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TL Blogging Challenge #20 – Library Budget Stretching July 4, 2014

Posted by Collette J. in How to Be Brave, PSLA, Reflections.
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TL Blogging Challenge #20 - Budgets are tight.  How do you make it stretch?  Fundraisers, paperbacks, doing your own rebinds…how do you do it?


Image adapted from Pixabay

Budgets are always a tough topic in education, especially recently.  Books, audiobooks, cameras, tablets and iPads, and makerspace materials all cost money.  And don’t even get me started on the generally ridiculous prices and license agreements of ebooks!  Library budgets and librarian positions have been on the budget chopping block again and again in recent years with little explanation other than “Well, just make it work.”

Personally, I’m a pretty thrifty person.  I grow some of our food in our backyard garden and preserve it by canning in the summer.  I’m a pretty good fixer around the house (one of the reasons makerspaces appeal to me so much), and I don’t throw something away unless it really has NO use left.  There’s a Mennonite/PA Dutch saying that goes like this: “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.”  That pretty much sums up my thinking on matters of budget and material possessions.

I think librarians, in general, are the same way.  We are thrifty by nature and training, but we also believe in investing in quality.  Decades of budget cycles, in good times and bad, have taught us how to creatively work with whatever budget we have.  We can hot-glue bindings and scotch-tape library books’ damaged pages instead of using acid-free book tape and book binding glue (though I think it’s worth it to get quality library supplies if you have a budget).  We can host book fairs, write grants, and solicit donations with “birthday books.”  I don’t think paperbacks are worth buying for most titles, but I get them for the pop-culture celebrity biographies and some serial chapter books like “Goosebumps.”  All of these cost-saving measures make my library budget stretch.  And I’m one of the lucky, blessed teacher-librarians who works with district administrators who understand the return-on-investment a library budget provides to students and the school community.

The thing is, thriftiness only goes so far.  At some point, I think we as teacher-librarians have to make the decision to stop “making do” (and spending our own money to stock the library shelves), and instead put that time and energy into advocating for an actual budget and clerical assistance.  I don’t know where that point is, but I think too much “making do” can actually impede advocacy efforts and prevent administrators from realizing the financial costs of running a quality library program.

I know there are plenty of teacher-librarians and library media specialists out there who have NOTHING or almost nothing in the way of budget or paid clerical help.  I know volunteers are great, but they are no replacement for reliable, paid assistants.  If you are a teacher-librarian doing such herculean work, keep going and keep advocating!  I recommend the PSLA Top 10 Lists and Teachers Pay Teachers to help you find the resources you need to keep your sanity, build relationships with your school community, and do what you can with what you are given.

If you are an administrator reading this post, PLEASE advocate for a library budget and/or paid clerical hours!  Without any funds or staff, your teacher-librarian’s hands are tied in so many ways.  He/she cannot create a 21st century library program if every spare moment is spent doing the massive amount of clerical work it takes to keep a library up and running.  There is PLENTY of data and research showing the positive effect of a well-staffed, well-funded school library on student learning (and yes, standardized test scores too).  But just having a “library time” run by classroom teachers or volunteers doesn’t get you those benefits.  A library program must be funded and professionally staffed to be effective.  Okay, stepping down from my soapbox now…

This is the last post for the blogging challenge from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  If you’ve been following and/or blogging along, thank you for being a reader and learner with me!  I probably won’t blog much the rest of the summer, but I’ll see you all again in September!  Have a safe and restful summer, and Happy 4th of July!

TL Blogging Challenge #19 – Glows, Grows, and Professional Journals July 3, 2014

Posted by Collette J. in Books, PSLA, Reflections.
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TL Blogging Challenge #19 - What is one thing you wish you were better at.  Just one!  Why?  What could you do to improve in this area?

GlowsandGrowsAs part of my reflection process, I have a section in my lesson plans for “Glows and Grows.”  My favorite professor at Messiah College, Dr. Anita Voelker, taught me that phrase, and I use it to focus on both the positive things that happened in a lesson, the glows, and the things that I need to work on next time, the grows.

Professionally, one of my all-the-time “grows” is keeping up with professional reviews for collection development.  I’m a bit embarrassed to say I am 4-5 months behind in reading School Library Journal, the one professional journal I subscribe to in print, and I rarely read others like Library Media Connection, Teacher Librarian or PSLA‘s Learning and Media Online.  It’s just not a very high priority on my ever-lengthening to-do list; there are too many other things that I feel are more important than reading reviews.  Plus, sometimes, I think the print journals often mirror what I’ve already read in my Feedly RSS reader.  (See the PLN links on the right to see who I follow by RSS.)

When I first met my New York Giants-loving husband, I often used football games to read SLJ.  I could read the articles and all the reviews in a single issue in the span of one football game, and it was always nice to curl up on the couch with my hubby while catching the main highlights of the game.  I’m not a huge football fan, so this worked well for me.  This past year, though, the Giants had such a terrible season that it wasn’t even fun to watch.  So my SLJ-reading time didn’t happen a whole lot, and I never really caught up since then.  I’m now in the middle of reading the March 2014 issue, and I haven’t gotten the July one yet.

My dream solution would be to have online reading options as well as integration with the major school library distributors like Follett and Mackin.  I want to read SLJ‘s articles and reviews on a computer or tablet, and when I like a review enough to add it to a buying wish list, I could just “check” it somehow within a SLJ digital edition (or app) and it would automatically add that title to the list on my Follett Titlewave account (or Mackin account).  Right now I just circle a review of a book I think our library should have, or I might mark it “maybe.”  When I look up the book in Follett’s Titlewave collection development tool, I read the other reviews of the book within Titlewave, and then decide if it should stay on the buying list, or if it gets cut.  My materials-reviewing time could be cut in half with digital integration like the above idea. 

Still, barring that dream of seamless tech integration, my plan for next year is to try again with the football-watching-SLJ-reading time.  Additionally, I might try reading SLJ at school, during my lunch hour or any spare moments of my day.  I don’t know what to take “off my plate” to make time to do that, but it’s a possibility if I (hopefully) have the same semi-fixed schedule as last year.

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

TL Blogging Challenge #18 – PD Resources July 1, 2014

Posted by Collette J. in How to Be Brave, PSLA, Reflections.
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TL Blogging Challenge #18 - What is your favorite professional development resource?  Webinars?  In person?  Social media?

My favorite way to participate in professional development is still face-to-face.  I enjoy going to the PA School Librarians Association annual conference and hearing from a real-life librarian what works in his or her library in PA.  It’s very specific and personalized, and I feel more PSLA_logocomfortable asking questions or making comments in person than I do online among a hundred or so participants.  Same with our state-wide trainings.  Each year, HSLC offers in-person training on Access PA inter-library loan system updates and the POWER Library databases (Pennsylvania’s digital resources available to every PA library for a nominal fee).  Besides the free lunch (sweet!), I enjoy the face-to-face interactions with our state library organizers and other local librarians.  I get more out of networking with them than I did when the same course was offered as an online webinar only.

Since I’ve started using Twitter, however, I’ve discovered a plethora of expert educators who are happy to share their expertise. It still doesn’t feel like I get the same amount of learning from conversations with them, but I’m also so new to Twitter that I’m still stumbling over the hashtags and etiquette.  I feel very inept sometimes when I read the profoundly wise tweets of my colleagues, and it’s hard not to compare.

Anyway, that’s about it for my own self-directed PD.  My district offers some through contracted PD days, of course, but more often than not, it’s about Common Core (something I’m already pretty well-versed in) or I’m doing the teaching.  Either way, I turn to social media and professional organizations like PSLA to help develop my own talents and skills professionally.

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

TL Blogging Challenge #17 – Library Supplies June 19, 2014

Posted by Collette J. in Library Space, Reflections.
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TL Blogging Challenge #17 - What types of supplies and materials do you provide for your students?  How do you find these items?  Do your students/staff expect you to supply materials?

I’m very blessed that I have and can use library supplies budget for: 50′ of bulletin board paper to cover as much of the boring white concrete walls as possible, decorations to hang from the ceiling, Treasure Store prizes and incentives, spine stickers for genres, book repair tape and glue, book pockets, date due cards, and miscellaneous things like carrying bags for Nook ereaders.

Can I just say that one really great benefit of eBooks is that there’s NO repair work, or processing, or mylar covering, or date due cards to stamp?  And every eBook I purchase means I spend less on repair supplies and more on books, eBooks, magazines, and other learning resources.  As much as I love paper books (and think there will always be a place for them), there are days that I want to go all digital just for that time savings.

Anyway, moving on….As far as where I find these supplies, I like Demco (formerly Highsmith) and Oriental Trading for reading incentives.  For library management items like book repair tape, I mostly order from Demco, except for clear matte barcode protectors.  For them, I get the “Label-Lock” ones from The Library Store.  They are more expensive, but worth it.  They stick to anything!

Do you have a favorite product without which you can’t run your school library and/or media center?  Recommend it in the comments (no affiliate links, please)!

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.

P.S. – Comment moderation may be sporadic this summer.  I’m not trying to stifle conversation…just busy!

TL Blogging Challenge #16 – Text Wrapping Matters June 18, 2014

Posted by Collette J. in Fun Stuff, Tech Tips.
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TL Blogging Challenge #16 - Share a tech tip for your fellow teachers or librarians.  How do you use this tech tip?  How does it simplify your life?

I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Word when making my TpT products and teaching resources.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cloud-based tools like Google Drive, but if I’m going to share my work with others, then I want it to work for any teacher or librarian, regardless of how tech savvy he or she is.  And I don’t think it’s too big of an assumption to say that every teacher knows how to use Microsoft Word (or Pages or Open Office Writer or some kind of word-processing program).

The problem with Microsoft Word is that making images and graphics look nice and *stay put* is a pain.  So I discovered a simple trick to make any image stay where you want it.  Just set the “text wrapping” to “In Front of Text” OR if it’s a digital paper, background, or border, set it to “Behind Text.”


Using “In Front of Text” and “Behind Text” text wrapping makes it easier to add graphics to Word documents.

You can even set the Microsoft Word program to automatically use “in front” or “behind” wrapping when you add an image, but that’s really up to you.  To set up the default text wrapping, go to:
File –> Options –> Advanced –> Scroll down to the Copy-Paste defaults.

The only caveat for using this trick is that by placing images in front of text, you may have to adjust your margins for a specific part of your text.  Just highlight the text you want to pull from under the image, then move the page margins on the ruler at the top.  For me, however, this is easier than adjusting a clipart graphic one pixel at a time, then cursing the computer when the movement shoves all of my text across the page.

Do you have a go-to program or tool that you are most comfortable with when you make teaching resources?  Share it in the comments!

The blogging challenge is from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet.  I’m going to try it out, but instead of daily posts, I’m going to try for 1-2 posts a week.  Follow and learn with us!  The participating blogs are listed in the comments of her post.


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