Monday, September 27, 2010

Cindy Newton - Wed. Sept. 29 to Fri. Oct. 1, 2010

Cindy Newton is the school library media specialist (SLMS) at Connersville Middle School (IN). A recent IUPUI-SLIS graduate, Cindy has numerous positive teaching and learning experiences working first as a elementary teacher, expanding to cover technology responsibilities in the same school, and now directing a successful library media program.

As SLMS, Cindy collaborates with teachers and assists student research projects. She has initiated and guided reading promotions and programs at her school. She also serves as the web master for both the Library Media Center and the Connersville Middle School websites.

Cindy is a frequent presenter at professional conferences such as ILF, ISRA, and ICE. She has been selected as the Fayette County School Corporation's Teacher of the Year and was named as an IU Armstrong Educator. Recently she was selected and attended a Library of Congress Summer Institute.


  1. Good Morning,
    It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was on your end of the blog - asking questions! Hopefully I will be able to help supply answers to your “burning” questions about being a media specialist, especially in a middle school setting.
    Let me begin by telling you about my week so far. We are holding a Scholastic book fair in half of the media center and trying to conduct business as usual in the other half.
    On Monday, I met with two 7th grade teams during their team preps where I serve as a curriculum resource. I trained adult volunteers on running the scanner and cash register for the book fair and worked on ordering 2,000 books for our RIF distributions. Communications took place with the Director of Children's Services regarding a book drive sponsored by the Colts to provide books to children in foster homes and I emailed the lead principal to set up a meeting to discuss elementary media assistant trainings.
    Tuesday was “meeting day.” I spent the day out of the building at a Positive Behavior Support team training. In the late afternoon, I returned to the building for a Language Arts department meeting. After school, I traveled to the career center for a mentor meeting because I am mentoring the new reading teacher. It was then 5:00 and time to meet my husband for dinner and then go to a church meeting.
    Today, I have a collaborative research project planning meeting and an appointment with the computer application teacher who needs advice on camera equipment to purchase with grant money. I will provide readers advisory during student visits. I am also hoping to sneak some time here and there to tap into an online, ebook summit. After school, a few of my TAB, teen advisory board, members will assist me in running the book fair during parent conferences until 7:00 P.M.
    As you can see, my weeks are NEVER dull.

  2. Cindy -

    It sounds like you are a very busy woman. My question is about your programming. When you started in your position, were any of your programs already in place or did you "start from scratch"? If you started all of them, where did you start? For instance, in the library in my building, our media specialist is here 3 days a week and has a fixed schedule those three days (she is a "specials" teacher). We can only take our classes to the media center for check-out when she is NOT here. How can we get some of these reading incentive programs started when she only sees 1/3 of the students in our building per 6 weeks?

  3. Cindy,

    At first I was curious as to how large your school was (I looked it up on the DOE compass and saw it was 608) because I wondered what your community was like. When I graduate I would really like to work in a rural school district, so I had been wondering what kind of needs might arise in a school like that compared to a more urban school. However, I soon realized that this question applies across the board. How have you tailored your library to your students and the community? Also, I was curious as to how much input you get on your collection from students. Do they ever ask for certain books or make suggestions on good things they've read?

  4. Abby,
    None of these programs were in place. You begin by looking at the needs of your students and taking one step at a time. Each year I am adding more incentives and programs. Last year I started a TAB group - Teen Advisory Board. I have 25 students this year who help carry out some of the activities and secretarial duties. Their ideas and assistance has been a huge help. Of course, sometimes they wear me out with their high level of enthusiasm and we have to a realistic look at what we CAN do.

    As far as the reading incentives, I created building-wides incentives as a first grade teacher in an elementary. Reading incentives do not have to be totally from the media specialist. The YHBA program would need to be in collaboration with the media specialist who purchases the books for the students to read.In a less than perfect world, LMS wear many different hats and can be in several buildings. Collaboration with other teachers, professional development teams, or English departments is crucial. We are all working toward the same goal - students loving to read and seeing improvement in achievement.Collaborations and team work, whether it is with colleagues or students, is an important role of an effective LMS.

  5. Shea,
    My school has 620 7th and 8th graders. We have over 62% free and reduced lunch rate students. Our community has a high percentage of unemployment and many of the other statistics that make the headlines. How I have tailored the media center to the students' needs takes many avenues. Book collection is one area. We have forms at the checkout where students may request a book. If at all possible, that book is on the next order. When it arrives, that student is the first to have the opportunity for check out. We have books that meet curriculum needs and the many reading levels that exist in a middle school. Books that are several grade levels lower are marked with yellow dots on spine labels to assist students and staff in selection. We have also added information in the 655 MARC record to make these searchable. On the other end, we have marked spines of books that are for advanced readers and added info in the MARC records. See my web page for more information on the Advanced Readers project.

  6. Hello Cindy!

    I am curious about some of the programs you have presented in the past. I am mostly curious how you implement Poetry Slams, art shows, and your Lunch in the Library programs. Do you think that these types of programs could translate into the public library system? What kind of attendance do you get for these? Do you ever have after-school programs, or are all of the events you present during school hours?
    I have been trying to come up with fun ideas to draw in the middle/high school crowd but have not had much success. Any tips on how to get them to come to my library?
    Thank you!

  7. JoAnn White12:07 PM

    I am curious to know how much support staff you have? You are so busy it seems as if you are two people. What are some of the ideas you have to promote parents to volunteer?

  8. To go along with what JoAnn you have volunteers fill out an application of sorts? Do they have to be interviewed or drug tested? What criteria do you use to determine whether an individual is fit to volunteer?

  9. Cindy,
    I saw that you have a RIF grant. We received one for the first time ever and I am in charge of it all. ANy tips for ordering the books? Or anything else relating to that topic, for that matter:-)
    I also saw that you are doing a One Book, One School program and that everyone will participate. Did you write a grant for this? Is it something you do every year? The kickoff activity sounds like fun! Will you have a culminating activity as well? Are students required to complete a specific number of activiites? Do they do the activities in class or on their own? Thanks!

  10. Hi Cindy,
    I was interested to see the "technology responsibilities" in your bio. I took over the Media Center 3 years ago when our librarian retired after 30 years. She did not incorporate technology at all. In the past three years I have entered the 12,000 into a new computer program, acquired 12 computers (from teacher rejects) and begun incorporating technology skills into my curriculum (I teach 7 "specials" classes each day- K through 6th grade). I signed up to be on the technology committee, but nothing ever came of it. Later, the principal formed his own "technology committee," and I was not asked to be on it. I threw a fit, and was allowed to "sit in" on the final meeting. When technology tools are passed out, the library is passed by. I do not heave a budget to purchase tech tools. Therefore, I try to incorporate free tools in my lessons- INSPIRE, using the OPAC, evaluating websites, etc. I am anxious to get some advise from you on how to be taken seriously in the realm of technolgy. Thanks for your time :-)

  11. Melissa,
    The poetry slams have been a big hit with both staff and students. Language Arts teachers discuss the upcoming poetry slams and have students who wish to participate sign up. Usually two or three classes come to the media center at the same time. I have a panel of three judges who are staff, parents, or other community volunteers who judge each reading from a rubric and hold up scores much like "Dancing with the Stars." The students with the highest scores receive a certificate to a local bookstore. Some teachers ask students to perform their own poetry while I supply other teachers with a collection of poetry books. The 1st year I held the slams, I was shocked that the students who participated the most and who enjoyed the activity the most were the boys. A public library could easily hold a slam by creating competitive categories for original works, age groups, etc. Poetry month is April and would be a great time to host such an event.

    For the art show, the art teachers gather student work throughout the year. We move large display walls into the media center, art work goes up, community artists come in to judge. Parents and community members are invited to come view the student work. I invite the newspaper in for the judging. The most I do for the show is supply the idea, the area, and some art supplies as prizes. Our local public library displays art work from time-to-time. So I would think an art show could be accomplished in much the same way I do at CMS.

    The "Lunch in the Library" events are so popular, I have to put limits on attendance. Students have to read a certain genre of books during the month and then sign up for the lunch. We have three lunch periods. I take the first 20 students who sign up each period. I provide "front-of-the-line" passes to the students so they can get their lunches first and come to library. The library is closed to all other students that day during lunch. Tables are decorated to match the theme and I provide a dessert. My husband's brownies were a huge hit last time. Students talk about their books while enjoying a relaxing lunch.I would think that a public library could do something similar by having a book club meet over fast food or brown bag lunches. Dessert is a huge draw for all ages:)

    I do not hold after-school events very often. Middle school students, in the one county school, often do not have transportation home.The best involvement comes during school.

    For a public library, I highly suggest starting a TAB, teen advisory group. The teens will be able to tell you what will work and what won't. I completed my internship in our public library where I was able to get some of my students involved in the public library. Have you considered contacting your school librarians for ideas and suggestions of students who would volunteer?

  12. JoAnn and Melissa,
    I have one full time secretary who is in charge of the checkout area, overdues, and some of the book prep and copy cataloging. While I recruit student assistants, my secretary trains the students on the checkout process, shelving, and reading shelves. I train students on other aspects of the media center. I would not be able to collaborate, visit the elementary libraries, or plan and carry out student activities without her.

    I have not found parent volunteers to be long-term help. I had 4 parents scheduled to come in for an hour to assist with RIF book selection, one actually came in. On the other hand, parents have taken care of the book fair all this week - half a day per parent. All school volunteers must have a criminal background check, which I assume includes information about drug arrests - this is corporation policy.

  13. Michelle,
    Congrats on the RIF grant! My first suggestion is to follow the grant proposal. Whoever wrote the grant will have provided an outline of distribution dates and activities. For book selection, I heavily rely on students' suggestions. I put the catalogs out on a table and ask select students to mark pages with post-it notes with suggestions for purchase. I also ask parents and staff to do the same. The first year I had a RIF grant I took all three areas at equal consideration.Now students have the final say. Parents will often choose classics from their childhood days and teachers will choose historical fiction. While both are fine, these should be a small part of the books chosen. Students know what students like to read. I have also gained expertise in that area as well. Try to get a good mix of "chick lit" and sports. Remember graphic novels as well. Remember to provide reading for all levels, including special education classes who may need their own table of choices.

  14. Michelle,
    The One Book, One School program has taken a few turns since its inception. Each year, we have collaborated with our public library. Collaboration is difficult because we do not allow students to take home the books until we have completed the read. So what we had hoped would be a close collaboration has not taken place yet or may not be possible. The public library does hold a few connecting programs, shows related videos, and pulls their copies of the book and related books for display and checkout.

    Our Reading Focus Group works together in coming up with a title and teaching activity suggestions. We have not decided on this spring's title yet. We have a small media center fee attached to book fees, but with over 62% of our students not paying the full fee amount, there is still a shortage of funds. That is when I applied for and received a Scholastic Literacy Partnership . This partnership allows us to purchase books at a HUGE discount and to fit the read into our budget.

  15. Rhonda,
    Your classes with Larry and Annette will be the best preparation you can receive to prepare yourself on promoting your role as teacher librarian AND technology expert.

    There are so many free tools available nowadays. A site which lists a plethora of Web 2.0 tools is
    Cool Tools for Schools. Students will be excited to use the tools. Their excitement is bound to filter throughout the school and to the principal's office.

    We all know that testing is driving instruction and budgetary concerns. Keep in mind that your role in student achievement should not be underestimated. Provide your principal with data and research that demonstrates how technology placed in your hands will not only assist in improving test scores but in developing 21st Century learners.Standards for the 21st-Century Learner is a document that you should keep close at hand. I have a copy in my lesson plan book and in my calendar. Share a copy with your principal.
    Your principal can be your best supporter. I meet with my principal every first Wed. of the month, as well as communicating in the halls and by email. The more you can communicate your role in the school, the more the principal will consider the technology you need and want.

    Communicate, showcase your students' work, and sell your role as technology expert.


  16. Cindy,

    I was really intrigued by your extensive participation as a presenter at professional conferences. I've never been to a professional conference before, so I am very curious as to how things work at them, specifically what type of process you go through as a presenter. Do you have to be invited to be a presenter? If so, how do you go about earning an invitation? Also, what were some of your presentations like? I wondered if it was more along the lines of a lecture or more like a question and answer session guided by you. I would be so nervous presenting to all of those people! Is presenting at a conference anything like presenting to a class of kids or to a room of teachers, or is a conference presentation completely in its own ball park?

  17. Shea,
    If you have never been to a professional conference, let me highly suggest attending the ILF/AIME conference
    in November in Indy. I will be attending and look forwarding to perhaps meeting some of you there. Every year, I manage to put a face with someone I have taken online courses with or with whom I have corresponded. Conferences also allow you to get new ideas, discuss problems, and know that there is someone else out there who understands your unique role as an LMS.

    Usually, a person who wants to be a presenter submits a presentation proposal by a specified date. The program committee goes through the proposal and determines which proposals fit the conference needs. I began presenting at my staff meetings at the urging of my principal. Then other teachers suggested my presenting for state conferences and other schools from around the state have asked me to present for their staff development sessions.

    I am happy to share what I have learned and to share my experiences but I don't think of myself as a "presenter." I don't really get nervous, probably because I consider the presentations as times of sharing with colleagues. Presentations have ranged from hands-on activities, to computer workshops, to informative presentations. I try to always include some type of small group interaction.

    Presenting is like teaching. You need to have an idea of who your audience is and then be flexible in presenting information in a way that everyone will leave with new information - also trying not to put anyone to sleep during the session:)

  18. Cindy,
    I wrote the grant but just wasn't sure how to go about ordering the books. WHen do you have students select titles- when they are scheduled for LMC visits? Do you use multiple vendors?
    On another topic, I checked out the Cool Tools link. I take it that it is all free technology. Did you create this page or is it downloadable somehow? I also looked at the MSP2 Math & Science Pathways. I've never seen this before. Is it a collaboration with a university?
    Are the Greencoats your version of a student advisory board? What sorts of things do they help you with in addition to book fairs and check out/shelving of books?
    Last question! For your summer reading program, I see students can earn initial prizes, treasure chest prizes and chances. WOuld you explain what types of prizes these are? What type of budget do you have for this? Are the prizes donated or do you use book fair money or other funds to purchase them?
    Sorry for all the questions. There is a lot of info on your webpage- very impressive!!
    Thanks for sharing-

  19. One more thing!! I'll be attending the ILF conference. I haven't looked at the schedule yet. Will you be presenting?
    Thanks again!

  20. Cindy,
    Thanks for the "Cool Tools For Schools" site. What a great resource!! I agree with you on the value of courses by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson. Unfortunately, I have communicated all of the studies showing the correlation of higher test scores to well run media centers, shown the Standards For the 21st Century Learner, organized teacher training and anything else I can think of to promote the library and the corresponding teaching of technology. I have talked so much, my principal practically turns the other way when he sees me coming. My next move is to present to the board and to continue working with the staff. Your advise has given me a renewed sense of commitment. Thanks for your time and expertise!

  21. Michelle,
    I am not presenting this year at ILF. I am looking forward to soaking up the knowledge of others and relaxing.

  22. Rhonda,
    Balancing technology that works, and doesn't work and technology with the lack of it will always be a conundrum, even in the best of circumstances. Hang in there. Your efforts will speak for themselves.

  23. Michelle,
    RIF - I order from no more than 2 vendors, just to make life easier. I also order all of the books at once, again to make life easier. Students look through catalogs when they are in the media center and have a few minutes. This could be before school, during lunch, or when they come on a pass.

    Greencoats - Greencoats are students assistants who work in the media center instead of having a study period. I have Greencoats working 6 out of 8 periods with 2 or 3 workers per period. Each trimester, we lose some of the Greencoats due to changes in their schedules, but we pick up replacements. Right now, I have at least 20 names on a waiting list. By the end of the year, about 60 different students will have served as Greencoats. Students are called Greencoats because they were green vests when they are working in the media center. The green vests are like a wearable hall pass and the vests allow students and staff to easily pick out the students who can assist them. Because students give up their study time to serve in the media center, I check on their grades at midterms and report cards. If a student has a D or F or is struggling with grades, they go back to team study. Sometimes we can work out a modified scheduled. For instance, I currently have a young lady who works only one day a week. I have seen students improve their grades and behavior because they want to be a Greencoat. Every current Greencoat made the honor roll this grading period.

    TAB is my Teen Advisory Board. I have 26 students who are currently TAB members.Choir and band members do not have a study period where they could serve as Greencoats. TAB meets as a club and therefore choir and band students can participate.

  24. Michelle,
    I did not create the Cool Tools page. It is a wiki where different people have contributed. Most of the resources are free to use online or to download. Some sites give you the basics free, but if you want more options, there is a cost. Check out each resource to be sure.

    The Math and Science portal is through Ohio University. One of my science teachers really likes this site.

  25. Michelle,
    Summer reading is a difficult program to administer for middle school students who do not have transportation to and from the school. I have tried partnering with the public library, but we did not find many students participating. It is just not cool at this age to go to the "kiddie" section of the public library.

    This past summer, I ran our reading program with summer school. My secretary works 2 days a week during summer school to keep the library portion open, so we invited other students to use the media center during the weeks of summer school. For prizes we had coupons to the local ice cream store (Contributed, no cost) and items from Oriental Trading Company that fit the theme. Feed back was good and the cost was under $100. We have tried bigger prizes like iPods and gift cards with less involvement. I don't think the prizes matter that much. What makes the larger difference is making the media accessible to students.

  26. Cindy,

    I've heard from a lot of media specialists that they highly recommend student advisory boards. When I was in school K-12, our library never used these, so I don't have any prior experience with them and am very interested in creating one in my own library. You mentioned in your discussion about your school's greencoat students doing very well in their school work and that their privelages with the library seemed to help motivate that achievement. Have you seen a similar outcome with students serving on the advisory board? Are the kids involved with the student advisory board less or more active in the library than the greencoats, and how do you think this level of activity may effect their academics? I'm also curious how the teachers have been responding to these two library programs. It seems like since the students have been so successful academically that the teachers would be very proud of this program in their school and encourage the students to join. Is this the way it really plays out?

  27. Shea,
    The TAB members come during activity time where grades aren't figured into participation.The students are pretty varied. There are students who are at the top of their class, and students who can struggle academically. There are social students and introverts.There are voracious readers and then students who read only graphic novels. The common denominator is that the media center is their place of comfort.

    As far as the teachers being "proud" of the two programs - I don't hear that as such. But teachers are supportive and assist in helping send students to me.

    As you consider starting a student group, consider the book,"Library Teen Advisory Groups(Voya Guides" by Diane P.Tuccillo,ISBN-10: 0810849828.

  28. Abby, Shea, JoAnn, Michelle, and Rhonda,
    I've enjoyed our conversations this week. Your questions will help you map the road ahead of you as media specialists or in public libraries. We have covered a lot of topics this week. But, yet there is so much more to our role as teacher, librarian, and information specialist. If you have future questions, feel free to email or if you are in the area, please stop by.