Digital Storytelling

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a 3-day Digital Storytelling Workshop in NYC with the StoryCenter.

I went in with the goal of learning how to use digital storytelling with students. I wanted to work with students to help them better share experiences they’d had while traveling abroad with the school and while volunteering with organizations in our own city. My idea of digital storytelling was a collection of videos and photos with a voice over. I thought I would be going to learn the technical ins and outs of how to create this digital product.

What I came away with was so much more. We did learn the technical ins and outs, but I was happily surprised by how in-depth we went into the story writing process. We discussed the purpose and structure of telling stories. The emotions of a story, how to tell a story from the heart instead of simply retelling an event. We learned to question ourselves. Why this story? Why now? And how to add to a story so that we create visuals without necessarily using explicit images. The instructors did a fantastic job; sharing the process of creating digital stories and empowering the participants to believe in themselves and in the power of their story. And best of all, we created our own digital stories! Feel free to take a look at my digital story. The workshop provided me with the skills and confidence I needed to begin working with students on their own digital stories, and I cannot wait to see what they create.

If you are interested in Digital Storytelling, I highly recommend the workshops and webinars through the StoryCenter.




The need for Diverse Books

Everyone should be able to see themselves represented in media: books, television, movies, and advertisements. As a librarian, I feel strongly that children need to be exposed to literature that reflects their own lives. They need to see people who look like they do and know that they are valued. There hasn’t always been a diverse representation of people, gender, abilities, and culture in books for children and teens but publishers are starting to change that. In the last few years book review journals, blogs, and websites have promoted diverse books and put out the call for more, which publishers are starting to answer.  

As a librarian, it is becoming easier to find quality titles that represent a wider proportion of our student body and community. Now we just need to promote them and get them into the hands of our students.

A few useful resources:

WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS offers a wealth of information, and resources, and has been one of my go to sites for finding new titles.

Read Diverse Books is a blog by Nazahet Hernandez that is full of quality book reviews and book lists. Hernandez shares a powerful message that I love –  “I want us all to read books written by authors whose roots collectively span the world. Let us not limit our reading experiences to that which is familiar and comfortable. Let us experience the world through the eyes of a young, middle-class Nigerian woman moving to America. Or a woman born during the 18th century on a Jamaican sugar plantation. Or a Mexican-American teenager who befriends a boy who will help him discover the secrets of the universe. Let us read these stories and allow our lives to become richer and our perspective more nuanced because of them.”

Call Number is a library-inspired book subscription that celebrates contemporary black literature and authors. Although this site may be geared to build one’s personal library, we are using this subscription service to add diverse titles to our school library collection. Each package also comes with promotional materials which we use in displays and as give aways (think book club swag, contests, etc.)

Rainbow Book List promotes GLBTQ books for children and teens. The recommended lists include picture books, middle-grade fiction, young adult fiction, non-fiction and graphic novels. Appropriate grade levels are noted, and the committee is sponsored by the American Library Association.

VOYA magazine always has great book lists. The June 2017 issue included a book list – Exceptionalities Part 3: Uncommon Illnesses and Conditions, which had dozens of diverse titles.



How to introduce your library

Every year I get the same comments from students – Where are the fiction books? How do I know which books the library has? I didn’t know I was supposed to check out the book. And each year I struggle with finding a way to remind the students (and inform new students) how to use the library so, that in December, I’m not still hearing those comments. This struggle is amplified by my strong desire to avoid getting on stage to make an announcement in assembly, that would quickly be forgotten. So, this year I decided to make a video that reminded the students WHERE the books are, HOW to look one up, and WHERE to check them out. It was easier than I thought to get my colleagues to participate in the video, filming took less than an hour, and we had a lot of fun!

I wanted the video to be informative, slightly spooky, and also humorous.

LOVE your library!

Gaming in the Library

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-12-26-23-pm I’ve never really been into video games, except for a mild obsession with Super Mario Bros when I bought a Nintendo back in middle school, but after attending the AASL Game (Gaming as Meaningful Education) Conference, I’m excited about video games!game_logo_300

Thomas Knowlton, Creator of NYPLarcade and an Outreach Librarin for NYPL gave a fast paced and engaging presentation at GAME that had the audience frantically scribbling notes and left them wishing there were demos of the video games set up in the conference room next door. In addition to the 10 fantastic games he shared, Knowlton also explained the three criteria he uses for selecting games: Availability (budget, platform required and time), Playability (is it: dynamic, watchable, age level appropriate, and quick), and Intertexuality (can it be connected to a book or another game, can it be discussed).  Two of the five games that Knowlton recommended for teens: Gone Home, a first person walking simulator video game by Fullbright and 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, a choice driven, adventure narrative video game by iNK Stories, interested me the most and I thought could best be incorporated into a curriculum.

Gone Home Knowlton gave the example of using this game with an English class, discussing: following character threads, writing narrative threads, or using the artifacts in the story to start discussions on different topics. I can see this being used with a creative writing class.

1979 Revolution : Black Friday Knowlton shared the how this video game might be tied to the graphic novel Persepolis persepolisas they both deal with the 1979 Iranian revolution. I also think both the game and the book could be brought into a discussion in a geography, history, or global studies course.

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A new year

It’s a new school year, with the emphasis on new. Our library team has new members, a new look, and a seemingly endless supply of new ideas. All this newness is refreshing and inspiring, but is only possible because we spent the last twelve months thinking about who we are and how we work, both individually and with each other. This ‘year of thinking’ allowed us to create a better working environment, as well as a three year plan for the future of the library. A recent google study talked about  “psychological safety,” having an environment where everyone is free to share ideas, and encouraged to try something new  without fear of humiliation. We are only three weeks into the school year, and it’s evident that we have “psychological safety” and it’s inspiring!

A look at some of the newness –

The amazing Jordan Ellis, created a new look for our library circulation desk.


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Write on the walls

Writing on the walls is not normally something you’d encourage students to do, but since adding glass panels to several collaborative spaces in the library, writing on the walls is something we actively had to encourage.  When we renovated the library a few years ago, the students took to writing on the painted whiteboard walls straight away but they rarely wrote on the glass walls. We decided it was time to intervene! At first we just added short messages to the glass walls but soon took to asking the students questions…

IMG_0318 windowand they responded! Without any announcements or encouragement, other than posting the question, the students happily replied. The questions vary month to month, but they all seem to garner lots of responses and promote conversations. The only downside is that we are enjoying this conversational wall too much to leave it clean for students to work on. Fortunately, the collaborative spaces for students also have glass walls; hopefully they’ll write on them!


Looking for something good to read? Check out the recent Printz Award Winner and Honor titles. Dive into Magical Realism with Printz Award winner Laura Ruby’s novel Bone Gap. Historical Fiction more to your liking? Try Out of Darkness, a Printz Honor title by Ashley Hope Perez. If you aren’t drawn to one particular genre, try Printz Honor book, Ghost of Heavens by Marcus Sedgwick (2014 Printz Award winner for MidWinterBlood), a suspenseful tale of four linked stories that go between historical and science fiction. Happy Reading!