Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Susan Eley - Wed. Oct. 6 to Fri. Oct. 8, 2010

Susan Landis Eley is the PreK-4 Library Media Specialist at Hillside School in Mt. Laurel, NJ.

 Susan recently shared three
 articles that resound with her professional practice and philosophy:

1) Jones, Jami (June 2010). Guest Blogger Jami Jones on Librarians, Caring, and SL Curriculum. School Library Monthly Blog.
"The [most] important role of the school library program is 
relational, not collecting and housing resources."

2) Valenza, Joyce (Oct 2010). Manifesto for 21st Century Librarians. Voya
3) Valenza, Joyce (Aug 2010). Things Teacher Librarians Should Unlearn (20 & Counting). Never Ending Search, School Library Journal.
Learn more at


  1. Hello everyone! It is an honor to be among such good company here.

    I am excited to hear what questions you may have or issues you may want to discuss. If you're not sure where to begin, I would take a look at #3 above by Joyce Valenza: Things Teacher Librarians Should Unlearn. If you are not prepared to be a customer-service, patron-first type librarian (not a book chaser) then I politely suggest you consider another field! I love my chosen profession and it saddens me when I encounter the stereotypical librarian who is all about keeping the books in line and not servicing people.

    In addition, here are some issues you may want some clarification on that I have experience with that I am happy to address:

    - Tech Integration and Planning with PreK-4 learners
    - Battle of the Books clubs
    - Fixed Schedule with no aide (that's me)
    - Readers/Writers Workshop curriculum - how to fit in library
    - Readers Theater

    Happy 'commenting.'

    Susan Eley

  2. Anonymous7:31 PM

    I liked very much what Jami Jones said in the School library Monthly Blog. I worked in two different schools during the last two years and one was a caring environment where I was the only librarian with one aide and the students loved coming to the library where I welcomed them whenever they had an opportunity to stop in. The other was in a school with a librarian who had been there for years (she just retired), an aide and myself who was hired to teach elementary classes since she didn't like the elementary classes as much. This library environment was not as friendly and it took me until the end of the year to get the teachers and students to want to come to the library and think of it as a great place. This came through helping find books, creating fun Smartboard lessons and learning units. I found it easier to create meaningful learning experiences with students in third grade and up but had difficulty with lessons for kindergarten, first and second grade. What type of activities and experiences do you provide for your younger students such as Pre-k and kindergarten?
    Donna Jo

  3. Donna,

    I'm glad you sound like a caring librarian! :)

    Judy Freeman's "Books Kids will Sit Still For" books and "Winners" best book conferences were a HUGE help for me when planning and choosing books for PreK and K lessons. Don't forget to put tons of resources for the little ones on your library website - see my K section at http://mtlaurelschools.org/hillside/library/hslibrary.html

    I used to be a music teacher, so I'm not afraid to sing and move with the little ones! I only have PreK and K for 25 minutes once a week. I open with a song or fingerplay, library-related activity, then a read-aloud and close with checking out books.

    If you have not seen it, there is a great wiki started by some elementary librarians at http://elementarylibraryroutines.wikispaces.com/
    Check the sections on "lesson plans" and "storytime routines."

    Another invaluable resource for storytime is the handbook created by the Whatcom Public Library (Washington) at http://elementarylibraryroutines.wikispaces.com/file/view/WCLS+2010+Preschool+Storytime+Handbook.pdf

    It IS hard to go "deeper" with such young students, but we do it!

    In Jan/Feb I lead the students through a mini-inquiry project about snow. What do they want to know about snow? Where can we find the answers? This past year they wanted to know how to build a snowman, so we found a Youtube video that showed us how. We researched snow using online resources and books and wrote down what we found.

    Later in the year (March/April), I begin with Jan Brett's "The Umbrella" and then we research our questions about rainforest animals.

    In planning true inquiry, I've found it's important to give the students some background knowledge about a topic and THEN ask "What do you want to know about ___?" Student-directed questions should be your focus.

    If you're looking for an example of a "tech-connected" kindergarten classroom, check out teacher Maria Knee's Deerfield, NH kindergarten class blog at http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=51141

    She teams with a 2nd grade teacher in Canada and a 2nd grade teacher in Australia to connect their classes - see more at http://plan4tech.wikispaces.com

    I learned more about this at the ISTE conference, which is an INVALUABLE experience. I can't say enough about it - go! I've gone twice on my own dime, and in terms of connections made, lesson ideas gained, and philosophy shifts discovered, it is worth every penny.

  4. I couldn't agree more that circulation statistics need to be forgotten as the primary method of how "used" a library is. I have my random ideas, but I was wondering where you thought that statistics should be culled from? You have to defend your budget somehow, and usually the circ. stats take care of that.

  5. I think I should update mine. Not necessarily saying that circ stats should be forgotten, but rather; no longer be used exclusively as the stat we base everything off of.
    Thanks again.

  6. Anonymous4:58 PM

    Thank you for all of those great resources, I have saved them and look forward to looking them over this weekend. I am going to participate in my first Battle of the Books with fourth and fifth grade students this year and would like to know what to expect. I am writing questions for The sign of the Beaver and Pictures of Hollis Woods.
    Donna Jo

  7. Jake,
    I agree with you. Especially when we start talking about my fixed schedule library, where the amount of circulations has remained relatively stable for the past two years - it's not a true reflection of my library's effectiveness because *all* students are checking out books each week because they're there, not because they choose to be there (like in a high school library).

    You will notice I did include basic statistics in my annual report, but nothing too detailed. http://www.mtlaurelschools.org/hillside/docs/Hillside_annual_report_08_09.pdf

    I am always pushing evidence of student learning and student products in the face of the administrators. :) Why would I expect them to read boring statistics that don't show a correlation to student learning? In a high school library, circ statistics may be more diagnostic - if you're not getting enough kids in, something's gotta change.

    And I plan on presenting statistics on "usage of online resources" this year, as for the first time I have purchased a school subscription to PebbleGo, an online database for PreK-3 learners. (Our district maintains subscriptions to other databases such as Facts on File and Grolier Online, but I don't have access to those usage stats.)

  8. Mrs. E (Susan)5:53 PM

    Donna Jo,

    In preparing for Battle of the Books, I would encourage you to network with other schools in your state who are competing.

    My first year, I was alone in my district doing the Battle of the Books. I wrote some questions on my own, but through my state organization NJASL I was able to use the books on their selected list and borrow questions others had written.

    Website at http://www.njasl.org/programs_reading.shtml

    I wasn't afraid to use their booklist MOSTLY but change out a few books I felt could be replaced.

    My second year, I convinced two other librarians in the district to form their own "Battle of the Books" clubs (all fourth graders) and we met for a final "Battle of the Books" at my school. The winners got certificates and Borders gift cards and their names on the announcements at their school.

    You have older kids, but since I was dealing with 4th graders, I decided to let them use the Promethean ActivVotes to 'vote' for the correct answer, instead of writing it down or saying it out loud. It was a GREAT use of the technology (it is a clicker system), and also great because the program tallied the correct answers automatically!

    If you don't have clickers, I wonder if you could set up a similar system via polleverywhere.com or Google Forms...hmmm...something to consider.

  9. Hello Susan!
    I'm interested in #19 from Things Teacher Librarians Should Unlearn (20 & Counting) which states that a librarian should unlearn "that your library is open from 8 AM to 3 PM". I have a friend and colleague who used to work for an Intermediate Center that would stay after school and have fun, interesting programs for her students. Attendance was high and, as a result of her efforts, she had a lot of fans in her school. After being transferred to another school, these programs have ceased as the new school media specialist does not have any interest in after school activities and told me, flat out, that she feels as though she should not have to do them because she is not being paid to work any longer than necessary. What is your take on this? Do you feel that after school programs are beneficial and, ultimately, important for our students?

  10. Anonymous5:00 PM

    Thanks, I do have access to turning point technology and had not thought about using it. As you said, what a great source of technology and the kids love using it.
    Donna Jo

  11. Mrs. E. (Susan)5:21 PM


    Sigh. You will encounter these teachers every so often - the "That's not my job" type. Or the "I'm not spending one minute ever doing anything for the kids on my lunch because that's my duty-free lunch and that's that." And for every one of those, I hope you meet 10 more of the "I'll do it because it's best for the kids and not necessarily because I'm earning money" type. :) These latter types of teachers are the ones truly invested in their students, not just in "their teaching." They are the ones reaching learners, not just 'covering the curriculum.'

    Of course, there is a need to recognize the importance of contractual standards, when you are part of a teachers' union, but teachers 'bend the rules' all the time, for the good of the students. (Just don't do it too much or you might get a few evil eyes..) :)

    If you think about the teachers who meant the most to you, they're probably the ones who did something 'outside' of school hours - they coached a team you were on, directed a play, wrote a reference letter, gave you a voice lesson. So yes, absolutely, investing extra time is WORTH IT for your program.

    Now I do have colleagues with young children who absolutely must leave at the end of the day every day, and that is understandable...I'll have to re-address this question when I'm at that point! But they still find time to offer clubs and book fairs and library family nights and other programs that benefit the school community.

    Also, I think part of what Joyce was saying is that if you believe your job is only 8 am - 3 pm, you are not involved in the many *digital* ways your library can be alive past school hours....databases, library websites, blogs, facebook, assessing student online portfolios, etc.

  12. One of school media websites I was looking into for a portion of this project are opened on Wed. nights from 7-9 pm. I would wonder what kind of numbers they have as far as bodies in the door, computer usage, circulation, etc... It's an interesting concept, but would it be worthwhile if there are only a few people actively participating?

  13. Mrs. E (Susan Eley)7:34 PM

    HI Jake,

    I'm wondering what type of community they serve and how old the learners are. IF there are many families that do not own computers or older students who struggle with finding correct resources and there isn't any time scheduled during the school day for them to come to the library, the evening hours are worthwhile.

    For my community - upper middle class with almost 100% home computer ownership - there would not be a need to open my physical library space at night. My library website serves as an extension of 'me' and I'm always available via email.

    A more modern solution, in my opinion, would be to make yourself 'virtually' available via chat or other tools (skype, etc.) to anyone who needed assistance at that time of night.