Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Robyn Young - Thurs. Oct. 15 to Sat. Oct. 17, 2009

Like several other of our guests, Robyn Young, director of school media at Avon High School, has interacted with students in previous years. But last year, she was busy serving as President of AIME - - I didn't even try to schedule her participation then. A visit to her bio site will confirm that she is busy . . . all-the-time http://eduscapes.com/sms/overview/young.html

She has a rich background in teaching and school library media including expertise and experience with the assessment of school library media programs, use of graphic books, learning standards, grants and funding, leadership, mentoring and more.


  1. Robin,

    Thank you for taking the time to blog with our class. You seem to have a lot of involvement in school media and other library areas. You have written grants and journal articles, which I feel are very important to the field. I am interested in taking the Grant Writing Course next summer, but I am interested in what you know about writing and receiving grants. Do you work on these grants alone or with others? How do you find the grants? How do you choose the grants you want to apply for? How many grants do you apply for at a time?

    In regards to journal articles, how important do you feel it is to complete research for school media? What other information do you have about writing articles?

    Thank you, April

  2. Hello, Robyn,

    I am amazed at all of your professional involvement! How do you find time for everything outside the building and still have time to devote to your students?

    Also, I was wondering about the groups on your website. Do you create those on your own? Do you pick the topics or get input from your teachers? I really like the top 10 list on your catalog page. Do you find that boosts the circulation of those already popular titles?

    Thanks for your time!

    Erin Webster

  3. Good Morning Robin,

    Thanks for taking the time to blog with us. As I have visited media centers and read blogs, I noticed that many try library programs that are not successful. What has been you most successful library program? Why?
    What do you think is the best way to get students to read books for fun?

    thanks, ~Jenny C-J

  4. April,
    I have worked alone on most of the grants that I have received. Of course, I always have someone else read them for content and to make certain that they meet the criteria of the grant.

    I don't actively seek grants - they usually just come my way through a listserv or something someone sends out through email. The key thing to getting grants is to make certain that your project meets the specific criteria set forth in the grant. For example, I had a Physics teacher who wanted to get a local grant for roller coaster equipment. He presented the proposal to me and it basically said that he wanted the equipment to use with his classes because he thought it was good. I tweaked the grant and called it “Rolling with Physics” and added a parent presentation component. We had students demonstrate the use of the equipment to other students and parents during a Physics Night and the grant was approved. Anyone who gives you a grant knows that everyone in a school is deserving of funds, they just want to be wowed. Make certain that you wow them and provide some sort of advertisement for the grant and you will more than likely receive the money.

    Writing articles and doing research is something that has come through my own curiosity. I started with a research proposal where I wanted to get reluctant readers reading and thought I might be able to do this with graphic novels. I also was curious about reading graphic novels and trying to see if it would help students perform better on standardized tests (which are graphic heavy). That research was never actually published because of so many inconsistencies with the students and the standardized tests, but it got me thinking about what and how we teach in our schools.

    I find writing interesting because it provides me with avenues of discussion with people all over the country, but I don’t think it is a necessary part of doing my job with students. It is something that I find professionally rewarding though.

  5. Anonymous9:31 AM

    Robyn! Hi Megan Bell here. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. As I have been investigating media centers online and in person I have seen a huge gap between them. Some media centers are up-to-date, technologically savvy, and relevant to the school's needs. However others are seriously lacking in relevant materials and programming. I wanted to get your thoughts on who fault you think that is. Is that a school district budget issue? Is that the media specialist is outdated themselves and needs to be replaced? Or is it that the media specialist is naive and unaware of resources that are available for her use? I just see such a huge difference in these centers. I am not certain who is responsible for these problems? Any insight you could provide would be appreciated. Thanks again for your time!!! Meg

  6. Erin –
    The first thing that I’d like to say is that I do have a life and family outside of the library!  I’m very, very busy when I’m at school though. Almost everything that I do professionally, I do while I am at school. I come early and stay late to get everything done, but I’m always home with my kids when they are there (or going to soccer games as the case may be!).

    It is also very important to have a good relationship with my principal so that when I am away from the building, he knows why and the importance of it. I usually try to give him a summary of whatever I attend when I am away from school as well. One of my goals is to get this in writing, but I usually try to do that in my annual report also.

    I created the lists in my catalog with student input. The students told me what lists they wanted so it was easier to find the books and they told me what they wanted the list titled. The lists have been very popular ways to find books!
    The top 10 list does “sell” books as well and it is automatically created from the top checkouts in our catalog system.

  7. Jenny –

    My most successful program is definitely when I held a Poetry reading. I did this in conjunction with the English teachers who were teaching a poetry unit. They advertised it in their classrooms and invited students to attend after school. I was only working with 4 different classes at the time, but we also advertised it to the rest of the school. I ended up having over 300 kids attend! That was my first inkling as to how much students love their own poetry. It was a really simple program that lasted an hour. We just broke the kids up into groups and had them read their own original poetry or they could choose a poem that was meaningful to them.

    I also do a reading competition with a neighboring high school each year. We count the number of pages each student reads and see which school has the most at the end of the month. The winning school and the top readers then get to throw pies at the principal. This is really successful as well as I usually have about ½ of the school participate (over 1000 students).

    I get students to read by talking books with them a lot. I also work with their teachers to get them reading. I especially like working with students who feel that they are non-readers and I always tell them that they just haven’t found the right book yet. It’s my job to help them find the right book and I always talk with them about what they have read. At the high school, I can also “sell” racier books and that usually works. If I tell a boy that Fallen Angels has graphic war scenes and bad language, they will almost always want to read it. My real job is to try to match the right book with the right student.

  8. Megan –

    What a great and difficult question! Of course we can always use more money in a school library and I’ve been blessed with a great budget, but the majority of what I do throughout my day is to teach students. That can be done without money at all.

    I’ve had quite a few classes in today (11 total and I went to a department chair meeting during 1 period). I’ve taught students how to use Publisher for a newspaper assignment in English 11, showed students the evils of Google (just kidding – but many students don’t know that Google is a business, so I discussed that) and how to find good websites on Greek gods to English 9 students. I’ve also shown a World Geography class how to utilize our library catalog to find websites. Most of this would be done without money other than having computers available.

    I believe that being a good media specialist means being a good teacher and I think that there are many people who don’t want to expend the energy teaching. It is much easier to sit in my office and order books or sit at the circ desk and check things out, but that is not my job (well, ordering is, but you know what I mean!). The only reason that any teacher is in a school building is to teach kids and that’s what we as media specialists should be doing.

    I also found a statement by Allison Zmuda (http://competentclassroom.com/ ) to be very empowering. She is not from the world of school library media centers, but she is an educational consultant and she said that the library is my classroom. I never really thought about that fact before, but it has allowed me to make certain that good teaching goes in on my library. If a teacher is teaching an assignment, we almost always have worked together on it before they come down with students. I require this because I don’t want to be a place for students to use the computers. I want them to come here because it is a place where they learn the 21st century skills they need for the future.
    Your thoughts?

  9. Hi Robin,

    You had a big turn our for your poetry readings. Do you still do that?
    What do you think is critical for first time media specialists to do when they start their jobs?

    What do you wish you would have known about being a MS or known how to do before you started?

    Any other advice for first time a MS?

    Also, you mentioned listservs as a way you have received information about grants. What listservs are you signed up for now?

    thanks ~Jenny C-J

  10. Anonymous4:46 AM

    Jenny –

    I do the poetry readings occasionally. I have over 2500 students and I am the only media specialist, so my focus is usually on the day-to-day teaching of students rather than a lot of large programs. Quite frankly, I just don’t have the time to do it all and, with my principal’s guidance, having chosen the teaching aspect of my job as the main focus.

    I know some of you are already working as an LMS. Has anyone else done any programming that has worked well?

    First time LMS – I feel that the most important thing is to get to know the staff members of the school. If you get to know them on a personal level, they find it hard to say no when you ask them to collaborate. Eat lunch, hang out after school, visit their classrooms…all work well. Have parties in the media center and invite the teachers for food and fun (and new books or DVDs that might help them).

    If you are lucky enough to have an assistant, get to know them as well, but remember to maintain a professional relationship with them. I think that has been the most difficult thing is being the boss to adults who are older than I am. I had a management course, but I don’t think it really prepared me for handling my own assistants. It’s great when they do everything right, but very difficult when you have to bring up something that they did wrong.

    What are your concerns about becoming a new media specialist?

    I’m currently on the AIME listserv (and would recommend that you join AIME as a student for the price discount) and have been on LM_Net off and on. I also get emails from vendors that often provide information about grants. The AASL grants are also a great place to get information.

  11. Anonymous7:36 AM


    Hi Megan Bell once again! Wow! Your response was right on and makes me want to be a teacher/media specialist. And that is a wonderful thing because that is not my career path. I hope and plan to work in the public library. In any case I can see the bigger point you make, it is not what you have, but what you do with what you have that makes the difference. I think that can be applied to any situation or job that is out there. Thank you for that reminder. But that bigger point then makes me wonder, if there is a center that is lacking in more than one way (no matter what the budget)does the specialist then need to re-think what they are doing? And who holds them accountable for a center that is not meeting the students needs? I hope I am not making certain media specialists sound like they are incompetent by asking this.

  12. Anonymous7:40 AM

    Megan Bell's cont...Robyn I did not mean to hit the publish button when I did. Anyways I just wondering who holds the media specialist accountable if they are not meeting the needs of students and staff? I mean if they are not having those teachers moments and are just ordering books, are they really doing their jobs? Thanks again for your time!!!

  13. Robyn,
    I saw on your bio page that you have helped to increas the standardized test results of your special ed students through the use of graphic novels. What kinds of activities did you do with your students and the graphic novels? Is there a series of graphic novels that you recommend?

    Kristin Price

  14. Robyn,

    Thank you for responding. Something that I am always curious about is creating the media center website. How do you decide what to include and what is the most useful for your students, teachers, and parents?

    Thank you.


  15. Hi Robyn, thanks for your time with us and by reading your bio I can tell that you're really busy. I just wanted to ask you a few questions. I read where you said your best programming was the reading competition and you teamed up with another high school teacher, but have you ever collaborated with your local public library (teen dept.)?
    You mentioned it’s required for teachers to meet with you upon having classroom visits, but have you ever dealt with teachers who were reluctant to collaborate with you? How did you handle the situation?
    Also you mentioned by getting teens to read you try to “sell” racier books, have you ever had a problem with parents disagreeing with your choice of books for their child, or dealing with parents who wanted to get a book removed (banning books)? How did you handle that situation and what are your school’s policies and procedures?


  16. I'm sorry that I didn't finish up on Saturday...life got hectic for me, but I wanted to make sure that I finished up answering your questions.

    Kristin - I did do work with special education students and graphic novels, however, my data was statistically inconclusive because we had so many inconsistencies with students leaving and the ISTEP changing. We did get quite a few kids hooked on reading that weren't hooked before though.

    We have so many graphic novels that I really can't narrow it down to just a couple, but I will tell you to talk with students. They will always tell you which GNs to read and which they love. I've really found it to be different at every school.

  17. April -

    On my webpage I include whatever information I am teaching to students at the time...and I just keep adding to the page every day. We've got a really easy program that we use at our school and I can update it from anywhere, so if I find a particular website that I think is useful to a class, I post it right away and then keep it up there.

    Basically, my webpage is constantly changing.

  18. LaKea -

    I have collaborated with our public library in the past, usually to keep the apprised of the research that students are doing. I have found it difficult since the personnel seem to change quite a bit. I just get to work with someone and they've already moved on to another position. That makes it much more difficult...in the 9 years that I have been at my school, they have had at least 5 different changes at the public library.

    I've never really had teachers refuse to work with me...some might choose to use a different computer lab instead of the Media Center. They could do that without going to me. I didn't mean it to come out wrong...I'm always very nice and I'm there to help them, so they are usually more than willing to have my help. Two teachers in the classroom to help is better than one. :)

    I've had parents question a couple of books, but I always tell them that I am very happy that they are involved with what their children are reading, but I can't make the decision for other parents about what their child can or can't read - that wouldn't be fair. This has always come across well with the parents and they usually end up thanking me (please knock on some wood for me at this point!).

    I don't usually worry about challenges too much. My school has a reconsideration policy in place and I will always fall back to that if necessary. I find parents just want to make certain that there voice is heard and I always listen to them.