Author Archives: Library_Jim

Georgia Children’s Book Award Ideas

James Cambell at Lee Street Elementary in Jonesboro is an awesome Media Specialist with a difficult situation who has come up with a great solution that does a whole lot of things on many different levels.

He is without a clerk or any regular volunteers and has to not only do Specials classes, but has many classes coming through.  He decided he wanted to promote the GA Picture Book nominees but his voice gave out when he tried to read them over and over again.  Also, that can get a bit mind-numbing as I’m sure you’re aware.

So he spends a couple of weeks over the summer with a pile of picture books, a scanner and some software and makes his own Reading Rainbow-style videos of all of the nominees.  Sometimes he even gets other people to read the books.  Examples can be seen on his website here.  These videos engage the kids, save his voice, and allow him some breathing room to check books in and sorted before continuing with a great lesson.

He takes the time to write to each nominee and ask them or their publisher for permission to do this.  Many times this is the first indication the authors and illustrators have that they’ve been nominated!  He’s only posted the ones on his website that he’s gotten explicit permission for, but plays the rest in his media center.  As you can see he also goes to the trouble of adding all kinds of great links for more information surrounding each nominee.  It’s such a great idea that the official GA Children’s Book Award website has a link to Mr. Cambell on their Teacher Resources page.

One more short bit about the GCBA this year.  On Friday afternoon I wasn’t really into any of the breakout sessions and thought I might check out the vendors while it was quiet.  I crossed the autographing area and all the authors and illustrators were still there with no line!  I ran to the bookstore, stocked up and went back to have some one-on-one time at the autographing table.  I had my fancy new smartphone and thought about photos, but was inspired to try shooting some video.  I asked each one if they would mind saying a greeting for my morning announcements show.  They were all delighted to do it!  Carole Boston Weatherford busted out with a poem!  Mike Wimmer said some inspirational things about books.  I also got Meghan McCarthy, Jody Feldman and Barbara O’Connor.  They all said, “Good morning Partee Elementary, I’m _______ and I’m the author (or illustrator of) __________…” and then said whatever they felt like.  It wasn’t the highest quality, obviously.  I didn’t have a tripod and there was some background chatter, but the kids and teachers loved it when I showed a different one each morning for the following week.  Now I will say, if you try to steal this idea, that’s fine but do make sure there’s no line behind you when you ask an author to do this.  You would not make any friends holding up a line trying to shoot a video.

I think I might contact the conference organizers and urge them to set up a camera on a tripod in a corner with a backdrop and get them to do this same thing each year.  They could say “to the students of Georgia” and the GCBA could post the videos on their website for all the media specialists to download and use in their morning shows.  Wouldn’t that be cool?
Here’s a link to Barbara O’Connor’s greeting for an example.  What were some of your conference stories?

Jim Randolph
Partee Elementary
Snellville, GA

A Quick Weeding Tip Using Destiny

Does your school system use Destiny? If not, you can skip my post this month, but if you do then here’s a little trick I’ve figured out to help with weeding.

I’ve learned that weeding is one of those tasks that is best done little and often. If you wait for a big shining quiet spot on the calendar to get a whole bunch of it finished at once, you will be waiting forever. So I prefer to pull only a few books at a time and delete them whenever I get a chance. Once I’ve filled a number of boxes, I ship them out and start over. It’s a continual process but makes me happy to be getting rid of the massive amounts of dead wood my library has accumulated over the past sixteen or so years.

The normal way I believe people weed is to print out a collection management report from either Follett or someone else. You pick a section and it lists all the books that are past the fifteen year copyright date. Some of those books will be good to weed. Some of them are okay to keep. It takes a while to figure all of this out.

But one thing you can do before you start with this report is to go into Destiny first. One of your report options is “Top/Bottom Titles.” This will show you the top or bottom circulating titles in any given Dewey range you’d like. It’s an interesting thing to play with anyway, but for our purposes today you want to select the bottom titles in whatever section and give it a nice long time period. I put something crazy in like, “past 30 years” to make sure I’m getting all the information I can.

The thing that knocked me out was that as old as my collection is, in pretty much every section I ran this on I found books that had been checked out exactly ZERO times. Now to be fair, it really only means they’ve been checked out zero times since we got Destiny in 2004. The books might have checked out a couple of times before that. But that’s still eight long years seeing no action. This is the easiest weeding you’ll ever do!

It’s freaky too, when you go over to a shelf stuffed with old books, find the title and pull it off the shelf. It’s usually a very bland, monochromatic Bound-to-Stay-Bound book that creaks when you open it. It really never has circulated! It’s usually not surprising when you see it, either. It’ll be some thing like All About Wood with a copyright date of 1984 or something. Weed it!

And don’t stop with the zeroes, either. I figure those books that circulate less than once a year (seven times or less for me) are just not paying their rent, if you get my meaning. Seek them out and weed them! You’ll be glad you did.

Jim Randolph
Partee Elementary
Snellville, GA

In Defense of E-Reading

Call it a backlash.  This holiday season increased the world of e-books and e-readers by something like a jillion fold according to my highly scientific sources.  So in January we had a couple of e-book grouches unload on this new budding trend.

Travis Jonker had an article in the School Library Journal (of all places) called snippily enough, “Fine. I Got an E-Reader. Now What?”  I already responded to him on my own blog.  Doug Johnson took it even further in a post on his blog, calling Mr. Jonker “reactionary” and in the comments said that the SLJ promoting his views was “detrimental to the profession.”  Ouch.

Now we have Jonathan Franzen, the world’s grumpiest writer, getting into the fray.  Not only does he not like e-readers, he fears “it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence [like printed books]. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”  Link to the whole grump here.

Huh?  E-readers are somehow going to lead to the downfall of civilization as we know it?

Science writer Carl Zimmer steps ups to defend e-readers in a wonderful article from Discover magazine.  In Franzen’s diatribe he uses The Great Gatsby as an example of a text that “doesn’t need to be refreshed.”  This leads Zimmer to muse of the differences of Fitzgerald’s minor masterpiece in print and digital formats.  “It’s certainly true that ebooks are an awkward young format that’s still sloppy and hard to manage,” he says.  Then he goes on to speculate, “I expect ebooks will follow much the same trajectory as paperbacks. They will start out being frowned upon as shabby, and then they will deliver literature conveniently to millions of people who might not otherwise have read it.”  To hear more of Mr. Zimmer’s cogent thoughts, listen to him interviewed on this topic (and answering callers) on a podcast from Wisconsin Public Radio.

Jonathan Segura has a defense on NPR’s Monkey See blog called, No More E-Books Vs. Print Books Arguments, OK?  The gist of his argument is similar to one I’ve made before: “It’s not an either/or proposition. You can choose to have your text delivered on paper with a pretty cover, or you can choose to have it delivered over the air to your sleek little device…We should worry less about how people get their books and — say it with me now! — just be glad that people are reading.”

Flexibility In Action!

It’s been a busy week and I despaired last night of having anything for my monthly GLMA post.  But then this morning happened and I have plenty to say about being flexible!

We had an extra leadership team meeting this morning which ran long, so I barely had time to switch from that to prepping for my morning broadcast.  Luckily I have a long term crew that know their jobs.  The this morning I was scheduled to be in four places at once.  No, really.

Like every morning, I was scheduled to be in a 3rd grade teacher’s classroom for a half hour of focused instruction.  This has to do with our Title I status and I spent 9:15-9:45 going over report drafts with students for final copies.  I also had a a 4th grade Specials class from 9:50-10:35.  But there was some special events going on as well.  At 9:00 some folks had scheduled the school Spelling Bee in the media center and a school Geography Bee in another part of the building at the same time.  I was scheduled to be in both videotaping the events.  All while teaching in two classes.

So I set up cameras with fresh tapes in both places and had them adjusted, focused and ready and told the organizers not to forget to hit the record buttons!  I’m also lucky enough to have a great clerk, so she ran the camera for the Spelling Bee, starting and stopping it in the interest of time.

Instead of having the Specials class in the media center (because of the Spelling Bee) I took my laptop and materials down to the classroom.  Luckily it was the one lesson I often do that doesn’t require us to actually be in the library. This group wasn’t able to check out at their normal time at the end of class, so I gave them passes to use in small groups throughout the day.

Whew!  The rest of the day was your normal everyday crazy.  Breaking down the Spelling Bee stuff, requesting custodians for a spill, gathering resources for tomorrow’s Guest Reader Day, emailing teacher movie times for the MLK video, finding a sub for an inservice, and then again rearranging everything in the library for tomorrow’s Guest Readers and the reading bowl contestant morning practice session.  Oh, and my walkie-talkie I use to communicate with those on bus duty so I can synch the dismissal slides stopped working, so I had to deal with that real quick.

But I did it all with a smile because I’m flexible!

(Just don’t look at my desk…)


Jim Randolph

Partee Elemetary,

Snellville, GA

Volunteer Gifts!

Volunteer Gifts! (and clerks, of course!)It’s a challenge every year, isn’t it?  And gift giving is such a minefield these days.  How much to spend?  What if there’s no money?  Dietary restrictions? What holidays are they cool with?

Well I have some answers for you, my friends!  Of course, most of these are not my own.  I’ve been collecting them for years from other blogs, teachers, media folks, and online comments.

Let me just start by saying, personally, I like things that go away.  Baked goods and gift cards.  None of us need anymore candles, tree ornaments or candy-filled mugs.  But that’s just me.  Here we go:

Some people have…

…bought a beach bag with a towel, sunscreen, water bottles, and beach toys.

…bought an ice cream bowl, scoop, and gift card to ice cream place.

…bought a bowl, microwave popcorn, candy, soda, and video rental gift card.

…made a gift basket out of BBQ items.

…made a small gift basket with pen, memo pad and other small supplies.

…bought a set of patio dishes and glasses.
…gave a nice notecard set.

…bought a nice beach towel.

…gave a nice candle.

…gave some bath stuff.

…gave a potted or hanging plant or flowers.

…gave a gift card. (One teacher said they gave a MC/Visa gift card so the volunteer could use it as they pleased).

…got a yummy type of chocolate…Ghiraldi Peppermint Bark this year and attach a bookstore gift card

…baked them some pumpkin bread and/or Starbucks gift cards.

…had a luncheon and then give a nice ornament or poinsettia.  At the end of the year, we do a breakfast and another small gift like soap or stationery.  We also give them a book & treat bag during each book fair.

…got fleece throws at Kohls (I think they were $4 with my coupon) and I was going to attach some homemade chocolates and a note for them to use this to snuggle up with a good book this holiday season.  Last year I found winter themed to go coffee cups and put in packets of hot chocolate in them plus some homemade chocolates.

…bought them pedicures. They loved it!

…gave an ornament with their child’s picture in it.  The volunteers love it.  For those volunteers that do not celebrate Christmas I just put their child’s picture in a non-holiday frame.

…had a good friend who makes key chains, wristlets, and lanyards and all of the proceeds go to a charity.  I am ordering key chains for all of my aides, a wristlet for teachers who are always good “customers” and will probably order lanyards next semester for end of the year gifts.

…purchased tree ornaments from Pier One and they loved them!

…usually hit Bath & Body Works for all their travel sized items.  This year, I’ve done the socks infused with shea butter and an anti-bacterial lotion.  The most important part is presentation.  You don’t have to spend a lot, just make sure you wrap in cute cellophane and maybe throw some candy in there, too.  They always love it!

..purchased gift certificates from  to local establishments.  $25 denominations only cost $2 each.

…moved away from the Christmas gift and give them a token of our appreciation towards the end of the year.  I try to write personal notes throughout the year to let them know how much I appreciate them.

…make a few homemade goodies and write a nice thank-you note.

…took NEW books that I just ordered and  before I circulate them, I let the volunteers children come by and look at them and select a book to “dedicate” to their mom.  I make a dedication page and put it in the book which we cover with clear contact paper.  I then let the child be the first one to check it out when it is ready.  I also print a thank you card with a picture of the cover of the dedicated book.

…buy these lovely ladies gift cards out of my own pocket and am happy to do it.  But if I had more than my current 3 or 4 volunteers, I’d just do a whole lot more baking.  I also brought in a coffee maker last year and keep that stocked with good coffee and creamer and such out of my own pocket.  Because they are awesome.

More ideas?  Leave them in the comments!

Jim Randolph
Partee Elementary
Snellville, GA