. We are total inclusion, so our resources teachers work with the classroom teachers. Several of my grade levels plan together each week, and it isn’t uncommon to find the teachers, resources teachers, and me all together. It can make for a dynamite team. We have parents from that entire spectrum as well that we deal with, and some are very friendly and easy to work with and others are more challenging – and money doesn’t always dictate which is which.

    Working with parents can sometimes be challenging no matter what there financial situation can be. One of the important things to keep in mind is that parents can be a vital voice for a library media program. I make sure to attend PTO meetings, write for the newsletter, create links on our webpage, and anything else I can think of to show the importance of the library media program to parents. Tomorrow night for example, the principal and I along with a couple of teachers planned a Family Literacy Night. The LMC will be open for check-out along with highlighting our Parent Collection. Our goal is to give parents ideas they can do at home with kids to support literacy. It has been fun to watch it come together and just another program the library media center is supporting in our school.


  6. Kim –

    Not sure I have a good answer here. Obviously, the first problem in this scenario is that there is an aide responsible for instruction, collection development, etc. I’m certain that she does the best she can (we have way too many places in Indiana that operate on this model and I in know way want to diminish the work these people put in...many of them certainly try as hard as they can), but those role should be reserved for a certified library media specialist. The library support staff should be in charge of the shelving, processing, clerical tasks, etc.

    Now this equation often happens in schools even where there is a certified person, but no clerical support. My answer to that would be … ditch the clerical stuff and focus on instruction and working with kids. I can recall a colleague who attended a meeting of library media specialists and one ranted and raved about never getting to do anything because she had no support staff. When question, she said she made sure the books were shelved every day. My thought would be…quit shelving the books and work with kids. If it begins to look bad or things are stacking up, an administrator might notice there is a need then, but if everything looks like it is running smoothly why would that administrator ever want to add support staff.

    I operate on a total flexible schedule for checkout and instruction, but I get little of the administrative tasks done during the school day. The bulk of my time is spent on planning, instruction, prepping for classes, and working with students and teachers one on one. Things like collection development, reports, and other administrative tasks are often something I take home for evenings and weekends.

    But I’ve rambled on, so back to your question. I guess I’m kind of struggling here to answer because I’m not sure how to reply. The idea of prioritizing what needs to be done and what is the most important for students would be key and then trying to let go of the other stuff that isn’t that important. However, being in an assistant position might make that a lot harder.


  7. Hi Carl,

    I was wondering how collaboration works in your building. Are there any reluctant collaborators? Do you have formal collaboration time?

  8. Nikki –

    Event planning is one of the major ways to create positive PR about the library media center. I mentioned early our Family Literacy Night that we have coming up tomorrow. We also have a major family even in February as part of our book fair. Just for students in grade 4, we offer Read N Feeds three times a year. These are generally an hour and a half and are immediately after school gets out. They are focused around one of the Young Hoosier Book Award Nominees and kids have to read that book to be invited. Our first one is in a couple of weeks! The kids seem to love them and what could be better than food and books! J The biggest event we do each year is the annual author visit. I coordinate this effort with about three to five other schools. We spend almost two months preparing the kids and weaving the author’s works into our curriculum and instruction. The kids and teachers absolutely love it and the day the author comes is just amazing! We’ve never been disappointed. We also have a Young Author’s Day celebration and have had Randy Beard the last few years to share in that cele bration. It is a great way to highlight and say “great job” to kids with their writing. With our bus schedule, we often find it hard to have too many events before and after school because many of our kids don’t have a way home later. SO, as much as we can offer things during the day we certainly try. For the kids who read all 20 of the YHBA books in 4th grade, we take a field trip to a local children’s store on the square – The Wild We take a walk there from school and just after we’ve exercised enough, we stop by Alexander’s next door for some yummy ice cream. Besides the author visit, the m usic teacher and I plan all the enrichments for the school. So we have worked hard to find performers and speakers that connect with curriculum, but at the same time also promote reading, writing, music, arts, etc. As much as possible, these speakers and performers are in the LMC and not the gym. Our P.E. teacher loves it that we don’t kick him out and it provides a warmer atmosphere for the performers and again gives a positive look on the library media center. Our PTO funds those programs, so it is a good way for them to see the library media program involved in those activities that they provide. I’ve probably gone on long enough, but these are some of the added programs we have here at North.


  9. Mary -

    Collaboration takes all shapes and forms at my building. My 1st, 3rd and 4th Grade teachers plan each week as a team - so I attend those planning sessions. They are typically before school, but I have one group that meets during specials and after school. Even the weeks that we don't have much going on in the LMC, I still find those sessions helpful. I pull resources, I offer ideas, and it is a great way to keep up with what is happening.

    All the grade levels have a year long plan. So, even if they don't plan together, I know about where they are and when. Many of them have been in the process of tweaking them, so I've used that as the time to wiggle my way in. Almost all their templates now have a line where we mark typical projects or activities we've done. So, it is in their plan to work with me!!! :) I've been working the last year or so to create my own year long plan where I can see projects from all the grade levels and specials for each month.

    Each grade level typically has a couple of days each year where they get subs and they can plan for the entire day. Usually this focuses on entire units or tweaking major parts of their plans. I attend as much of those days as I can.

    Special areas is a bit more tricky, but my Music teacher and I have worked really well together and encorporated several things. Still working on Art and P.E., but we'll get there. Our music teacher is one of my biggest allies in keeping flexible schedule! (not that this has been an issue, but always great to have the support just in case)

    Besides these formal planning sessions, we often do lots of informal planning sessions -- over email, a quick conversation in the hall, etc. I try to keep a copy of last year's collaboration log handy and from time to time will send out emails saying..."we did this last year...want to do it again".

    Collaboration can be a hard sell, but since my teachers are mostly use to working already in their grade levels, it wasn't too far of a stretch to collaborate with me. We certainly all see that this is what is good for kids (including my administrator). We continue to work on in each and every day and we get better as we go along.

    We work a lot with C.L.A.S.S.
    This model focuses on brain-compatible instruction including some of Kovalik's ITI Model and focusing a lot on literacy. This has been a wonderful way as teachers work to make things connect that we pull in the library media program.

    We've created a great environment for give and take. Would I say we have everyone on, probably not. The majority -- yes, most certainly and we'll keep plugging away at it. I probably throw out tons of ideas that are quickly shot down, but I don't take it personal or worry about it. I just keep coming with ideas...eventually one will spark their interest. I also know where my weak spots are and make those my goals. When I started at North, my strength was the upper grades, so I continue now to work on improving what we do with our primary grades.

    Those first few years in the building are the critical time to build those relationships with teachers. They have to TRUST you. Teachers are very possessive of their students and you have to earn their respect and trust that you can handle teaching THEIR kids and be just as effective if not more so than if the teacher did the lesson themselves. It is critical that you follow through with EVERYTHING you say you will do.

    In everything I do, my teachers see me as part of the team, working just as hard as they do, and focused on the same goal of educating our kids. When they see you in that role, the collaboration comes easy.

    Hope that gives you a little picture of collaboration in our building. I absolutely love it and can't imagine it any other way.


    Oh and I just realized I should be clear about one more thing...this is NOT something that happened overnight. This is my fifth year at North and we continue to get better and better each year. It takes a good couple of years just to build those relationships with teachers to get them to move beyond short little activities. It takes time and patience, but it does happen. Just maybe not as fast as we might like sometimes.

  10. If you had one time-saving/management strategy to share with new media specialists what would it be?

    Kathy Pizarek

  11. Kathy -

    This system helps keep me organized, so maybe it will help some of you. Each grade level has a color. I have a folder for each grade level and in that folder I keep notes from each planning session I attend (documentation if I ever need it, too!). Then I keep a binder that has all the Indiana Academic Standards (I printed out the Coorelations and then put tabs for each access), a copy of each grade level's year long plan, and a copy of the library media center year long plan. The LMC year long plan is color coded to match the folders, too. It makes it easy to grab the folder, the binder, and head off to planning sessions.

    Hope that helps!

  12. Carl,

    Do you have many ESL or ENL students in your building? If you do, what strategies have you used in the media center to help reach out to these students and meet their needs?

    Jennifer Clifford

  13. Wow Carl, you have a lot of good helpful advice for managing a media center, collaboration, and organization. Congratulation on all your wonderful awards listed on your web page. I can see why you received them. Have you thought about writing a book for new LMS's?

  14. Hi Jennifer -

    We are finding that our ESL\ENL or the term we're using currently ELL (English Langugage Learner) is increasing. At this point, we have about a handfull of students, but some of the other buildings in our district have even more.

    To support these students, we do have some English/Spanish materials. We've bought dictionaries for foreign languages, and then many of the resources that we buy to support our special needs students also seem to be helpful to our ELL kids. We've also bought a couple of professional resources that teachers can use when looking for stratigies. So, at this point we're looking for resources we can provide the teachers and students.

    As for instruction, this seems to fall into some of the same things we do with our special needs students in trying to find materials at their reading levels that fit the topics. ...sometimes easier said than done.

    My wonderful principal volunteered me for the district ELL committee. I've done some work to pull resources we have available in the district and mark those so they are easy to find in the computer catalog. We've also advertised them with our ELL committee on here are things we already have that can help these kids. While it may not have been the first committee I would have picked, it has been good to keep the libary media program in the communication loop with ELL.


  15. Hi Mary -

    Thank you for you kind words. Much of what I do and how I do it has come from learning and watching and talking with others. I have written some on being new to the profession in some of the magazine articles I've written.

    This last year I have just started into the arena of writing a book. In the spring a couple of friends and I have a book coming out about Writing and the Library Media Specialist from Linworth Publishing. I am in the early, early draft stages of another book that I hope to have out by AASL 07. I've not thought of writing a book just on new LMS, but maybe that will be in the cards once these other two books are finally finished.


  16. Hi Carl,

    I recently read a article by Geoffrey Colvin on "What It Takes to Be Great" in your career. It is a terrific article that can be applied to any career. The idea is that hard work and that extra effort will make you successful. Obviously, we all want to be successful, but as I do think sometimes we don't all know how. In your opinion, what is the best area for a media specialist to spend the majority of their time and energy? As someone who is hoping to begin a career as a media specialist soon, I know that there are many tasks that await me. However, from being a teacher, I also know that it is impossible to give every task the amount of time it needs to be completed perfectly. What areas are the most important to focus on as a new media specialist who is willing to work very hard to succeed?

    Amy Acree

  17. Hi Amy -

    Your right -- you can't do everything all at once or even in the first year. First and foremost the most important thing to start with is building relationships with teachers, administrators, and students.

    Teachers: They have to trust you in order to create that environment of collaboration. Realize that they will be watching carefully to see that you follow through. It will take some teachers longer than others to feel comfortable in working with you. My first LMS job I was there about four years. When I was leaving one teacher commented, "I was just getting use to working with you."

    I forgot what that first year was like and even thought I had experience behind me, when I came to North it was like I was starting over. Again, it took a while to build that trust with my teachers.

    Administrators: If they support you, the teachers will come along even faster. I had one administrator who use to encourage teachers when they wrote their yearly goals to include working with the LMS as one of them. Keep a good line of communication open. Find what style your administrator prefers when sharing information. Some like email, some like to set appointments, some have an open door policy, and there are probably other options, too. The point is, administrators don't like surprises, so if you can communicate effectively with them that won't be an issue.

    Students: The kids are obviously what we are there for, so it is important they feel comfortable with you as well. Take time to try and learn names (which is something I struggle with), interact with them while they are checking out, asking them questions about the school and the library, etc. The students will usually be the easiest group to connect with of the three.

    While building relationship, focus on instruction and teaching. There are always going to be things to clean-up, reorganize, restructure, etc. that fall under the administrative side of the library. But, they don't all have to be fixed in the first year (ok, I admit I had a hard time with that one, too!). So, you look for the things you absolutely can't live with out and work on those, but otherwise let the other things slide and focus on the kids, instruction, and building relationships. I'm sure that will take up the bulk of your time that first year or two, but the payoff down the road will be well worth it.

    Hope that helps a little!


  18. Thank you all for letting me be a part of your course. Hope to see many of you at AIME in a few weeks!


  19. Hi Carl,

    I was wondering about your flexible schedule at the elementary school level. This seems to be a rarity. How did this happen in your school? Was it set up this way when you arrived, or were you able to make this change when you began your in your position? If so, how did you accomplish this? Can you give any advice on how to overcome the obstacles (i.e. teacher prep time) when trying to make the switch to a flexible schedule?

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