Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Banned Book Week 2021

 Happy Banned Book Week 2021. My library is decorated this year unlike last year when our school was shut down for the pandemic. I did not decorate because no one was allowed in the library to take out books! Yet, despite COVID the American Library Association reported 156 challenges of 273 books this past year. Most of the challenged books dealt with racism and racial justice, or were biographies about Black, Indigenous, or people of color.

Jason Reynolds is the honorary chairman for Banned Book Week 2021 and his book, All American Boys, is the third most challenged book this year. The top 5 are rounded out by: George for LGBTQIA+ content, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, Speak by Lauri Halse Anderson, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. The latter two are challenged almost every year.

It is only fitting that we celebrate these and other banned books in the library in September since it is the same month we celebrate Constitution Day. The First Amendment is what Banned Book Week is all about, our Freedom to Read!

In November of 2020 the freedom to read was taken away from students in Central York School District in Pennsylvania. Some 100 books were banned, taken off the school library shelves, and out of the classrooms for the school board to “review.” At the start of this month, September 2021, none of the books had been returned to the libraries or classrooms. Some brave students drew national attention to the situation when they rallied and spoke in front of the school board to get the books reinstated. Most of the books banned were by or about people of color and many were picture books like I am Enough, Hair Love and, Jabari Jumps. Others were biographies like: I am Martin Luther King, Jr., and I am Malala.  After weeks of protest, the school board decided to reverse their ban, the students and everyone in the community won a victory for equality, diversity, and inclusion but more than that, they won a victory for the First Amendment. Now the bravery of the students is being rewarded via the donations of hundreds and hundreds of books by people from all over the world.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

#WakeletWave GIF

I am trying to create a gif using GIF Maker but when I try to download it it downloads as separate pictures. So, I am trying the non-downloaded version here because remember... this blog is for me to try out things before I suggest them to students. So, I am now attempting to embed into this blogpost a GIF I just made using my bitmoji on a wave and some of the Wakelet Ambassador Program badges I have collected. First here is the image link in case I can't embed it here:

Here goes...

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Virtual MakerSpace

 Since we were forced to shut down schools in March of 2020 due to COVID-19, I have been looking for ways to make the school MakerSpace work virtually. 

I attended an ISTE Class on Artificial Intelligence and realized that many of the AI websites we learned about during the class would work for a virtual makerspace. I started to put some of the links I found and other ideas in a Wakelet. And then this week during #WakeletCommunityWeek some people listening to Matt Miller, of Ditch That Textbook fame, asked me to share the Virtual MakerSpace Ideas I was collecting. I sent them out in a Tweet and in the chat during Matt's Keynote.  The Wakelet link is here: It is also embedded below. Enjoy!

Friday, May 21, 2021

Sugar House in Spring

It wasn’t a great winter for those that make Maple Syrup in northern New York. The winter was not cold enough for the trees to produce enough sap to make the twenty or more gallons of syrup my husband’s cousins usually produce to share with family members. So, I will be buying my maple syrup this year and I am expecting the price to go up considerably. For as much work and time it takes to make maple syrup the 20 gallons are usually worth it. However, this year’s sap only made 3 gallons of syrup. My husband, father-in-law and I took a walk in the woods to the sugar house yesterday. Some things have changed in the last 60 years but making maple syrup is pretty much the same as my husband remembers  making it with his father, grandfather and great grandfather. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2021


 We are finally getting to the 3rd marking period and for me, that means using MinecraftEDU with our gifted students to create Rube Goldberg Machines. As a middle school librarian, I do not have regularly scheduled classes but I do get to push into classes when I have some library skills to train or something unique to offer. During COVID that can mean anything. This year it has mostly meant teaching students how to virtually request books from the library and have them magically delivered to your homeroom or ELA class. I have also taught students how to find and use e-books and audiobooks from our online MackinVIA service. It has been rewarding watching the percentage of virtual book checkouts soar and also sad to see physical book checkouts plummet. Students are not allowed to browse shelves right now, that was the best way to do book selection but now they must rely only on the 

But, I have spent the past 4 plus months working on becoming a Minecraft Certified Teacher so that I could lead the class into the Minecraft World and ultimately create a Rube Goldberg Machine in that virtual space.

We have a maker space in our library and usually, the gifted classes create Rube Goldberg Machines out of cardboard and other maker space materials. This year we are not allowed to share materials in the maker space due to COVID. You may say the maker space is in quarantine. So, to keep the project going, I looked into ways we could create the machines virtually. Thanks to #MinecraftMentor Mrs. Steve Issacs for answering my questions and to Mr. Steve Issacs for his inspiration, video tutorials, and youtube videos of his student work. I am making an all flat word so everyone has a level playing field but I am not sure if I am going to allow mods or not, I have seen them work as part of a Minecraft Rube Goldberg Machine but I don't want the students to get caught up in mobs and lose sight of what they are creating. I'll post again when we have something to show. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

It's the End of the World as I Know it by Matt Landis

 It’s the end of the world as I know it is the newest book by middle school social studies teacher and author Matt Landis. It chronicles the struggle of a boy, his sister, their dad, and a sickly next door neighbor as they try to get through the worst year of their lives. And it all centers on a doomsday prediction made in a blog that the main character reads. The supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park is about to go off and all the main character’s focus goes into his makeshift doomsday shelter. There are other friends who play soccer and make signs, a pet snake, HAZMAT suits, and a dry flush toilet involved. It is on the Middle School Reading Olympic List for the Montgomery CountyIntermediate Unit so, get prepared for … It’sthe end of the world as I know, it by Matt Landis.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Don't Cry for what you've lost... be joyful that she lived...

 This past week was rough at the middle school. We lost a beloved colleague and friend. She retired in June amid the problems with COVID. She was high risk and wanted to be able to travel and do all the things retired English teachers do. Unfortunately, she didn't get to do any of it. We are sad for her family, and for us but we are better at what we do because she brought her joy and love of literature into our lives. Every year she would dress in a cape with a stuffed Raven and read the poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Oh, how I wish I had been able to record her performance. I can't read or listen to "The Raven" without thinking of her. I found this on YouTube and post it here in Ellen's memory. Enjoy. 

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Banned Book Week 2020

As a school librarian, Banned Book Week is one of my favorite weeks of the school year. I usually have my library decorated with caution tape and signs that say "these books are Readio-Active." A play on words but that is the best way to explain the phenomena of banning a book. Librarians hate censorship! But when a book is censored, it makes children want to read the books even more. The perfect book to explain this and to highlight many banned children's books is doing a read aloud of Alan Gratz's book, Ban this Book. It not only talks about kids in an elementary school sharing banned books, it highlights many of the children's books that are banned and the reasons some people don't think children should have a choice in what they read. It is only fitting that Banned Book Week comes right after we celebrate Constitution Day. The First Amendment is what Banned Book Week is all about. 

One of the books on this year's list is a real shocker to me. Skippy Jon Jones author Judy Schachner is an inspiration to me. She had such a bad school experience that she often does not do school visits because of it. The first time I head her speak was at a reading conference. She described the panic attacks she would have walking by the principal's office in school she visited. She, like me suffered from a reading disorder and was often punished for not reading. Her story touched me because I always thought I was a failure because of my reading problems which went undiagnosed until my own children were going through what I went through in elementary school. The reading specialist helped me do exercises with my children that helped them overcome many of their problems. It helped me too. To make a long story short, Judy Schachner autographed her first Skippy Jon Jones book to my yet unborn grandson that day. Her book is still one of his favorites and he loved the way his mom read it him! The picture is Judy Schachner's response to being the #8 most challenged book series from the Intellectual Freedom Blog.

Friday, October 02, 2020

I think I finally got my blog back!

 For years I have been having problems getting to this blog! I have tried to get rid of the Widget Server Bug that had taken over and would not allow my blog to be seen! Finally, today I got rid of all the widgets on my blog. Forget them! I don't need no stinking Widgets! I just want my geeky librarian voice to be heard. 

So, I'm back! Thank you Cori Frede for telling me your New Year Resolution to post a blog post every week... you got me moving to try to resolve this issue. Now, if I can do a blog post once a month... that would be something! Yeah! I'm Back!!!

Thursday, March 07, 2019


Video created for MRLA (Mini-Regional Leadership Academy) via University of Pittsburgh and PSLA (Pennsylvania School Librarian Association).

Saturday, February 16, 2019

More from PETE&C- Aaron Sams interviews PowerLibrarian

I am so very grateful to Aaron Sams for introducing me to flipped learning. He taught me about making videos of teaching content and then assigning it as homework. For me it went a little differently. As a librarian seeing students once ever 6 days, assigning homework just didn't work, even if it was a short video. Kids would forget since sometimes it could be 8-10 days between library classes. So, I flipped the library during library class. My problem was that I could not get the books checked in, and out fast enough to still have a meaningful class lesson. So, kids watched my content videos while I checked in books. I could also monitor behaviors better because I was not trying to teach and check in books at the same time. Kids also liked the videos and I also tried Nearpod at about the same time. I ended up saving so much time that I was able to offer students a small maker space in the library once every few cycles. Now we've come full circle and Aaron Sams is interviewing me at on of my Poster Sessions at the state technology conference, PETE&C. Here is a link to the video on twitter: 

Sharing My Presentation from PETE&C- 2019.

Saturday, December 08, 2018


I am starting to feel creative again. It has been almost a year since I wrote what you are about to read. I never posted it because I felt like I was being a bad librarian for feeling the way I did.  I changed position about a year ago and the feeling and joy and love of being a school librarian are starting to come back. But please know that it took a long time to start to feel human again. This is from January of this year:

If truth be told, I have not felt like a PowerLibrarian for a while now, maybe two years. A lack of motivation has truly caused this blog to blog to be neglected. I feel like I've run out of gas. I have felt like the Power was draining faster than spiritual food, friends, family, conferences, EdCamps, FutureReady, social media, and my PLN could recharge this Librarian!

Call it overwork, burnout, a struggle to communicate, a lack of respect by administration and students, less than perfect working conditions (we actually had a work stoppage- let me tell you walking a picket line does nothing for your self-esteem), or just everything, including me, getting older. For the past 4 almost 5 years I traded my cozy elementary library for a beautiful upper elementary library with more empty shelves than books. I struggled keeping up with student demand for popular titles. We had fewer than 15 books per student when when I started. I got creative, held book drives, begged, borrowed, and spent my own money getting books into the hands of students. As I leave we are now well over the state suggested 25 books per student. I don't want accolades for doing what I love, getting students to read, I just want it acknowledged that being a teacher/librarian is two jobs. I am working two full time jobs with a below average salary and time constraints of one- doing the second job on my own dime and time. For the past 5 years I have taught as few as 31 and as many as 35 classes every 6 days while running the library and trying to bring the makerspace concept into the newly branded Libratorium.

I believe strongtly that every student should get the opportunity to make, do, and create in a safe place but providing that for as many as 900 students with little to no support takes its toll. Teaching as many as 6 classes a day (and give grades to students for projects, and classwork) and running the library with students coming at all times to do book selection is daunting. The worst is students demanding book selection while I am trying to teach or trying to put books away or catalog books (cataloging takes concentration but all students see is me sitting at the computer)- after all, I'm not really doing anything and I could easily check out a book for them. The worst of it is that their teachers keep sending them even though I have told them that I can't check out books while I am teaching. Lunch, what's lunch? I keep being told I am entitled to a duty free lunch, it does not happen- there is always someone comeing into the library for something. If I didn't teach all day I would not mind missing lunch once in a while but it is my only chance all day to go to the bathroom. If I had a clone or a full time aide things would be so much better.

I struggled for years with getting technology into the hands of my students (may I never see another powersucking netbook again), because any papers I created meant 800 or more copies. Who has time to make that many copies? Finally, a year ago came a cart of chromebooks exclusively for use in the library classes and I could stop killing trees and use Google Classroom! I promptly broke Google Classroom which was not built to handle 34 classes. I deleted the 34 classes and settled on 12 classes, a class each day for the 5th grade homerooms I saw that day and one 6th grade class for the 3 or 4 different teams I saw that day. Putting multiple classes in each of the Google Classrooms meant a little more work for me finding students when it came to doing grading but it worked.  I switched it up this year and put each 6th grade team into one class cutting down my number of classes by 2! Fewer classes and it is easier when it comes to grading so many students.

I learned a great deal as I wrote grant proposal after grant proposal. Over the years I incorporated robotics, coding, and a makerspace complete with a 3D printer into the library curriculum. I decided to teach digiital citizenship via Google Classroom and student Tinkercad accounts.

Now at the end of this year, the joy is coming back. In a new school, with new students with new challenges, the joy is coming back!