You are currently browsing the archives for September 2010.
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GLBT teens need positive adult role models

  • Posted on September 30, 2010 at 2:21 AM

Thanks to my ALA colleague Larry Romans, I was able to share materials with my teachers today on helping GLBT teens. It seems convoluted how we find materials to share with others. Look at the path. Larry Romans, Vanderbilt University reference and government document librarian, forwarded on part of an email from Jason D. Phillips, Government Information Reference Librarian & Bibliographer at Georgetown University Library.  Jason was highlighting the second article in Dan Savage’s column – “Savage Love.”  (Be sure you are reading the second article, not the first.) As Jason writes:

“The second entry offers several ways that we as adults can help GLBT teenagers.  I would encourage you to check-out these resources and consider contributing some time to it.  We can make a small or huge difference in the lives of these kids just by giving them hope that tomorrow can be better.  Also, for many of you who I know interact with these teenagers, these are resources you can share with them that they may be able to draw some encouragement and solace from.

For those of you who would prefer to skip the column, here are the links mentioned:

It Gets Better Project ( where GLBT adults can upload videos talking about their experiences and the the full and rewarding lives we enjoy now.

Driftwood ( documents “true stories by gay people all over.”  

A large archive of YouTube videos from LGBT teenagers talking about their own coming-out experiences at www.tinyurl .com/2fuwffh

The Trevor Project ( a suicide-prevention project for gay teenagers that also has a 24-hour hotline at 866-488-7386.”

 All of these resources are needed to add to the Jason Foundation resources my district encourages teachers to study each year.

Let's pretend this one didn't happen please

  • Posted on September 30, 2010 at 1:01 AM

I had an interesting experience today. An administrator approached me to say, “Ms Chen, a parent called to say we have sexually explicit materials in the library. Can you show them to me?”

My response –  all our sex books remain checked out, but here’s another title in the series so you can understand how the focus is on maturing needs of teens and tweens.

Administrator question: “Is that title on an approved list of titles for our district?”

We don’t have an approved list. We have a collection development policy. These titles are well-reviewed, well-written, and age-appropriate. The publisher is well-known for their balanced, accurate portrayal of teen health and wellness issues.

Trip to the computer to print policy, reconsideration policy, and my email to the faculty earlier this week about the importance of maintaining a balanced and diverse collection. Administrator admits not reading the email because I send too many. When email is placed in hand, administrator reacts with surprise “This is really Banned Book Week?!  You aren’t making it up? There’s good stuff in this email.”

Okay, let’s ignore all the signs and displays throughout the library about the right to read and to think for yourself. Yes, all these rights posters I have mean something to me and I will fight for the right to read.

Question: “Have any other parents or teachers been complaining?”

Answer: Yes, one teacher said a group of students were giggling when they read a page on dating. Will I remove the book? No! I told the teacher to essentially grow up and be professional. Teenagers giggle over silly things. I’d rather they giggle over advice on respecting their bodies, than cry over a teenage pregnancy of STD.

Perhaps this was just a dream and I’ll wake up to relive this day. ARGH!

Attending Ebook virtual conference today

  • Posted on September 29, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Isn’t this what you do when you are home sick? Go to work virtually? I am truly enjoying the eBooks: Libraries @ the Tipping Point virtual summit. It’s not too late. Go check it out, register and get going with us. We’ll be there the next 8 hours working away.

Ban books? How about banning Silly Bands?

  • Posted on September 29, 2010 at 3:13 AM

I became aware some of my students were planning to peacefully protest the rumored ban on Silly Bands Monday during Banned Book Week . While reading their facebook pages, I realized that some were using profanity regarding administrators’ concern with the bands. How should I handle this? I enlisted other faculty members with facebook pages and they wrote to some of the students for a teachable moment.

Have you read “Cyber-speak No Evil” by Michael D. Simpson on page 20 of the NEATODAY October/November 2010 issue? Michael is in the NEA Office of General Counsel and monitors issues on First Amendment cases involving social media.

The courts currently are divided on just how much freedom students have to express themselves even in their own homes. I anticipate this to increase. This is just an example of why I think we must be able to use social networking IN schools so we can properly demonstrate cyber-safety and ethics. I want students to express themselves, but in an ethical, dignified, and intellectual way. Okay, so I’m slightly delusional this weekend, but at the very minimum, I’d like students to refrain from bad language (if they cannot manage to avoid bad grammar).

In the meantime, aren’t you happy to hear that we are so concerned with silly bands and not improving instruction?

School libraries should all have restrooms

  • Posted on September 26, 2010 at 2:38 AM

Here is my rant for today. I believe designers of school libraries must include restrooms inside libraries. Those who think just having bathrooms down the hall and at corners in middle schools don’t really know how schools operate. School libraries should have restrooms in them. Why? Let me just name a few reasons.

  • Preschool story time
  • Public schools with exceptional learners (previously known as those with special needs) have babies joining the school throughout the schoolyear as soon as they turn 3 years old
  • Teenagers
  • Middle school administrators that don’t allow students to go to the restroom during class periods forget that watches aren’t wrapped around bladders
  • Teachers who have hall duty during changes NEVER are allowed to go to the bathroom because leaving students unsupervised is a violation
  • Bladder infections
  • Gyms have bathrooms because everyone knows the amount of activity you engage increases your likelihood of needing facilities
  • Students who didn’t need to go to the restroom when they left their classroom 400 yards away suddenly do when they reach the library
  • Sitting still can trigger the urge to use the facilities
  • Walking around can increase the urge to use the facilities
  • Standing in line can increase the urge to use the facilities
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Kidney  infections
  • Hallway passes
  • Campus security monitors forbidding trips to bathrooms
  • Pregnant teachers who desert their classes to race across the building for the faculty bathroom
  • Pregnant students
  • Senior citizen volunteers (and quite possibly the librarian)
  • Gangs of students who intimidate soloists from dashing in during class change
  • Time lost instructing students to write passes to the campus supervisors
  • Time lost while explaining in writing to the principal why a student was allowed to leave the library to travel down the hallway unsupervised to the bathroom despite the fact that said student’s parent has marched into school numerous times to demand potty-equity for her child
  • Wet carpet stains after a child is denied the opportunity
  • Wet puddles on wooden chairs hidden by older students
  • Traumatized teens with wet pants who must spend the next 6 years of their life being referred to as the kid who wet his/her pants
  • School cafeteria food that sometimes triggers <ahem!> diarrhea

Since I do not have a bathroom in the library, how do I handle student requests when they are jumping up and down, crossing their legs, and bending over in agony? Hurry up and get across the hallway before it’s too late! Come on, let’s use some common sense. I’ll stand in the doorway if I have to, but I’m not going to humiliate a child for a very natural bodily function.

Students do not interrupt me to ask for a pencil. They know where the can of pencils are and simply go get one to take care of their needs, and then get back on task ASAP. Wouldn’t having a bathroom remove another set of interruptions to our teaching? I can only dream.

Letter to my faculty on Banned Book Week Celebrations

  • Posted on September 25, 2010 at 7:06 PM

Sept 25- October 1 is Banned Book Week which highlights the importance of intellectual freedom. In the JFK library we have a sign quoting John F. Kennedy on censorship

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.  For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.  ~John F. Kennedy”

There was an excellent blog post by teacher/author Kate Messener that I thought I would share with you at Here’s a snippet:

“This middle school serves sixth graders as young as ten years old and eighth graders as old as fifteen.  Five years is a big gap, and those are no ordinary five years.  The difference between ten and fifteen is the difference between Legos and iPods, the difference between trick-or-treating and Homecoming Dances. The difference between child and young adult.

Our kids are not only different ages; they arrive at school with different reading levels, different backgrounds, and different experiences that have shaped their lives in both positive and negative ways. They have different needs when it comes to reading.

The book that is perfect for your wide-eyed sixth grade girl isn’t likely to be a good fit for a fifteen-year-old boy repeating eighth grade.   The book that eighth grader will read and love is probably not one that would be right for your sixth grader right now.  But as teachers and librarians, we have a responsibility to serve all of the kids who come to us. We have a responsibility to offer literature choices that speak to all of them and meet all of their diverse needs.”

Who would think that librarians care so passionately about students’ access to materials? We do. In fact, Michael Moore once commented:

I really didn’t realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group. They are subversive. You think they’re just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They’re like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn’t mess with them.


I love the blog post by Kate Messner and hope all of you go read this. I’m so greatful for her eloquence in expressing what I’ve wanted to say so many times. Thank you Kate and E. Kristen Anderson.

Why I'm not joining the great race to weed

  • Posted on September 25, 2010 at 3:27 AM

I wrote the following as an email to my middle school colleagues in Nashville. We have a two-tiered funding system for library funding. If you do not meet the state minimum standards and you have fewer than 12 items per student (projected only 10 items per student next year), then you will receive $15 per student funding.

If you DO meet the minimum requirements, you will receive half as much funding or only $7.50 per student. Because of this, many librarians on the cusp rush to weed. In response, I wrote the following:

I have to laugh and hope you will laugh with me about our desperate race to weed.  There is no way my holdings collection is going to be weeded down to less than 12 items per student. Why? Because those are the state minimum standards. In a wonderful world we would have 20 items per student. Of course I would like to receive $15 per student to buy books, but I’m not going to weed out the excellent titles I have to try to trick the system. Currently I have 13,247 items including biography, easy, fiction, nonfiction, paperback, professional & reference materials. With an estimated 880 students * 12 that equals 10,560 so I am over by 2700 titles.

I have several hundreds more titles in nonfiction to add because we are lucky at JFK. I am receiving lots of extra nonfiction titles to review for my blog and the book I’m writing. You are welcome to come over and view these at any time. We have some amazing titles from Marshall Cavendish, Lerner, Enslow, Norwood Press, Abdo, Rosen, Capstone, Bearport, etc. We have one of the largest nonfiction collections in Nashville and there is no way I could bring my numbers below 12 items per student. I’d be weeding out more than 1/4 of the collection once I finish donating all of these review books to the collection.

I have areas of my inherited collection that are still really weak. My fairytales and folklore, animals, and poetry collections are pathetic so far and don’t meet the research needs of my students. My biographies are used so extensively that they need a massive overhaul. I am always looking for help to ADD TO THE COLLECTIONS.

When J.T. Fisher came by recently from Children’s Plus books, I asked him to help me make a list of titles of poetry. He did this over the weekend and was able to upload it to the Children’s Plus site so I could go in, edit, add, delete, etc. This is a big time-saver for me, too. What other vendors have you found that offer this service?

As far as fiction, I could spend $10,000 dollars and I would still not have enough for our students. They are very demanding and have learned that they can request additional titles, so they do. I had 127 requests placed in our bag on the counter so far for different books that students desperately want. They visit the public library and bookstores to make lists. They search online through teenreads, teensreadtoo, and goodreads. They go to our website and submit titles anonymously I will have to continue to proactively find ways to raise money for books to meet their needs beyond weeding.

I believe in weeding. JFK’s collection began in 2001 so we have not had the problem of seriously out of date items so far. Our circulation is high enough that we have had to weed mainly for poor physical condition. This year the first 3 weeks of school our circulation was up over 400%. I hope that it continues this year.

One of the new teachers to our building stated, “I have never been in a school where the students read so actively. When they finish their work, they read. They carry library books and books from home with them everywhere. I even have problems getting them to stop reading and they would never miss a chance to go to the library to exchange books.” She tried to attribute this to our environment. I know it’s because we HAVE the books the students WANT to read.

Thanks for letting me share.

Primary Sources and National History Day

  • Posted on September 24, 2010 at 3:56 AM

The 2011 competition theme for National History Day is Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences. There is a page for Tennessee libraries, also.   I’m fortunate to have an excellent collection of titles from Enslow Publications on controversial issues including Issues in Focus, Headline Court Cases, Famous Court Cases that Became Movies, Landmark Supreme Court Cases, The Constitution of the United States,  and Debating Supreme Court Cases.

There are databases full of materials for my students. We co-taught lessons on primary sources last year, so this is an exciting project to anticipate.

Teaching with Primary Sources Across Tennessee is a program of the Library of Congress and is administered by the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University. Several of the faculty members involved came to our district inservice and shared excellent packets of teaching materials on primary and secondary sources.

Librarians with the Tennessee State Library & Archives program have been sending out brochures featuring their primary source material available for study. The Educational Outreach program is “focused specifically on linking educators with primary sources for educational use in classrooms.  Students can also easily access the digitized primary sources on their website. ”

ABC-CLIO is promoting trial access to databases of primary sources.

I have “click through and think through” pages on the school website for students to jumpstart their brains into considering the question “Why should we use primary sources when researching US History?”

What sources will you be using to support National History Day projects? I cannot wait to begin. Please share.

Bridget's Beret may help those of us with OCD

  • Posted on September 24, 2010 at 3:26 AM

Bridget’s Beret by Tom Lichtenheld is a surprising find in a picture book.  There are a sea of picture books for the Kindergarten – First grade group but this title has swiftly floated to the top.

Bridget’s Beret by Tom Lichtenheld. NY: Christy Ottaviano Books (a division of Henry Holt & Co.), 2010.

Tell me how many picture books manage to work in the phrase “je ne sais quoi?” I even had to use the tools online to hear someone pronounce it for me so I could read Bridget’s Beret aloud.

The dilemma in this title is that Bridget, who knows that all great artists like Sisley, Cezanne, Picasso, Rembrandt, and Monet wear berets, loses her beret to the wind one day.   She very proactively works to find her beret, tries to adapt by wearing different hats, seeks solace from her friends, and even throws a temper tantrum or two like any”self- respecting artist.”

“But it was no use. Bridget had lost her beret. And with it, she was sure, her ability to draw.” – I love that page.

I understand that feeling. Sometimes when things are not just-right, it’s impossible to begin whether it’s writing or painting. If the routine is altered too much, the anxiety we feel is so strong, we cannot be rationale and just GET OVER IT.  One day my assistant touched my desk. It took me 3 months to sit there again because I kept sighing, feeling despondent & utterly overwhelmed at the idea of ever putting it back together again so I could write. I was so obsessed that I could not move on. In fact, my fiance Ken has been remodeling my house this summer and the first room finished was MY office so that I could set something down and it would stay where I put it. When he tiptoed into the room to move a stray shirt off a chair, I may even have snarled at him. (Sorry, sweetie!)

Author/ illustrator Tom Lichtenheld throws in tiny jokes for us adults as well as a side bar explaining what artist’s block is at just the appropriate moment for the reader to explain it to the children. When Bridget’s sister helps her change her attitude to view making a poster for their lemonade booth as just a sign instead of a drawing, Bridget’s creativity can no longer be restrained. Soon she is painting again with delightful tributes to famous works of art.  I wish my scanner was connected so you could see Swirly Lemonade in the style of Starry Night.

Bridget overcomes her artist’s block. She rediscovers her love of drawing. And we benefit from the meticulously detailed crediting to the artists highlighted in this story. I have caught obsessive adults flipping back to view every page once they read the tiny credits at the end of the book.

Whether it’s the big cheerful illustrations, silly puns, or the satisfaction of learning that blocks (and obsessions) can be overcome, this title has something to offer many listeners. I hope you benefit from the therapeutic aspect of a day spent with Bridget.

Bibliotherapy – Is that what you do?

  • Posted on September 20, 2010 at 2:27 AM

Recently a student asked me for a specific topic. Okay, EVERY DAY students ask me for specific topics, but this one stuck in my head. She asked me to find some books about immigrant refugee children who had to leave their families behind in the centers or places unknown and how they cope with their new life in America.

Wow! Talk about pressure. Let’s think a moment on how you are going to handle this kind of request. Are you going into reader’s reference mode? Are you going into pseudo-psychologist mode? Are red flags bursting out all over around you? Are you simply going to find a title to meet her requirements and let it go?

I would love to hear from you about what you would do. Just comment below or email me at So far I have provided some titles to the child, connected her with a guidance counselor and a member of the immigrant community of Nashville and I am staying open & available. She knows I’m here for her.

Think about the term bibliotherapy. What does it mean? Different colleges and LIS programs have decided opinions on bibliotherapy. I wonder what you were trained to and not to do. Are you afraid to answer someone’s question in case they accuse you or practicing therapy?

I flipped to an article in Library Media Connection from August/September 2005 by Rosey Clark called “Bibliotherapy Examined.” The paragraph that jumped out to me was:

Perhaps bibliotherapy using fiction could never really be therapy, which is management and treatment of an illness. Using fiction books in a classroom could more accurately be regarded not as bibliotherapy, but as a discussion of themes or characters, which may allow the participants to examine their own issues or problems in a nonthreatening way.

Can I ever find a book that will help a child cope with the situation described above? Maybe not. In the meantime, I am grateful to have 3 copies of  Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins. It’s not a perfect match, but it is a book about a child who is separated from his family and who deals with refugee camps (and so much more).

The book Elephant Run by Roland Smith is also set in Burma (although in an earlier time period). Check out the new curriculum connections Roland Smith has uploaded recently.

Since Elephant Run was available on Scholastic Book Fairs, you may have seen it. I hope that you have equal opportunities with Bamboo People. This is a worthy middle and high school novel that deserves to be shared. My immigrant children coming from other countries who spent part of their lives in hiding also were able to relate to Bamboo People.

Readers, don’t forget to share your ideas. What would you do?