Monday, September 27, 2010

Dana Fisher - Tues. Sept. 28 to Thurs. Sept. 30, 2010

A recent graduate of IU's SLIS program, Dana Fisher is one of two library media specialists working at Southwest Middle School in High Point, NC. Prior to that, Dana held a similar position at Tuttle Middle School in Crawfordsville, IN. Tuttle M.S. was a one-professional operation in a relatively small town location and today Dana works in a large urban school system.

Dana's unique perspectives include experiences with service learning, problem-based learning, collaborations with teachers, reading promotion activities, and her personal blogsite.

It is great to have the participation of a former student who has recently entered the school library field. Learn more about Dana:


  1. Hello to all of you in Larry's class. I look forward to several days of interesting dialogue with all of you. I've scheduled a new blog post on my blog "The Quilted Librarian" to coincide with my virtual visit here. It will give you an idea of some of the ways I try to bring my love of quilting into my work as a librarian.

  2. Dana - I love your quilting ideas. That reminds me of a project I used to do with my kiddos in a middle school. I would buy fabric off the discount table at WalMart and cut them into small squares. I would give each kid a square and let them decorate the squares according to whatever book they were reading. I would then patch the squares together like a quilt. I didn't usually put a back on it or anything, but I would just hang them in my classroom. I would see kids looking at those quilts all the time getting ideas for good books to read. It's like a permanent bulletin board! :)

  3. Dana,

    Your quilting ideas related to the school library are great! I love how you've been able to combine something you love outside of school with your work inside the school. This idea of uniting seemingly different interests is one that got me thinking. The example you're setting is showing the kids that they can relate their own interests to the library. Do you have any great reading programs currently in place at your school that make this link? Or, do you have any good ideas that you're looking forward to trying out? Especially in a middle school setting, I'm interested to know how receptive the students are to getting involved with their library, whether it be a poetry club or a Harry Potter fan group, how active are your students in library activities?

  4. I think your quilting idea is awesome!! As a new media specialist what is the first and second most import part of the job do you cover or learn? Examples: Review the current library collection, Meet with the teachers and schedule projects.

  5. Hi Abby,
    Thanks for sharing your idea about the book squares. One of my 7th grade science teachers has each of her students make a paper square sharing something about themselves. She then puts them together into class quilts. There are so many great applications for quilting in academics. I used to do presentations for the math teachers on the geometry of quilting, equilateral triangles, and tessalations.

    I completely agree, Shea. I think it's really important for our students to see that we are passionate about things and that there are so many avenues for them to explore.

    Here at Southwest, I am very involved with my Battle of the Books team. I start out with between 40 and 60 kids and by March, I'm down to the 12 who actually go to the competition. I invite the students to come into the library media center in the morning before school to read, or get a new book. They are from all three grades and it's one of the few non-athletic activities in the school where they can get to know students from other grades. The older, more experienced kids are such great role models for the newbies, encouraging them to read a certain book or hang tough if it's a little hard for them at first.

    When I directed the musicals at Tuttle, I would get some of the kids involved in doing some research about the period of the plays and then creating a display --sort of baby-steps dramaturgy. When we did Oklahoma, the kids were really surprised to find pictures of African-American and Mexican cowboys which really reflected our cast. The research for Fiddler on the Roof involved the pogroms in Russia and emigration and because we had very few Jewish students at our school, I invited a Wabash professor to come and talk about the sabbath and other specific parts of the play dealing with Judaism. I also shared theatre etiquette and traditions with the students.

    At Tuttle, we were fortunate enough to be able to do Read and Feed events for our students. When we read Don't You Dare Read this, Mrs. Dunphrey, Margaret Haddix came for our celebration. Almost three quarters of our students read the book as well as teachers, custodians, grandparents, college librarians, school board members and parents. Tying reading to something memorable like that day is a priceless gift to students.

  6. Hi Joey,
    I think getting familiar with the collection is probably a really good start when you come to a new school. Getting to know your teachers and the curriculum should go hand and hand with that. Sometimes setting up meetings with teachers can be tough, so you have to get creative. If you are in a middle or high school, the teachers probably meet as a grade level or as a discipline at least once a week. Ask if you can sit in on those meetings and just listen. I subscribe to the NY Times daily lesson plans and send the links to them to my teachers who really seem to appreciate it. My mentor, Mike Barton at Tuttle told me something very valuable and true, "If you feed them, they will come." I used to do a breakfast for the teachers and spread out all the new books. This was often the place where beginning collaborations happened.
    Are those the sorts of things you're looking for?

  7. Dana,

    Thanks for helping with our class. My first question has to do with selection for middle grades. Do you find there is a large difference in what's fit for 6th graders through 8th graders? And if you have any insight on heaping 5th graders into that, I'd appreciate it...

  8. Dana,

    What a great idea to offer breakfast to the teachers to share new titles and other news!! What are some of your most successful collaboration units? What was your role? Thank you! Becky

  9. Dana,
    I also love the quilt connection. I taught 4th grade at a school that was 67% ESL and 96% free and reduced lunch. In order to teach geometry skills and incorporate "pioneer" standards, we created quilt squares and actually sewed them together and, using a quilting frame, quilted the pieces together. To teach persuasive writing, I held a contest for the students to persuade me why they deserved to get the quilt. It was wonderful. The essays were well written and heart-warming. I really miss teaching. In the Media Center, I find that there is no understanding and no respect. Do you find that? Do you have any suggestions for promoting the library as a vital teaching arena?
    Thanks for your time,

  10. Dana,
    When I saw the quilt you made on the LMC webpage for the Million Books initiative, I wasn't the least bit surprised. :-) Students still ask about the quilt you helped my advisory make to commemorate 9/11.
    One of my questions has to do with selection also. You know that our budget here at TMS was cut drastically. What suggestions do you have on how I should spend what is left of what was left me? I am unsure how to balance continuing series,new releases, and, of course, nonfiction, plus I want to beef up the poetry.
    Also, do you think it's worth using a jobber and paying for MARC records, bar codes, etc. I know it saves time but not sure it's worth the cost. Kathy used B&T but they don't send the order until it's completely filled and that can take months - literally. I kind of like B&N myself.

  11. How exciting to have Margaret Haddix in your building. I am currently using Among the Hidden as a read aloud for my students. We just got to the part where Luke broke into Jen's house to find out what happened at the rally when I stopped reading today so that we could go to the library for our check-out appointment. When we got to the library, they were literally RACING to the "H"'s to try to check out that book to find out what happened (good thing I thought ahead and removed it from the shelf). NONE of the books in the series are left on the shelf and they all have hold lists! I love that the boys are especially into these books and are the ones whose names abound on the hold lists. However, we are 5 chapters away from the end of the book. Do you have any suggestions for another read aloud that will go as well as this one? I would love to do a beginning of another series like this (to keep them reading).


  12. Dana,

    Your ideas about quilting are exicting. I don't sew, but my students could defnetly use paper squares to tell about books they are reading.

    I am a brand new media specialist in a k-5 school. I am trying to turn my room with books into a library. My books are currently uncataloged. I am working to organize and display them properly. I have 7 classes each day with 5 minute in between. What tips do you have that could enrich my LMC? I have 26 computers in my LMC that I can use for students.

  13. That is WONDERFUL how you were able to get the kids researching the context of the plays they were doing! I'm sure it helped with their performances and their understanding of the play, but I bet the much greater benefit was them gaining an understanding of different cultures and different times. In cases like this did you ever run into people who were against learning about certain cultures or groups? Even just in the everyday running of the library, how often do you have to resolve issues about the contents of material, and how have you found is the best way to go about doing that?

  14. Hi Michelle,
    I'm sitting in my office looking at the little stuffed owl that your students gave me after we made that quilt!

    I've been going through the same budget agonies that you are these last two years. We are so needy in non-fiction and reference, but one or two books wouldn't really get it, so I'm concentrating what little money we are given on the fiction collection because that's where the demand is greatest. I'll confess to having spent my own money to get extra Battle of the Books copies and the new book in a series because I hate to see the disappointment on the kids' faces when we don't have something. Our book fair is some help, but again, not the kind of money that needs to be infused to bring this collection up to date.

    I used to buy MARC records, but do my own processing at Tuttle to save some money, but here, we are required to buy things shelf-ready.

    We use Follett as a supplier pretty exclusively, except for our Junior Library Guild order.
    Great to hear from you.

  15. Shawn, Becky, and Rhonda ,
    I'm not ignoring you. I answered your comments last night, but got the error message when I sent it and this time I really did lose the comment, so I'll try it again. Sorry.

    Shawn--Maintaining a collection that satisfies sixth through eighth grade is definitely a balancing act. There are obviously things that an 8th grader would want to read that are too mature for a sixth grader and other books that 8th graders would deemed too babyish for them that would be perfect for 6th grade. Readers' advisory becomes really important in middle school for this reason. We no longer have a media assistant, so I either ask the teacher to check out books or train a willing student so I can be out among the books providing help. I've heard of programs that include 5th graders in the building where books are labeled and there are certain things that the younger kids are not allowed to borrow. I hate that idea. I've found that kids are really very agreeable if you tell them honestly that a certain book is probably too mature for them as 6th graders and offer something else that you think they might enjoy.

    I'm just starting to make some progress here with collaboration because it's not something that has happened much before I got here. I work a great deal with two of our Exceptional Children's classes. I read to them and teach a little lesson every Wednesday. Social studies and science classes do the bulk of the research projects that go on and I'm just beginning to start working with them. At Tuttle, service learning and problem-based learning provided lots of opportunities for collaboration. The man who is now the principal at Tuttle used to teach social studies and we worked together on a Panama Canal project that started as basic research and then evolved into the students portraying various people involved in the construction of the canal as the method of sharing their research.

    I think it's important to remember that most teachers are not trained to look upon the library media specialist as a collaborator, so you need to lead gently and not expect too much all at once. Also collaboration can look like many different things with different teachers. Be open to opportunities to help and be patient. It takes time to build working relationships.

    Rhonda--I loved hearing about your pioneering quilt project. You didn't mention specifically where you are now, but I'm assuming it's also an elementary building. If you are like most elementary librarians, you are so busy with classes and preparing for them that you have very little time to advocate for your program. I'm sure it's discouraging, but hang in there. Try to volunteer for school-wide committees like the school improvement committee so that you can be there to advocate for the library. Remember that all these things take time. Be positive, get to know everyone in the building, be helpful and eventually your professionalism and committment to the students will win the day.

  16. Hi Nichelle,
    Are you distributing materials to the classes that come in? I assume they are staying at school and not going home with the students if they are not cataloged. I think that the borrowing experience is pretty central, so having a way to check materials out should be a priority. I think it's important that the library should be a welcoming and pleasant space. There are lots of people now who are using the bookstore approach in their media centers to make them more welcoming. Two of our high school media specialists have gone to genre shelving in their media center particularly for the benefit of the romance and horror/romance crowd. Our sixth graders obviously come from elementary schools where they do genre shelving, too, because they always want to know where our mystery books are.

  17. Hi again, Shea,
    Thankfully, I haven't run up against any problems with people complaining about mulitcultural teaching at Tuttle or here at Southwest. This is a wonderfully diverse school with students from 55 different countries. We have a wonderful multicultural fair each year. Teachers volunteer to coach the student groups from the various countries to create their displays and plan their activities for the day. I coached Team India last year.

    In terms of book challenges, I've had an upset parent in both places, but it didn't go beyond our initial conversation. One of the nice things about Destiny is that you can add a note to any patron's record that pops up when their account does saying that they are not allowed to check out certain books. Generally, they want someone to listen to their concerns. I do that and then explain collection development, the process we go through to vet a book and ask them if they want to pursue a challenge. So far, I've been lucky that it's not gone further. Most people are satisfied if they can make decisions for their own child, it's the people who think they get to decide what other people's children shouldn't be allowed to read that are usually trouble. I guess that's a long-winded way of saying, let the person speak and be a good listener.

  18. Poor Abby,
    I'm sorry I missed your comment this morning! The Shadow Children is still an amazingly popular series. Margaret started a new series called The Missing, but it doesn't seem to have the same draw as the earlier one. You might try Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. It's the first of the Alex Rider books and it's full of thrilling incidents. It was a Battle of the books selection last year and the girls liked it, too. The Lightning Thief would be another good one that's exciting and appealing to the girls, too. Other great read alouds that I love are A Long Way From Chicago and The Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck. Each chapter is really a stand alone story and they are funny and heart-warming.

  19. JoAnn White12:03 PM

    First you worked in a small middle school, now you are in a large urban school. I would rather work in a school where I am busy. Which do you prefer, and what are some pros and cons to both components”

  20. Hello, JoAnn,
    One of the things that you learn fairly quickly being a LMS is that there will be times when you need to be on roller skates and times that need to be filled. For the slow times, I try to have a variety of long-term projects to work on for example one of the ones here is that somewhere along the line someone made the executive decision that they were going to use only one decimal place with the sports books. It's a disaster because all of the ball-sport books are mixed together and the kids don't have the patience to look for the call number they want. Weeding is another activity for those slow times as well as inventory or just shelf reading. I try to do repair work as it comes in so that it doesn't pile up and the books are stuck out of circulation.

    I loved Tuttle's size but it wasn't very diverse and that's one of the things I really love about Southwest. I also like having the support of 119 other media specialists just a few mouse clicks away on our listserv. We also do lots of professional development in-house. This is my third year to take the Young Adult Literature class that Library Media Services offers. We read a book for each meeting and book talk it for the other participants. It's a great way to meet other media specialists in the corporation and learn about new books.

    Access to technology is the biggest difference between Tuttle and Southwest. The new schools here have all the bells and whistles while most of us limp along with one computer in a classroom and a few labs. It was a little like stepping back in time coming here. People are the most important resource, though, and at both schools, the faculty and staff are excellent.

  21. Dana,

    Margaret Peterson Haddix is also extremely popular at our school, along with Gordon Korman and Roland Smith. The former were author visits and I'm guessing added to their popularity. Can you think of a few authors you've heard (or had visit) and liked and maybe some you thought weren't worth it?

  22. Dana,

    Thanks for your recommendations. I consider myself well read in young adult literature and I am constantly reading different books. I even have a list of books I want to read that is 3 pages long (thus, I have forbidden myself from reading SLJ for a few months). However, I have not read any of the books you suggested. I will be making a library run tomorrow! :)

    Thanks again!

  23. Dana,

    In your comments to JoAnn, you mentioned weeding during your slow times. How do you decide what needs to go? Also, when it comes time to purchase books do you refer to the school's mission statement or what teachers and kids want?

    Thanks! Becky

  24. Dana,
    I've been thinking about the bookstore approach to shelving myself. How do feel about it? What do you see as the pros and cons? What have you heard from the LMSs in your corporation who have gone to this?
    I wonder about fiction that could fit into more than one category. For instance, if a book is a mystery but with vampire characters, how would they shelf it.
    On the other hand, I think the Deweys would be much easier to group. It drives me crazy that drugs can be found in the 300s and the 600s. Greek mythology in the 100s (or is it 200s?) but fairy tales and folk tales in the 300s. And career info is all over!
    Thise building that use the bookstore approach - did they start from scratch or were they new buildings? Did they change all the spine labels and MARC information as well? I realize you may not have this information, so would you be able to provide names of those LMSs? Thanks!

  25. Dana,
    Thanks for the encouraging comments. I agree with you that teachers are not trained to collaborate with the LMS. I have tried for three years to show how I can help them, but to them, I am still just a babysitter. I followed a librarian that did not change at all in 30 years. Now I am suffering the consequences. In this tumultuous educational landscape, colleges need to inform teacher candidates how helpful a collaborative relationship with the LMS could be. Today, I gave my principal an earful. I have demonstrated collaboration, given him articles touting research on improved test scores in schools where collaboration exists, and held teacher workshops- all to no avail. It is very depressing, but I am plugging along. Thanks for your time. It is nice to hear from a successful person in the profession.

  26. Hello, Shawn,
    Margaret is an excellent candidate for author visits. She's very articulate about her process, loves the kids, and is very kind. Richard Peck can be a bit prickly, but is also very good at what he does. I've heard Laurie Anderson (who wrote Speak among other things) and Linda Sue Park talk as well and would highly recommend them. You might want to think non-fiction writers, too. I follow a blog called I.N.K. that features contributions from a number of great authors of non-fiction like Sue Macy and Lorraine Leedy, and they do lots of visits.

  27. Hi Becky,
    I think weeding is one of those things that's very individual. If I was following the MUSTY or CREW guidelines religiously here at Southwest, our collection would be considerably smaller. We've been given so little money in the last two years that we've be reluctant to let things go --especially those that are badly worn. I would definitely recommend waiting a year before you do any significant weeding. You need to know what's used by your teachers and students that might look simply awful to you. Non-fiction is fairly easy to weed using CREW in tandem with MUSTY, a section at a time. With fiction, I would look at the circ records and use MUSTY.

  28. Hi Michelle,
    We had one of our YA book classes at the high school library where they switched to genre shelving. It only affected the fiction collection and since it's a shelving change only, they didn't adjust the MARC records or call number. They did add genre labels so that their student shelvers know where to return things. They also still have a small regular fiction section for the things that don't really fit a specific genre. They debated about a series shelf, but decided against it because it was too confusing since the series overlapped all the genres. They also have a graphic novel section. It's a work in progress, but they said the students really like it.

    Regarding the non-fiction issues you mentioned, Michelle. I'm a strong believer in putting materials where patrons can find them and if that means changing some call numbers, so be it.

  29. Hello again, Rhonda,
    I can feel your frustration with your situation. A very wise media specialist once told me, "Work with the willing." congratulate yourself on any small successes and keep trying. Positive news travels just as fast as negative in a school.

    Remember that it probably took your predecessor years to establish the current attitudes toward the library media center, so it will take you some time to reverse them. I have had very good luck working with new teachers. They are usually very grateful for any help and for the friendship.

    Another positive thing you can do is to seek out any pre-service teachers in your building and do your part to educate them about the help and partnership they can look for in their building's library media specialist when they get a job.

  30. Dana,

    After reading all of your replies, not only to me but to everyone else in the class, I would really like to commend you on all of your very creative, very successful program ideas both with students and with teachers. I really can't tell you how much all of your fun ideas have inspired me to do something just as exciting when I work in a school! Since you've had so many unique experiences in the library, I thought you may be the perfect person to ask about something I'm not really sure is done in libraries (and I have been wondering about it for quite some time). I was wondering if your library, or any you know of/have heard of, have student-generated materials in them? Originally I had been thinking of a whole student section of the library, filled with their materials, but it could also be just a few student-made books scattered throughout the library (or anything else for that matter). I just thought that would be something really neat for the students to get to do, a really good learning experience while they were making them, and a point of pride for them in their school careers. Like I said, I'm not really sure if they exist. But if you do indeed know of some, do you know how successful they've been, both just in general popularity with the students and in academics when students use them for projects?

  31. Dana,
    I see you have AR. Do your teachers use the quizzes or just use it to help students find appropriate books for their reading levels?
    Thank you for all the great information!!

  32. Shea,
    Thank you so much for your kind words. I try to follow the example of Leonardo da Vinci and bring creativity into every part of my life. I don't have much experience with student-created materials being housed in the library except for yearbooks, but I think your idea has great merit. Creating a publishing center in the library might be a good way to encourage production.

    I wondered when someone would ask about AR, Michelle. We have two sixth grade language arts teachers who require AR for book reports and all the seventh grade teachers have point requirements tied to grades. No 8th grade LA teachers use it. We have AR tests for about 20 percent of our fiction collection and maybe 3 percent of our non-fiction collection. With the current lack of money, there's not much hope of increasing that anytime soon. Needless to say, it really limits the kids' choices.

  33. Dana,
    Thanks for the advise. I really like "Work with the willing." Great words to live by!! Thanks so much for your time. Your help is greatly appreciated.

  34. I've enjoyed being part of your class for a few days. You generated some great topics. Best of luck to you all. If you think of other questions, please don't hesitate to email me.