Friday, December 17, 2010

The Harder They Fall

Out sick with a bad cold and sinus infection. One of the few pleasures of being ill has been having the time for the New York Times crossword puzzles. The other day there was a major theme of words starting with "sh." Anyone would have gotten this clue without that little hint: "Librarian's admonition" could be nothing but "shh," right? One of our society's longstanding cliches is the librarian with the bun, the glasses, the sensible shoes and the stern demeanor with a finger to her lips, shushing her patrons. Never mind that librarians have embraced new technologies, love to serve their patrons, and have poked fun at themselves for years (who else has book cart drill team competitions at their national conventions?)

Even though your school librarian has glasses, a bun, and sensible shoes (you try standing on concrete floors for 20 years. . .), I like to think I am also in the moment with new books, new ideas, new technologies to help carry your students into the world they will live in in the 21st century.

Libraries have always combined the best of the past (The Brothers Grimm, Peter Rabbit, Curious George, Treasure Island, The Hobbitt) with best of the present (Knuffle Bunny, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Grimm Sisters). Keep coming back to the library -- there's always something old and something new to be explored and enjoyed.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Book for Every Reader

I came across a couple of interesting articles on the Scholastic website. One is "Choosing Books for a Reluctant Reader" at It may surprise you that a librarian recommends the following article, but I think it has merit: "Even Bad Books Improve Reading Skills for Your Child" at Both of these articles deal with the sometimes knotty issue of matching books to kids who are not willing readers. There are lots of choices out there. The two articles will help set you up to find plenty of good choices for your children.

If you have trouble finding books that are a good fit for your kids, a look at these articles may give you an assist. You may want to move on from The Wimpy Kid series, which, like its ancestor, Captain Underpants, is proof that a sassy series can grab the attention of the entrenched reluctant reader. You can search for titles by topic and reading level on the Scholastic Book Wizard, which you will find under teacher resources at the Scholastic site. The search is simple, but remember that the results will focus on Scholastic products, which is only one portion of the vast array of children's books in print.

For parents who are ready for a slightly more challenging but less commercial search, you might like to go to NoveList K-8 under Parents and Teachers on the Mount Prospect Library Website ( There are helpful articles and booklists along with tutorials on the best ways to search. You can also get to NoveList through the databases online at Bernards Township Public Library. A chat with the librarians at the public library may also help you and your child to find a good read.

Every book has its reader, and every reader has his/her book. Making the match can be a challenge sometimes, but it's worth the effort to raise a reader.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Clock is Ticking

If you walk past the library door, you'll see a sign listing the times the library is closed to students on that particular day. That's because there is no backup during the librarian's lunch and preparation period, and the room must be closed to students if there is no one to supervise it. Before the library aides were cut at the elementary level, our library was open all the time.

So students cannot come in to type or do research or find a new book or read or reflect. The library is closed to students for 16% of every day as a result of district budget decisions. To say it saddens me to close the library to students is a vast understatement. Librarians are all about service. Being prevented from providing service to students for a significant amount of time every day deadens the spirit of a librarian. The clock is definitely ticking, but it is counting down seconds of silence and no service.

Friday, November 5, 2010

School Libraries for Everyone

Our school library not only supports the school curriculum, but it also provides students with the opportunity for personal exploration. Our collection supports the school curriculum and meets a wide range of learning styles. Students can also use the library to explore subjects of personal interest. They can expand their imaginations and develop the skills to think clearly, critically and creatively. The school library provides a setting where students develop skills they will need as adults to locate, analyze, evaluate, interpret, and communicate information and ideas in an information-rich world.

The school library program serves all of the students of the community--not only the children of the most powerful, the most vocal or even the majority, but all of the students who attend the school. The collection includes materials to meet the needs of all learners, including gifted, as well as reluctant readers. The school library program strives to maintain a diverse collection that represents a variety of points of view on current and historical issues, as well as a wide variety of areas of interest to all students.

The school library is the symbol to students of our most cherished freedom--the freedom to speak our minds and hear what others have to say.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't Close the Book on Libraries

New Jersey Association of School Librarians President Pat Massey testified in Trenton earlier this year and reminded legislators that "School libraries are cost effective. Every resource in a school library that includes books, media, computers, and other learning tools is available to every student and teacher in the school."  Mount Prospect Library circulated more than 32,000 items to both teachers and students last year.  Our resources are used over and over again.  We are the original "green" enterprise.

Although our collections won't expand this year or be as current as we would like, your librarians still like nothing better than to match a child or a teacher with a book.  We love the thrill of the chase to track down the best materials for a particular need.  We are pleased to see students empowered to used the library look-up and other computer resources.  We'll keep the doors open as much as possible and maintain as much access by students and staff as can be managed.  The library isn't a warehouse for printed matter; it's a service organization with a mission in the school to bring kids and teachers together with literature and information.  Closings can't keep us from our mission, although some delays in service will be inevitable.

Monday, October 4, 2010

There is no Such Thing as Good Education without Good Libraries.

There is no such thing as a good education without good libraries. Budget cuts have made a significant impact on library service for your children this year at Mount Prospect School. It was a school board decision to "postpone" the library book budgets for 2010-2011. More accurately, that should read "eliminate" funding for books this year. (See page 271 of the Board minutes for May 24, 2010.) On the same page you can see that it was also a board decision to "reduce 4 elementary library aides." More accurately, that should read "eliminate" four elementary library aides.

Since the school district will have to pay unemployment benefits for the aides, a savings of $16,000 can be expected this year. The cut will remain in place in the future, and savings in future years can be expected to be $40,000 per year. Meanwhile there are over 700 students at Mount Prospect, with 29 regular K-5 classes and six preschool sections, all looking for regular library services. Book repairs and special services for teachers are on a back burner as I deal with the more than 700 children in my face.

You are probably also aware that we no longer have foreign language study with a specialist at the elementary level. Only 4th and 5th grades have a foreign language, and that is Latin word study out of workbooks. Enrichment is gone, and class sizes are creeping up. Will your child still get an excellent education in Basking Ridge? Yes. Will it be as rich and full as a few years ago? Definitely not.

Without a library program that can reach out and fill all sorts of information literacy needs, the overall educational program is not at its best. Your child needs to read, think, ponder and read some more. Your child needs to learn how to locate and information. The library in its current configuration can provide checkout, even though access is severely limited compared to last year. But library should be more than just checkout. Information literacy skills are the skills your child needs for life. There is no such thing as a good education with good libraries. Librarians have the tools your child needs to be a lifelong learner and thinker.

Are there more hard times ahead? For sure. Since the library programs have been nearly eviscerated this year, look for cuts in other areas in the future.

To paraphrase Arnold Lobel:

Books to the ceiling, books to the sky
My pile of books to repair is a mile high.
How I love them. How I despair for them.
I'll have a long beard by the time I can care for them.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Think About it

It’s a digital world. Think about it:
     -- Facebook and MySpace
     -- Scanning your own items at the supermarket.
     -- Sharing pictures and documents.-- Watching movies on your handheld device. 
     -- Reading on your Kindle.
     -- IPads, multitasking and more.

A few years ago educator Karl Fisch put together a thought-provoking presentation called “Shift Happens,” looking at world demographics and technology.  That presentation has been revised as “Did You Know” with up-to-date statistics. It will make you think about our lives and where we’re headed in the U.S. It will make you think about your child’s education and upbringing.

Mount Prospect families are all engaged in the digital world, although some may embrace technology more wholeheartedly than others.  What are your kids doing on the computer and their handheld devices these days?  Do you know?  How are our children going to survive and thrive in the 21st century?  How can Mount Prospect Library support your child in the future?  We can't predict where technology will take us in the next decades, but READING and THINKING are the tools your child will need to succeed.  The more you read, the more you know; it's as simple as that.  The more you read, the greater perspective you have for critical thinking.  Technology tools will certainly change, but reading and thinking will always be the skills.  What better place to read, think, and grow than the libraries, both Mount Prospect Library and the Bernards Township Public Library?  These institutions have one foot in the past and one foot in the future.  Think about it.  If you are interested in other versions of the "Did You Know" presentation, or you wish to join the global conversation, you can visit: 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reading Out Loud: Don't Miss Out

Your child may be spending six-hour days at Mount Prospect School, but don’t forget that a child’s success in school depends heavily on parental involvement with the education process.  One of the most important skills your child will develop is reading, a lifelong skill necessary for success in our technological world.  Reading should also be a lifelong joy, and you can help set the stage.  Reading out loud to your children can never start too early or continue too late.  The benefits are numerous.
With preschoolers and early elementary students, you are preparing them for being able to read on their own.  They are learning that stories have a sequence, that pages are to be turned, that there is a beginning, middle and end to a story.  You are expanding their horizons and increasing their familiarity with language.  Even if your child is a fluent early reader, don’t stop reading out loud.  When you read out loud to your children, you are enriching their imaginations and their vocabulary.  You are exposing them to well constructed writing and sharing one of life’s greatest pleasures.  All of this nuance, language and style are absorbed, and you will see the rewards of your efforts you’re your student’s greater enthusiasm for literature and improved comprehension and enhanced writing skills.
Looking for some good read alouds?  Get your hands on a copy of Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook for great book lists and even more compelling reasons why reading out loud can be a family pleasure that produces academic improvement.  Or visit his website at  You can also visit Teachers and Families: TogetheRead at  We all lead busy lives, but the 20 minutes or so that you spend reading with your child is a  small moment of pure pleasure that you won’t want to miss.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month

September is Library Card Sign-up Month - a time to remind parents that a library card is the most important school supply of all.

A card at Bernards Township Public Library is free to residents.  Children of any age are eligible.  Parents need to show proof of residence in order to get a card.

Libraries play an important role in the education and development of children.   Studies show that children who are read to in the home and who use the library perform better in school and are more likely to continue to use the library as a source of lifetime learning.

Bernards Township Library offers books, magazines, audiobooks, DVD's, and other multimedia materials.  Librarians are on hand to help recommend materials suitable for various ages and interests and help you with research questions.  With your library card you also have access to research databases from your home computer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not Your Grandmother's Library

So we all think we know what a library is like, right?  Well, think again.

Your child will never touch a card catalogue that is a piece of furniture with little drawers.

Your child will learn to search the library with the computer look-up, which
  • can be searched by key word or series as well as title, author and subject
  • shows a picture of the book cover
  • can sort by date
  • can search for websites as well as books

Your child will use online encyclopedias and databases as well as reference books.

Your child can reach out to the world from a seat in the Mount Prospect Library.

Your librarian does not have a bun, or wear glasses and sensible shoes or say "Shhh."  (Oh, wait, she has a with-it bun, shoes and glasses, and doesn't say "Shhh.")

What's in store for the 21st century?  Take a look at new guidelines from the American Association: Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.

You'll see how reading, inquiry, ethical behavior, technology skills and equitable access can best be managed in the near future.

Yes, there are lots of books in the library, and yes, the librarian does have a bun, but remember that your child's library is definitely  not  your grandmother's library.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A New School Year

A new school year brings a new outlook, and here is the start of my blogging career.  I hope many Mount Prospect parents, staff and others out there in the blogosphere will join me on this journey.

There are changes to Mount Prospect Library's funding and staffing this year, and the cutbacks make me want to promote library resources and services more than ever.

Librarians across the country are in the same boat.  We want nothing more than the opportunity to share our stuff with our communities.  There may be some limitations in how we can do this in a new and chillier economic climate, but we'll do whatever it takes to get our resources into the hands of our patrons.

So come to the library, and check it out.