Monday, September 30, 2013

Jennifer Brower - Tues. Oct. 1 to Thur.. Oct. 3, 2013

Welcome to our next guest, Jennifer Brower, the Library Media Specialist at New Haven High School, IN.

Jenn was awarded the 2012 Outstanding New Media Specialist Award presented jointly by the Indiana Library Association and the Association of Indiana School Library Educators (ILF/AISLE). Currently, she is the District 3 Representative-elect and is Treasurer for AISLE.

In a short time-span, Mrs. Brower has established herself at her school as a energetic and knowledgeable leader who is willing to share and collaborate.

She will lead off with her response to the startup question - "Can you provide a few examples or ideas of what makes your library program successful?"


  1. Wow, what an honor to share with you guys! :-)

    Ok, first and foremost, my students are what make my program a success. This is their library, after all!

    Last year (2nd year at New Haven HS) I was completely buried by our new 1:1 iPad initiative. All I seemed to do was live and breathe iPads. However, some major changes did take place all thanks to my awesome students!

    My first year I started heavily weeding and moving books. Fiction was all in the 800s. Students couldn't find them. In addition, the previous librarian tried to be frugal with his spending and tended to do all of his purchasing from "used" book stores, where he may end up with the 3rd and 9th book of a series. There were also almost all adult-interest or junior-high-interest books. Lesson learned here: KNOW YOUR STUDENTS

    I wasn't satisfied with just moving fiction out into a new area. After talking to some of my student interns and regulars, we decided to genrify. Last year on a Sunday, 5 student volunteers began the process, getting it enough into place that students could begin using it that Monday. (very small collection) What a difference it has made! Lots of positive responses from my students!

    Another area of concern was the library was more of a storage space for dusty old books and lots of junk. I am working towards a flexible Learning Commons, so I had big ideas of getting rid of shelving and opening up the space. With iPads, I told my students that there was no way I could get it done last year. Next thing I know, I have students offering to take shelves down and clean out junk areas. In one day, my students and I literally destroyed the library and put it back together. While we aren’t done, students and staff have shared their appreciation for the changes. Lesson learned: APPEARANCE IS EVERYTHING (whether we like it or not)

    The last area that has made me “valued” by my students and staff is my total immersion with technology. Today’s librarian, in my opinion, is 70% technology-based, 30% books (if even that much). Our students AND staff need a lot of support on how to use databases, use different learning management systems (we use My Big Campus), trouble shoot technology problems, and understand Digital Citizenship and Fair Use. If I don’t know anything about what they are working with, I try to find a resource that can help them. This has led to me being “in charge” of the school website, and now the supervisor for our Student Channel 86 Daily News and video classes. Lesson learned: BE FLEXIBLE AND FRIENDLY

    Ok…I think that is more than enough to get this started. Sorry it took so long to get this up today. iPads!!!!

    1. Wow! It sounds like you have a lot going on in your library! I'm especially interested in your role as a high school librarian because I also work in a high school. Do you have any general advice on working with teenagers? Sometimes I feel like I struggle with being a disciplinarian. Do you ever have any behavior problems in your library? If so, how do you handle them? Thanks! Emily

    2. Hi! Thanks for your willingness to share your knowledge and experiences with us. I would agree with your statement about the librarian's new role being at least 70% technology-based. I'm trying to get there in my school library. Which digital resources have worked best for you? Any databases or eBook platforms that you would recommend? Or ones that should be avoided? Andrea

    3. Emily,

      Working with teenagers....hmm....well...... ;-)

      I was actually freaked out at first about working in a high school as I was an elementary teacher. I quickly learned that they weren't all that scary.

      I try to have clear expectations and especially try to be consistent. School rules are enforced and I don't play favorites. Even if they have a terrific excuse as to why they NEED to work in the library rather than go to class, I require a pass from their teacher. I need my staff to know that I have their back. I also am very firm about when I will give passes for kids that stop by during passing periods. It is amazing how many kids have a dire question that must be asked 30 seconds before the bell (Do I have any books checked out?) and then want a pass. If they are going to be late on my account, I give passes. Otherwise, they need to use their time wisely. I remind my students they can send me a message on My Big Campus or stop by before school, during lunch, or after school.

      While I rarely have heated moments with students, I do my best not to escalate the situation or back them in a corner. That is a guaranteed disaster if you do. I try to give them a choice, a way out of the situation. I usually remind them it is so not worth calling the admin over whatever it is that is happening.

      I actually find that the students you don't want in your class all period are the ones I get along with great. I offer a different atmosphere and can work with them in a way a classroom teacher can't. Actually, one of my best interns would have driven me up a wall as a teacher. But in the library, he was really helpful.

      One last thing I try to do...not hold a grudge. Just because we had a "run in" on another day means I forever peg that student as trouble. He/she may have just had a terrible day where my "demands" were the last straw.

      Does that help/make sense??

  2. Andrea,

    Hi!! I didn't know you were in this class! :-)

    Being in Indiana, we are lucky to have INSPIRE with all of its free databases, ebooks, and resources. However, the database requires pretty sophisticated research skills to use as a whole. I try to find out what my students are researching and narrow down what they need to the specific database or online resource.

    For example, GALE's Science in Context is AWESOME!!! Even beyond your normal science-related topics, there are tons of great videos, images, articles, and more there.

    Our county library offers GALE's Opposing Viewpoints in Context. If I had money to purchase a database, I would get this one in a heartbeat. Again, nearly all the topics my students do could be researched here, accessing tons of materials with citations included.

    In addition, Indiana just got access to Learn NBC, which is an immense database of videos/news footage. Teachers can login and create playlists. Students can also have accounts where they can even take notes as a video is playing. They are committed to keeping the footage available for "life" and update daily. World even happens today...find the coverage the next day.

    As for ebooks...oh boy. As I'm sure you guys know, ebooks are a complicated matter. It completely changes the game in how you select books, as what you want may not be available or affordable. The other librarians in my district and I did research Spring 2012 as we knew iPads were coming. Overdrive is great, as a user, but as a provider....VERY expensive. Plus, if your funds fall through, you lose access to all the content you purchased. Again, we are lucky as Allen County Public Library already had a healthy Overdrive account available to our students. We chose to go with Follett Shelf because we already use and love Destiny, AND it was a "no risk" approach as we own what we buy for life. No additional fees. I am hoping to test some other ebook vendors this year. There are some interesting concepts, such as BrainHive which allows your students total access to their ebooks while charging you a $1/checkout. A little scary, but you can set a limit and know that you aren't limiting your students by what you THINK they want. (Nothing is worse than buying a book you think will fly off the shelf....and it is still sitting there, collecting dust, despite your best efforts.)

    Here's the interesting part with ebooks....students are still resistant to them. My circs of ebooks are low, although I do know I need to work harder this year to market them. My audiobooks have received some interest this year, but I don't believe it will ever be huge any time soon. (Then again, I do have Libba Bray's Beauty Queens and Roth's Divergent!!)

    Hope that helps!

    1. Thanks for the info, Jenn! I will definitely have to check out NBC Learn. I started using Follett Shelf for the same reasons you did. It's nice to hear another librarian reaffirming my decision, because I always worry about going the wrong direction when it comes to committing to a particular service or product. The fact that there is no annual fee to keep access to the eBooks is what sold me on Follett. My collection is very small so far, and circulation of the eBooks is slow. I'm hoping that will change as we transition to 1:1 with iPads over the next year. Do you use Follett for audiobooks as well? If so, are they accessed through the FollettShelf platform? My library doesn't have any audiobooks right now, but I want to start building a collection.

    2. Here's the thing with the ebooks: you have to market them quite a bit. I have turned a window to nowhere into a bulletin board where I have pictures of eye-catching ebook covers and their QR codes that take the students to where they can check them out. I next will be creating a bookmark that I can give kids when I talk to their classes about ebooks. (I already do this for my research resources, and it has been very successful.) My next move is to have my student news group to create a commercial.

      The other thing...don't rely on just their 1:1 devices. It is surprising how students don't realize they can access their "school related" apps on their smart phones or even their ereaders. I just had a kid get excited that he could do that as he doesn't want to carry his iPad around for reading a book. He prefers his phone.

      Audiobooks are through Follett's Catalist Digital app. It is still on the new side and can be quirky. Right now there is a single login for the entire school, so I hope they fix that soon so I can see who (boys? girls? freshman? seniors?) are using the audiobooks.

      I actually funded my nice little collection with Special Ed funds. After ILF last year, one of the great ideas I took home from Lena Darnay and Chad Heck is to tap into funding resources from everywhere. Totally by coincidence, I overheard that Spec Ed had $2000 left to spend AND IT WAS THE DEADLINE THAT DAY to spend it. I ran down to the department chair, did my quick spiel on the value of audiobooks, especially for our special ed students, and in a matter of a few hours we had a great starter collection!

      Will you be coming to ILF again this year? If so, be sure to check out Michelle Houser and my session, "Holy iPads Batman: Supporting your school's 1:1 iPad Initiative." We are the 8:30 session, but I promise it will be worth it....I hope. ;-)

    3. Sadly I won't be at ILF this year. I'm using my professional days to go to HECC in November. I hope to see you at ILF again next year, though. Good luck with your presentation. Sounds like it will be great!

      I LOVE the idea of using QR codes to direct students to the eBooks. I will have to try that. I guess reading a book on my phone doesn't sound appealing to me, so I hadn't thought that it might be the way many students prefer to read. I will have to start marketing the eBooks that way.

      Another question for you, if you don't mind... You mentioned that your school uses My Big Campus. We will soon begin using it too as we transition to 1:1. Are there ways that you utilize it as a librarian?

    4. First, be can be clunky at times. Oh, and don't use the app!! I mean, you need the app to upload from other apps, like Pages, but it is much easier to go through the website for anything else.

      My students are resistant to using MBC. Partially because there seems to always be some sort of issue, partially because it seems to take too many steps to do anything, and partially because it means they have one less excuse to get something done. ;-)

      How I have used it so far:

      1. We created grade level groups, so I can make announements to an entire grade at once. (due date reminders, contests, event promotions, etc.)

      2. Messaging is great for students to ask me questions (What was that URL? How do I...?) and for me to contact students with my own questions.

      3. I have library interns every period, so I use it to offer flipped training.

      4. I have a "Library Advisory" group page where I can get opinions from students that care but may not otherwise be able to meet in person. This group is floundering a bit, so I hope to revive them this year and get more involvement with program planning!

      Will miss you at ILF, but I'm jealous you get to go to HECC!! We are posting a livebinder with all our resources, so watch the listserv for that info. And share out about what you learn from HECC! :-)

    5. Thanks for sharing your ideas! I especially like the flipped training idea.

      Thanks, too, for answering all of my questions the last couple days. I really enjoyed reading your responses to my classmates' questions as well. Lots of good stuff!

    6. it seems that responding from my iPad didn't work. Let's try this again...I was happy to share as I LOVE to collaborate. :-)

      Feel free (anyone) to keep in touch and share ideas!

  3. Anonymous7:46 PM

    Hi Jennifer Brower,

    About two weeks ago I interviewed a SMS and in our Bloomington district, the re-consideration policy for books was recently discarded. It used to be a rigorous decision making process involving teachers, parents, and students. Now, its simply handed over to an administrator for a decision. How does your 'corporation' or district deal with re-consideration policies? I'm curious how you have handled someone (student, parent, teacher) coming into your library and asking for a book to be removed. I imagine I will be confronted with that very scenario some day.

    Thank you,
    Ardea Smith

    1. I am both happy and ashamed to say that I have no good answer for this.

      As a district, there are some official library documents, but they are very outdated, and I actually have never seen them. I have an idea of what I would want to happen, but every time I go to make something official, it gets buried in the million other pressing pieces of business.

      I have been very lucky as I believe I offer a great selection of REAL books my teens will relate to that have not had a challenge yet. I definitely do not live in an overly progressive community, so it is only a matter of time before someone takes something out of context, I know.

      I actually was just talking about this to my husband as it relates to Banned Books week. I have yet to celebrate it in either of my libraries. Why? Because right now my students get to read books that give them context to tough situations in a safe manner. All without having to fight for the right to read it or without drawing attention to those types of books. This is not my plan forever....but more of part of my survival in my first few years. :-)

      Now, I know this won't be my reality forever. I plan on taking what I created from my own grad school days and working with the other LMS's in my district to create something we can all agree to.


    2. Anonymous7:07 PM

      Hi Jennifer,

      That's great, that even in a more conservative community you have been able to create a safe haven for book lovers. What are some of these 'Real' books that you highly recommend to your students? Is there any must have book currently flying off the shelves?

      On a side note, you mentioned in your introduction that appearance is everything. Do you work a lot collaboratively with the art teacher at your school? I recently watched a great video about integrating technology into the art classroom, and I'm inspired to do the same when I get out into the workforce!

      Thank you,
      Ardea Smith

    3. I really need to update my pictures on my website as I have some great artwork on display. The 3D art teacher had students work together to create 3'x1.5' books that hang from the ceiling with items that represent the story hanging down. The other art teacher had her students display their paintings and other work. Some are mine for life and other pieces are reclaimed at the end of the semester by students.

      One of my genre shelves is called "Teen Issues". My sign is actually a wordle that includes words such as suicide, teen pregnancy, cutting, etc. Any book that has a teen dealing with a really tough "real world" problem goes there. That is my most popular shelf by far.

      One title that caused a big controversy at the YA state book selection committee was "By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead." Title alone scares people let alone the fact the book is about a girl who joins a completion website and starts plotting her final days. But, wow! I felt like it was something our kids should have available to them because it deals with the topic in a straight-out manner. The website used actually takes them to a "help" page. One lady just lost her son to suicide. She said she wished he would have read this in hopes that he would have saw a way out, fi you will. One of my teens lost a friend to suicide and was really struggling with it. She said the book gave her perspective on what he may have been going through.

      Now, when I did give that book out, I would tell the student they better let their parents know right away, otherwise they are likely to freak out when they saw the title. I also encouraged them to talk to me or someone else about what they thought of the book.

      Interestingly enough....that book has been stolen. For some kids, these books are so good they just can't give them up. ;-)

  4. Side note/idea: I have been talking to other librarians that are frustrated with how administration, especially those in the upper "central" admin, still see us as book "keepers" and nothing else. This is true for anyone that hasn't stepped foot in our libraries; they picture whatever they had as a kid.

    My students and staff even comment about how I can't do "my job" because I am so involved with technology and iPads. I have to quickly explain that, while I am not sure trouble shooting and fixing ipads/equipment was what my master's degree was for, technology is VERY much part of my job.

    With all of that said, a few of us are working on some self promotion. We agreed that we need to put more pictures up on our school websites and do whatever else we can to SHOW the community what we do.


    1. It's surprising to me that the students would see a librarian as just a book-pusher. I know you said the 1:1 iPads were new, but did the previous media specialist have much involvement with other forms of technology from what you gather?

    2. Not really. I know he would assist with research, and he was good at tinkering with computers and what-not, but otherwise my staff turned to each other or Technology for help.

      There are many librarians who still are not immersed in technology. They may know databases but not much else. I try to know what my kids are using and the latest greatest so I at least have some basic knowledge.

  5. I see that you have a Twitter account. Have you found it helpful in communicating with students/get much of a response? Would you say it is more of a professional resource (communicating with other librarians) or a way to start conversations with students?

    1. I use Twitter for professional purposes. If you follow me, you will notice that I may not put much up and then all of a sudden I tweet a lot. That is because I'm at a conference. ;-)

      I use PearlTrees, which is an amazing website/app that allows me to gather and organize websites, notes, pictures, etc. Every time I retweet/tweet a great resource, it automatically adds it to my resources. This has been an amazing feature, especially at conference time.

      Because I tweeted my jealousy of someone attending a big conference in Chicago and included the sponsor, I got a free registration. I have also won free books. The best part, though, are the amazing contacts I have made. People that I consider to be rockstars in the library / school world, will tweet you back! You can also get in on some amazing PD chats, but just know you will never keep up with it all. ;-)

      With students, that can get tricky. We do not have a specific policy or rule in my district, but many do forbid it. I have some students that follow me (not sure why as I only tweet professionally) but I will never follow a student. I don't know if you have ever perused your students' tweets and Vines, but oh can't unsee some of the things they decide to put out for the world to see. Legally we have to report if we see something that is a danger to themselves or others, so that opens another can of worms.

      My Channel 86 students on their own did create a hashtag to get others to give them challenges. I'm ok with that. If I ever created a Facebook page for this school (had one for my last but not sure if I want that for here), I would do the Twitter account as well. But again...only for them to follow me, never them.

  6. Hello!

    You've give such great information so far, I'm struggling to come up with a good question :) I love that you are taking your library to the next level. I redid our high school library this past summer (new carpet, new paint, rearranged, weeded, added two flat screen TVs, Chromebooks, and more!) and so far people SAY they love it, but I still don't have the circulation I want from the students. I'm buying a ton of new titles - the collection was woefully outdated - but I find that students aren't coming in. How do you get students through your doors? How do teachers use your library? What advice can you give to make the library more a part of their every day activities?



    1. Lucy,

      Wow! You were able to give your library a face lift! Lucky!

      Getting students through the door takes lots of incentives until they get used to coming. ;-)

      At my first school, I continued opening the library before school and fought to keep it open during lunch. I would have days where kids could get popcorn, watch video clips, play the wii, and various fun little activities during lunch.

      It hasn't gone as well with getting kids to come down here, but that is mostly because iPads consumed my days to the point I didn't have time to plan or do anything else. This year I am trying to bring some of those events back. I do still get the kids that don't want to stay in the loud auditeria or who need to do work.

      As for staff, I let them know they could use the library to spread out for group projects, etc. They could do presentations if they wanted a new space. If I'm doing a presentation on research, etc, I also try to get them to come to the library. This way I am getting more people in the door. I also try to have PD in here whenever possible...oh, and bribing staff with food also works. ;-)

      As I work towards creating a Learning Commons, I have several offices in here. The Career and Development Center is in here, the tech guys has office space in here, and one of the secretary's who does a lot of student service type things is in here. At first I was not happy that pieces of my space were being taken over, but I have embraced it and even try to get others in here as I have two small offices (study room no longer used) available.

      Good luck and just try everything you can to get them in the door! :-)

    2. Thank you for your advice! I love the idea to have video clips and popcorn, wii tournaments and more. I will definitely keep that in mind. I feel like if I can get them in the door once, they will see how great it is and keep coming back :) I've tried telling teachers to use my space for projects, lessons, etc. but I think I need to sell it more to them. It doesn't help that I'm not in the library every day (I'm in charge of all 8 buildings in my district). Thanks again!

    3. Good luck with all that you try! The hardest part in your situation is that you need to build good rapport with your teachers in less amount of time. They have a lot to cover and often feel like they can't afford to "share" their time. Look for standards/lessons they must cover that you could help with. Teachers that are intimidated with technology, let them know you will teach the tech while they teach the content. Try making time to eat in the lounge. One friend actually offers to teach the class on a day the teacher gets a sub. The deal is she gets to do an intorduction to the library, resources, etc, while the teacher doesn't have to worry about writing lesson plans. She also requires the teacher to schedule ahead. Her hope is that she wins over the students, leading to them to asking for her help in the future.

      Good luck and feel free to stay in contact!! I love to collaborate!! cybrarianjenn@gmail

  7. As we wrap up this last day "together", I want to share one last thing with you. Check out this great Youtube channel "The Librarian Way" by a public librarian and school librarian who are inspiring in their level of collaboration for meeting the needs of their students! They share tips, ideas, and more!