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Friday, November 15, 2013


Whew! Poster sessions feel like speed-dating, only with more substantial conversations. We had wonderful discussions--thank you! Please send us comments or questions as you reflect on the conference.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Idea Xchange at AASL in Hartford

We are excited to be presenting at the AASL Conference and Exhibition in Hartford on November 14, 2013!

Please say hello if you've been on our blog--we'd love to hear from you!

More about those in-between, Fact & Story, non-fiction-ish picture books!

I've been thinking a lot about how our category system allows us to shelve FACT and FICTION about a topic together, where a reader is more likely to find an array of information.Some books are such a melding of facts and story, or narrative with non-fiction, that we're glad we can put them together where they'll be found by readers looking for either information or fiction!Here are a few books in this category ---Are some readers missing these great books?

This is a list of "mixture" books of fact and fiction, and where they are located at several of the NY area libraries. Where could you put them to get more use? Any ideas? 

A splash of red: The life and art of Horace Pippin / by Jen Bryant ; illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
J 759.13 B91s
JB Pippin
E Bryant

The boy who drew birds: a story of John James Audubon / Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
JB 598.092
921 Aud
East Biog AU
j598 DAV

On a beam of light : a story of Albert Einstein / by Jennifer Berne ; illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky.
J 530.092 BER
j92E Einstein
J Picture Ber

Look up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer / Robert Burleigh ; illustrated by Raúl Colón.
JB Leavitt B
J 520.92 BUR

Step Gently out / poem by Helen Frost ; photographs by Rick Lieder.
jE 811.54

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Self Check-out

Self check-out at the public library, at the grocery store: it works pretty well these days. So why not give it a try in your school library?

Kids feel a stronger sense of ownership when they scan a barcode and check the screen at each beep. Instead of handing over their book to someone else to take care of, they know they are responsible for their items.

Here is a photo of the lower grade check-out station. The computer is logged into Follett Destiny with a special user, "Self CO" that only allows simple transactions. Students are blocked if they have overdue materials or when they reach their 5 item limit. A librarian can override and continue check-out for the student.

Each class in first and second grade has a personally decorated shelf marker with name and a patron  barcode sticker. Once the books are checked out, the shelf marker goes back in the color-coded container.

Students have learned to use the date stamp without changing the date, even though it's tempting.

Our 3-5th grade students have their name and barcode on a separate page of the class book. Even though they know their library patron number by heart, scanning it instead of typing it prevents errors.

When a student is asked about an overdue book, we've noticed something new: instead of a blank stare and "I don't have that book," he or she is more likely to remember the transaction. Who knew that personal responsibility is such a pleasure to teach?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"New Adult" Fiction

There's been a lot of talk on Twitter about "New Adult" books. Novels about first jobs, life outside high school and beyond college are gaining popularity and their own marketing niche. And I just realized ---we were all new adults once.

Somewhere near grown-up, I imagined earning a degree in Library Science. I wondered what being a librarian was all about. I'd met quite a few (cool, diverse, tattooed) librarians, but wanted to get even more of a picture about normal library life. And it's funny, but movie and t.v. portrayals of librarians are not so realistic. Katharine Hepburn and Parker Posey aside, I was looking for some role models.

And that's when I turned to fiction. Looking through the OPAC, I searched for stories about life in the stacks, or in school libraries, or academia. And didn't find too much, I'm afraid. I was new to library studies; I wasn't such a great searcher. And there was no such thing as crowd sourcing on social media back then. Or even blogs. But I wanted to read it---not just cozy mysteries or kids' stories. I guess I was looking for New Adult fiction about starting a career. I wanted to put on the costume and wear it by reading a character’s version of the life. Or get a peek in the fiction window of a fun-loving children’s services specialist instead of a chick-lit designer shoe-wearing journalist. 

Honestly, I didn't get what I was looking for from Stones from the River; there was more to inspire me in strange libraries found in graphic novels. I kind of knew "Sandman" and Garth Nix characters didn't have realistic libraries, but still got something out of those books.

Nevertheless, here's my new insight; not all quests for information require non-fiction to fulfill that need. If a topic is of interest, a reader may enjoy narrative description and stories as well as facts. It’s even a learning experience in itself to determine whether a book is accurate and reliable in depicting the subject at hand. There are truths in fiction that you would never get from the facts. Non-fiction can create understanding, and fiction can create empathy; two important ways to know the world.

Just like I wanted to read a novel about exciting, young, fashionable, well-paid, new NYC librarians. 

That would have been, well…very enlightening and accurate indeed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


The question was a total stumper. I was negotiating my first interview for a full-time librarian trainee job. I thought I was doing well until the library director asked me "Can you see any disadvantages to merchandising?"

I had no idea what that meant. My mind flashed to clothing stores, windows, um, ...nothing. Whew, I had to admit in an interview that I didn't know.

Now that I have a few "holiday" displays under my belt, and a couple for "Women's History Month", I can see that indeed I do find some disadvantages to pulling out special book selections and propping them on an end-cap for extra visibility. Who knows where they are? What are some ways to track them? And communicate it to my colleagues? How many places do I need to check for a Hanukkah-themed folktale before I concede that it is lost? 

I just read a Tweet that reminded me of this.

It said: "Checking one last spot before finding the book they desperately need is the best! (Saturday librarian hashtag)".

Can't we all appreciate that feeling of success?

I remember how as a librarian working on Saturday, sometimes you have to check multiple places to find a book that should be "in." It could be on a cart to-be-shelved, or mis-filed on the shelf, or hidden by pranksters. Or on a special display!

Since we stopped using Dewey and converted to an intuitive subject-based categorization system, we've brought materials together from all over the library where they are most likely to be wanted and used by our students. We've identified them by call # in the catalog, so when I can't remember to think like a child, I can still look up the right location.

I like having our "Traditions" books all together with celebrations, holidays, how to throw a Halloween party, the best birthday stories---all labeled and with a simple whole-word descriptor like "Birthdays." I don't need to pull out the Hanukkah stories for a display once a year so they can be noticed.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

How does a child choose?

We've been trying to draw out a flowchart that shows how children make decisions while choosing a book. One of the benefits of our system is that many books on a topic can be shelved together, even if they are fiction and non-fiction. A child can search for an interesting topic (trucks! dogs! machines!) and then find facts and stories all there on the shelf to choose from. I think it makes for a richer reading experience, more choices, and supports teachers who are looking for literature connections.

(Please click below for a larger view.)
Our young students are taking a different path to choosing a book. 

What are your pathways through the library? Are there too many hurdles? Share on our discussion board at metisinnovations.com.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

And the next holiday coming up is...

A parent just came in looking for picture books on the lunar new year. "We're sorry, they're all out," Tali told her.

"Do you mean that other parents got here ahead of me?" puzzled the parent. 

"Oh, no, the teachers have everything checked out about it. In fact, they found everything so easily, there weren't any stories left even when I went to the shelf for the library lesson, either."

"Oh, no," she replied shaking her head, "you know how much I love this new system; this is the first time it has worked against me!"

So Metis makes things easy to find; it may mean you need to get there sooner. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Awards season!

ALA announces the Youth Media Awards and our fifth-graders are set to celebrate.

The mock Newbery club had a very close contest; we did the voting last week, just in time to watch for the real winners. Wonder was the favorite of our 21 students.

All told, our students read six or seven books from this year's crop and discussed them in a private online forum. Next year, we hope to start a faculty mock Newbery. Has anyone reading here tried that?---we'd love to hear how that worked.

Congratulations to the committee members and the honorees!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

And the winner is...

The surveys have been surveyed, the totals tallied. We have a winner folks! This year's 2013 Mock Caldecott winner is.... Unspoken by Henry Cole.

Our short list included: Extra Yarn, Nighttime Ninja, Red Knit Cap Girl and Step Gently Out, and Unspoken.

I must say I am pretty darn happy that a group of second-graders chose this book over some of the competition. It would be pretty easy to assume that Nighttime Ninja would sneak away with the prize but it wasn't to be so.

About Unspoken my students said, "I loved how he used just pencil and made it old-fashioned" and "It was very creepy" and "it's so real, & so calm, & peaceful, & I can't believe the illastrater(sic) just uses pencil to make that texture."

Pretty impressive stuff!

You can see how other Mock Caldecott contests played out here at Horn Book Magazine
and of course see what wins the actual Caldecott Medal this year!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Hazards of Libraries

I'd be less than forthcoming if I didn't admit to how daunting checking books in and out of our library can be: during the winter months, that is. Its hazards might not meet the naked eye but trust me, they exist. 
When the adorable, sweet and lovely five year old approaches my desk with watering eyes, an oozing nose, and a spurting mouth while handing me the few books he has chosen to keep himself company during his recovery, I desperately appeal to the flu-Gods: "Please please please spare me just one more time today.  Please."  A prayer, a plea, a crazy lady's internal dialogue, call it what you will, I am on my knees in my mind's eye begging for mercy.
I've been doing this for 12 years now, flu-shot in-tow...and every year, no matter how committed I am to my own OCD behaviors, I still manage to get at least one or two colds, throat infections, or flues that knock me out for days at a time...which leads me to my most recent doctor's appointment.
It started out as per usual: Dr says, "So what's going on?"  I give him the same-o-same-o.  He places a big popsicle stick in my mouth.  I say, "Ahhhh." He says, "Oh, yeah.  You've got a nasty throat infection. Let's get you some Z-Pac."  And usually, I'm good to go.
This time however, as he casually removed his latex gloves, he asked , "So how's the library?"  Throat infection notwithstanding, I nodded positively and gave him a "Metis" briefing, and this is where it got good.
For the next few minutes his own inner-crazy-lady took over.  "That's great," he said in earnest.  "I had the worst library experience with my daughter a couple of weeks ago."  Naturally, I was intrigued and needed to hear more, I implored, "What?  How could that be?  Tell me.  Tell me.  What happened?"
Leaning against his counter-top and gesturing like a maestro, he continued passionately, "Yeah, it was astounding to me.  First we spent about a half hour looking on the computer for possible books for her research project.  (She is in high school.)  Then we spent no less than 45 minutes looking for 4 books which MIGHT be able to help her.  Two of the books were no where to be found, the third book was so out-dated it was useless.  And the fourth book was checked out already by someone else."  With what sounded like bewildered conviction he added, "It never occurred to me that we might spend over two hours in a library searching for books and come away completely empty handed.  I mean it was a complete waste of time."  Again he repeated emphatically, "It just never occurred to me that we wouldn't find what we needed in a big public library.  I mean in this day and age of technology, to come away with nothing from a beautiful and grand Library.  I mean that's just obscene.  Libraries have to evolve with the rest of the world."  Here's the best part: he concluded by saying, "So what you're doing in your library with Metis sounds great.  Really great."  I said, "Can I quote you on that Doctor?"  And he said, "Definitely."