Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Leadership in Information Literacy

I am writing this post as part of the weekly #EdublogsClub. This week's prompt asks that we write about leadership.

Numerous recent events have demonstrated the inability of many Americans to distinguish real from fake news, demonstrating a serious gap in information literacy skills (1) among our citizens. And, equally disturbing, this problem is not being adequately addressed at school. A recent research study by the Stanford University History Education Group concluded that “Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak. Our ‘digital natives’ may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped.”

Clearly, if these students graduate without more preparation in information literacy skills, the problems adults are having interpreting information sources will only get worse. So, what is needed? In my view, our schools need to take leadership in making information literacy a priority. And, while such instruction should be the shared responsibility of teachers in all subject areas, the logical leaders of this curriculum are teacher librarians. (2) Why? Teacher librarians, through their training and academic preparation, have special expertise in information literacy. They are also natural curricular leaders in their schools, since they are aware of and work with classroom teachers in every subject area. They know which classes are the most effective places in which to include information literacy instruction and to collaborate with classroom teachers in delivering it. Finally, they are also leaders within their communities on educational technology, so savvy in how to leverage it for such instruction.

So ….

If you are a teacher librarian, make sure that you are being that leader, championing efforts in your school or district to assure that information literacy is taught to all students.

If you are a classroom teacher in a school with a teacher librarian, please be sure to contact him/her and ask for support teaching information literacy to your students.

And, finally, if your school lacks a certified teacher librarian, please advocate to have your school hire one! In addition to the desperate need for instruction in information literacy, your students - all students - need and deserve access to a quality school library program with a teacher librarian for lots of other reasons, including providing quality, curated print and digital collections; promoting reading; teaching digital literacy and digital citizenship skills; connecting students with the world; and championing equity.

1. The Association of College and Research Libraries defines information literacy as “the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”
2. Teacher librarian is the terminology used in California to identify certified school librarians who possess a teacher credential and an additional credential in library services. In other states and countries, the terminology may vary, including school librarians and library media specialists.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Retirement Life - So Far

This week's prompt for the #edublogsclub asks that we write about our classroom or place of work.

A year ago, of course, I would have posted photos of my school library, and you can still see a lot of those on my library blog. Since I retired last June, I don't yet have a regular workspace. I find that I do most of my work moving my laptop around my house. I actually spend most of my time at the kitchen table, some in the living room, and a lot less than I should in my "sitting room," the name my daughter and I came up with for my home office/guest room. Alas, while cleaning out and making the sitting room more efficient is on my retirement "to do" list, it hasn't gotten much priority yet. A lot of people have been asking me what, indeed, I've been doing in retirement. One thing I am sure of is that all my time is full! So, I'm going to use this post to share both with myself and my readers a bit about how all my time is getting filled, along with some my goals.

Supporting School Libraries and Educational Technology

While I retired from my "day job," I'm as busy as ever with all the related, unpaid work I used to do as a school librarian. I volunteer for California School Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians, and I'm an advocate for MackinTYSL. For CSLA, I'm co-webmaster and co-chair of our new ESSA task force. I'm also presenting several sessions at our conference in February. For AASL, I am serving as social media chair for the National Conference in Phoenix in November, I was just appointed to the brand new Social Media Editorial Board, I am chairing a task force to implement new social media recognitions the association will be rolling out very soon, and I am teaching an online Twitter class in March. (You may notice a strong social media theme here!) To keep my skills up, I continue to spend a lot of time on Twitter, reading blogs, attending webinars, and so on. I just completed the recertification exam for Google for Education Trainers, and am fulfilling the tasks to keep my Google for Education Innovator status active as well. During the summer and fall, I presented at two EdTechTeam Google Summits, and hope to do more of those this year.


I have been vey fortunate to get to travel. My husband and I took two wonderful trips last year: a Stanford Travel/Study tour of Scandinavia in July, and a cruise from Montreal to New York in October. I love meeting people from all over the world and trying to understand their cultures and what is unique about where they live. This month through March, my time is jam-packed with travel to a conference each month. I'm especially excited to be heading to Atlanta for the ALA Midwinter Conference late this week, where I'll be meeting with other members of AASL Conference planning committee live for the first time. Along with all the conference meetings, sessions, and speakers, I plan to take some personal time to visit Jimmy Carter's Presidential Library and to participate in the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women on Saturday.

My husband and I haven't made any definite plans travel plans for this year yet, but we are talking about visiting some of the National Parks in the Spring and heading to Europe in the Fall.


I'm proud to say that I have been getting to my gym four + days each week, and walking almost every day I'm not there. I started taking a group swim class at the gym in July, and I swim on my own one or two days between classes. I am loving learning new swim skills for fun, relaxation, and exercise. I am also a regular at weekly barre burn and pilates classes. I love the feel of slightly soar legs as a permanent condition and the energy boost I get from more exercise.

Catching up with Friends and Family

I'm terrible about making phone calls, but I am trying harder to keep in touch with family and friends and get together with those who are local. I have always enjoyed cooking and entertaining and am doing quite a lot more cooking and some more entertaining now.


It goes without saying that I love to read. I've been trying to make it a priority to devote more time to reading for pleasure and lifelong learning. I continue to have two books going at a time, one an audiobook and the other print or ebook. Right now, I am listening to All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely and reading Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, the second book in Winston Graham's engaging series about late 18th Century Cornwall. I plan to continue to read YA books along with with adult fiction and some nonfiction.

Following the News 

My father always read the Los Angeles Times from cover to cover every morning, along with several news magazines. I have always felt guilty that, as a slow reader, I couldn't keep up with the news as well as he did. So, the good and bad thing about retirement, is that I have more time to follow the news. I also read the Los Angeles Times, these days digitally during the week and in print on Sunday, but I get most of my news from Google's News links and Twitter links that come up in my feed. It's become more and more stressful in the last months. I also do my best to be an activist and contact elected officials about important social justice and equality issues. I am trying to find a proper balance between the stress of reading constantly upsetting news and being well enough informed to be a good, activist citizen.

And, yes, cleaning up and organizing the house!

... I've done a little bit of that!

So, am I enjoying my retirement? Absolutely. What are my goals to enjoy it more?


  • Learn to not over-book myself and allow myself to relax a little more
  • Resist this new obsession I have to be constantly following the News and upsetting myself
  • Find more ways to be a change agent and political activist. I fervently believe in the value of advocating for school libraries. Why? The critical thinking skills required to distinguish fact from fiction is something that teacher librarians teach, and that both students and adults clearly need. Far too many schools do a disservice to their students by failing to employ teacher librarians and failing to teach these skills. I intend to do all I can to advocate for strong school libraries and equitable access to them for all students. I also want to explore and find the most effective ways to advocate for other social justice, civil liberties, and equity causes.

Monday, January 9, 2017

My Blog Story

Edublogs, a great educational blogging platform and organization, recently announced a new "Blogging Club (#EdublogsClub)" to challenge educators to write a blog posting each week this year. I have been wanting to write in my blog more regularly, so I signed up for the club to help inspire me do that. Each week, the club will send me a prompt, and I will do my best to participate with a posting. If you are interested in the club, you can get more information here and sign up here. This week's assignment asks that I share something about my history as a blogger, so here goes ....

I set up my first blog and wrote my first posting way back in 2007. CSLA (California School Library Association) was offering an online tutorial, School Library Learning 2.0, about Web 2.0, as we called it then. As a participant, I learned about different Web 2.0 tools, and wrote a posting about each one. After I completed the tutorials, I continued the blog with commentary about my work as a school librarian.

A little while later, CSLA came out with a teen version of the tutorial, and I promoted it to students in my middle school library. Then, in Fall, 2009, my library position was eliminated and I spent a year teaching 7th grade language arts and a computer exploratory rotation class. I had all my students blogging. I used the Teen Learning 2.0 tutorial as the curriculum for the computer exploratory class. For my language arts students, I maintained a daily class blog sharing all the class activities and assignments, and my students' blogging assignments often drew on that same tutorial. Frankly, blogging was the most rewarding part of that year. All the students benefited from the chance to practice informal writing in their blogs and to exchange comments with each other and sometimes outside our school. And some really found their writing voices through this process. I especially loved how I was able to work with the students on every aspect of digital citizenship as part of the blogging process. Another nice part of it for the computer exploratory students was that my friend Sheryl Grabow Weiss had a similar class at another middle school in our district, and we were able to get the students together online and via Skype visits to share their blogging expertise and experiences. And, based on those experiences, Sheryl and I updated the Teen Learning 2.0 tutorial for CSLA that summer.

The next year, in Fall 2010, I moved back to a librarian position, this time at a high school. I immediately set up a library blog to report about and promote library activities. I also immediately began promoting the value of student blogging to my teachers, and I've been doing that every since. I have enjoyed working with a number of different classes in a variety of subject areas, helping them get started with blogging. Typically, I handle teaching the technical and digital citizenship aspects, and the teachers, with my help if they want it, handle the prompts.

As part of my Google Teacher Academy innovation project, I set up a website to support teachers who want to have their students blog and don't have a teacher librarian like me at hand to help them.  I've given some conference presentations promoting blogging as well.

All along, I have maintained this personal blog to share thoughts and insights on school libraries, education, and technology. I never seem to find time to contribute to it as often as I would like, but, now that I retired last June, I am hoping to change that. So, I'm not sure that I'm going to respond to every single prompt during the year, but I'll do my best! And, I look forward to connecting with some of the other participants in this challenge.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2016

I became a librarian, and later a school librarian, in good part because I love to read. I have never, though, really tried to be a book reviewer. For one thing, I am a book lover, but, alas, not a fast reader. I only get through as many books as I do because I listen to a lot of audiobooks while I am driving or walking, along with reading print and ebooks as much as I can. For another, I have always felt that, after years as an English major analyzing books, one of my “rewards” as a librarian has been getting to simply enjoy and promote books, rather than analyzing, or, as I sometimes had to do as an English student, over analyzing them.

As I reflect back on the last year, though, I read and listened to so many books I loved, and I decided I would like to share several of the highlights. Most are books that came out this year, and several are, I believe, likely picks for the Printz Award, but the last three are older. I am a big fan of YA, so most of them were YA, but the couple of adult books I include at the end - both read before my summer trip to Scandinavia - would be appropriate for high school students. The rest are in no particular order. I took the liberty of borrowing the cover images from Goodreads, and have linked those images to Goodreads for more information about each title.

March, Books 1, 2, and 3 by by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Illustrator)
John Lewis is both a current Congressman from Georgia and an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. This three-part graphic novel provides a powerful and engaging account of the Movement as well as John Lewis's important personal role in it. I was honored to get to hear Lewis and Aydin speak at the annual School Library Journal Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. in October, and to receive the set. I had the first two books at the Mira Costa HS Library, but hadn't gotten to reading them. Frankly, I am not a big graphic novel reader. But, after hearing them speak, I had to read the books. They offer a compelling view of the reasoning behind the Civil Rights demonstrations, the sacrifices the participants made, and what they achieved. I'd like to see every middle school, high school, and public library stock these books and motivate today's students to appreciate the power of standing up for what is right.

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
I was also very fortunate to hear Shaun David Hutchinson speak at the School Library Journal Summit and to receive a copy of this book. I couldn't wait to read it after I heard him. It is definitely not easy reading. Rather, it is, as Hutchinson explained, the kind of book that he needed to read to help him not feel alone when he was young. Henry, the main character, is dealing with the challenges of being gay, bullying, depression, his boyfriend's suicide, his father's abandonment of his family, his grandmother's Alzheimer's, and more. On top of all that, he is repeatedly abducted by aliens who are forcing him to make a decision as to whether the world is worth saving from destruction. You can't read this book without rooting for Henry, and feeling empathy for his challenges. Librarians will definitely want to share it with students who will relate to Henry and come away feeling less alone in their own challenges. It’s also an important read to help anyone better understand contemporaries dealing with Henry’s issues.

Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
I actually listened to the audiobook of this twice, re-listening immediately after the first time through. I enjoyed it so much, and wanted to make sure I filled in the few gaps that inevitably come from listening to a book while driving. Julie Berry does a wonderful job of making us appreciate what it was like to live in 13th century Provence and experience the oppressive role the Church played in the name of hunting down and eradicating supposed heretics. I especially loved Batille, the main character, a peasant matchmaker, but all of the characters are unique, well-developed, and interesting. I also recommend the audiobook version: there are several narrators, all good, but Jayne Entwistle as Batille is incredible.
Underwater by Marisa Reichardt
Seventeen-year-old Morgan Grant used to swim every day and love hanging out with her circle of great friends. Now, she hasn't been able to leave her family's small apartment in months. Simple routines, like always sitting at the same end of the coach and having the same lunch everyday, are about all that helps her cope with her need for predicability. This need, we learn early in the story, came about after a tragic incident at her high school six months ago. We also learn that Morgan feels some personal responsibility for playing a role in the tragedy which she can't forgive herself for or even share with anyone. What Morgan does have going for her is her desire to get better. She also has the arrival of an attractive new male neighbor, her love for her family, and the understanding of her psychologist to help her work through her issues. Underwater is a very moving story told in an authentic voice of a teenaged girl attempting to cope with real pain and loss. It also has a great cover!

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Ruta Sepetys is a master of historical fiction, and has a gift for uncovering and filling her readers in on overlooked historical events. In this one, we learn about the sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military transport ship, while evacuating both civilians and Nazi officials from the advancing Soviet Army in early 1945. This disaster caused by Soviet torpedoes represented the greatest loss of life of any shipwreck in history. Sepetys’s storyline begins as four young refugees form an unlikely group on their way to the Baltic coast in hopes of an escape to safety, and ultimately end up on the evacuation ship together. Each has a secret and interesting story.

On the Jellicoe Road by Marlena Marchetta
I also listened to this one and loved Rebecca Macauley as the narrator, and the background music added beautifully to the lyrical quality of the narration. I meant to read this when it won the Printz Award in 2009, and finally got to it thanks to Sync Audio’s wonderful free summer audiobook program. Taylor, the main character and narrator, is about to be a senior boarder at the Jellicoe School in a small town inland from Sydney, Australia. She has been at the school for six years, ever since her mother abandoned her in a 7/11 store on the Jellicoe Road and Hannah picked her up. Hannah never explained why she was there on that day. Taylor desperately wants to figure out her past. As a reader, you will begin to connect the dots to her shared history with Hannah much faster than she does, but that doesn’t detract from the poignancy of her quest or the catharsis of her finally coming to terms with it. Don’t miss this one!

The Redbreast (Harry Hole, #3) by Jo Nesbø
I loved the suspense and complex plot twists of this Norwegian crime mystery, and it wasn’t a problem picking up Harry Hole, unconventional Oslo police detective, in Book 3 without having read the first two. (This was the first Harry Hole book translated into English.) The book is set in two alternating time frames: World War II and contemporary Norway. I learned a lot about Norway during World War II, and the role of both those who who participated in the Resistance and those who fought with the Nazis. It was a perfect read to give some context to my trip to Norway during the summer, but it should appeal to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with well-crafted characters.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth
Michael Booth is an English journalist living in Denmark. His tongue-in-cheek assessment of the five Nordic nations (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland) is both informative and non-stop entertaining. It is definitely a “must read” for anyone visiting any of these countries and gives you a good sense of their social systems and national characters. It definitely helped to prepare me for my visit last summer to Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, and made me wish I could also visit Finland and Iceland.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Thoughts on Using Twitter for Good

I have been a Twitter user and fan since 2007. I use it primarily as a key component of my personal learning network (PLN). I follow mostly people who tweet insights that can improve my work as a teacher librarian and school library advocate.  For several years now, I have even been doing presentations about Twitter and teaching mini-courses on how to use it as part of a PLN.

I am well aware, though, that there are people who don’t see the value of Twitter.  In fact, I usually start my presentations and course introductions off by saying that a lot of people don’t get Twitter; they think it is used primarily by celebrities to share what they had for breakfast. And, alas, with the recent election and aftermath, we are seeing it more and more as a vehicle for rants and even fake news. Anyone who isn’t already a keen Twitter user has quite likely been put off the idea that it has any value at all.

Just the other day, I found myself wondering if, with all this misinformation and anger clogging the Twitter feed, I should still be promoting it as a valuable tool. Well, after some pondering, I concluded that yes, I should. I reminded myself of the advice I have always given new Tweeters: Twitter is all about how you use it. Let’s not let a tool that has value for keeping educators be better informed and helping students be co-opted by people using it to spread negativity.

So, please:

  • Don’t let sensationalist ranters clog your feed. You can unfollow people who rant, and when/if rants or misinformation sneaks in, just scroll on, or reply and correct it. 
  • Contribute good to Twitter by sharing your own good ideas, links to good ideas you’ve read, and positive thinking. Remember that positive thinking is contagious!

“Evaluating Information: the Cornerstone of Civic OnlineReasoning,” a study just issued by the Stanford History Research Education Group, found that 6-12 and college students’ ability to judge the credibility of online information was disturbingly poor.  We clearly need to be teaching students these skills. If you are a teacher librarian or classroom teacher, also consider including Twitter in these lessons. You can share sample tweets with your students and have them determine the source and whether, in the case of celebrity accounts, the tweeter account is verified; whether the source has credentials to be trusted for information shared; and whether facts shared can be triangulated (i.e., are they in sync with other sources). The Stanford study shares tasks that can be used with students and both as formative assessments and the basis for lessons on all forms of social media, including Twitter.

If you aren’t on Twitter yet, or you haven’t been taking advantage of it to enrich your personal learning network, don't let the negative stuff you hear about keep you away. And, consider attending my concurrent session on Twitter at the CSLA Conference February 3, or my four-week Twitter class for AASL member starting March 6.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Open Letter to Donald Trump

An open letter to President-elect Donald Trump,

I have always focused in this blog on school libraries and education, not on politics.  Right now, though, I feel that I must articulate at least some of my thoughts following last week’s election.

I have never made my political views a secret, and everyone who knows me knows that I was devastated by the presidential election results last week. It wasn’t just that my candidate didn’t win; I was also extremely troubled to see how deeply polarized our country is. Clearly, the Democratic Party has lost touch with how many Americans feel angry and left behind. And, I was shocked how many of those voters who I am confident are good, caring people who love their families and their communities, were able to overlook your racist, misogynistic, bullying rhetoric and actions both before and during the campaign.

Okay, so I have vented, and now I am ready to try to move on to the real purpose of my letter. Both President Obama and Hillary Clinton have urged all of us who voted for Clinton to accept the results and to give you a chance to succeed in your new role as President-elect, and soon our President. As I try to do that, I have some requests that I believe are vital to success in your role:

1.     Mr. Trump, it is imperative that you immediately, publicly denounce the support of hate organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and denounce all of the hate statements and acts we are seeing cropping up across the nation. You need to make a definitive public statement about each one that has been reported, reminding Americans that intolerance is not acceptable in our nation.
2.     Immediately reverse your plan to appoint Stephen Bannon as chief strategist. His white supremacist, racist views and affiliations have no place in an administration that you promised, in your acceptance speech, to be for all Americans.
3.     I have a lot more things I’d like to ask for, like strong support of education,  environmental issues, and women’s right to choose, but I would be foolhardy to expect you to suddenly reverse your political views.  Please, though, remember that you were elected in good part by people who have felt left behind. Do not abandon these same people by taking away the health care benefits that many of them have acquired thanks to the Affordable Care Act. And do not put immigrants raised in this country in fear of deportation or separation from their families.
4.     Finally, you commented on how gracious President Obama has been in offering support during the transition period. It would be a statesman-like reciprocal act of courtesy on your part to both publicly and privately remind members of the Senate that it is their constitutional responsibility to act on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee before the end of this session. 

Please remember that our children – who we as educators and parents teach every day to be kind and accepting of others – are watching. The rest of the world is also watching. Begin your administration by denouncing hate, and gathering people about you who do also.


Jane Lofton

Sunday, October 23, 2016

SLJ Leadership Summit 2016

(This posting is, in part, cross-posted from my posting on Mackin TYSL Blog.)

Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending School Library Journal’s 12th Annual SLJ Leadership Summit in our nation’s capital. This year’s theme was “Taking Charge in the New ESSA Era.” Two of the sessions -- one of a panel of superintendents and the other of state and national education leaders --  focused specifically on ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, and ESSA talk wove throughout the weekend. The speakers all stressed that the time is NOW for school districts and states to capture federal ESSA funding; it is our job to advocate with our districts and states to take advantage of language in the act allowing funding to support school libraries. For example, Dr. Pam Moran, Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia, reminded us that librarians are connectors, curators, collaborators, resourcers of what teachers need to help their students. The summit sessions helped us to better understand the different parts of the act and funding options we can link to, such as leading and providing professional development in the use of educational technology and providing equity of access to all students.

Sara Trettin, from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, also helped us make the link between ESSA and the Future Ready Schools initiative, and the important role that school librarians can play in being the leading edge of the digital transformation of learning.

As noted at the summit, AASL provides a wealth of materials to support our ESSA efforts on its website along with sponsoring workshops in each state. School Library Journal will also be posting resources shared at the summit on the summit site.

A super high energy component of the summit was the “Hackathon” organized by Joyce Valenza and Michelle Luhtala. Participants broke into groups and brainstormed solutions to 11 selected important issues in school libraries. Each group also worked on how their challenges and solutions tie into ESSA. Check this video summary of the practical, as well as entertaining share outs. The hackathon even spawned some new vocabulary: librarians as “resourcerers” and “COLLABORACADABRA!,” a proposed web-based advocacy tool. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see these two terms enter our vernacular!

Another highlight of the summit were the author sessions. Shaun David Hutchinson, author of We Are the Ants, brought the room to tears reminding us of the vital need to support and share books that will allow students to find themselves in them and know they are not alone. But, nothing matched the visit of Congressman John Lewis and his co-author Andrew Aydin, of the March graphic novel series about the Civil Rights Movement. Lewis urged us to follow his lifelong example:  when we witness injustice, we need to find a way to get in the way and work to correct it. We need to do that in the political world, and on behalf of our students. 

Here is a photo with John Lewis, along with my summit buddy Deb Schiano, that I’ll treasure:

Many, many thanks to School Library Journal, all its staff, and the other sponsoring organizations for this gift of information and inspiration. If you missed this one, make it a priority to attend next fall!

On my home, I started reading Hutchinson's We Are the Ants. I knew from his talk that it wouldn't be easy reading. Rather, it is, as he explained, the kind of book that he needed to read to help him not feel alone when he was young. Henry, the main character, is dealing with the challenges of being gay, bullying, depression, his boyfriend's suicide, his father's abandonment of his family, his grandmother's Alzheimers, and more. On top of all that, he is repeatedly abducted by aliens who are forcing him to make a decision as to whether the world is worth saving from destruction. You can't read this book without rooting for Henry, and feeling empathy for his challenges. I really loved it! Librarians and teachers will definitely want to share it with students who will relate to Henry and come away feeling less alone in their own challenges.

Next on my list is Lewis and Aydin's March trilogy.