June 3, 2018

Easy Like Sunday Morning: School Libraries vs Classroom Libraries

It's Sunday morning and I'm scrolling through my messages I missed the previous day...a day that was a busy one.  I ran across a post that forced me reflect back to a time when I first felt disrespected as a certified school librarian.   The memory was so jarring, I thought that maybe it may be good to write about it and finally release my internal frustration.My friend Susan Polos tagged me on Facebook post about a recent EdWeek article called, Why School Librarians Are the Literacy Leaders We Need  The author Ariel Sacks discussed how school librarians can make an
indelible impact on student achievement.   Through her personal experience, she also discusses the classroom library vs. central school library debate.  Manageability, equity, consistency and space are just a couple of points also raised by Sacks where she is spot on.  Many people commented on the post but one person still didn't understand the resistance to having both libraries exist in the school setting given that research has proven access to literacy is a must.  Below is the response to those who don't understand why classroom libraries can serve as a threat to school libraries and school librarians.
Using Chicago as a example, classroom libraries were first introduced to Chicago Public Schools through the Chicago Reading Initiative.  Created in 2001, it was the district's attempt to improve reading scores at Chicago's lowest performing elementary schools.  Tim Shanahan, University of Chicago professor, led the program during it's early years of existence.  School librarians throughout the district were instructed to provide training to teachers on how to develop their classroom libraries.  We were given a powerpoint and instructed to complete full training by a date set on the district calendar.  We then had to oversee the organizing and checkout system along with collection of books at the end of the year. Throughout this process, Librarians received ‘ZERO' funds for the central library collection.   Librarians in Chicago were enraged that they were expected to provide leadership around an initiative that they were excluded from professionally and financially.   They were further insulted by Shanahan as we had to provide 'Library Science 101 Training,' to teachers in our buildings.  (If you are a librarian reading this you know how this practice forced on librarians by their principals angers us to the core!)

As the classroom library program grew each year, principals were expected to 'fund' their school's classroom libraries to replace lost books and add more to the collections.  Librarians were again requested to provide leadership on the selection of books that students would read and were aligned to the curriculum. To the librarians dismay, principals diverted those funds earmarked for the library to classroom libraries.   Why?  Vibrant classroom libraries now appeared on the principal's 'walk-thru' where district leadership visited the school with a checklist of expectations, list of things that needed to be improved and praise for observable practices/things that took place in the school.  The teachers at my school complained because this was yet another responsibility they were expected to oversee. They further argued that they were not Librarians and that they should be concentrating on teaching and not developing a genre rich classroom library.   
What Shanahan did was create a resentful culture in Chicago Public Schools:   Angry Librarians who saw their yearly library budgets disappear and angry teachers who were forced to serve as ‘Librarians’ after receiving 'Library Science Training 101.'  You can read the summation of the program as outlined by education reporter, Maureen Kelleher - Citywide Reading Initiative:  Bold Start, Weak Finish.   Reading Specialists were then added and celebrated as the 'Literacy Specialist' in the building.  I've always laughed at this labeling because the reading specialists I've worked with throughout my career either openly asked for my support in the selection of books kids would read or quietly studied my practice and applied/used it when presenting to the staff and principal.  Sadly, this was the beginning of Chicago’s plan to slowly phase Librarians out of the schools. I am of the belief that one program should NEVER cancel out another in a school just to exist.  We are seeing this in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods to affluent schools in the district.  Now many people may talk about Chicago Public Schools negatively, but the district is an an influencer for urban districts across the country.   Having been employed in two districts since leaving CPS, their programming, curriculum and practice is often seen in districts that have similar demographics and challenges.  I wish my younger, novice, school librarian self would have asked the following questions:
  1. To be ‘innovative’ in the re-design of the school library program/position, does that mean to district leadership will cut programs to save money?  
  2. Do we save money at the expense of providing an equitable education for all children?  
  3. Describe the scholarly research that was used by district leadership in making the decision to create classroom libraries?   
  4. Does that research include the impact of school libraries and certified school librarians on student achievement?
  5. If school librarians are included in the training of teachers, why didn't they receive funding for their collections and some type of recognition for 'job well done?'
Chicago (and many other school districts across the country) is now
experiencing a steep decline in reading scores and they are scratching their heads wondering how has this happened when we have classroom libraries. When you take a child’s ability to have free choice in the selection of a book, kids get turned off from reading. When you remove the school's literacy specialist - the school librarian out of the library, children lack that expert that can connect them to the books they are interested in.  When you have just a classroom library and no school library/librarian, the collection is often leveled and limits personal choice which is the essential key for children when selecting a book.
 
School Libraries, Certified School Librarians and well stocked libraries are the key to academic success. If this viewpoint is shocking/surprising to you, I recommend that you read Dr. Keith Curry Lance SECOND study on the Impact of School Libraries and Librarians - https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED445698 and view Dr. Stephen Krashen’s video on the Importance of a well stocked library for Free Voluntary Reading - https://youtu.be/JAui0OGfHQY  Here's to the trip down painful memory lane:  I feel better.  Shoot me a email if you are interesting in reading about more studies on this subject - kcboyd1@gmail.com  

April 6, 2018

E-Book Review: Lenny Gray

I listened to this epic e-book during my commute in DMV traffic over a period of 10 days. I immediately got hooked on the rich character performances (all narrated by author Earl Sewell!) and the lush historical descriptions of life in rural Mississippi.  This says allot mainly because I’m not a ebook enthusiast.  The story and performances captured my attention so much so that I was enjoying my hour commute to/from work because I could escape into this story and characters. 


I don’t want to give away too many parts of the story because there are so many events that take place and you will definitely be surprised.   The story’s protagonist, Lenny Gray is pregnant and trapped in a loveless marriage while trying to learn who she is as a person and woman. Sewell describes vividly Lenny Gray’s struggle with her husband Curly and her, survival during disease, famine and devastating poverty.  As described by the book’s synopsis, Lenny Gray has known from an early age that she is meant to live a better life, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women and particularly African-American women. Lenny Gray is a survivor and represents the resilient African-American women of that time who were tough and determined individuals who withstood the unspeakable.  It is these rich character traits that are often overlooked in historical fiction where African-American drive the story.  


Working in K-12 education as a school librarian for over 20 years, Lenny Gray is a book that I would recommend as a class novel read for my grades 8th-12th classes.   This book would be best used in ELA/English and U.S. History classes.   I would also recommend this book for collegiate African-American Studies or History courses because it provides an alternative view of life during this time but through the unique lens of an African-American.  


My hope is that publishing houses will recognize that African-Americans do want to read historical fiction books that feature their life experiences.   Hopefully this book, ‘Lenny Gray,’ will be the catalyst in advocating for change. 

Conversations at the Circulation Desk #5

The Audacious Librarian Blogspot
Conversations at the Circulation Desk #5 
My student Christine reviews, ‘Sideline’ by Jay C. Rehak.  She finished reading the book in two days, thumbs up!

April 4, 2018

National School Librarian Day

Happy National School Librarian Day to all my fellow #schoollibrarians in the struggle!  




April 1, 2018

Questions For Parents



Parents today marks the beginning of SCHOOL LIBRARY MONTH and I have a couple of questions for you:


- Is there a circulating school library collection AND certified school librarian at your child’s school?   

- Is that school librarian certified in Library Information Science?   

- How many books were circulated for student check out during the last three months?

- How much free access are student given each week to visit the library and check out books?

- Does the library collection reflect the diverse social, emotional interest and needs of the students?


I’m going to keep it as the kids say, ‘totally 100’ with you.   You will probably receive one of these excuses:


1.  Budget challenges, the librarian and or program is ‘too expensive,’ 

2. We have classroom libraries/accelerated reader, we don’t need a library,

3.  Computers are the future, we want our students to be computer savvy,

4.  We use popular lists, the books the staff members read that were popular will be good for these students we are teaching now!,

5.  We have someone in the library (teacher aides/clerks), the kids can go in there....(I always give the side-eye to this one....🤔)


Studies by Dr. Keith Curry Lance and Dr. Stephen Krashen will argue that schools with certified librarians and well stocked libraries have students who possess heightened life skills and perform better academically on standardized tests.  Moreover, students understand that libraries are a valuable resource and will continue to utilize throughout their collegiate and post-collegiate experience.  


So I ask you this question, do you want a ‘filler’ or a skilled professional instructing  your child?  When you attend that next LSC, PTA or current budget hearing held at your child’s school district board meeting, ask these questions and watch those administrators squirm.   Demand answers.....these are YOUR tax dollars! Transparency and justification should be a professional courtesy provided by the school district.  


....and tell’em Boss Librarian (K.C. Boyd) sent you! #kc_saidit


—————————————————-

IN THE STANDARDS remodeling process, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) reviewed Common Beliefs from earlier AASL Standards and official AASL position statements. These documents, and feedback collected from more than 1,300 school librarians and stakeholders nationally, provided AASL with a clear expression of the qualities of well-prepared learners, effective school librarians, and dynamic school libraries. The following Common Beliefs and summary descriptions were identified as central to the profession.

1. The school library is a unique and essential part of a learning community.

2. Qualified school librarians lead effective school libraries.

3. Learners should be prepared for college, career, and life.

4. Reading is the core of personal and academic competency.

5. Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right.

6. Information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available.


February 1, 2018

Black History Month, 2018


Black History Month 2018 has kicked off with a bang at Jefferson Academy in Washington D.C. - SW. The link below will re-direct you to a list of people and their interesting accomplishments across the African Diaspora. We omitted Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X etc. because they are often 'over researched,' during this month. We wanted our students to explore and learn about people that they have never read about.
Also included in the link is a kick off to our 8th grade community meeting where the staff discussed all of the events that would be taking place at the school. All resources shared are in public folders/social media pages.
Jefferson Academy Black History Month, 2018 - http://www.kcboyd.com/teacher-resources.html

January 7, 2018

My NEW Website!

Happy New Year!

My new website is finally up and running.  Check out my labor of love at KCBoyd.com.


December 10, 2017

Easy Like Sunday Morning: Arrogant

     During various periods in my life, I've been told that I'm arrogant.  No one has said anything to me lately, nor has a argument ensued so to my Chicago homies....fall back!  This is merely one of those, 'Easy Like Sunday Morning,' posts that forces me to deeply reflect on things from the past and how they can influence my practice in the future.  I started thinking deeply about the word, 'ARROGANT,'  and according to Google's dictionary, the definition of 'arrogant,' is:

       ar·ro·gant - having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities.   

Now I ask the question, 'Am I arrogant?'

I was named recognized as a
Chicago Public Schools,
 'Hall of Fame Librarian'
in 2014 while at @Phillips High School.
     A wonderful principal I once worked for often said that people often accused him of displaying a high level of arrogance.  He further explained that observers mistakened arrogance for his self-confidence, a tool that his mother instilled in him at a early age.   Given where he was raised and childhood experiences, he said that he needed every tool just to survive and remain motivated.   My late friend would often say she was called arrogant in response to people who could not handle her high level of intelligence and she was often 99% right.  Guess what?  She was right 99% of the time!  I began thinking deeply about 'why' I have been called arrogant by others.

    My late mentor once gave a professional development sessions for school librarians where she left me with a indelible motivation.  She discussed how sometimes librarians were viewed as weak, soft spoken, and timid by others within the school community.  She further commented on how we as school librarians were such a rich and invaluable resource to the learning community and how we possessed a natural knowledge and strong
My wall of appreciation
@Jefferson Academy
skill base that would add to the success of any school.  The key was understanding that WE held the power and it was up to us to execute and show others what we could do.  We were school librarians and we stood only for excellence.  I swear I remember that motivational speech she gave like it was yesterday.   It was this speech that motivated me to become more of a self-starter.  Give myself a pat on the back and toot my own horn.  Because seriously, if you don't know how to compliment yourself, who's going to right?

     Throughout my career, I've worked at some schools where my work as a school librarian was overlooked and sometimes ignored.  The focus was on the classroom teacher, sports or technology program.   I'm not trying to be funny but when I compared the work of others to what I had done, it wouldn't compare.  Examples of this are rebuilding the school library program, creating and developing a library culture (this is NOT easy!), getting kids excited about reading, raising reading scores through access to books and leisure reading, bringing in thousands of dollars in donations and free resources and wait for it.....CLEANING UP and REORGANIZING  JACKED UP LIBRARIES THAT HAVE BEEN DOGGED OUT BY THE ADMINISTRATION AND STAFF.   Whew!  Yes,  I had to get that last one off of my chest!
2015 East St. Louis Senior High School weeding project
     My late father used to say, "You need to check yourself, your actions and how you come off to other people."  In other words, you need to smell yourself first and if you are foul, pull up and correct yourself.  To the core of my soul, I'm not a arrogant person.  If anything, those who know me very well are often pushing me to do more but my timid, shy and introverted self constantly digs her heels in the ground when challenged to go to the next level.  This is exactly why libraries and social media is the perfect playground for me because I can push myself to share my views and things that have taken place in my crazy life that I would not normally do in a face to face situation.  

This is a slide I created for my bi-monthly/monthly library newsletter
@Jefferson Academy.  Proud to be recognized in the same company of
these respected library practitioners.
Scholastic Top 15 Librarian Instagram Accounts to Follow  
     I believe I'm more of a promoter of what's good.  I promote the authentic experiences and the unique things that are taking place in school libraries whether it be in my library or my colleagues.     A click, re-post, comment or recommendation is an example of this promotion.  Promotion is what is needed now given the climate of some school districts  removing credentialed librarians from school libraries due to poor budgeting or not trusting the judgment of librarians when making purchasing decisions.   I promote my accomplishments because I'm happy that I have ascended to a level I've been trying to reach for some time.   I talk about school libraries because it is my sincere hope that others will see the beauty in this field and choose to join me and the thousands of librarians across the country behind the circulation desk.   

     So if that makes me arrogant through the lens of others, so be it.    
     

December 4, 2017

#KC_SaidIt - 'Book Banning, School Officials, Oh My!'

One of the things I absolutely cannot stand is my commute every morning to work. The DMV traffic is a nightmare and is highly unpredictable. To help pass the time, I've decided to take one of my Instagram picture hashtags, #KC_SaidIt and flip it into a video post from my truck. I will be discussing various topics, mostly library related and some on some of the social issues of our day. It's my view and opinion so I'm telling you right now, I'm bound to make you mad! 

Here's my first video where I'm discussing the recent controversial action of the school Superintendent of the Katy ISD of Texas. This educator removed Angie Thomas, "The Hate U Give," from the library bookshelves, and without following the guidelines of the reconsideration policy for libraries. Unfortunately, this man is going to learn a valuable lesson the hard way. 

 Enjoy the video! 

August 20, 2017

Easy Like Sunday Morning: The Work Begins

The Work Begins
Back to school professional development is finally over and now the work begins.   Those of you who are school librarians understand that 99.9% of the staff meetings take place in the library.   So this means librarians have to wait until all of the meetings have concluded so they can get to work.

Genre vs. Dewey Collections

This library has not had a certified librarian in a number of years.   Overall the collection is in good shape but needs more books that reflect the interests and culture of my students. You know I'm ordering Corretta Scott King and Pura Belpre Award winning books along with popular leisure reading books to jumpstart my readers this year.   One thing that frustrated the sheer heck out of me was the fiction collection was organized by genre and not by the Dewey Decimal System.  I will share the same comments here that I recently made on my Instagram page.
The first thing I noticed about this topic is that school librarians are split almost 50/50 and have very strong views about it.   I read a really good article written by librarian Hilda K. Weisburg called the, 'The Dewey Debate,' where she eloquently presented both sides of this argument.  I read it and realized that I have partially organized  my collection in the past by genre.  For example, I have shelved all of the Street Literature, Graphic Novels and Anime/Manga books together and in their own bookcase.  I think that is ok, seriously....(please don't call me a hypocrite!)    In my opinion, when the entire collection, including the non-fiction section of the the library collection is organized by genre, it just does not benefit students in the long run.  There is no transfer of knowledge when they are promoted or transfer to a middle school or high school where the collection is organized by Dewey.   Can you image a student asking their school librarian where are the, 'Drama Books,' located?  Now this student must learn the Dewey Decimal system, 'on the fly,' in order to search for the book that they want.  I can already see that some of my students will be frustrated with this fast paced method.  
Another issue I have with collections all organized by genre is that many of the books fall under multiple genres.  I have yet to find some sort of reasonable guidance in selecting the 'dominant' genre to classify it under.  For example, Sharon Draper's pre-teen novel, 'Out of My Mind.' could be shelved under, 'Drama,' 'Realistic Fiction,' or 'Stories About Girls.'    Having a school library collection organized by Dewey means that YOU the librarian must educate and demonstrate to the students how the collection is organized.   School librarians should have a strong knowledge of the books within their collections and can help their students connect to the books they would like to read.  I'll be honest, now that I'm back working with a middle school population, I have to re-familiarize myself with the literature while learning what has been written for this age group in the last five years.   When it comes to finding 'read-alikes,' and I'm not that familiar with the book that my student is reading, I use TeachingBooks.net, Good Reads and Book Browse.   All have a 'related-booklist' or 'read-alike- database embedded in their websites.
TeachingBooks.net
GoodReads.com
BookBrowse.com
I've also heard that genre organized library collections can increase circulation because the books are found in the same geographic area of the library.  This may be so however I have a tool that I use that seemingly gets kids reading:  book displays.   Yes, they are timely and sometimes expensive but definitely worth it because now you can direct students to books written by the same author and introduce them to new ones.  But identifying and connecting kids to books is where I show my greatest value to the school community.  I'm the building expert on literature for my students, teachers and parents and I help guide readers to the books that interest them.   I want my students to have a love of reading instilled within them along with the tools to find books in the library in another library.

Tracking the Number of Books Read by Students
That's one heavy circulation desk!
After my very strong and able co-worker moved the circulation desk by herself while I was in a meeting, (much love for you!) I had to tackle another issue: writing on the back of the book.   For those librarians reading this, before you jump on your soapbox please calm down and let me explain.  This school has not had a librarian in several years.  The majority of the staff has not worked with a certified librarian, so in essence this is a clean slate and a librarian's dream come true to introduce a teacher to the skill base and work of a school librarian. 

In past years, the teachers were putting a short piece of painter's tape across the back of the book and writing the name of the child who checked out the book, the date and how many pages they have read each day.   This was done in the absence of a librarian who could have provided a simple print out of books from Follett Destiny Circulation System that were checked out by the student.   To track books read by the students either Beanstack.org or Biblionasium.com could be used.  This is going to be a challenge for some of the teachers because they are adopting a new norm (or one they decide to use independently) and saying goodbye to one that has been used for quite some time.  It has to be done or I will be receiving books from students that will look like the one below.  Properly taking care of library books is the expectation I have of my students.
Writing on books.....No Way!

I hope you are enjoying my adventures working in a new school library  I think you would agree, with every school, there are different challenges, victories and adventures.  Overall, it's all good because my love for libraries is infectious and I hope my students, the teachers I work with and parents will recognize this rather than the look of shock on my face when I see something I've never seen before.  Until next time!


August 13, 2017

Easy Like Sunday Morning: New District + New School = New Adventure

...and so the adventure begins!
This year will hold new adventures for me as a school librarian.  I'm looking forward to developing my library program, working with teachers and having fun along the way.  
I love LYFT
I arrived in town at 3am on the morning of the district's, 'New Teacher Orientation.'   Surprisingly, the lack of sleep did not affect me as I attend the opening session that began at 8:30am.  I got the 'hissing heffers,' Domino and Daisy Lee settled and fed, jumped in the shower/got dressed and called a LYFT to drive me to the orientation.   I did not trust myself to drive because of the lack of sleep.  

Photo Courtesy of Perkins Eastman
The orientation was held at the very beautiful and modern Dunbar High School in the north west area of D.C.   There were greetings from central office staff, the Chancellor of the D.C. Public School System, Antwan Wilson, and the Washington Teacher's Union President, Elizabeth Davis.   Unfortunately by mid-day, the lack of sleep hit me.  As I sat in the cozy chairs in the library, my chin hit my chest and the back of my head crashed against my back...I was tired! 
Common Sense Media

I somehow woke up and attended two more sessions presented by the DCPSS Libraries Department.  I was awake enough to ask allot of questions.  I know I aggravate the heck out of a presenter because I ask a million and one questions so that I'm clear and will be able to proceed forward with my agenda.  I was relieved to learn that the libraries department has adopted the use of Common Sense Media.   If you haven't heard or used Common Sense Media, consider using the site during the upcoming school year because it is a powerful tool for your library program and school.
My New Home!
A couple of days later, I attended my new school's two day, 'New Teacher Orientation.'  The school is absolutely beautiful and majestic with a huge field where the kids play sports and participate in a myriad of activities.  It was great meeting the new and existing staff along with receiving a very defined overview of the school through hands on activities.    This was very important for me because it will help me develop and align my library program with the mission, vision and spirit of the school.                
One of the staff members commented that they were a little embarrassed by the appearance of the library and items temporarily stored in front of some of the book cases.  My response was, 'I've seen 100 times worst, and no worries - I'm a librarian and this is what I do!"   I'll post before and after pictures in the weeks to come.  If it's one thing I love to do is set up libraries including book displays kids will love for student use.  

So in one week I experienced some firsts:  New District, New School and changing a baby's diaper for the first time in 20 years!!!

Until next time!

August 6, 2017

Easy Like Sunday Morning: Onward

Please note:  This post is a detailed account of some events that have recently taken place in my life personally and professionally.  This post is solely my views, voice and words of expression.  
Background
I love the title and the musical arrangement of, ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning,’ written by Lionel Richie of the Commodores for a number of reasons.  It brings me back to a time when times were good and life was simple.  I remember listening to this song over and over again with my late father.  It was the 70’s and my dad, still holding onto his precious 8-track stereo in his dodge van, would play music to pass the time while driving.  Because we were a family of five, flying was too expensive and out of the question.  Instead we piled into my father's van and traveled to 48 out of the 50 states before I turned 16.  Overall, music was our solace and made our destination seem not so far away.  

While I'm writing this post, I'm listening to, ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning,’ and yes, things will never change. 



Easy Like Sunday Morning:  Onward

My News
My family is my backbone and my greatest support.   So when family needs you, you respond.   Recently, my sister contacted me because she needed some help with her two young children.  Keep in mind, it is very difficult to support a family member who is in need when they live so far away.   After securing a library position near her home, I made the final decision move to the east coast.  With many regrets, I resigned as Lead Librarian for the East St. Louis School District (ESTL)  in East St. Louis, Illinois.   

While I'm happy that I will be able to support my sister better, I'm saddened that I will be leaving a great group of children behind.  Through my position as Lead Librarian, I was afforded the opportunity to visit each school library within the district.  This gave me the opportunity to interact with the children from many of the the neighborhoods throughout the city.   As a woman who does not have children of her own, I always lived vicariously through the many smiles, the energy and the innocence of the children I served.  These moments made my day and brought me inner happiness and joy.  I'm also saddened that I'm leaving my high schoolers behind, especially the students in my Anime Club.  These students helped me build a dynamic Anime collection which is truly the center of the East St. Louis Senior High School library program.   Though we are going to remain in touch, I am going to miss the daily interactions with these kids.  


The People
The city’s nickname, ‘The City of Champions,’ describes its citizens accurately because East St. Louisans are a very proud group of African-Americans.   The city of East St. Louis is located off of the Mississippi river, east of the city of St. Louis, Missouri and currently has a population of 27,000 people.   Historically the city of East St. Louis, Illinois was the scene of one of the bloodiest race riots in the 20th century.  Racial tensions and violence was at its highest in February of 1917.  During that time,  470 African American workers were hired to replace white workers who had gone on strike against the Aluminum Ore Company.  (1)  This lead to the East St. Louis Race Riots where men, women and children were killed.  


On a more positive note, there are very notable people who either are from or resided in East St. Louis throughout their career.   Some of the famous people from East St. Louis are performer Katherine Dunham, Rock and Roll artists Ike and Tina Turner, Senator Dick Durbin, and Jazz musician Miles Davis.  Known as a strong powerhouse for athletics within the St. Louis metro east area, East St. Louis is known for producing athletic talent like Olympians Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Dawn Harper-Nelson and attracting recruiters from  top universities from across the country.  A current example of this is, ‘All-American,’ center Jeremiah Tilmon, a recent recruit to the University of Missouri to play for their thriving basketball program.  


Working in ESTL
I'm very proud of the work the was completed during my two year tenure.  I'm even more proud that the children now have a school library that they can call their own.   Academically the school district has had some major challenges.  Up until 2014, the district had been on academic probation for over 25 years for reading/math scores and falling in the lower 10% of schools within the state of Illinois measured.   Since 2012, the district has been under financial and operational control by the Illinois State Board of Education’s Financial Oversight Panel.   Test scores have slowly begun to rise as a result of new leadership and academic support programs that are in place.

School libraries had been previously closed for eight years within the ESTL School
Weeding project at ESTL Senior High (summer, 2016)

District.  The administration responded to requests of the community and wanted these libraries re-opened under the direction of a librarian that had prior experience with retrospective conversion for libraries.  My former principal, now Deputy Superintendent supervised the ‘re-birth’ of these libraries that began in the fall of  2015.  When I arrived two years ago, I learned quickly that there were no marc records, no electronic circulation system or research databases.  Even worst was the collections had been moved to the classroom libraries by the staff in the absence of a certified school librarian.  There was allot of work that needed to be done.

The administration and school board was very generous and financially invested funds towards a very tedious retrospective conversion project where over 75% of the books had to be imported into the Alexandria circulation system manually.   They then
purchased Gale and Teachingbooks.net and JSTOR for student research and inquiry.  Lastly, they loaded $12,000.00 per school for the purchase of Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpre and popular books students would enjoy reading.  You see, I'm a firm believer that if you want to get reluctant and struggling readers reading and improve reading scores, you must provide kids with books that reflect their race/culture, written by authors of color and books that celebrate their personal interests.  I know this is the winning formula because at every school I've worked at during my tenure in Chicago Public Schools kids reading improved, they read more and test scores rose.  You can read more about my past work in a School Library Journal article I wrote earlier this year called, “K.C. Boyd: A Leader for Readers” .


Bumps Along the Way
While working on rebuilding the school libraries in ESTL, I learned that the district was void of a school library culture.  Teachers and staff wanted a certified librarian but many of them didn't exactly understand all that it entailed having one.   When I arrived
Importing books into the Alexandria system manually
in the district, it was at the cusp of a teachers strike where the teacher had not had a raise in several years.  My salary was scrutinized heavily and many didn't understand why a librarian should be paid so much and to work year round. I totally understood and respected the resentment.  If I hadn't had a raise over a period of time I would have been upset too but with the administration, not any individual.   When the treatment from certain staff members became a bit, ‘too much,’ I had to keep things in perspective.  Some did not care for outsiders and some just didn’t like me at all.   To help keep me grounded, I read Luke 23:34 and focused on the goal of providing a library program and equitable access to books and technology.

Some of the teachers and staff didn't understand why I was ‘gone all of the time,’ or ‘always sitting at my circulation desk.’   The retrospective conversion project for all of the schools took eight months to complete.  I was onsite at each school working side by side with the librarians who had never had the experience of completing a retrospective conversion project.  I also had to visit all of the schools and help them set up their libraries for student use.  As for sitting all of the time, librarians understand this is an age old complaint by those who work in schools where our classroom teachers, ‘stand,’ during instruction. A librarian's work involves working with students at the circulation desk, instruction and upkeep of the collection.  In my case, along
with the above, moving/importing/deleting marc records for all of the schools called for me work at my circulation desk or in my office at my desk.   Those of us working in the library world understand this and the logic, but for a group of teachers who had never experienced a re-birth/ retrospective conversion project, it was hard to understand.  Remember prior to my arrival, ESTL lacked a school library culture.  So this meant educating and sometimes re-educating the learning community on the positive benefits of a strong school library program.  

Last year was the first year that all ESTL school libraries within the district circulated books. The librarians and I received some push back regarding books that were checked out and taken home by the students.  Despite this and with heavy emphasis by the librarians about the importance of taking care of books, we had a overall good year with circulation.  It was an absolute joy for me to see the looks on the students faces when they checked out books and returned for more.  Especially my Anime Club who were such avid readers of not only Anime but other genres.  Despite some of the ups and downs, criticisms and yes silliness, the work was still done by the librarians and I prevailed and had a great year.  You can view the before/after pictures along with our circulation numbers for the school year here.  Over 15,000 books were checked out by ESTL students at eight schools, not bad for our first year!  2016-2017 ESTL Circulation Report


I thank God for Google Maps!
Onward
The 14 hour drive from the St Louis to the D.C. area is one I will never forget.  I had very patient movers who tolerated packing all of my personal belongings, mounds of teaching supplies and listening to two screaming cats as we drove through the mountains of West Virginia at night.  I haven't seen those steep hills since I was a child!  I will miss many of the administrators, teachers and employees of ESTL who were kind and encouraging especially when we thought we would never see the end of the retrospective conversion...you know who you are because I’ve thanked you many times over and over again for your support!

New Teacher Orientation
After working for two years in a dual position of administration and libraries I learned allot about myself.  I really prefer working with children, find myself frustrated when working with some adults, yet enjoy training librarians.   This decision has helped guide me in selecting my next job.  Despite offers from a public library and the offer to teach at a major university, I have some personal goals as a librarian that I still want to accomplish while working with kids.  Plus, my opportunities to train librarians may be presented to me in the future and in a different way.  With this belief I'm happy with my decision to accept a school library position working for the Washington D.C. Public School System.  

My Loves!
I'm happy that I will be working with a group of students in this district who need it most.   Many of these students mirror the students I’ve taught in Chicago and East St. Louis so I feel like I’m on familiar ground.  I'm excited that I will be opening a new chapter in my career working in a field that has helped me personally develop into a more outgoing and outspoken person.  I'm relieved that will be closer to my sister and will be able to read and play games with my niece and nephew every day.  Overall, I'm pleased with the decision I've made to move to the east coast.  I'm still working in a library and having those insightful ‘conversations at the circulation desk,’ with students and that alone in itself makes me happy.  


References
1.  BlackPast.org.  East St. Louis Race Riots - http://www.blackpast.org/aah/east-st-louis-race-riot-july-2-1917
2.  School Library Journal. ‘Leader for Readers:  K.C. Boyd.
3.  ESTL 2016-217 Circulation Report.