The Learning Librarian

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Planet Esme – a Librarian’s Dream!

I was volunteering in my school library after school this week when I came across a book entitled Educating Esme by Chicago librarian Esme Codell. I began reading and quickly found myself unable to put it down. The book, which chronicled Ms. Codell’s first year teaching in a challenging inner city school, was both informative and entertaining. I could identify with many of her thoughts and experiences. As Ms. Codell’s year of teaching went on, she gradually began mentioning library more and more. She slowly comes to realize that as much as she loves teaching, she loves spending time in the library even more. She is passionate about read alouds, literacy, writing and technology. The books ends with her decision to transition into a library position.
I was curious about what had happened after the book was published, and when I looked her up l I was amazed by all of her projects and accomplishments. She is currently a librarian at a Chicago Public School, and she has written several books – fiction for students and non-fiction resource books for teachers and librarians – and she writes blogs geared towards both students and teachers. One of her websites is http://planetesme.blogspot.com/. I love this blog because it is so fun and easy to read. Ms. Codell posts a “book of the day” each day. Along with an image of the book, she provides a brief summary, review, and suggestions for similar books. For example, one post discusses The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leathers. Codell summarizes the story and sings its’ praises. She also recommends Big Bad Bunny and Watch Out! Big Bro’s Coming! as related reading if the first book struck your interest.

I think this resource would be extremely beneficial for librarians and students. For me, sometimes long lists of books are overwhelming, but to learn about new books in this nice one-at-a-time format seems very manageable. I love her brief summaries and ideas for related books. This would be an extremely useful resource for a librarian. If you recommend one book to a student and he/she likes it, you can have a few similar titles at your disposal already ready to go. Older students can use this resource themselves; it also might be a fun project for them to create their own Codell-inspired blogs. Students could write brief summaries and reviews of books and list other titles that are similar. This would really require them to think critically about a book in several different ways; it would also ask them to compare what they’ve read with other books and connect them through similarities.

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Goodreads

This week I decided to explore Goodreads (www.goodreads.com). I have heard a lot about this resource and created an account last year but never really used it. I was able to re-discover my account (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8926227) and was so excited to find the books I had marked as “want to read” last year. I’ve been looking for some new titles lately and I definitely still want to read the ones I bookmarked so long ago!

I am extremely impressed with Goodreads (and a little scared that I’m going to spend WAY too much time on it) because it is so easy to use – and fun! The links at the top make it extremely easy to find books, read reviews and see what friends are reading. The main page also gives you suggestions of new releases you might like in a variety of categories. I also love how the site is set up like a social networking page. Like most social sites, you are able to find people you know and add them to your list of friends. Then you are able to see what they’re currently reading, what they’ve read in the past and what they’ve reviewed. While I currently only have one friend on the site (more to come!), I enjoyed spending some time looking through several of her well-researched reviews and recommendations. Since I often ask friends for tips on what to read, this website is exactly what I need. After I add more friends, it will be so nice to see all of their recommendations in one place!

I think this would be a phenomenal resource to use with students, especially those in middle and high school. Because of the social networking format, the site will strongly appeal to students. I think the social aspect will also encourage them to contribute; they’re not writing book reviews because they have to for their teachers, they’re writing them for their friends. This is a website I can see students really wanting to use.

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Many Ways to Define Information Literacy

This week, my teacher (hi Ruth!) gave the assignment to think about our dream library team. That is, if we could work with anyone – and were not limited by silly things like money, resources, and distance – who would we most like to collaborate with in the library media center? This assignment inspired me to conduct some research on (somewhat) local library enthusiasts who I could possibly really work with someday. I came across an article by Dane Ward, a librarian and information literacy specialist, which can be found here: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:WiD9dHAGrZsJ:intranet.lib.wvu.edu/committees/instruction/files/Ward1147282985.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjWuf_EWQfh2WFKe55hoLY3utr58VWlf62rv-c4H9isGKNjwUwmiFptzcOh0oQh5Cw9_zH58xgw4f280T0_oVEmx6E8R8JaD89-1ZxiVRdyWNHFubbyHymTPe_MZiiZzBtSsa8T&sig=AHIEtbQmegHDbvKNqfz9-0VK4vr7ZIFWqA. The article first caught my interest because of the author’s background and experiences, and kept me interested with the unique information it provided. The article discusses information literacy’s multiple definitions. Yes, it is technically defined as the way students locate and process information, but Ward elaborates on the definition, mentioning that information literacy should also involve how we experience and value information internally. He insists that students also need to be taught to care about information and think critically about all types of information we receive on a daily basis. He argues that our self-awareness comes from the information we receive and how we choose to interpret it. It also comes from within, in the form of dreams, hopes, fears and goals. Ward provides suggestions for teachers and librarians to teach this self-awareness. He first suggests teaching students to love questions and questioning. He encourages us to engage student curiosity and creativity and allow them to feel the joy in simply having a question and the means to answer it, not necessarily making our sole focus on the question’s answer. He suggests that teachers and librarians offer students opportunities to explore their self-awareness. Identifying who they are as people and learners can be very beneficial to developing questions and conducting research. Ward concludes that we must collaborate in order to revision information literacy; we need to allow students to understand themselves and find meaning in their questions and curiosity. By communicating well with students and building positive relationships with them, we can encourage this self-awareness as well as the desire to become a lifelong learner. Ward also mentions that librarians and teachers must go the extra mile to constantly be collaborating with one another in order for students to succeed. 

This article was very appealing to me because I strongly agree with many of the points Ward makes. Too often is information literacy thought of as solely finding and learning information. We tend to imagine information literacy as students sitting on computers or with books, digging for answers to questions. While this is a substantial definition of information literacy, we need to remember that a lot of information also comes from within, and that information needs to be processed, too. Students who are self-aware and able to process their own thoughts, ideas and questions are likely to experience more success in an academic setting because they know what they need to do to achieve their goals. As a teacher, I always encourage my students to look within themselves for answers as well as within various sources. If we help students develop a genuine love of learning, they will be excited to look both inward and outward to further explore information. 

I would be very interested in reading more articles by Dane Ward as well as more articles that expand on the multiple definitions of information literacy. While this article is not appropriate to share with students, I know that I would like to implement several of his suggestions in my future library.

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