Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 OLW

I've finally chosen my OLW for 2016, which will be my very first OLW ever! I'm giving it a go this year in place of my resolution-making, which is basically always the same and peters out by mid-March anyhow.

I have been searching for my word in earnest since only Tuesday.  The universe was sending signs my way--or maybe it was just Two Writing Teachers slice-of-life participants--but whatever the case I had the idea that it was time for me to try this idea. I went through several words--trying them on, whispering them, stating them with conviction, letting them sink into me.  I tried Breathe, and Enough, and even Magic (which came in a close 2nd.)

Yesterday I was contacted by a DNA cousin --I guess many of us have more time to work on our genealogy over the holidays--regarding my Armstrong line.  After working with him for a bit--he was able to break down a wall he has been trying to break down for 20 years!--he gave me some leads, too.  Following them, I found the most incredible story.  History is a funny thing, y'all, and family history even more so because it relates directly to YOU.

I had never really gone too far back with my Armstrong line.  My 2nd great-grandmother was an Armstrong who married a Shaw.  I remember my own grandmother talking about her grandmother in my childhood, but only about her---not anything else in that family line, so I didn't know the history; the amazing, magical, bigger-than-life history of the Armstrong Clan. Yesterday my day quickly became all about chasing down this information.

The clan motto is Invictus Maneo- I remain Unvanquished.  I love the strength in that; the absolute conviction. After learning this motto, it was clear what word was MINE for the year.  It sings to me a powerful warrior song. And any clan motto that goes with a history that involves MacBeth, Danish kings, Vikings, and has an amazing poem by the same name has got to be a good match for this theatre-loving, Scottish-obsessed family historian librarian, right? If you happen to want a quick version of this family history, you can check it out here.

I'll leave you with the poem.  In 2016, I will remember that I AM the Master of my Fate & the Captain of my Soul.

I hope you all have a fabulous New Year!


"Invictus" image made using Canva.  "Invictus" poem first published in 1875 in Book of Verses. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Power of Words-my slice of life

We have had a brilliant Christmas and we aren't completely done yet.  Christmas day was spent at home relaxing and eating Tex-Mex, then we picked up and drove to Austin for Christmas celebrations with my side of the fam.  My little one LOVES time with her cousins and it is always so sweet to see them play together.  Hubby's family will head this direction in a couple of days, and then our holidays will be well and truly complete.

While at my mom's house, I started making a list of funny things that were said.  I am a collector of the weird & unique---words, objects, & some would say, people.  I find that life is so very interesting, and I particularly enjoy the little oddities that make me smile & think.

Some of my favorites from the trip:

1, We do NOT lick things and throw them.
2. My breath smells like skunks and peaches.
3. I'm done. There's only so much booger I can take.

Yes, these are funny---but are also a reminder that words have power.  I've spent time reading several posts from Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life today that speak of the writer's 2015 "one little word." I've thought about having my own OLW, and am feeling that perhaps 2016 is my year to begin the journey. to ponder and choose my word!

Have a joyous New Year, y'all!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Currently... Slice of Life

Ah, the joys of Christmas break! YES, I love what I do, AND, YES, I love having an extended holiday break.


My red lipstick.  It is super cheap, but fantastic.  Rimmel Lasting Finish by Kate Moss # 01.  It is the perfect vintage-chic red.  Lovely, costs under $5, and is long-lasting. I realized just how much I love it when mine fell out of my bag & got lost who-knows-where, and I had to immediately go purchase another so as not to be without it.

Greg Iles' Turning Angel, the 2nd book in his Penn Cage series.  This series was recommended to me by a coach at my high school.  That alone makes it read-worthy in my book, BUT...I thoroughly enjoyed the first one and am devouring this one, as well.  It is a murder-mystery set in the south with a lawyer-turned-writer MC.  I'm also readying Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray.  I brought home 5 other novels for my reading delight over the break, including I Crawl Through It by A.S.King, and Kissing in America by Margo Rabb.

Elf. The Santa Clause. Love, Actually, and gearing up for It's a Wonderful Life.  Ah, the holidays! Also, must mention my newish favorite show, The Librarians.  So, so good.  Kitshy Indiana Jones only with genius magic-chasing librarians--what's NOT to love?

My home Christmas-ready.  My tree is up and the stockings are hung.  Gifts have been purchased and those that have arrived are wrapped and under the tree.  Ingredients for my famous enchiladas have been gathered (we'll do the traditional turkey dinner later with family, but Christmas Day will be a Tex-Mex fiesta in the Schulz casa!)

Thinking about
How very blessed I am. I have the very best job in the universe and a wonderful family.  I have clothes to wear, food to eat, and books to read.  Life is so good, ya'll.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to you all! May your days be Merry & Bright!


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Happy Read-a-Lot-a-Days! #SOL

It has been a wonderful first week of December in the library!

My students are really enjoying our #12DaysofLibraryChristmas celebration. If you missed that post you can read it here. Truth be told, I have had a BLAST doing it, too!

Day  1: We decorated our mini-stockings with glitter glue.

Day 2: Wintergreen candy canes & Day 3: Pop Rocks!

Day 4: Christmas buttons.

Day 5: Mini-cupcakes.

Day 6: "LIKE A BOSS" pencils.  I give these out tomorrow and I'm sooooo excited.

I'll follow up with the last of the pics next week!

In other news, the library has been decorated.  Finally.
There was no way to up my game from last year's viral snowman, so I decided to take a step back and go easy-peasy this year.  The kids decorated and had a ball doing it without any stress.

Lastly, I love, love, love the new Facebook header I created using Canva.  You can check it out on our Facebook page.

Have a wonderful week, y'all!

Monday, November 30, 2015

12 Days of Library Christmas

one of our library book trees from last year

I read this awesome blog post from the fabulous Amber Teaman and it got me thinking.  I love her leadership style and love that she thinks about how to give to her staff so they know they are appreciated during this holiday season.  

Inspired by this post, I've been thinking about how I can incorporate this idea in my library.  I have some really amazing senior student library assistants this year.  I can celebrate the last 12 days of school before Christmas break with this idea by starting THIS Thursday.  AmberTeaman mentions in her post that "if I can make these three weeks a little less stressful, then that's what I want to do." I feel the same way about my library.  For my seniors, these weeks will be filled with research papers and testing, not to mention the family, relationship, holiday expectations, and other various life stressors they carry.  Yes, Virginia, stress is REAL for our students, too.  

I can't spend a ton---I have about 20 assistants this semester throughout the day--and I don't want them to really think that is what it is about anyhow.  More than anything, I want them to get a smile, and know they are thought of and appreciated.  Based on her list, here is my list of things I'm considering for my student assistants celebration days. 

embossed #2 pencils (I'm thinking of having some made that say "Like a Boss")
donuts (yeah, a new Dunkin' Donuts just opened here making this an especially exciting option)
homemade pumpkin bread mini-loaves (I have a pan that makes 18 at one time)
candy canes (maybe traditional AND pickle juice flavor just for fun?)
hot chocolate bar
cinnamon roll waffles (easy if you take your own waffle-maker & use store-bought dough)
handwritten card of appreciation
TicTacs (maybe minions or the snowman poop idea?)
Nacho day (queso in a crock pot, perhaps?)
Stockings (Dollar Tree!  and we will get those day 1 and decorate them with names during class, I think--that way each day's goodie can be put in them.)

Who knows what all I'll end up after a trip to the Dollar Tree (I'm a huge fan of DT!) but I know I want to have a few interactive things and I know free food is always a hit with teens.

Basically, I want them to remember in the midst of all the chaos & busyness,  life is FUN and full of JOY & WONDER. I hope it will be a lesson they carry with them as they leave me and go out into this big wide world in June. And then, I hope this will be a lesson they share with others in their adult lives, as well.  

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I've been thinking

It is fabulous to have an entire week off for Thanksgiving break.  Add that to the list of things for which I am thankful. Generally I make a huge to-do list of things that must be accomplished when I have a break. As a solidly Type B personality, I don't really ever expect to finish that list, but it does help me to have a framework so that perhaps I am able to get something done.  

This week I allowed myself to just let the week unfold, and it was GLORIOUS.  I'm going to take a virtual page from this blog post that is new to me as of today despite the fact that it was written about 3 years ago.  Eh.  I'm Type B, what can I say?



My week untethered to clocks and "musts". I went to bed whenever I wished and woke up the same way.  I drank all the coffee.  I cooked what I pleased. I read what I wanted whenever I wanted. Divine, really. 


I had primo reading time this week.  Joy! I read Libba Bray's The Diviners, which is a work of genius.  This had been on my TBR list for quite some time, but when the sequel arrived in my office last week I knew the time had come to move it up to the Read Now section of the list.  I've had the pleasure of meeting Libba Bray on more than one occasion. I've heard her speak and attended dinners with her at librarian bookish things.  I adore her, and while I absolutely don't fool myself into thinking she remembers me or this incident, we have shared a "Foxy" satin jacket joke and that counts for something, right?  This book is just the most.  The abso-tute-ly most.  Paranormal historical fiction set in NYC in the Roaring Twenties with badass female characters?  Yes, please! I was completely swept up in this book.  

On the l-o-n-g journey "back home" for Thanksgiving with the in-laws, we listened to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which is now available on Audible.  Anyone who knows me knows I love me some HP, and the audiobook makes it easy for the whole family to enjoy it on the road. 

I'm still working on Brene Brown's Rising Strong.  I read this in bits and spurts because there is SO much amazing brilliance in it that I need to ponder and give myself time to really take it all in so that it becomes a part of me. 

I've also caught up on several blogs/sites I follow like YA Buccaneers (which is how I came across the Katy Upperman site) and Austin Kleon (who never fails to inspire). 


Hubby and I rented Love & Mercy last night.  Even though I had heard parts of Brian Wilson's life story, this movie really brought it to life.  Wow! What a story!

I watched the Pretty Little Liar upcoming season teaser show, too.  Not worried about the haters, y'all.  I love this show and am eagerly awaiting the coming season.

I have become completely obsessed with watching these videos this week, too.  Watch with earbuds. I was especially touched by Giulia and Elijah's story (perhaps because I work with high school kids) as well as this one, and this follow-up---which for some reason isn't showing up on the main site for me anymore, so I had to go to youtube.


Homemade chicken noodle soup  that is truly amazing and will spoil you from eating any other recipe (I'm pretty sure the sherry, cream, and rosemary are the real stars of this show) and pumpkin bread that is as perfect for breakfast as it is for dessert.  Both are easy & fabulous & make my home smell scrummy.

Thinking about

So many things. Do you ever feel as though you are quite possibly on the cusp of something amazing?  Like just over the edge of your current thought is an idea that is really something special? That pretty much explains where my thoughts are right now.  I wrestle a lot with balance in life.  I feel like I have a fairly good handle on it most of the time, but only because I am continually mindful. Striving to attain goals vs. mindful living. It can be tough. Maybe this is why that idea dances on the peripheral rather than bounding fully-formed into my conscious. I'm a work in progress, y'all. 

I'd love for you to share what YOU are currently doing!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


This is the latest edition of our NISD Library Showcase.  Each school librarian in the district contributes a few pics of some of the amazingness going on at the library. I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

This and That: Today's SOL

Fall is my favorite season and it finally feels like it has decided to make an appearance here in East Texas. With the full moon and the cool, crisp air it feels like a time for sweeping out the cobwebs and taking stock of my year thus far.

1. Still working on genre-fying the library.  This makes it sound way more tedious than it is.  Of course, the process IS tedious, but I since this is not my first rodeo, and I like to think I learned a few things the first time around, I am taking my time on this project.  It is a HUGE undertaking, so I'm making sure to work on it in bits and pieces so that I don't feel bogged down. I'm pleased with the progress.  Onward!

2.  I'm enjoying the heck out of my writing MOOC.  I've learned so much over the past month and the deadlines have really kept me on track with my writing. Only a few more weeks to go.  I'll miss it when it is over.

3. NaNoWriMo is around the corner, so I've been using my story idea to complete most of my MOOC assignments.  I guess this is my version of outlining this year.

4. M.A.G.I.C. club is the BEST.  My head boy and head girl came up with trivia questions.  As a countdown to Halloween, I send one out via remind each day, as well as post it on our Slytherin message board at the front of the library.  Kids who answer correctly get prizes--little things like small packages of pretzels and pirate eye patches, and jolly ranchers.  Seriously hilarious to see my big high school kids RUNNING to claim their prizes.

5. My refrigerator stopped working Sunday.  Ugh.  Repairman comes today.  I'm living out of a cooler.  Again.  Ugh.

6. I've read some amazing books lately.  In fact, this past weekend was glorious--slow steady rain outside all weekend and me curled up with a good book inside.  Delightful!

7.  I've been asked to do a little "TV show" on our local cable access channel.  It will be library-focused and one of the public librarians and I will host. It just all sounds like fun to me so I'm super excited about it. Currently working on figuring out all the details and making a write-up.

And that's the news from my neck of the woods.  You?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Several things have me thinking this week about beliefs about school libraries and how they are "supposed" to be.  It is better than it used to be, but oh, are they still out there.  From time to time I just need to get these off my chest.

So here's my TOP RANT:

1. Libraries should be QUIET places.  Okay, so sometimes they are. And, sometimes they are not. It all depends upon what is going on in them at the time.  Are quiet places valuable in this busy noisy world?  absolutely.  Are places that allow students (who are more stressed out than ever before) to just chill and be and chat valuable?  absolutely.  Are places that allow folks to collaborate with one another (an act that requires conversation so often) valuable?  you bet.

You know what drives me crazy?  When teachers (whom I know mean well and are often darling people-only misguided in this area) march students down to the library and then proceed to shame them, ripping them up and down when they dare to speak.  I have a young-person-in-my-life-who-shall-remain-nameless-to-protect-the-innocent whose ELAR teacher is notorious for this move, which is then followed by the whole visiting-the-library-is-a-privilege-and-I-don't-have-to-take-you move. The ole 1-2 punch.  Ugh.

A classroom should not always be quiet.  Well, the library is a classroom--it's just a really, really big one.
In the library:
Kids are allowed to smile.
Kids are allowed to laugh.
Kids are allowed to speak.

You know what?  Teachers are, too.

I'm not saying let the class get out of control (we run into that, too) but really---can we all get off the silent boat now?  Isn't it time for a happy medium, using our ability to pay attention, connect, and relate to the students to find better ways to remind them to share the space in ways that are positive for everyone.

I have found that teachers who behave this way truly truly often believe this is still the WAY libraries ARE or....that they OUGHT to BE.

I hope that if you find yourself in this category you will breathe deeply.  I know change is hard. Sincerely, I do get it.  However, sometimes...and in this case, I believe it to be true...sometimes change is AMAZING.  Look around and see how much awesomeness is going on in the library when you release the grips of control and allow students to learn & collaborate in a way that makes sense to them in today's world. Then, come on aboard---let's cruise this sea of change together, shall we?  The water is lovely.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

SOL Tuesday

I'm struggling with my writing.
I'm struggling with making it happen.
I want to write a novel.
I'm absolutely exhausted these days.
Allergies are kicking my tail.
By the time I get home, I just want to drag myself to bed.
I don't, of course.  I am a mom.
I get home and make dinner.
I take daughter-the eldest to her music lesson, where hubby meets me to pick the little up so she isn't stuck in the car waiting for 30 minutes.
It isn't that I don't want the darling little snowflake to not have to experience waiting,
It is that my nerves will break if I'm stuck in the car attempting to remain calm while she whines tonight.

I love my job.
LOVE it.
It requires a lot of energy to do it right.
Not much remains by the time I get home.
Yet, much of my To Do list does.

I lock my bedroom door.
Light some incense and fill a hot bath with Epsom salts.
I soak. I breathe.
For a few moments, I am not tasked with fulfilling any of my roles in life.
I am just me, floating in the water.  Breathing, thinking, being.

Daughter-the-youngest's voice brings me out of my calm
And back into my reality.
I can hear her out in the hallway.
I love them even when they try me.
I love them to the moon and back.

And so,
after night-night stories,
after checked homework,
after listening to hubby's day,
I breathe. I write.
My story moves forward.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


The time has come to share the magic of M.A.G.I.C.  (Magical and Gifted Individuals Club)

I was amazingly fortunate to get my fab job as a high school librarian at a school that once-upon-a-time had a Harry Potter themed club.  The club disbanded a couple of years back--life got in the way for a few of the sponsors and a lot of the kids, as life often does.  With that said, it had been a favorite and there were whispers (okay, shouts) among the students (okay, and teachers) of wanting it to make a comeback.
This year, we brought M.A.G.I.C. back, y'all.  We brought it back in a  BIG way. 

I am the head sponsor, and Slytherin Head-of-House for M.A.G.I.C and what could possibly be more fun than that???

The excitement over the first announcements, posters, and application set the school on fire.  It was like a big ole Harry Potter love-fest.  It was, needless to say, awesome.  To walk through the library listening to students argue (in a friendly but firm way) over which House was the best House made this little ole librarian's heart extra-happy.

Over 100 students turned in applications, which were actually just sorting quizzes.  OVER 100.

All the Heads-of-House met and planned our first event--the Sorting Ceremony, which took place this past weekend.

I sent out owls to all the kids with a reminder about our Sorting Ceremony.  I am so proud of these little guys--and thankful I have amazing library student assistants who cut them all out and delivered them! The students really got a kick out of receiving their message this way.

OVER 80 students showed up at school on a Sunday afternoon, y'all. Most of them brought treats, too, which earned them their first House points.

I cannot find words to tell you just how much fun was had by all. Yes, there were some surprised faces at the Sorting--but the hat knows what the hat knows, right?  We stress that all Houses are great Houses; each has its own special ways.  We'll get together with ALL Houses again for our Yule Ball, and some type of Quidditch/Tri-Wizard Tournament event in the spring.  All other events/meetings will be up to each House--the professor in charge, as well as their Head Boy, Head Girl & Prefect will help in the major decision making.

My folks are already discussing a movie marathon/wand-making party, as well as multiple book club meetings.  Life is sssssssweet, indeed.

B got her owl!

I made each Slytherin student a welcome letter on parchment cardstock, detailing the beauty of Slytherin House.
No, we aren't all evil.  Not that we care what you think.  ;)

The green wax seal on the letters for students.  Lucky my name is Sonja Schulz, eh?
I already know I'll break down and buy the Slytherin stamp soon.  I cannot help myself. 

The letters are ready.

All treats are good treats, but some are superb!

So creative!!! See the little broomsticks?  And the HP cookies?  Flippin' AMAZING.

Ready to emcee the Sorting Ceremony....but first, a selfie!

D was so sure he was a Slytherin he brought his pet snake to celebrate the moment.  Show-stealer! ;)
p.s. He was right.  He most certainly IS a Slytherin. 

What did the Sorting Hat just say???  Ah yessssssss....Slytherin it is!  M made that awesome necklace representing all Houses and wore his robe.

S reads as he is sorted.  I love this so hard!

My HOUSE.  These are MY PEOPLE.

K wasn't able to make the ceremony, so she got "sorted" at school.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wild About Books

A collection of book trailers to show to my students this week.  HUGE thanks to those who created them for creating & sharing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Adventures in Writing

I'm taking a MOOC, my very first MOOC, called How Writers Write Fiction by the University of Iowa.  What's a MOOC, you ask? It is a Massive Open Online Course.

This is exciting and scary.  I keep reminding myself that we ask kids to do scary things all.the.time.  Much in the way that I strongly believe the world would be an altogether more lovely place if EVERYONE on the planet had to spend some time waiting tables and school administrators would be stronger collaborative partners with classroom teachers by spending some time in the classroom as a substitute on the regular, I believe that those of us who are continually requiring students to stretch themselves to grow ought to practice what we preach.  Thus, my enrollment into my MOOC.

I've been completing the assignments.  I've been pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  I've been opening my writing up to critique from other writers.  I am anxious about how my writing will be received.  Our kids are, too.

Sometimes I'm so tired at night when I finally have a moment to sit down and make time to write that I feel like all my creativity has already beat me to the bed.  Our kids feel that, too.

I have looked at a prompt with wide blank eyes,  not even sure I actually understand it, much less have anything whatsoever worth saying.  Sometimes our kids do, too.

Comparison may be the thief of joy, but she certainly is no stranger to me.  I read the work of others and find myself worrying that I will never measure up.  Our kids feel that way, too.

With all that said I'm having a ball, y'all.  I love writing.  I love learning.  I love growing.
Know what?  Our kids do, too.

Let's all work to keep that in mind--not to make smooth the road before them--we all have our paths to walk in life and learning to measure those bumps in the road evens up our rough edges and ultimately make us who we are-- but rather to show compassion, grace, & mercy--especially in the difficult times when those roads that must be traveled are twisting and turning and filled with brambles.

We are encouragers.  We are cheerleaders.  We are students ourselves.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Today I had an opportunity

Yesterday I was home sick with a sinus infection.  Monday morning I awoke and tried to convince myself I didn't really feel as bad as I felt--but luckily common sense prevailed and I hightailed it to the doctor right after dropping off my 7th grader at school.  I waited in the parking lot until the office opened up at 7:30 and rushed in asking if there was any way they could fit me in.  Thank goodness they were able to squeeze me in (relatively quickly, actually) so that I could be READY to be awesome today.

I was invited to speak to the elementary principals at their meeting today, on the subject of Strong Libraries = Strong Schools. I was SO excited about this opportunity, y'all.  I just wanted to do it justice.

I am passionate about libraries and librarians.  I had a captive audience. goal was to make a positive difference, not just not bore them.

I had a PowerPoint--a short one--about 10 slides. Mostly quotes on pictures. A few with a few sentences.  None text heavy.

I had a library swag bag for each of the principals that I handed out at the very end of my short presentation.

Each bag contained:
A bottled water: because libraries with certified librarians are VITAL, not an "extra"
A LARGE chocolate bar: because reading for pleasure is so very sweet and we make that happen. We create a love of reading, a culture of literacy in our schools.
A hand sanitizer: because we reach EVERY person in our schools
A bookmark: because I want to know what THEY are reading. Are they reading to their students? Are they reading for pleasure? The bookmarks are ones I made especially for this event.  They said          Strong Libraries = Strong Schools 
Nacogdoches ISD (heart) School Libraries

I am really happy with how the meeting went.  I sincerely hope that I will be invited back because I certainly have more to say on this subject!

I am feeling SO good about today y'all!

Saturday, September 12, 2015


I was teaching 5th grade.
Social Studies and creative writing.
My first year in Nacogdoches.
Back in the classroom as no librarian spots were open.
We mailed our Flat Stanley letters to all 50 states on September 10th.
2 to each state--one to the governor's office, and one to a business that "defines" the state.

Teachers in the hallway.
Passing along the news.
Unbelieving. Horror-stricken.
Then we knew.
Trying to keep brave faces for the children.
We had little ones.
Too little to begin to understand.
(Is there an age where understanding THIS is easy?)

One of my kids drew this the following week.
I've kept it all these years.
She was right.
No words for what happened that day.
No words.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A GREAT library (part 2)

What makes a GREAT school library?  I gave 5 thoughts on the topic yesterday and find myself thinking about this so much still today that I decided to continue the conversation.

One of the commenters listed actually having a librarian as something needed to make the library GREAT. Of course, I agree!  Sadly it isn't the case in many areas, but let's assume for my posts that you actually have a librarian in the library.  Then what?

1. Let my people READ.  Let then read far and wide.  Let them read regardless of points or levels. Let them be in charge of their reading.  Let them experience getting lost in a book they love. Fiction is reading. Non-fiction is reading. Graphic novels are reading. Magazines are reading. No more using the term "real reading"---it is ALL real.  I understand the pressures of increasing reading scores, but I find that allowing kids to experience the MAGIC of reading---it's GREATNESS if you will, does the job far more effectively than limiting their reading experiences via level, etc. could ever hope to do.

2. The STUDENTS have a voice. Last night's #txlchat Twitter chat was all about student voice in the library.  A GREAT librarian listens to the students and incorporates their ideas on space, on reading materials, on events. It isn't about ME it is about US. I'm not talking about throwing them a bone to have them vote on something that has already been decided just to make them feel heard, I'm talking about actually HEARING them.

3. Mix & Mingle.  You can't very well HEAR them if you aren't OUT amongst them, and they won't talk if they don't think you care.  Build relationships. Learn names.  Be sincere in CARING. Students know the difference and can smell a fake a mile away.

4. Know the literature. Once upon a time--not too long ago, actually-- I had a fellow librarian tell me it was "cute that I read the books the students read."  I find it far cuter that I can talk with kids about the books we are both reading AND booktalk to those I know would enjoy a particular read. Cute?  Please.

5. Don't be afraid to fail. Be it small or in grand scale, if we are moving outside the box (or inside for that matter) we will all experience failure. Learn from it and move FORWARD.  Don't think--oh, I'm never trying X again because I felt like such an idiot.  Instead, think--wow. that stunk it up royally, but if I tweak Y & Z it just might work better next time.

5 more of my thoughts on what makes a library GREAT.  I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts, too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What makes a school library GREAT?

I think about this a lot--how to achieve GREATNESS for my library.
Okay, according to Pottermore I am a Slytherin.
And...I am Head of Slytherin House in our HS MAGIC club.
(so this is where I mention Merlin was in Slytherin, Snape was actually a hero, and we are not all evil, btw)

So GREATNESS is important to me...but *mostly* I ponder this in terms of how can best propel my library into heights of awesomeness for my patrons.  ;)

Here are 5 thoughts of MANY on this topic. Please know that I put these out into the universe NOT to bash anyone who is not doing these things, or who disagree with me, but rather to work out my thoughts and invite discussion that can hopefully make us ALL better.
I am not yet GREAT, but I am committed to working my bootie off to get there, y'all.
  1. Be open.  Literally.  Open the library doors---best if it happens the very first day of school, but I get that sometimes you have no control of that.  If you DO have control over it, then by all means open the library for circulation day one even if that means you are doing checkouts old-school by hand and adding them to the computer later. Not only does being closed give the opportunity for resentment to build from the classroom teachers who are expected to be on point day one (and if you want to be seen as a member of the instructional team it is good to NOT build resentments) but it is just better for our kids if we are ready to roll day one. If we are going to soapbox about how important school libraries are then OPEN UP and show the world just how awesome we are. If you aren't opening up the library for weeks---why?
  2. Be open.  To new ideas. To change. To shift. To listening. To thinking outside the box.
  3. Know your priorities and live them. If you are there to support the curriculum then do everything in your power to make that happen.  If you are there to create a literary safe haven for kids then DO it.  I know we are all there for many reasons, but pick a focus and go for it. None of us should be there just to make a mean cheese dip on potluck day. 
  4. Don't get so consumed by the "library things" that you forget we are in a service industry.  We are a concierge business, friends.  I know we want the books shelved, but take a step back and remember why we have this amazing job---the people we serve need us. BREATHE deeply and remember that honestly----if you aren't helping the people WANT to be there it won't matter that the books are all shelved before you go home, or if everyone has the Dewey Decimal system memorized.
  5. Love your calling & have FUN.  If you are no longer loving the library life seek the reasons why and make changes, if necessary. It is too easy to get stuck in a rut, and it is too easy to become a complainer. If you see this happening to you, then by all means FIX IT. 
Thoughts?  What are the ways in which you make your library GREAT?  I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What are you reading?

Happy Labor Day to all!

On this beautiful day of relaxation, I give you the list of what I'm currently reading/have just finished reading:

1. Just finished up listening to the amazing audiobook of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind read by Linda Stephens. It had been a million years since I read the book--honestly I'm  not sure I ever actually finished it as a pre-teen/teen reader. It was my "Rory Gilmore" book for the YA Buccanneers Summer Reading Challenge--and I caught a sale on Audible.  The resilience of Scarlett and the quiet dignified strength of Melanie completely stand the test of time despite my cringing at the use of  the word "ejaculated" instead of "said" (okay--I don't love the use of other words or situations which are clearly prejudiced--however--I understand history and the time & place the story takes place as well as the viewpoint from which the story is told. What I don't understand is the fabulous Ms. Mitchell's continued use of this word! ACK!)
Linda Stephens is a GENIUS.  If you can rock a great Gerald O'Hara as well as a Scarlett then you have my vote! I plan to read Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone soon while this one is still fresh in my memory.

2. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. This summer during my Teachers Write "summer camp" this author wrote the most lovely, lyrical post about writing.  I knew then that I must read her work. I am so drawn in by this story of humans as pawns in an eternal game played by old adversaries, Love and Death. It is just absolutely beautifully written.
"He recognized the song; "Walk Beside Me." But her voice nailed him to the floor. 
It made him feel as though something had slipped under his skin 
and was easing everything nonessential straight from his bones."

3. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.  In all that I read, I typically always have a book on writing going.  I love this one in that it is simple to pick through it and read a short chapter here and there. It is a sort of atta-girl--you can do it book for me.

4. Lastly, I'm now listening to After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman on Audible.  Ooh, but I AM enjoying this who-done-it!

So what are YOU reading?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On Tuesdays we write

It is the second Tuesday of my school year (the real one, with kids, not the fake one where just the adults are back at work) and I'm able to write a bit this morning.

This is sort of a big deal around my house as our desktop has crashed, leaving only my laptop to work with and a husband who seems to think he also needs some computer time.  ;)

I will say that this situation has caused me to do a bit of pondering on just HOW I can keep up my writing momentum until we get our desktop fixed (which may be a while because I've got a lot on my plate and the Mister will have to handle it).  I realize that I can do all the Internet stuff on my phone fairly well--you know, the mindless scrolling kind of thing---but I cannot write well on the phone.  I cannot work on my ancestry well on the phone.  These things require a different plan.

I've been reading a new-to-me book about writing, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Brilliant stuff. It just so happens that today is the perfect day to begin one of her suggestions----writing a spiral notebook of stuff each month.  I went to Wal-Mart last night--ugh! I try to live in a state of gratefulness, y'all--I really, really do--but Wal-Mart is a total test of my patience and takes all the grace and mercy I possess which isn't always so very much on a Monday night.  Especially when you live in a small college town and ALL.THE.KIDS.ARE.BACK. But I digress...I came home with a lovely black and white polka dot spiral notebook with a red elastic band to keep it closed along with some gorgeous new flowy pens.  I will fill this spiral with writing.  Good writing. Bad writing. Gibberish writing if I have to---but it will be filled.

Today marks the beginning of a new month, and I am excited to start it off with a new plan that I hope will both jump start and  free my writing.  I'll keep y'all posted!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Week Back in my HS Library!

This is the image I created with Canva (which is everything awesome and amazing and you NEED it in your life, trust me on this--rush out there to and go to town) to send out on all our library social media accounts:
Instagram: NacHSLibrary
Twitter: NacHSLibrary
(y'all check us out!), as well as sending it to the teachers via a mass email.  When I send notices out to teachers I try to make a splashy image that will catch their attention, give them the information in short bits, and be done.  I want them to know that while I have info to share, I respect their time.

Open a book, find a treasure. ARRGGGHH. 

The first book display of the year has a pirate theme this time around.  I guess I was just feeling pirate-y. Plus, won't it be fun on Talk Like a Pirate Day?

The kids are clearly already enjoying Captain Jack, as you might discern from the second photo.  I don't mind--I enjoy innocent shenanigans and am glad it is getting their attention.  ;)

Terrible pic of our wonderful new reading nook.  Before this year, this space under the stairs was used to store the carts for the library.  Ugly, but useful.  I noticed, though, that my kids were always moving things around in order to create little hidey-holes behind the carts.  This year we've moved the carts back to the storage room and have created a pleasant & inviting nook for my bookish friends who, like hobbits, enjoy cozy spaces. The students love it (well, it did take one a minute to absorb it all--she said---and I quote---wait! what happened to my emo corner?)

And...last but not Slytherin banner.  We are bringing M.A.G.I.C. club back and I am now head of Slytherin House.  OH YEAH, BABY...I'VE GOT THE POWER!


It's Wednesday and I haven't made my blogging deadlines for the past couple of weeks-- but y'all, I'm flat worn out by the time I get home.  Am not draggin' so much today as I was yesterday, nor the day before that.  Feeling like this time next week I'll be back on track with this whole getting-up-before-dawn thing that the school year requires.

In other high-points-of-the-week news:

  • the FIRST day of school I had students waiting on me to open the library. THE FIRST DAY!!!  I had checked out books before our official opening time of 7:30 AM.  Be still my heart!
  • I have already received many I-read-this-over-the-summer-and-you-must-read-it moments (don't y'all just love those?)
  • we added a beautiful new (old--antique--gorgeous--FREE) sofa to the library.  Pics of that later.
  • I was honored to be asked to read the writing of one of my new students to campus.  
  • I've been told the library is "so cool".  by freshman.  boys.  who are athletes.  let that sink in.  
  • I've already been asked to come booktalk with a class.   JOY!

I hope your new year is off to a fabulous start, too.  Let me know how it's going in the comments!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tired Tuesday?

Yes, it is Tired Tuesday.
Normally Tuesdays are the days we wear tiaras (just because, you know) but instead--in this get-everything-done-before-the-kids-come-back mode today was a day for getting things DONE.

Y'all know about Glennon Melton, right?  She's the guru behind Momastery and the author of incredible book Carry On, Warrior.  She is one of those folks in the world that help make me okay with me.  Anyhow, one of her posts this summer kept flashing through my head all day today (it was just that kind of day, as some of them are, you know) and I kept wanting to shout,

"I am totally NOT freaking out! I am Suzanne!"

because today was the day the maintenance guys came over to move the right bookshelves--not the ones they moved in June back when I first asked.  

Y'all, these bookshelves are serious.  It took 5 strong men and a dolly and they still struggled with moving them into place.  Fast Forward to TA DA when all was finished and I thank them & am grateful (despite their mention that they had moved them before and they were not wanting to move them again. despite my sugar-sweetened reply that indeed they had not moved these shelves before, but rather the ones I didn't ask to be moved and how much I sure appreciated the right ones getting moved.  you know the ones I asked to be moved in the first place.) 

So we all made it through it and I spent the putting books back on the shelves. They were stacked on 7 tables.  I return tomorrow morning to face 3 tables, each down to just one layer of books.  This is progress!  My little freshman will have places to sit for FISH camp this Friday!  I just feel so much better without all those piles of books covering the tables and back in their happy homes waiting patiently to be picked up and share their magic with their people.  

Life is so good!

It's time for a epsom salt soak and some time to relax in my jammies.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Whatcha Reading?

Now that I've made posting on Tuesdays a pretty firm habit, I'm looking to add some regular posts to the blog. After reading today's post on the More Books Than Time blog I was inspired to work toward this as my Monday habit!

So, I just HAVE to tell y'all about a book I finished late Friday night.  I stayed up way too late to finish it considering I knew I had to get up around 5:00 AM Saturday to travel, but I just couldn't help myself. This book was SO special because it was recommended to me by a really cool kid. Okay--a really cool adult whom I taught when she was a really cool kid.  :)  So, first a story about Willow Wylde (last name left out).

Years and years ago when I was a young college kid I worked in the infant room of a daycare.  One of my babies was a little girl named Willow.  She was full of personality and sass.  We bonded--I took a million photos of her and shared most of them with her mama--also full of personality and sass.  I kept a couple of her photos in my little photo brag book (y'all remember them?  you know, before cell phones carried our pics around?)  I graduated from college and moved back home.  10 years later I moved BACK to my college town.  There wasn't a library opening in town, so I took a 5th grade teaching position with the knowledge that there would be a library position opening up the following year.  The day I got my list of kids I just about fell over---yes, my little Willow Wylde was on the list.  I would have known her anywhere--her resemblance to her baby self was uncanny---not to mention she has a fabulously unique name!  I gave her those final two baby photos I had kept all those years. And so, I had the honor of getting to know her as a fifth-grader, and then to be her librarian all through her middle school years.  My Willow was an artist and a reader---she still is! Fast-forward to the present...Willow is about to finish college with an art degree and we are Facebook friends.  She is one of the coolest people I have ever known, in part because she is so true to herself.

So, via FB she recommended I read Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  What a delightful read! Mysterious and mystic--a book about the love of books and a melding of old ways and new.  I was happy to find my library owns a copy (yes, first year--still learning my collection!) and I absolutely have a few kids in mind who would just LOVE this book. Best of all, I now am planning on reviving the high school book club under a new name & a new game plan--one inspired by this book!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Mom & me

When I was a little girl my mother, who is also an educator, was working on her masters degree, and then her doctorate.  At the time, of course, I didn't realize how difficult that must have been for her.
Y'all, my mom is a Super-Star. 

No, I'm totally serious.  By the time she was working on her doctorate she was a wife, mom of 3 wild & crazy kids, working full-time as a high school teacher, and holding it all together like a boss. She's a total class-act; a lady.  As a grown woman with a husband, 2 wild & crazy kids of my own, and a job I totally love I stand in AWE of what (and how) my mama did everything she did.  I swear, as a kid, she made it all seem easy.  We ate meals together as a family--she baked homemade cookies--carted us to & from all our events--and never, ever even raised her voice. My friends from high school still want her to adopt them almost 30 years after our graduation because she is still the 

Despite all her busyness, my mom was always willing to listen to me.  As a mama myself I realize now that it certainly wasn't because she had nothing else to do or that she cared as deeply about the major life importance of the unfairness of frenemy drama as I did at the time---but it was because she cared deeply about me. Did I mention that no matter how inane my conversation might have been she never once made me feel annoying or idiotic and she never once met my concerns or questions with an attitude that wasn't caring?

 I totally want to be her when I grow up.  

My mom and I were talking the other morning (we talk every morning--the day just doesn't seem right if we miss our phone chats) and she was reminding me how I demanded that she "look at me when I talk" as a little one.  We laughed because my Liv says this to me all the time

"But Mama is driving, honey.  I can't look at you right this minute." 
"Oh yeah.  I forgot," Liv will say.

Funny how the universe works.  Over the last week, I have had multiple reminders of just how important it is to listen. *** To listen with your whole body.  To really be present in the moment. That everyone needs to feel heard. I believe this is a basic universal human thing.  I guess this post is to say I'm listening, Universe.  Thank you for this reminder.

I posted a link for my new training manual for my incoming student pages last week.  One of the things I will train students to do is to put the electronics down, put themselves aside, and be with the people they are serving. 

As parents, we expect our children to listen. As educators, we expect our students to listen. As librarians, we want & hope folks will listen to just how important & relevant we are in this new era. All of these expectations are absolutely right on target. But...

Are we listening to them?

I don't mean are we rushing around doing all that we must get done and mumbling "um-hum.  yeah. um-hum" as someone talks.  I mean, are we listening to them?  With our whole bodies?  Being really present in the moment?  Letting them know they are heard and therefore valued? Yes, we ALL want to be heard, and I absolutely believe that librarians must become awesome at tooting our own horns. If we aren't teaching folks about all that we do they will. not. know.  
in our quest to share our mission...are we listening to our students? our teachers? our administrators? Are we being the change we want to see in the world?

Are we building relationships? 

I realize we are all busy. I realize that the world spins very fast. I realize we all have much to do. With that said, it is more important than ever that we specifically make the time to listen.  Ask questions about what they need/want/desire from their library instead of assuming you know what they need/want/desire or assuming you know what is best for them regardless of their needs/wants/desires. Take a moment and remember how good it feels to know you have been heard and acknowledged. Believe me, I am talking to myself here!

My mom has known & loved me longer than anyone else on the face of this planet.  The fact that she still asks those types of questions of me and really listens to my answers--looking at me unless we are in the car & she is driving-- makes me feel incredibly secure and grounded.


I want to be sure to remember this--to fold this knowledge into my little pocket and carry it around with me--so that I will remember to be this present for others.  It helps us all move forward, really.

***here are a few of the things the universe has thrown at me this week that spurred this post:
  • a conversation with an old friend whose hubby is a long-time restaurant manager regarding how they have to specifically train hostesses to be social with guests because so many of them come in not knowing how to chat with folks these days.
  • Reading posts also on this topic by amazing folks such as Jennifer LaGarde (she links to 2 other posts in this one that also speak to the topic--be sure to read those, too!)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Library Page Boot Camp Training Plan

Y'all I am SO, so, SO excited! I feel really prepared and ready for my new library pages and I thought I'd share my training plan with you guys in case it could be helpful for you.

The nuts & bolts of my plan really boil down to communicating my specific expectations to them. I think this is a big part of what went south last year--sometimes something is so familiar to us that it becomes a "well, of course, they get this--it's so obvious" when really it is anything but obvious to someone new to the work-in-the-library world.

To prepare for creating this plan I studied two sets of companies: those who are known for fabulous customer service, and those that are known as great FUN places to work.  I studied the training programs of Chick-Fil-A and The Ritz-Carlton, of Apple and Disney and Southwest Airlines. There are definite overlaps in the two listings, which speaks volumes regarding the way folks feel when they are given the proper training.  Nothing feels better than a job well done (okay, so there may be a few things--but you get what I'm saying here!) I also read The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White, and of course applied the wisdom of Marie Forleo.

I want to keep the training simple and straightforward, yet *hopefully* not bore them to tears. In keeping with that, I have created a three-fold approach per class period with student pages--yes, it will be repetitive for me, as well as being an investment of time.  I believe it will pay off in the end. Each day we will build, 2.learn a new skill, and 3. review & reward. I haven't included specific team-building exercises in my list.  I'm still thinking on what will work best with such a small amount of people, but basically my goal is that they will actually KNOW one another and be able to work together as a team.

1. Day One. We do a short intro. Kids will receive their Training Guide and fill out a short information sheet about themselves. We will go over any and all questions they may have regarding the guide.  There will be snacks.  Snacks are good.  Snacks create a hey-I-care-about-you warm fuzzy vibe.  We appreciate snacks at meetings.  Teens appreciate snacks at meetings.

2. Day Two. We tour the library. Yes, all my pages are seniors--but to assume they know the sections of the library would be a mistake ---one that I definitely made last year! They will be introduced to the super-secret inner sanctum of the library (okay, the supply closet, but whatever.) We spend time on what it means to "posh" the library (that's what I call cleaning & straightening the library and is explained in the training guide above) with specific real-life examples. We move on to working the copy machine and shutting down computers.

3. Day Three. Shelving 101. We start with fiction because that seems to be the easiest to comprehend for most people. Because I am transitioning into genre-fied fiction sections, this one will come with a warning that change is coming and explanations of the shifting spine labels. I'll move into the other shelving specifics and the pace will be determined by how well the students are getting it. I plan to make videos going over the details of the various types of shelving for the kids to watch, and I'll link them here when I have them completed.

4. Day Four.  We do a super quick review of shelving and then practice for the bulk of the class period.  We will learn to shelf read on Day Four, as well.

5. Day Five. Boot camp survival certification day! This will be the first celebration my library pages earn. I know it may sound a bit silly, but I honestly plan to have certificates for them and a little ceremony.  Do I think they will keep these forever?  Heck no, but I hope it will be a fun way to show them recognition for a job well done.  These certificates will be their storing place for future badges to be earned, as well. I had considered something digital, but we really aren't set up for that at this point. Also, one of the regular rewards my kids can earn are special passes for 30 minutes of free time to be used as they need/want to use them.

So, this is the basic boot camp training plan I've made for the year. After my kids have mastered the boot camp skills, those who are ready will move on to the Ninja Jedi skills of processing magazines and then books. I'd love to hear your feedback and want to know what you have done in your training of student aides that has been super successful!