Sunday, September 28, 2008

Robin Tanis - Mon. Sept. 29 to Wed. Oct. 1, 2008

Robin Tanis is the Head Librarian at St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta, GA. At St. Pius, Robin has established a collaborative partnership with the school’s classroom teachers. She was an early pioneer in technology integration bringing computers, automation, and the Internet into the library and then the rest of the school. Robin was the original Webmaster for the school (http://www.spx.org/) and is still responsible for keeping the Flannery O’Connor Library Web site current (http://www.spx.org/library).

Encouraging pleasure reading is a professional interest of Robin’s. Robin is known for ASPIRE! - - a Summer Reading Enrichment program. She has presented her program at state and national conferences. ASPIRE! was featured in both Knowledge Quest (Sep/Oct 2003, Access to PDF document requires login) and School Library Journal (Jan. 2004). Last year she began a Teen Library Council to give interested students leadership opportunities in the library. She also moderates the Anime Club.

Learn more about Robin at http://eduscapes.com/sms/overview/tanis.html.

39 comments:

  1. Hi, Robin,
    Thank you for blogging with us for the next few days.
    I am especially interested in your summer reading program, Aspire. On your library web page, I looked at the program goals. Could you share the results? How many students completed the reading and discussion? What do you feel were the greatest benefits of the program?
    Cindy

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  2. Robin5:11 AM

    Good Morning! We are very proud of ASPIRE. It has become part of our culture.
    The official results from my 2002 research was that 92% of our students read their ASPIRE book. That same year only 45% read their additional required reading. Having choice is definitely motivating.
    Over the years the participation has definitely dropped off (around 66%). My opininion is now that the "newness" of the program is gone it is seen as just "another read". We keep trying to tweak it; for instance last year we introduced student sponsors to give an opportunity to lead. This worked really well. We also invested more time promoting the books prior to signing up. All sponsors wore special t shirts and we made READ posters with all the sponsors and posted them in the halls.
    Teachers like it because it gives them an opportunity to step out of their box. Discussing a book is another way to connect. Those who do read enjoy an opportunity to read a book of choice and then talk about it in a non judgemental environment.
    I would like the participation to be higher as it is a tremendous amount of work to organize this program. It's really a very simple idea -- pick a book, read it, talk about it -- and when it works it works really well. Of course the biggest benefit is that we are reading.
    If anyone is really interested in all the details of my research, I'll be happy to send the entire project.

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  3. Christina Moore6:13 AM

    Hi, Robin,

    Thanks for taking some time to answer some questions.
    I am curious about how you first started collaborating with other teachers. What steps did you to establish the partnerships?

    Christina

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  4. Robin8:47 AM

    I try to look for the ones who seem to be most "open" to trying something different. I find it best to approach people one on one; often in an informal setting -- even lunch! I approach with a leading question like "Have you thought about"....and then suggest a modification. You have to know the curriculum and learn who is doing what and when. Then look for resources that will support that. Here's an example: Recently I came to find out that a teacher was suggesting that his AP (!)students browse through magazines to find an article to review. I sent him an email asking if I could visit his classroom to show students how to quickly search EbscoHost to target specific articles in specific journals. After all, aren't we trying to prepare them for college? He was totally ameniable and it took me 10 minutes to show this specialized search. We did it in the labs so students could follow along with me.

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  5. Jamie B9:26 AM

    Hi Robin,

    I was just wondering, since I have never worked or attended at Catholic school, do you find that you have more or less (or none!) challenges to books in your library? Do you have a very specific selection process that only allows certain books, or do you have a wide variety of books in your collection?
    Also, I know that you said you like to colloborate with teachers who are "open" to the idea. What is your favorite collaboration project? Was it with a "repeat" teacher or a new one just beginning the process?

    Thanks for taking time to answer!

    Jamie B

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  6. Robin4:38 PM

    I am very fortunate to work in an independent school with Administrators who value and support my expertise. I have a generous book budget and no one is looking over my shoulder to see what I am ordering. I have a basic selection policy that allows me the freedom to support the curriculum and the needs of our students. We have never had a book challenged in the 50 years that our school has been in existence. I am sensitive to the teachings of the Catholic Church, but I also know that we don't live in a Catholic world. I think the books that make the most nervous are gay/lesbian literature, so I am very nervous about that. Basically it's been my experience (we had some books banned from the English curriculum) that it's sex, violence, and language that push parents' buttons. As far as collaborative projects go, the repeats of course are the easiest. My favorites are those who pull in a lot of different resources, print, electronic etc. where the end product is something other than a paper or a powerpoint project. Class projects that require library resources are just part of the routine here and it's hard for me to remember when that was not the case!

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  7. Anonymous6:06 PM

    Hello Robin! I am in my 2nd year as the media specialist for a K-4 elementary school! Before moving into this position, I taught 2nd grade for 17 years! I love my new job, and to be honest, one of the biggest reasons I wanted this job was to show children how magical reading books can be! I have noticed a dramatic change in children during my time as an educator - especially since video games have become so popular! I love the idea of have a summer reading program! I held a "book club" this past summer, but would love some suggestions for how to start up a program for elementary-aged students! I look forward to hearing from you! Have a great evening!
    ~Gracia

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  8. Jamie B8:01 PM

    Thanks Robin! I can imagine those books making you nervous and I'm pleased that you have never had a book challenged in that time period! What, if you are aloud to discuss, were the books banned from the English curriculum? And why?

    Jamie B

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  9. Hi Robin,

    It's really nice of you to take the time to blog with/for us.

    I really like your website. It looks like you have a little bit of everything, but not so much as to be overwhelming. I liked your Bella Blog, too! What I am wondering is, how did you figure out what works in a school media center website? Did you make any mistakes along the way that illuminated the path for you? It just seems to pleasantly balanced; I can't imagine a newbie like me making something that seems so likely to actually work for the school community.

    Thanks so much,

    Shellie

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  10. Thank you for the information on Aspire. I am always looking for ideas I can incorporate for summer reading.
    I also noticed that you have begun a Teen Library Council. What does your council do? How did you choose the teens who are part of the council?
    Cindy

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  11. Robin6:06 AM

    Hi Gracia, Congratulations on your transition to library/media. Although I was initially trained to be an English teacher, other than student teaching I have never been "in the classroom". I have always felt that the lack of that experience is a "missing piece" to my career puzzle, and somehow I would be an even better librarian had I had that experience. Oh well, next live :^) To answer your question I think you could incorporate some of the elements of our Aspire program into elementary school. Obviously it would be difficult with K-2 students but certainly some of the older readers could participate in a discussion group. Lots of choice, that's the key element.

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  12. Robin6:21 AM

    Hi Jamie, I had a feeling that question would get asked. The incident occured in 1999. We happened to have a small but vocal group of parents who were ultra-conservative and were actually paying attention to what there children were REQUIRED to read. Some of these titles included:
    Song of Solomon, Boys Life, The Haj, The Lords of Discipline and Fade. Again the objections were isolated instances of sex, violence, and/or language. Even though the English Department went through "the process" and the books subsequently deemed appropriate, the parents refused to stop and took their photocopied pages to a "higher power" who immediately banned the books. When you get to that point there is nothing you can do. It was a very dark time for us which has left our English department bruised. Times have changed again and interestingly enough, The Lords of Discipline was on our Aspire list and the sponsor was our principal. The key word is REQUIRED -- it is difficult sometimes to require a student to read a book that may be controversial, but when the books are optional as with ASPIRE, if a parent objects, all they have to do is pick another book. Fortunately the library remained unscathed in all of this; the books listed above were never banned from the library.

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  13. Robin6:32 AM

    Hi Shellie,

    Thanks for the compliment. I think initially I created a mental outline of what essential items should be on the library page. I generally work with the "KISS" principal. I did not want to have a Web site so large that it would be a giant task to keep it updated.
    Obviously we need to have links to the databases. We love the pathfinders. Class Links is dying a slow death; most teachers keep their own links but every time I ask I get replies saying they still use it. Webmaster can turn into a full time job and who has that much time? I am blessed to have an extremely talented colleague working with me who has really enhanced the visual appeal of the Web Site. He gets all the credit for the Bella Blog, the podcasts, and the visual elements on the page. He has a great sense of organization combined with an artistic flair. I have been happy to give him total freedom to edit the libary pages where as previously I was reluctant to let go of my control. Letting go has been a good thing for me, the Web page and the library. And I have learned a lot from him. I now model my pathfinders after his.

    Robin

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  14. Robin6:40 AM

    Hi Cindy, TLC is now in its second year. Last year they became the core group for our Aspire student sponsors. Mostly they like to talk about books. It is mostly girls, all seniors so far, so I have got to get new members to sustain the group. Initially I started the group to the Teen view on the library in hopes to make it more friendly for the students. We did schedule some book related events and I got them to do some themed displays. I also just completed a library renovation, so I got their input on the choices I was making for the new furniture. Mostly they just like to talk about new books. I have decided to "let go" of the control this year and we elected three Co-Presidents to make the meetings agenda. We meet during the 3 lunch periods every other Wednesday (exhausting!). The problem with our school schedule is that is never time to meet. So they like the lunch periods. Each group has it's own personality so I'm just letting it "become". I want the students to take the leadership. The membership is open to all and purely voluntary.

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  15. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Hi Robin!

    We have a Catholic school in Richmond, Indiana, where I live. I've often wondered how different it would be to working in a public school. Is religion and integral part?

    It's great to meet you!

    Sandy Brown

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  16. Anonymous5:16 PM

    Hi Robin,

    I have a question concerning your Webmaster. Is it a full time position for him or does he do other things also? Is he in charge of making the entire web page or is there a template he follows? I ask this as I guess I could be called the Webmaster of our small private school. I took one web class during my SLIS program and due to that experience got the job. All the webpage templates have been created for me and I have to just plunk information down on the page and do some minor coding but it is something that interests me (when I have time between teaching classes) and was wondering a little about it.

    Chad Gish

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  17. Anonymous6:21 PM

    Hi again, Robin,

    I just thought of another question I wanted to ask you. One of the fears I have of being a school library media specialist is the technology skills expected. I'm not all that techy. It looks like you've done a lot with technology, though. How did you get techy like that? Did you take any classes?

    Thanks again!

    Sandy

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  18. Robin,
    Thank you for taking the time to share.
    I love ASPIRE. One of my first projects as a LMS was to create a summer reading program. I came up with SUMMER READING BINGO. We have done the program for 2 years now and the students (and parents) that participate really seem to enjoy it. The discouragement comes when the others act as though they have never even heard of it. I send home flyers, making a BIG to-do about it with each class when they come to the library, put it in newsletter, make several announcements on the morning announcements, and so on. Still, I always have several students tell me they have never heard of it.
    Do you have additional suggestions for promotion? I loved your idea for sponsors and thought it might be neat to have a sponsor for each bingo square. How do you choose sponsors - or do they volunteer with a book of their choosing? What is the job of the sponsor?
    Also, I have been thinking about adding a collaborative piece to the program, where students could track what they have read and share information with their friends. I noticed that you have your discussion in August. Is it a synchronous or asynchronous discussion? What discussion tool do you use? Have you ever tried opening up a chat over the summer? If so, was it successful?
    Thank you in advance for any advice you may be able to give,
    Melisa

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  19. Jennifer7:14 AM

    Hi Robin,
    I have always wondered about challenged books. Many of these books I'm sure adults have read as children, yet they make an issue out of them as adults. How do you address these books? In one of my classes, we talked about Judy Blume's books. I would never think as an adult to question her books, I read them as a child!

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  20. Robin7:28 AM

    Hi Sandy,

    Yes, Cathlocity is very much a part of the culture. We are an Archdiocesan school so we are about 90% Catholic (don't quote me on that #). It is not required for teachers to be Catholic, but most of us are. We have all school Mass once a month. Each class begins with prayer. We have a small chapel on campus where we offer daily Mass before and after school and students may also get communion during lunch. I have a large wooden crucifix behind the circulation desk. Our library looks out over a lovely courtyard where there are life-size statues of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Students are required to take 4 years of Theology all of which are centered aroung the teachings of the Catholic Church.

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  21. Robin7:38 AM

    Hi Chad,

    Yes, our Webmaster is fulltime. He does not teach any classes but he does assist with hardware/software installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting. Most of his day is spent editing school Web pages. I consider this a luxury for the school, but we do have a very polished site. IT's all about the marketing :^) We use software called Contibute. I think it is an Adobe product. Very easy for the average teacher to create content. Yes we have a template that was created for us by an outside company. I believe we are about to get a new template. We spent last year assessing the positive and negative attributes of the site with a class from Georgia Tech. The navigation in my opinion is "old school". Difficult to find things if you don't know what you are looking for. I also don't like being restricted in the current template. There is a lot of wasted space; a lot of scrolling for information.

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  22. Robin7:51 AM

    Hi Sandy,

    Ok, well now you have hit my "weakness". I am techy when it comes to computers and computer use, but when it comes to AV equipment I am a dunce. Every year I vow to get saavy with video cameras, digital movie-making, podcasting, but I just can't find the time. I still have all of the other "stuff" that is in my job description. Keeping up with Web 2.0 really has my head spinning and I am really starting to feel my age. Between keeping the print collection current, teaching "information fluency", running the library, now I'm on a copyright mission...it's a full time job if I want to have a life. So all of the "techiness" that you see on our site is because I have the luxury of a second librarian, whose job has a definite AV slant. There has always been a division with the job descriptions here. When I hired Ken two years ago that was a necessary skill he had to have (or be willing to learn) and he is awesome. Ken really is the total package. Any computer saavy that I have has been through learning on my own, whether that be reading, or taking the time to find a class or course to teach me what I need.

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  23. Robin7:58 AM

    Hi Melisa,

    I think you have some great ideas!!
    Our sponsors are all voluntary and I am fortunate to have a very supportive faculty. I praise them all the time. Sponsors choose the books; I give them criteria for choosing. Then all they have to do is come to discussion with some leading questions to start out with. The August discussion is face to face for one hour. It would be great to have collaboration over the summer and a blog, or wiki would be the way to do it. Then the next challenge is to get people to actually use it. We all have spx email accounts through gmail now so you have just given me an idea to use one of their apps to do this. That could be a job for the student sponsors. Hmmmmmm......

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  24. Robin7:59 AM

    Hi Jennifer,

    Well, I've never had the occasion to address this situation, but if I did, I would just refer to my challenge policy and go from there.

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  25. Christina Moore10:58 AM

    Robin,

    Thanks for sharing your example. I work as an assistant in an elementary library with a librarian that does not collaborate, so I really enjoy hearing different examples. Have you ever had anyone not want you to collaborate with them?

    Christina

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  26. Anonymous11:20 AM

    Robin,
    What do you do with teachers who just say "no". In spite of your best efforts they just will NOT include the library in their plans and give no more guidance to their students with projects other than suggest they look it up on the web?Tell me about your copyright mission. We have had issues at our school with teachers (and our assistant principal) overstepping the bounds of what is legal and I just hate to lock horns with them on this.
    Shelly

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  27. Anonymous11:42 AM

    Bobin,
    If you had a cristal ball and could predict the future, where would you see library's in ten years time? Will librarians still have jobs in schools?
    Rachelle Carter

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  28. Robin,
    I LOVE IT!! I think this year I will ask for 4th grade volunteers to sponsor a Bingo square. They can be in charge of promoting reading in that area during the last few weeks of school. I can also meet with them before school is out and help them set up a wiki for summer discussions. I am sure if they are doing the work, they will be able to encourage more of their friends to participate. I CAN'T WAIT FOR SUMMER!! - To do the summer reading program of course ;)
    Thanks again for sharing your GREAT IDEAS!!!
    Melisa

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  29. Robin,
    What does your daily or weekly schedule look like? I am wondering how you divide your time among your responsibilities and demands of the faculty and students.
    Cindy

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  30. Jennifer6:21 PM

    Hi Robin,
    I did a comparison on two Standards for one of my classes and wondered what you thought already being in the profession. The first one is the ISTE NETS Standard and 21st Century Learner. Which do you side more with? As a former teacher, I side more with the view of 21st Century Learner, but I do see positives to ISTE NETS Standard. I would probably implement a little bit of both.

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  31. Anonymous6:32 PM

    Hey Robin,

    Thanks for the insight on your Webpage. I can definitely see myself doing such a thing. One more question though, what educational background does your techie have? Is it library based and he just started working in Websites or did he take computer classes? I think it's funny as when I started taking these classes, I never thought that I had much in the field of librarian skills and now am starting to notice that most school librarians need to know all about computer, AV and all that tech stuff and I have been doing that kinda junk for years.

    Chad Gish

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  32. Robin4:21 AM

    Christina, I just leave them alone. It's not important that EVERY teacher use the library with their classes. Especially in high school where you have so many teachers and they are all doing the same thing differently. The important thing is that we consistently get to the students one way or another over the 4 years so they have frequent exposure to accessing information in an intelligent critical way. If they don't get it in one class, they'll get it in another. We have some pretty standard research projects that everyone does each year, so that's where we get them in. Sadly, we see the Seniors the least which is unfortunate since this is there last year before they go off to college. This is something I need to work on.

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  33. Robin4:30 AM

    Hi Shelly,
    I am scheduled to do a copyright inservics in December at my request because I am seeing some infringements on teacher's Web sites. Teachers seem to have this "idea" of fair use and they interpret it as, "if it's for education, I can do anything I want". They also think that anything on the Internet is in the public domain. Worksheet copying is rampant. And just yesterday, (get this!)our student-designed T shirt for homecoming was loaded with Disney and other cartoon characters!! So as you can see we are way overdue on reeducating the teachers. I have to meet with my principal to talk about setting up a copyright policy. The one we had seems to have vanished from our handbook. Also we need to establish a copyright "contact person" to keep track of permissions etc. Who do you think that person will be ;^) ?

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  34. Robin4:36 AM

    Shelly, Over the years we have drilled the teachers about subscription databases, so they are really good about using them with the students. Most teachers will not accept sources from the free Internet. They are very committed to print and SD sources. Occasionally, there are projects that need outside sources. I used to get the time to teach students about evaluating Web resources and I still do but only occasionally. This is unfortunate and is something I need to address again. Usually teachers have sites that are pre-selected by themselves or by us in a pathfinder. Still, they need that evaluation skill. Perhaps you could suggest doing a pathfinder for students?

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  35. Robin4:39 AM

    Rachelle,

    I hope so! It's going to be up to us to make ourselves invaluable to our school. At any rate, I hope to be retired in 10 years so I leave it in your hands :^)

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  36. Anonymous4:42 AM

    Jennifer, To be honest I have not been keeping up with the new standards. You have given me something to think about!

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  37. Robin4:45 AM

    Chad,

    Ken has a BA in German and a MLS. Everything he has done he has learned on his own. He truly is amazing. If you have been on our library site you noticed the animated banner? I mentioned one day it would be cool to have that on our main page and literally 10 minutes later it was up!!

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  38. Robin4:51 AM

    Cindy, Our schedule is varied based on the time of year. The beginning of the semester is very busy and as it progresses it tapers off. Some days we are booked solid (2 classes in each of 8 periods) and other days no one is scheduled. We also have one assistant and we share responsiblity for supervising the floor. So we all get our share of office time to work on long term projects, like inservices, making pathfinders, selecting books, etc. You get that in when you can. If Ken or I are with a class then we cover for each other for floor duty. Our library is open late every day til 5. We take turns staying late in exchange for comp time. Nice.

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  39. Anonymous5:17 PM

    Hey Robin,

    Thanks for the info. I am learning a lot of things on the job also. Maybe I'll be in the same position someday.

    Chad Gish

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