Author Archives: akiene

Freebies for You!

At the end of the long, laborious school year, couldn’t we all use something free?

The answer is yes, yes, yes!

Through tomorrow, you can get a free DVD ripper as well as a free HD video converter by taking advantage of the WinX DVD Video Converter Pack Giveaway!

I’ve been using WinX DVD Ripper for various school-related purposes (recruiting videos for student athletes, etc.) for a couple of years now and have been very happy with it. I’ve also been knee deep in video converters because of all of our video projects, so like many of you, I know the value of a good, reliable converter. After playing around with WinX’s program today, it seems to work beautifully. In all, this is $50+ worth of free software. What a great gift to give to yourself!


Annie Kiene

Media Specialist

Richmond Hill High School

Richmond Hill, GA

Spring Cleaning Your Collection

“A novel of aspiring proportions, hauntingly well-written…”

“A triumph”.

“…gripping, unbearably sad, yet irresistible…”

“I was amazed and moved beyond belief.”

“…promises to be a joy forever……”


“…a truly fine, original book…”

“An absolute spellbinder.”

“…unforgettably beautiful…”

I know you must be wondering what extraordinary book or books these critical blurbs describe. Would you believe that I found all of these on the back covers of novels I have weeded out of our collection this year?

Why are we weeding out these seemingly amazing tomes, you ask? Some books are weeded because they are in horrible disrepair. Others have outdated information and need to be replaced with updated content. I’ve weeded both of these types of books in the past. This year, however, we’ve focused mostly on gaining shelf space in our cramped library by weeding the wallflowers in our fiction section.  You know the books. These little guys haven’t been checked out for years and years – they’re the ones with the pristine dust jackets or ones that were donated decades ago by some well-meaning patron, never to be touched or read again. They are the ones that are, in some cases, four or five times as old as our library patrons.

Weeding is a touchy subject for many librarians. Which books do we choose to discard? What do we do with them? How do we dispose of them in a way that won’t arouse indignation from the school’s administration and general public? I’ve heard some librarians talk about getting rid of discarded books in such secretive ways that you’d think they were criminals trying to find a good spot to dump a body.

So what do we do? You don’t just want to throw them away, right? When I was working at the middle school level, I used to divvy up any discarded AR books and give them to teachers for their classroom collections. That seemed to work really well. Now that I’m at a high school, however, I wanted to give both teachers and students alike a chance to enhance their collections.

The truth is that many of the library’s discarded books are still valuable and have a lot to offer a reader or even a collector. At my previous school, I tried doing book displays for some of these good but overlooked books. I had some success with that, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to justify keeping many of those volumes on the shelves. I know that some schools sell discarded books as a fundraising activity. I haven’t tried that personally, but from my experience, I think I’d make so little money at my school on discards as to render the fundraiser pointless.

Here’s how we discard of our discards. After they’ve been taken out of the system, we put them on a cart, put some attractive signs on said cart (e.g., FREE BOOKS!!), and simply give them away. That’s it. While it would be an exaggeration to say that our discards continuously fly off the cart, we do have some faculty and students who come by daily to check for new additions. In a very real way, it gives new life to these old books. They are finally being considered again, and as many are taken to new homes, I feel as if they’re at last getting the attention they deserved years ago.

In addition, a good number of these books have gone to one of our art teachers to be used in mixed media projects with his classes. I must say that, initially, a small part of me was apprehensive at the thought of defacing these old books (because they are supposed to be read, that’s why!). However, seeing them repurposed into works of art made me realize that there is more than one meaningful way to make use of discarded works, and I look forward to seeing more of his students’ projects in the future.

“A RICH AND DEVIOUS ACHIEVEMENT” for them if I do say so myself.

What do you do with weeded books at your school? I would love to hear new ideas and suggestions!

Annie Kiene

Media Specialist

Richmond Hill High School

Richmond Hill, GA

Student Filming: How the Right Camera Can Launch a Thousand Videos

Video projects! Those words simultaneously inspire feelings of dread and delight in me. Dread because as a media specialist, I am so often the troubleshooter at our school for anything video related and am bombarded with questions like: How do you edit this? How do you put a song right there? Where is my video, and why does Windows MovieMaker hate me?! Conversely, I feel delight because some of the more successful video projects I have seen are so wonderfully inspiring. I am constantly amazed at the high quality work that some of our students are able to produce using a video camera and a simple editing program like Windows MovieMaker. However, I never would have imagined having to deal with the sheer volume of these projects just a couple of years ago.

When I first arrived at Richmond Hill High School in 2008, we had four video cameras available for student and teacher use. Those consisted of two MiniDV and two Digital8 camcorders. The student news crew borrowed the cameras pretty regularly, but besides that, they weren’t routinely used for anything besides coaches filming sports. All that began to change, however, when we purchased four Flip Ultra video cameras that fall.

There are several incarnations of the Flip now, but we started with the 60 minute, standard definition models that use AA batteries. The response was almost immediate. It’s not that the actual video quality was better than our older camcorders. If anything, the sound didn’t pick up quite as well. Plus, you either had to load the Flip software on each computer in order to play and edit the clips, or you had to convert each video using a program like Prism Video Converter to enable playback on all computers. Simply put, it sometimes took fewer steps using the old camcorder to get the video off the camera.

None of that mattered, though, because suddenly, filming became very easy and very cool in the eyes of teachers and students alike. The Flip cameras are small, stylish, and super user-friendly. Suddenly, tech-phobic teachers were signing up to use them and commenting on how easy and intuitive they were. Students agreed and loved how they could quickly click through, view, and/or delete clips immediately.

With the older cameras, either the student or I had to capture the video, and the video captured in real time. Therefore, if the video was an hour long, it took an hour to get it off the camera. Also, kids routinely lost their place on the tape and either filmed over important footage by accident or had a hard time finding the film they shot. Enter the Flip Video camera, and suddenly those problems were eliminated. With these types of pocket video cameras, there are no tapes or discs required for filming, and you can transfer your video files to a computer almost instantaneously. With one touch of a button, you can even upload your video directly to Facebook or YouTube!

Looking ahead, I don’t think we will ever again purchase the conventional, tape-based cameras. However, I’m not loyal to the Flip alone. Personally, I have a Kodak Playsport HD camera. It is quite similar to the Flip Video camera but is waterproof and takes a SD or SDHC memory card. Honestly, I like the idea of expandable memory and am toying with the idea of getting Kodak pocket video cameras in our next round of camera purchases. If you are looking to launch or revitalize your AV equipment, I would suggest putting these types of cameras at the top of your shopping list. They’re cheap too; you can get a PlaySport or a Flip Video camera for just a little over $100. In any case, one thing is for sure:   Digital is the way to go!

Annie Kiene

High School Librarian

Richmond Hill High School

Richmond Hill, GA

The Next Big Book Phenomenon – The Hunger Games

Maybe I’m late to this party. For quite a while now, my frequent flyers have been raving about 2010 Georgia Peach Book Award winner The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Elementary and middle school media specialists may already be familiar with her name since Collins is also the author of The Underland Chronicles series. Her latest release is Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy.

Last year, I remember one of my students freaking out with joy when we unexpectedly received the sequel, Catching Fire, from Junior Library Guild. I knew then that The Hunger Games was one of those books that I needed to check out, but as so often happens, I just kept putting it off to read other things. The event that moved this particular book to the top of my list occurred in a surprising place: my book club. We meet every few months, and our group is comprised of professional women in many different lines of work. I’m not sure how it came up, but one of the members mentioned The Hunger Games. She is a very cool banker in her mid-thirties, and I never would have pegged her for the type to read the same books as my regular library kids. Anyway, she loved it, and I remember deciding right then that I would drop everything to read this book too. I was reminded of the Harry Potter books; it has that level of wide-range appeal.

And what did I think when I did read it? Holy cow. It is one heaping pile of awesome. If you are unfamiliar with the premise, here it is. The main character, Katniss, lives in a post-apocalyptic version of North America called Panem. It is divided into twelve districts. Each year, there is a lottery in which two children from each district, a boy and girl, are selected to participate in the Hunger Games, a competition in which there is only one survivor. The participants, called tributes, are thrust into a large arena rife with deadly obstacles, and they must kill one another in order to the win the game. Tributes can even get sponsors during the game to receive extra help. If you win, you achieve not only riches for yourself, but your district receives extra food rations for the year. To add to the insanity, the games are televised.  It is basically a reality show competition, but the stakes are so much higher than on the routine programs that bombard us on our televisions here. This book is brutal. It is heartbreaking. It is glorious, and I couldn’t stop reading.

The word is spreading. A quick Google search reveals numerous fan sites as well as news that The Hunger Games is to be made into a full-length feature film. Over the winter break, I was doing some Christmas shopping at the mall and even found Hunger Games merchandise at Hot Topic, of all places! For a book that hasn’t even been released as a movie yet, I found that discovery both amazing and wonderful. I gave the book as Christmas presents to my best friend and my mother; they both loved it and now have the entire series. My husband, who enjoys reading but has limited time for it, made time for these books. They are that compelling.

Check it out at your library, buy it, or sample it on your Kindle or Nook. You will not be disappointed. If you work in a high school library and don’t have a copy in your collection already, order several. You’ll thank me later.

Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Annie Kiene

Richmond Hill High School, Bryan County