Reflections on the Idaho School Library Summer Summit 2015

About a month ago I started painting our house, the outside of it that is. It is a decent size house and I, being a school librarian often start summer vacation with a list of projects I intend on completing. So, switching into determined DIY-mode, I “encouraged” my husband to join me in this project. His part, to remove and replace any fascia boards in need of repair. This also required taking down all the gutters. Did I mention our house is a split level and the ground around it is not level? Thank goodness for generous friends willing to loan out their scaffolding and my parents that never taught me there were things I just couldn’t do.

Today while wrapping up the project by painting the trim, I had plenty of time to reflect on one of the most engaging and inspiring professional development opportunities I have taken part in. Last week, I was honored to join the Idaho Commission for Libraries staff in the beautiful Sun Valley area for the Idaho School Library Summer Summit. We were lucky enough to be there for three days, with the first day just for school district librarians. The second and third day, I was technically working as a table facilitator, but I think I may have gotten more from the experience than the hard-working school librarians assigned to my table.

Our headliner for the summit was no other than, the Daring Librarian herself, Gwyneth Jones, and yes, she does look like her avatar. If you work in a school library and you don’t know who she is, you should. (Go ahead, Google her, I dare ya!) Gwyneth is an entertaining speaker, and addressed us three times. BONANZA! How lucky were we? Bits of valuable information including “don’t be a zombie librarian” and why we should be using Vine to make book trailers with our kids topped my notes from her Choose to be a Ed Tech Trooper presentation. And Gwyneth, I totally agree, you are what you teach but I’m afraid that means I have multiple personalities.

Tweet Like a Ninja, later in the day highlighted the Twitter skills we need to get our voice heard in the library world and by the way you can find me at @ldjo. I couldn’t have been any more proud than when Gwyneth retweeted on of my tweets even if it was a picture of a moose and her calf in the street behind our hotel. Yes, we were in rural Idaho and you don’t just see movie stars on the streets of Sun Valley. Something I haven’t been the best at in my tweets is creating relationships, as Gwyneth encouraged us to do. And, hopefully I can remember to talk, not stalk. Okay, I may stalk a bit, but in a completely innocent way.

Finally on the last day of the summit, the Daring Librarian spoke on using mobile media in the library. Last spring I asked to have wi-fi put into my library (thanks to Scholastic book fair funds) so now we are set to be mobile. And, although I get the idea behind QR codes, I don’t know that I can truly embrace them as Gwyneth does. Kahoot, on the other hand, was a blast and now there is a reason for all those middle school kids to have their devices out and in their hands while visiting me. Okay, I take the QR code statement back, despite the fact that it encourages users to take their mobile device to the bathroom, I still think QR codes on the back of stall doors will get people’s attention.

Now that I have gushed about Gwyneth, I must also point out that there were other timely presentations we needed to see. Staci Shaw gave us statistics about summer reading, its impact and why every child needs access to books. Did you know that 28% of Idaho school libraries have no book budget? From discussing budget situations with my assigned group, I found that most of them did not have book budgets either, but rather depended on book fairs and grandparent “extortion” groups that would donate books in their grandchildren’s names.

WARNING, THE FOLLOWING MAY BE CONSIDERED A POLITICAL AND POSSIBLY OFFENSIVE STATEMENT: How do we expect children to learn to read if they don’t have books to practice with? Fund your school libraries! Kids need books! High quality, accurate and authentic books! If you have 500 students and each student checks out 2 books a week, that’s a lot of books moving around, getting checked out and worn out.

Okay, rant over.

Also with us for the summit were Gina Persichini discussing; Erica Compton and Gena Marker sharing wonderful ideas on creating maker spaces (ladies you have inspired me more than you know); Gregory Taylor with a vivid explanation on how shift happens (Idaho Core Standards shifts that is); and, Ann Joslin, our State Librarian, eloquently wrapping everything up. I presented too, on Nonfiction in the School Library, and I will admit that I awoke the morning I was to present at 4 AM, with the sudden realization that Gwyneth Jones was still going to be “in the house”. Luckily for me, all our attendees were good sports and dug into their assignment to evaluate their provided nonfiction books based on the provided criteria. Through the jigsaw learning activity I planned, they actually presented most of my session for me.

Considering this experience a week later, I realize how lucky I am to have attended, met amazing people all working for the better of our youth. And, Jeannie Standal, a million thanks for inviting me! In a shameless attempt to be invited again, I promise to help with whatever you need and if asked to speak again, I will spend less time painting and more time preparing before the next summit. And for those of you wondering about the house, it is almost done and now a lovely shade of August Moon.

You never know what you'll see at the Summer Summit!

You never know what you’ll see at the Summer Summit!


A Reluctant Journal…Not a Reluctant Read

At the beginning of the school year, I picked up a book off one of my school libraries’ new book shelves. We always try to buy the Young Readers Choice Award nominees ahead in time to give our readers plenty of time to read a fair selection before they vote on them in early spring. Sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association, the Young Readers Choice Awards nominee lists consist of books suggested by readers, teachers and librarians in the Pacific Northwest, which also includes Canadian provinces. This book in particular really spoke to me and has already won an award in Canada. And with last week’s school shooting in Washington state, it seems like a worthy book to discuss.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larson (Who Is Only Writing This Because His Therapist Said He Had To, Which Stinks) tells the story of a boy who has witnessed a school tragedy first hand, but from a point of view we don’t often think of. He is the brother of the shooter, who after killing another student, also kills himself. As the story progresses, the reader learns of Henry, his family struggling with the fallout of such an act in a small town, their attempt at creating a new life, denial and how the human spirit survives. The events in the story center around bullying, its consequences and how some children may choose to deal with it, feeling isolated and alone. Told through Henry’s journal, the writer also known for her television characters, Susin Nielsen-Fernlund, helps us to grow to love Henry and feel compassion for his situation. 

As a teacher-librarian, I am always looking for the lesson in literature and asking how the story can be discussed or used as a learning tool. Henry K. Larson’s reluctant journal is a thoughtful story that could be used by teachers and counselors, alike, or just enjoyed by readers that like a good story.

Caution…within these shelves you will find murder, mayhem, scandal and downright bad behavior!

By Yumi Kimura from Yokohama, JAPAN [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Or you might just find heroes, champions, those who didn’t give up and maybe even someone like yourself. The biography section of the library is a section often overlooked except when it comes to that time of year when teachers assign the dreaded biography assignment. Why is that? Why do we shy away from stories about other people? As teachers and students we can all learn from those famous and not-so-famous people found in our libraries’ biography sections.

Publishers today are writing picture book biographies such as Teedie, What to do about Alice?, On a Beam of Light or The Boy Who Invented TV making biographies accessible to even the younger readers among us. The images in these books also make them attractive group reads and a good source of informational text for older readers. For those interested in digging in, The Notorious Benedict Arnold, Into the WildUnbroken or Rachel Carson will give you a little more meat while describing the characters’ lives, actions and impacts they made on others around them.

One of my favorites (but not in the VALNet system yet), Miss Moore Thought Otherwise because of it’s topic of course, gives readers the history of one of the first children’s libraries. A good source for more biography titles to use with children can be found at Goodread’s Popular Children’s Biography Page. And, you don’t have to hold off on biographies till “that” time of year. They can easily be woven into any subject area.

And as the school year progresses, please share your favorites with your trusty librarian too, so they know what is hot and what is not, or maybe even what should be shelved behind the caution tape.

The library boring?

Back when I was working on my credentials to be a school librarian, I shared that information with someone and their response was “why would you want to do that, isn’t it really boring.” Today I think of that comment and laugh. I suppose to someone with the traditional “shushing librarian” with horn-rimmed glasses in mind, it would be a boring career choice, but today life in the library is very different.

Libraries are not just about books anymore since most libraries offer electronic resources as well. But if you are an elementary student, books are still a gateway to another world. Children, up till about third grade are reading to learn to read, but after third grade are reading to learn. Providing them interesting materials and seeing their joy at finishing a good book is priceless. Given good library and reading experiences, children will eat books like candy. And an excited reader bursting in to pick out his or her next adventure makes the library a joyful place.

The library is also often a meeting place. Most of the time that is a good thing since we like having people enjoy themselves in our space. Sometimes having groups in keeps you on your toes though. I once found a handgun in our school library in the morning before school started. It was left behind by the hunter’s safety instructors, and finding it was a much more effective wake-up that morning than the coffee I had been downing.

You know what they say…

warning poster by phil bradley

warning poster by phil bradley


And beware the addictive nature of books. Or, like me, you’ll find yourself coming back again and again.


Adieu EdTech 537…you’ve made an impression on me!

As EdTech 537 wraps up this week, I wanted to say a formal good-bye to my fellow classmates. I have enjoyed this class and believe beginning this blog at this time in my career has been a benefit to my digital persona. Yes, I do plan to continue to use this blog, discussing it with my superintendent before I add it to our district library computers as a live link. I think it will be a good tool that will allow me to share students’ work, process and reflect upon library and educational ideas, and communicate with learners, parents and staff in my district. 

Of course, being a librarian, I had to take a look at my own professional bookshelf. There I found my copy of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson, I picked up several years ago. I like Will’s paragraph on page 18 that states,

“But what really distinguishes a blog from your run-of-the-mill Website is much more than process; it’s what you’ll find there. Weblogs are not built on static chunks of content. Instead, they are comprised of reflections and conversations that in many cases are updated every day (if not three or four times a day). Blogs engage readers with ideas and questions and links. They ask readers to think and respond. They demand interaction.”

Although you probably won’t find this blog updated three or four times a day, I do intend to demand interaction and ask that readers think and respond. I like the idea that a blog is an organic growing, changing thing. Since this is also the last course in my journey through the BSU EdTech program, I want to continue my interaction with, understanding and use of educational technology. I don’t plan to stop learning, but rather like my blog, continue to grow and change as well. Sometimes the end isn’t really an end, but a new beginning.

So, I leave you with these amazing flower time lapse images or beginnings by Katka Pruskova

Something fun for summertime…

I haven’t created a word cloud in a long time and since my course (EdTech 537) that has been the original reason for the creation of this blog is almost over, I felt it was time to celebrate with something fun. And, since it feels as though I can see the 2014-2015 school year screaming down the tracks at me, I thought something fun and summery would be appropriate.

Because I didn’t want to plagiarize someone else’s poetry, I wrote a simple acrostic poem:



Trickling down my face

Ear to ear

Rind striped green and yellow

Memories of a carefree summer

Eaten with cousins

Light and crunchy

On a hot afternoon

Near the cool clear river

Then I tried out a new online word cloud generator. My usual go-to word cloud generator is Wordle, but today I discovered that my Java was out of date in Chrome and Firefox. Then I discovered I couldn’t download Java 7 unless I had Mac OS X Mountain Lion (which I don’t yet). Then I discovered my Silverlight was out of date in Firefox…so I checked out the competition. Did you know there are 9 different word cloud generators that aren’t wordle according to Edudemic. Lucky for me the first one on the list worked. I easily created an account at, imported my acrostic poem and wah-lah! had a word cloud. I changed up the font, shape and color of the text, tried visualizing it a  few times and found a version I liked.

Acrostic watermelon poem written by Lynn Johnson, converted into word cloud at

Acrostic watermelon poem written by Lynn Johnson, converted into word cloud at


Word cloud generators are fun and give the user options to explore their own creativity. I discovered that I enjoyed Tagul much more than Wordle because of their variety of options and had and easier time embedding my end creation into my blog. There are oodles of sites now that express the many ways and benefits of using word clouds.

Here are just a few:

108 Ways to Use Word Clouds in the Classroom…Word Clouds in Education Series: Part 2 – Michael Gorman

5 Ways to Use Word Cloud Generators in the Classroom by Katie Lepi

35 Ways of Using Word Clouds in Language Learning by Teacher Greg


Being a librarian, of course, thinking of watermelon I have to mention two books that are fun reads with young readers.  The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli reminds me of a story my uncle used to tell us when we were little. He has a rather large stomach and he used to say it got that way by swallowing a watermelon seed. Luckily poor crocodile doesn’t end up with my uncle’s stomach. The second story is Watermelon Day by Kathy Appelt. This story is about patience, celebration and family. Both are good reads for young readers and summer. Who knows, maybe you’ll want to eat a little watermelon and make a word cloud of your own too.

Summer reads poll!

Believe it or not, for some of us the end of summer is in sight or at least the end of “summer vacation”. As we wind down these last few weeks, I am curious. What has been your favorite summer genre? Are you a thriller or mystery reader, a self-improvement or professional development junky getting every last bit out of your time off, or a “let’s take a break” kind of reader enjoying some realistic fiction or maybe a little beach read chic lit? I personally am a mix of several genres. As a kid, I really didn’t like nonfiction (informational text) much and I am not sure why. I probably read Ranger Rick more than any nonfiction in the library, but today I like to mix things up and have really enjoyed nonfiction this summer. Currently reading: Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

So what do you like best?