Since the beginning of the pandemic, the library has been trying to engage the whole school community in light-hearted, uplifting, interactive activities to bring us all together and encourage reading for fun. Last term we worked with the Newton North library team to design a “Pets Caught Reading” contest whereby students and staff submitted pictures of their “pets” reading (we encouraged loose interpretation of “pets” to be as inclusive as possible). We assembled the photo submissions into a slideshow and a ballot for voting for the best reading pets. We received 40 photo submissions and 164 ballots! Winners received a gift certificate to chewy.com thanks to grant support from the PTSO. We had great fun with this, and we think participants and viewers did too!
Working with our students as they develop research skills is an important focus for the NSHS library teachers. In term 2, the library teachers worked collaboratively with the 9th-grade History team to prepare for the 1st “choice project” that 9th-graders completed towards the end of the term. Since research looks a little different in the remote and HyFlex models, we met extensively with the 9th-grade History team leader to review the learning goals, develop potential project topics, and brainstorm project outcomes. Once the framework for the project was in place, the library team developed a research guide to support the project topics.
Typically the 9th-grade teachers stagger their projects throughout the year so that the library teachers can work directly with classes in the library. As the entire 9th grade was doing the project simultaneously, it was not practical to Zoom with all the classes individually. Instead, the librarians created a series of videos for the teachers and students to view.
Once the students were working on their projects, the librarians staffed breakout rooms during both class periods and flex blocks so students could receive assistance in finding resources or citation help. Students also had the option to make 1:1 Zoom appointments to get support for this project.
We look forward to working with our History colleagues and the 9th-grade students on Choice Project #2.
NSHS Curbside Checkout
Just because the Newton South Library isn’t open for browsing doesn’t mean students can’t get print books! The Library team is happy to offer “curbside checkout.” Students can put books on hold in our online catalog, using their school ID and login. Librarians will pull the books, check them out, and leave them at the front of the building for students to pick up. This service is available to hybrid and remote learners – check out some titles today!
Books can be returned at the same cart where they were picked up. Materials returned to the library are quarantined according to American Library Association guidelines prior to being reshelved.
Traditionally, all freshman English classes visit the library for an orientation. We would normally use this time to familiarize the students with the library resources and to introduce them to the physical space. The large library, packed with upper-classmen, can be a pretty overwhelming space for the 9th graders. Like everything in 2020, orientation looked a little different this year. Instead of our usual in-person library “Scavenger Hunt,” we opted to create an Escape Room for students to orient them to our virtual library resources.
We “Zoomed” into the 9th grade ELA classes to introduce ourselves and the Escape Room. Students were dispatched to individual breakout rooms to try to escape the library by using clues to navigate around the website and answer questions about the library’s services. If a student had a question, they raised their electronic hand and a helpful librarian zoomed in to help them “escape.” If you’d like to learn more about the library, feel free to try to escape yourself.
Though we are providing curbside pickup for physical books (more information here), the easiest way for students and staff to access new reading material is through South’s participation in the Commonwealth eBook Collection via the Sora app. The district will be using Sora to deliver both curriculum books and independent reading options. Since we can’t troubleshoot issues as easily over Zoom (though we do!), the librarians developed additional support materials for Sora on the library’s website, including visual guides and screencasts. The librarians have also been attending English and ELL class Zoom meetings to ensure all students are properly set up on Sora. Students can always message NSHS Library on Schoology for assistance if they are having trouble with Sora at home.
In a typical year, the library teachers log many classroom hours with our History colleagues and their students, teaching research skills and the ins and outs of citations. This year we are doing the same by employing some added technologies to ensure that the concepts are understood by all students. During one early project, the library teachers “zoomed in” with 10th-grade History students to review the hows and whys of in-text citations.
In addition to attending the live class, the library teachers prepared an EdPuzzle video to provide students an opportunity to review and test their knowledge. This video also provided those who missed the in-class presentation a means of keeping up with the class. Feel free to explore the EdPuzzle yourself if you’d like to brush up on your citation skills.
After a long history of requests from students, including discussion with South Senate, the decision was made to revamp the library during J block, a block at the end of the day on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday during which students can meet with teachers, take make-up exams, do homework or hang out and wait for the bus. In the past, the library had been used as a social space during J block with students playing games and generally hanging out. The number of students in the library far exceeded the number of chairs. Volume levels were high as large groups congregated to socialize. As a result, the library was not a quiet space for students to study. Starting January 2nd, the library has been reserved for quiet study and students have been invited to use the adjacent student center/cafeteria for socializing. The library is close to capacity with quiet studiers every J block, so it seems the change is meeting our goal of providing quiet space for students to work after school.
Over the course of terms 1 & 2 librarians met with 89 students for more than 22 hours of direct instruction on citations, research help, and more as part of our research appointment service. This support is available to all students and we are currently meeting with a lot of students on Sophomore Speech projects, which often require more individualized research strategies and critical assessment of online resources. For some classes and projects, this is a more effective way to work with students than full class library instruction, and some teachers have begun requiring the appointments for research projects. If your student is struggling with their research, encourage them to book an appointment with a librarian!
“Thank you so much! While I was a bit overwhelmed after our meeting, I felt so much better that I have a solid start to my essay before the break. The librarian was very receptive and I felt that she understood what I needed.” — NSHS Senior
This appointment was incredibly helpful, and it helped me narrow down what I wanted to write about. I have so many sources for my paper now!!!! Thank you so much. — NSHS Sophomore
The library is testing a new way of organizing our fiction collection: Genrefication. Like a bookstore, fiction books will be sorted by categories such as Romance, Mystery, or Science Fiction, instead of just by author. The goal is to help students find reading choices more easily, identify gaps in the collection, and make the collection more inclusive.
Our first test was with the romance category. More than 100 books were pulled, sorted, and labeled, with new displays and signage created. Students have responded positively to the new display, and we will be monitoring circulation statistics to track the impact on check-outs.
We’re also using this project to analyze our collection for diversity, with the goal of having a collection that reflects our community. The analysis has helped us identify areas that need improvement, and will guide us in future purchasing decisions.
Every fall a librarian makes a presentation to the new teachers at Newton South to introduce them to all of the ways that the library can support them in their new job. It occurs to us that parents might also be interested in the ways we work with classroom teachers to advance the curriculum across all disciplines — enjoy!