Sunday, April 20, 2014

#WhyLib: Sharing My Story

#WhyLib: Sharing My Story

In honor of School Library Month, many of my school librarian colleagues have been posting about how they became school librarians. Read Sherry Gick's blog posting for the background.

Here's my story ...

I did my undergraduate work at Stanford University. I chose to be an English major primarily, I think, because I loved reading novels and thought it was a great deal getting credit for doing that. I wasn't quite as keen about writing the papers, but considered it a small price to pay for getting to read so many great books for credit. I also became fascinated by Old English and the history of the English language during the course of my studies.

While I believe I got an excellent education at Stanford, no career guidance was provided. I really didn't know what I wanted to do after I graduated, although continuing my English studies definitely appealed to me. Fortunately, one of my English professors was supportive and helpful. He suggested that I might want to consider library studies and that I speak to the university literature librarian. After I met with the librarian, I immediately decided to earn a Masters Degree in English and follow that with a Library Degree. I had grown up loving my regular visits to the public library and all the wonderful reading recommendations I got from the librarian there, but I thought my own talents were more academic, and my plan was to become a rare books or literature librarian.

I spent a year studying English Language at the University of Edinburgh and then went on to the two Masters degrees at the University of Toronto. While in Library School, I was obliged during my first year to take a class in computer programming (IBM Assembler!). At first, I was quite annoyed; a "technical" class wasn't in my plans. To my surprise, I found that I really enjoyed it. I was so proud learning how to create punched cards that, once run through the huge computer, successfully pumped out catalog cards! In fact, I enjoyed learning about computers and automation so much that I followed it with a second year elective course in programming, along, of course, with the rare books and archives elective.

After I completed my M.L.S., I started looking for jobs. I couldn't find a university position, but I ended up in the Theatre Department at the Metropolitan Toronto Library. It really was a dream job. Reference queries ran the gamut from serious researchers working on Masters and PhD's in Drama to people with TV trivia questions. As one of three librarians in my department, and the only one young enough to have taken computer classes, I had the opportunity to participate in a library-wide committee working on the logistics of automating our library catalog. I also got to lead a project having our rich collection of local theatre bills and newspaper clippings preserved in microfiche. We were very "advanced" at the time!

Two years later, I left my dream job only because it seemed like time to move back "home" to California. I started looking for jobs in libraries, but the position that came along was one with SDC Search Service, a company that marketed research databases to libraries. I thought that it would be good to get experience in this area, and then return to a library position. After a short term on the "help desk," I became the main documentation writer, drafting manuals and newsletters for customers. And, somehow, I ended up making an accidental career change to technical writing in the software industry, a field I stayed in for many years. I enjoyed the challenge of taking somewhat technical information and organizing and simplifying it for users. I also enjoyed some opportunities to design user-friendly interfaces and early websites. And, as a late mother, technical writing proved a good field in which to freelance and have a flexible schedule. I often thought about how I missed working as a librarian, but continued with my technical writing.

When my daughter was in middle school, the librarian retired mid-year. I learned about the opening from the school principal when I contacted him to volunteer to update the school's website. I thought, "I really want to do that!" I didn't have the credentials required to work as a teacher librarian in a school library in California, but I learned that if there were no satisfactory applicants, I could be hired on the condition that I enroll in two credential programs. (I would need to earn both a teaching credential and a library media teacher credential.) And, that is just what happened.

I loved my new job from the moment I walked in the library. I was comfortable with the technology from my experience in the software industry, I was fairly up on the books since I had been reading with my daughter since she was born, and I loved working with the students and teachers. I know now that I was completely unprepared on the teaching side, but I learned about that as fast as I could through my credential classes, but mostly through attending conferences, reading publications like School Library Journal, and following school library gurus' blogs and other online communications.

I feel extremely grateful that I found a field that is a true passion for me and in which I can share that passion with students and make a difference. Since I came to school libraries so late, I have felt from the beginning that I don't have a minute to waste learning and trying everything I can to improve my practice. I am also constantly overwhelmed by the wonderful, incredibly generous librarians in my PLN who challenge me to do more to be better each day. When I was an English major in college, I was overwhelmed by all the "must read" books and the frustration of never being able to get to all of them. With school librarianship, I know that I will never keep up with the new ideas I learn about from the exemplary representatives of my field, but it's the challenge of trying that keeps me going!

Friday, March 28, 2014

CUE 2014 Conference - My Highlights

(This posting is cross-posted from my Mira Costa High School Library blog.)

Last week I attended and presented at the CUE Conference in Palm Springs. The conference had record attendance of over 5,300 attendees as more and more educators see the benefit of this professional development opportunity. In fact, CUE previously was "shorthand" for "Computer Using Educators." At this conference, the association announced a new logo, included in CUE's Twitter header pictured above, and that the association name will now be simply CUE. "Computer Using Educators" will no longer be part of the name. The rationale? It used to be that teachers and other educators interested in computers and technology were in the minority. That's no longer so. Now all educators need to be tech-savvy; they all need the kind of professional development that CUE offers.
Here are a few of my personal conference highlights and takeaways:
LeVar Burton, pictured in my screenshot of CUE's new Twitter header above, was the Friday morning keynote speaker. Here are some of my Twitter "notes" from his inspiring session:  (Be sure to scroll this text box to see all the postings.)

As part of the conference, California School Library Association presented a "Digital Citizenship Summit" on Saturday. We were very fortunate to have Gwyneth Jones, aka The Daring Librarian, a middle school librarian from Maryland, as our lead speaker. In her session on "Secrets of the Remix Mash Up YouTube Generation" she shared that "Everything is remix; use it for engagement." We all learn by repeating; we can leverage that and help students to be respectful remixers by working with the tools they already love, sharing other engaging tools with them, and teaching them about Creative Commons and attribution. Here's a tweet shared by teacher librarian Sharlene Paxton during Gwyneth's session:
To engage students, we need to be using tools like YouTube and great YouTube channels like Horrible Histories and the History Teachers Channels, while introducing innovative tools such as for curation, LessonPaths for online lesson playlists, and Flocabulary for engaging learning through rap music.

The Digital Citizenship Summit also included Pam Oehlman on "Teaching Digital Citizenship by Crafting Quick Flipped Tutorials and Using Existing Resources," Glen Warren on "The Uncommon Core: New Standards, New Literacies, and Student Significance," and my session on ""Inspiring Creativity While Respecting Copyright with Fair Use and Creative Commons."
Pam shared an analogy comparing the pencil to digital citizenship instruction; our kids today need the same careful instruction on using devices as we use to teach kindergartners the safe use of pencils. She shared lots of great resources for digital citizenship instruction, and you can see them reviewed in her presentation file.
All too often in school, Glen shared during his session, we don't ask kids what they want to learn. Instead, we just tell them what they have to learn. One the great things about school libraries, is that we ask them what they want to learn, and we help them connect that to the literacies, including those covered in the Common Core, that they need to learn. Here is a graphic showing how information literacy, which librarians teach, crosses all curricular areas, including personal interest:
Glen advocated for giving students the same kind of 20 percent time  that Google provides, allowing them to pursue their own interests in that time. He also shared how he makes students accountable for their time and has them simultaneously learn and practice information literacy skills. He uses a Google Form to have them submit information about their work, including the questions they asked and the research they did.

In my session, I focused on teaching respect for intellectual property, on understanding copyright and fair use, and on taking advantage of using Creative Commons material to make that task easier. I also advocated for contributing to a creative society by licensing our own works with Creative Commons licenses and encouraging our students to do the same. Here is the presentation file:

 If you haven't already joined the Creative Commons community, please do so! By sharing, we all contribute to a more vibrant, creative world. Gwyneth Jones included this powerful message in one her slides from her Friday session on "Marketing Your Program Like Lady Gaga":

I tweeted a photo of the slide during her session, and it clearly resonated with many people, since I got lots of retweets.
I was also proud to be a part of CSLA's booth presence in the exhibit hall, promoting what teacher librarians do:

Thanks to Sue Heraper for taking the photo of me (current Past President) with Janice Gilmore-See, current CSLA President, and Pam Oehlman, 2012-2013 President.
I came away from the conference bubbling with new ideas and some fun tech tips to share. Many of these are included in my Twitter feed (I'm @jane_librarian) from March 20-22, since Twitter has become my primary note-taking method during conferences. Also check the #CUE14 hashtag for a wealth of quotes from presenters, links to sessions and tools, and more. Thanks to all the presenters for their great ideas. I've captured only a fraction of them here. Also, thanks to CUE and Executive Director Mike Lawrence for enabling CSLA to present the Digital Citizenship Summit.

Friday, February 21, 2014

CSLA 2014 Conference Highlights

California School Library Association held its annual conference, "Journey to Expertise," at the Bahia Hotel in San Diego February 6 - 9. It was jam packed with an incredible number of informative, inspiring, and entertaining sessions and events. I was involved in planning in a variety of ways, including performing miscellaneous tasks, presenting two awards, and reviewing the last year as Immediate Past President; serving as the advanced registration chair; organizing a Friday night “Unconference” with my friend Marie Slim; and presenting a concurrent session about Twitter with Marie. 

Please see my Mira Costa HS Library blog for some highlights of speakers on Common Core and college readiness. This posting focuses on the Unconference, Marie's and my Twitter session, and author events.


The Unconference was modeled after the one organized by Joyce Valenza and a team of other rock star teacher librarians at the AASL Conference in Hartford last October. With generous permission from Joyce for the plan and Gwyneth Jones for the graphics, I copied and adapted the AASL Unconference agenda and wiki, recruited Marie to be a co-organizer and a team of several other great TLs to help. Visit our wiki here. The point of the evening was to allow everyone to share their good ideas. So often, conference attendees think they don’t have enough to offer to submit a session, or they can’t get one together before the deadline. We all have worthwhile ideas to share; this event allowed for that sharing.

We started the evening off by dividing everyone into three different groups based on a quick poll of topic interests. (There were lots of ideas proposed, but we went with three, which seemed about the right number of groups for the number of people there.) Then, for about a half hour, one group discussed ebooks and how to deal with them, another group discussed how we teach student research and what students really do, and a third learned how to make craft books from Lisa Bishop.

For the next segment, we had a fast-paced Smackdown of ideas. We invited everyone to submit slides to a Google Presentation in advance, but attendees could also share on the spot and we captured their ideas in the slides for future viewing. Do have a look at the embedded slideshow on the unconference wiki or here. The one rule, to keep things moving at a fast pace, was that each presenter had a maximum of two minutes per idea.

And, for the final activity of the evening. We had people “vote on their feet” as to whether they thought an idea rocked or stunk. For example, one of the topics was “should we still teach citation format when there are citation generators?” Interestingly, the room was pretty evenly divided between the people in favor and opposed for almost all the questions. You can see our questions in the embedded slideshow on the wiki or here.

Marie not only recorded the entire Smackdown and part of the rest of the Unconference, she also created a Storify which embeds those videos, tweets, and photos from the evening. So, even if you missed this event, you can still experience a lot of it through this record. We didn't always have screen sharing on when we should have. I learned a lot watching the videos that I will apply next time.

Twitter: "Make Twitter Your #1 Tool for Building a PLN"

Marie Slim and I are both big fans of Twitter, and use it regularly as the key component of our personal learning network to connect with other teacher librarians, classroom teachers, authors, and more. We were excited to have a good turnout at our session, and, more important, got a number of people sold on starting a Twitter account or make more use of an existing account. Here is our presentation file:

Here is a Google+ Hangout video of the session. Since we didn't screen share (I'm a newbie at this recording business, and learning as I go), you will want to watch the Prezi presentation file as you watch this video:

As part of our goal to get more California library folks tweeting, after the session I created a California school librarians Twitter list. Please check it out, and @ me on Twitter if you are a Californian and I missed including you. I'll start following you and add you to the list. Let's make the list grow. As with all public Twitter lists, you can follow it and use it as an easy way of viewing tweets from all the California school librarians without having to follow all of them yourself or create a new list.

Authors, Authors

We had an awesome collection of author panels and events at the conference. Shelley Moore Thomas, our charming CYRM Banquet speaker, enthralled us as she shared with us the serendipity of mistakes and how libraries make magic real. Her parting words to us were "the paths of our lives are filled with mistakes. May you find the magic in yours."

Our closing session speakers were the incredible Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, who together author the Hank Zipzer series. Hank, like Winkler, suffers from learning challenges, and the books help kids deal with such challenges. Here are a couple of my tweets during this session:

As librarians, we need to remember that mission every day!

The author panels also introduced me to some new-to-me authors and books I will want to purchase for my library. 

My Birthday

And, I celebrated my birthday during the conference. What a great place to do it! Here are the lovely flowers my husband sent:
And, a kind tweet and photo from Marie during breakfast that day:

Monday, February 17, 2014

My Blog "Facelift" for 2014

A new year, a new look, name, and URL ....

Yes, I know it is already mid-February, but I am granting myself through the end of this month to address "beginning of a new year" stuff. :-) And, this is "Ski Week" at my school, or, in my case "Catch up with Everything Week." so this is the time ...

I just checked back to see when I created my first blog. It was in 2007, prompted by CSLA's School Library Learning 2.0 tutorial. Soon after that, I began maintaining a personal blog and one for my school library. Then, in Fall of 2009, my school district moved me to the classroom, and I decided to start a new blog, "," to tell about my new experiences being a librarian working in the classroom setting. Definitely the highlight of that "adventure" for me was helping more than 200 language arts and computer exploratory class students I taught that year to create their own blogs, an experience I highly recommend for all students. A year later in August 2010, I moved to my current position as teacher librarian at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. I didn't want to abandon my blog, so I kept the same blog and url but renamed it "TL Back in the Library." Three and a half years later, I have been thinking it is time for a new blog url and title.

So, here's what's new:

  • A new title: "Jane Lofton's School Library Journey"
  • New URL:
  • New banner and template (still a work in progress, isn't everything?)
Here's what's not new:
  • The blog itself. I am still continuing, but please update your links to my new redirect url,
And, FYI, you can also learn about my school library on my school blog at

I hope you like the new banner and look, but please let me know if you have suggestions.

Thanks for visiting! And, Happy New Year! The first image above is from a photo I took of the London Fireworks from St. James Park, with thanks to for the added text. The What's New is from

Thursday, July 4, 2013

ALA 2013 Highlights

Summer vacation started with a bang for me last Thursday with my trip to Chicago and the American Library Association Annual Conference. I am definitely a conference junkie: I am addicted to the boost of new energy and ideas I gather at each conference I attend. Not only are there always lots of great sessions, but the networking with old and new friends alone makes attendance worthwhile. And, then, there’s always a lot of just plain fun. ALA 2013 was no exception. My only complaint was too much of everything – too many sessions to choose from, too many people in lines to get books signed, too much walking from one end of the convention center to the other, too big a great city with so little time to see it, and … too many highlights to share. Here are just a few of the highlights for me:

On Friday, I attended the "Breaking Out: Veronica Roth and Debut Authors from The Class of 2k13 Discuss Their Upcoming Books." Like many in the audience, I really went because of Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series, one of the hottest current YA series. In fact, Veronica Roth was the moderator of a panel of 16 middle grade and YA authors who are having their first novel published this year, and I was in for a super session learning about all their books! These authors have formed the group The Class of 2k13: Books Without Boundaries to support each other and publicize their books.  They treated us to lightning speed summaries of each of their books, followed by a fun game of book trivia, and ended the session with great book and swag give aways! As a result of attending, I learned about 16 books I might not have discovered otherwise and made it a goal to get and read as many of them as I can. During the session, I had the pleasure of sitting with Geoffrey Girard and got the ARC of his Project Cain, due out this September.

On Friday night and Sunday morning, I attended the AASL Affiliate Assembly. Janice Gilmore-See and I are currently CSLA's representatives to this group, which is made up of reps from each of the participating state school library associations. Jessica Gillis, CSLA's VP of Communications, also attended with us as Region 7's Director Elect. As of the end of the conference, Jessica became Director for Region 7. Hooray, Jessica! While we conducted business during the assembly - mostly endorsing concerns we want AASL to address and commendations to other organizations supporting school library work - the best part of participating in this group is learning news from AASL and getting to establish new relationships and hear good ideas from other state organizations. I came away with lots of  new friends to network with and ideas I can share with CSLA.

On Saturday, AASL hosted its President's Program. The keynote speaker was Mark Edwards, Superintendent of the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District (MGSD), the 2013 American Association of School Administrators (AASA) National Superintendent of the Year, and recent host to President Obama during the announcement of the White House’s ConnectED initiative. He left everyone in the room wanting to clone him in our own districts as he spoke about how he has reshaped education in his schools. He shared how his district implemented a digital conversion to 1:1 laptops, keeping the teachers at the heart, and "preparing students for their futures, not our past." He emphasized the importance of an "all in!" approach, remembering that every single child counts, that community involvement is essential, as well as good planning, professional development, and reflection time for teachers. Students, who monitor their own progress, see the connection in their project-based work to their futures. He also emphasized the important role of librarians as leaders who must touch every teacher and administrator in this process. For another account of the session, check out "Loving kids, having fun, using digital resources," Judi Paradis's posting for the Massachusetts School Library Association blog. 

Plates from an early Encyclopedia Britannica edition
Another special highlight of the conference for me was my visit to Britannica's Headquarters. Britannica staff hosted a lovely reception on Sunday night and treated us to a tour of their facility. We learned that the Encyclopedia Britannica has been published continuously since 1768, and has been an American company since the early 20th century. With its long history, the contents of each edition have become primary sources reflecting thinking of the time. Since the company's decision in 2012 to become strictly digital, Britannica has made an arrangement with the Library of Congress to create and deposit a digital copy each year so that this tradition of providing a snapshot of the time can continue. 

Please see my posting on the AASL Blog for my account of the AASL Awards Luncheon and, if you are a teacher librarian, make plans to apply for one of AASL's awards next year. 

The last event of the conference for me was a concert with singer Janis Ian. Her beautiful voice and lovely songs made for a perfect conference wrap up for me. In between songs, she shared how she believes that artists keep hope and vision alive during difficult times. She asked us to remember, when we are worn down by fighting for funding and positions, that we are helping students in our libraries to become the artists of the future, just as she was nurtured by librarians when she was young. 

I know as soon as I post this that I will regret leaving out so many other conference highlights! But, I have reading to go do ... 
My "haul" of new books & ARCs from the conference
not to mention checking out all the 2013 Best Websites for Teaching & Learning and brand new this year, Best Apps for Teaching & Learning.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Caroline Kennedy Visit to Horace Mann School Library

This week I had the privilege of representing California School Library Association in a wonderful afternoon at Horace Mann School in Beverly Hills for a visit by Caroline Kennedy to the school library. The visit was hosted by Sheryl Weiss, a super teacher librarian, former colleague in Las Virgenes USD, and friend. Caroline Kennedy’s visit was part of her tour as Honorary Chair of National Library Week. She joined a fourth grade class visiting the library, and she, Sheryl, and the students talked about favorite books, reading, poetry, and what the library offers.

Ms. Kennedy, who has authored a number of books and just published her fourth poetry collection, Poems to Learn by Heart, related memories of sharing and memorizing poems when she was young. She encouraged the students to read and memorize poems as something that would stay with them throughout their lives. She talked about how poetry goes straight to the heart, and how poems remind her of her family and friends and how they shared poetry together. Now, when she hears a poem, it reminds her of the friends or family and the poem. I certainly related to her message; I have many fond memories of reading poems with my family as a child, and I can still recite them and enjoy remembering when I first learned them.
Sheryl Weiss and Caroline Kennedy share their experiences with books and poetry with Horace Mann 4th Grade class
Caroline Kennedy and Sheryl Weiss also talked to the class about favorite books, why they like to read, what they can do to encourage other people to read, and why the library is a different from the classroom. One student shared how in the library she reads whatever she likes, while in the class they have to stick to specific class subjects. Caroline Kennedy agreed that the library is a place where you can follow whatever you are interested in, reading for fun.

So sadly, Beverly Hills USD, Sheryl's school district, has her position, and that of Diane Sikkenga, the one other K-8 Teacher Librarian in BHUSD, on the cut list. Tuesday's event was just one demonstration of the crucial role Sheryl plays as a teacher librarian in helping her students learn to appreciate literature and become information literate. I am counting on the district to find a way to rescind these cuts and retain these valuable teacher librarians for the sake of their students.