Sunday, November 20, 2011

Can you believe it's November already?

I'm back!  In the world of teacher-librarians and support for their work, typically it is the months of June, September, and October that are the busiest.  I have had to put blogging aside as I have been spun into dramatic changes for us here in Vancouver.  Lucky me!  While last year was challenging as I recovered from "the Italian ankle" and the effects of being surplussed from full-time consulting for Vancouver's school libraries due to cutbacks 30+ years into my teaching career, then taking on the busiest year ever for the summer school program I have worked with for nine years, this school year has new and different and exciting challenges.

Trying to find the time both to transform a school library into a dynamic Learning Commons in a new-to-me school here and to support the work of 109 other busy school libraries as the district's TL mentor is -- well, it's exhausting and somewhat schizophrenic.  One day at John Oliver, the next at the school board.  There are few of us who don't value our good fortune to be amongst a community of nearly 150 full- or part-time teacher-librarians and to be supported in our work by a core group of district librarians, technicians, and clerical staff who enable our systems, reading, media, information, and digital programs to be delivered effectively in schools.   There are huge changes under way as we move into new models of delivery in the face of severe restraint and a certain impatience to get on with educational change.  I am proud that, despite our provincial job action that constrains our meetings and communications with administrators as the BCTF bargains for recognition of the value of our work as educators, our teacher-librarians have risen to the challenge and are demonstrating the remarkable professionalism that ensures good programs for our students.

During five day-long October Update sessions at John Oliver Secondary's new Learning Commons and the annual two-day multi-vendor display in November, we grappled with new technologies and new ideas, as well as ways to work together collaboratively to promote technology integration, cost-efficiencies in acquisitions, and inquiry-based learning.  Our secondary TLs also looked more deeply at graphic novels as a means of promoting reading and building on student interests.

Many of us attended the BCTLA's "Reaching Out" annual conference in Burnaby where Doug Johnson provided the keynote address.  Our Sylvia presented her elementary Learning Commons model.  Inquiry-based learning was BIG this year at the conference.  The food was amazing.  Burnaby TLs did an amazing job in creating such a dynamic and timely focus and array of workshops.  On the Saturday, Chapter Councillors from around the province met for a second day at Burnaby Mountain Secondary with the BCTLA Executive ... we are pictured above with BCTF President Susan Lambert, our special guest -- to grapple with key issues and developments in school libraries and learning commons.

But that was not all of it.  Lucky as I feel for having been spun into this hectic year, it was truly exciting as well to have had our international workshop debut with "A Discussion About Crossing Borders: Dewey Level School Library Collections?"  Presenting at the annual AASL "Turning the Page" Conference of 3000 TLs in Minneapolis, Minnesota, near the upper reaches of the Mississippi River., was an amazing experience for BCTLA President Heather Daly, Washington State Library Media Specialists Association President Craig Seasholes, and me.  The city is lovely and we really enjoyed the big blue skies, as well as time to do some "blue sky" thinking.  Minneapolis is honeycombed by miles of "skyways" that make it easy to crisscross the city without ever going outside, and the airport is very very close to the Mall of America, making a late flight out almost a necessity.  Minneapolis is the headquarters of Target.  And we were even happier to have arrived safely in Minneapolis -- even if it was amidst many emergency vehicles -- after being delayed circling the airport with flaps that never did fully deploy.  I think we had a Sully! 

The Hell's Kitchen jazz bar and restaurant was a great recommendation and we also loved the Brit's Pub.

There was even a bar-wagon that drove around the streets, believe it or not.  Oh yes, and if you didn't recognize the pose, that's Mary (Tyler Moore, for the younger readers) saying hello from downtown Minneapolis in the photo at the outset of this post!

Heather and I spent the first two days at Treasure Mountain #17 at the huge (over 2500 students) and very new Park Central Senior High School in Osseo, Minnesota, in the company of about 60 TLs, district, and academic leaders from around North America.  Marc Crompton, TL from St George's, joined us to make up the Western Canadian contingent.  With Dr David Loertscher leading the way, accompanied by Drs Ross Todd, Joyce Valenza, Jamie McKenzie, and many others, we admit to being utterly overwhelmed by the pace of those two days.  While I have more detail to follow in a subsequent blog, suffice it to say, I couldn't keep up with the notes and will have to review everything in the virtual re-play.

But it was the AASL Conference itself that really blew us away.  If we in BC are grappling with the information and knowledge demands of the 21st century, there are those who are getting ready for the 22nd.  Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, had the lead keynote position; he pondered the dramatic effects the internet is having on our thinking.  Yes, we do need to keep the books and the quiet places.  Mimi Ito, closing keynote, pondered the dramatic effects new ways of engaging with technology by means of social media might have, based on the research of the Digital Youth Project, on teaching and learning.  She was brilliant.

Two workshops in particular that I attended have left me wondering how to bring "the word" to BC.  Both presenters were excited with the idea of summer institutes in BC.  It's nice to be from a place to which people want to come.  I will blog about these and more conference highlights in subsequent posts.

AND finally I met Dr Barbara Stripling!  Barbara has been the Director of School Libraries for New York City and is moving into academe.  We have communicated over several years about the building of our BCTLA Points of Inquiry model; as many of you will know, she is the generous and supportive creator of one of many information / inquiry models, the one around which we built the Points model.  She is running for President of the American Library Association, the "mother" of the AASL, which, if she wins, will give teacher-librarianship a key location in the world of libraries and a new "national" voice to speak for the important future of school libraries ad learning commons in preparing our young people for the information and reading demands of the 21st century.  Oh, lucky me, meeting Barbara as well.  I had always thought a trip to New York to meet with Barbara and talk about school libraries would be perfect!  However, Minnesota was just fine. 

And so now it is November.

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