Teaching students how to search the library catalog

This assignment was challenging. I had to teach a library lesson and film it for observation. I ran into quite a few hiccups. I ended up teaching the lesson four times, but I learned a lot.

Watch me teach the lesson here.

Check out the Prezi here.

Read my reflection, lesson plan, and handout here.


Preserving Student Privacy

Your library clerk tells a high school parent that the parent’s son is checking out books on religious cults.

A student’s library records are confidential and should not be shared without excellent reason. There are many possible reasons a student in high school would check out books on cults. They should feel safe checking out books knowing that the librarian, and staff, will respect their rights. If there is a legitimate concern about the student the librarian should first talk to them to learn more about their situation and try to determine if they are in need of guidance or other help. If the librarian truly believes the student needs help they should inform the school counselor. In the scenario in question the library clerk has already breached the privacy of the student. The head librarian should make sure that the clerk receives training on privacy and the student’s rights.


Some public libraries have abandoned DDC in favor of BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications, the classification system used at most bookstores). If you were setting up a library, which would you use?

Every library has different needs, so I can’t definitively say what setup I would employ. For this exercise I’m going to pretend that I am overhauling my school’s library. For most of the nonfiction I believe I would stick with DDC. For those kinds of subjects it is fairly browse-friendly. For each major division I would create a display shelf to guide browsers towards what interests them. For nonfiction I would use BISAC. Going only by DDC for fiction really hinders browsing by interest.

Works about the Titanic can explore a plethora of subjects. List numbers from the DDC hundreds division (e.g., 410, 720, 830, etc.) where you might find these works.

150: psychology. As a traumatic event the survivors certainly experienced psychological effects and there could be books exploring those effects.

530: physics. The construction of the Titanic could be explored in works on physics.

620: engineering. Again, the construction of the Titanic was a feat of engineering that might be explored in works related to large scale construction.

910: geography and travel. The Titanic was an ocean liner designed for travel.

920: biography and genealogy. Biographies of passengers and builders.

Weeding with the CREW method

This discussion is a weeding activity. Choose a  2 or 3 shelf section in your library or your mentor’s school library for weeding. Review the CREW method.

I chose to look at the 000 section of my library, computer science, information, and general works. I wanted to look at this section because computers and technology change rapidly and books on that topic become outdated quickly. The books in this section were all in good shape, no loose covers or torn pages. I flipped through several of the books and saw lots of pictures of 90s outfits and over-sized beige monitors, not very enticing to students who were all born 2007 or later. It was more relevant to my childhood than theirs. Using the CREW formulas for the section I found that more than half the books had aged out. I also opened up TitleWise to see the average age of the section and discovered the “weeding candidates” option. This page showed the call number section alongside the CREW formula applied to that category and a list of books that fail to meet the requirements of the formula. 

My librarian’s comment on this section was that the books are definitely out of date, but replacing them is not in the budget and they are better than nothing. I agree that these books could indeed prove useful. Perhaps not for their intended purpose, but to use as examples of then versus now. Ideally I would weed most of the section and provide newer options. As it is I believe teachers and students are using online sources for computer and technology information because it is much more up to date. I would like to encourage the use of online resources by teaching students and teachers how locate and assess relevant information.

Autobiographee as a subject?

LC Rules now allow catalog records for autobiographies to include the biographee’s name as a subject. Is this necessary?

When putting subject tags you look at the resource and try to determine what it is about and use that as a subject. (after verifying with LOC authorities, of course). An autobiography is about the biographee, just from their own perspective. I recently saw the movie The Greatest Showman and I wanted to learn more about P.T. Barnum, so I went to the public library catalog and did a subject search for “P.T. Barnum” and came up with a few different biographies as well as his autobiography. As a patron interested in learning about a topic that was very helpful to me.  Once again my answer boils down to the more information you can provide the better.

collaboration between librarians, teachers, and students

When reading the Sanacore article, two of the collaboration suggestions really stuck out to me: conferences and peer sharing. Those are the things that I look forward to the most about being a librarian. Talking to kids about books and seeing kids talk to each other about books bring me so much joy. I think something that is important to remember about these collaboration methods is that you have to engage more students than just the ones who love reading. It is so easy to talk to students who are already excited about books and want to converse about them, but it is the students who aren’t so forthcoming that really need our attention the most.

My mentor is familiar with some of the big topics/projects for each grade level and monitors the curriculum so that she knows what books to be on the lookout for. She also listens to recommendations and requests from teachers and students. To improve collaboration we discussed sending out emails to teachers asking what areas they would like to see built up and presenting about the collection at a faculty meeting.

Sanacore, J. (2006). Teacher-librarians, teachers, and children as cobuilders of school library collections. Teacher Librarian, 33(5), 24-29.

Exploring Titlewave

I started by doing a general search for Alma Flor Ada, an author recommended to me by a fellow teacher. I was able to see many titles by her. The results page displayed information about the levels of each book (AR, lexile, RC, interest, F&P), the publisher and year, and some of the books also had a list of tags associated with the title. I clicked one of the tags, cultural heritage, and was taken to a page of results that share that tag.

Next I decided to search for bluebonnet award winners. The search bar autocompleted with several options related to bluebonnet awards, so I selected the option to show the list for 2017-2018. From the list I selected a title to view and check for reviews and awards. Towards the bottom of the page was a section labeled “reviews and awards,” but it only gave a list of reviews, a selection of which were available to view in full below. There was not an obvious list of awards or honors. Further up the page is a section that leads to book and author resources on TeachingBooks.net, and when I clicked through there I found lots of resources from lesson plans and discussion guides, to vocabulary cards and author interviews as well as a full list of awards and honors.

From the results list of any search you can select to show only books that have lexile, AR, RC, etc. levels already assigned, and then select a level range to browse. You can even select a lexile range AND a reading or interest level and find books that overlap. I found this very useful because you might have a 2nd grader and a 5th grader both reading on the same lexile, but because of their ages the interest level is going to be different. 5th graders don’t want to have to read books written for younger students, even if it matches their ability, so it’s good to have a way to find things suitable for different ability/interest level combinations.

Pedantry or People

LC has updated some archaic and offensive headings. Why, or why not, should current headings like cookery and swine be updated?

I think the most important point on both counts (archaic and offensive) is what matters more: pedantry, or people.

Keeping archaic terms because they are established or are “appropriate to the time of the work’s creation” puts pedantry over people. It doesn’t matter if the term is what would have been used when the work was created if no one is going to search it. We want people to be able to find what they need. In the case of academics looking for archaic subject terms for research purposes we can keep the archaic terms on archaic resources while adding updated terms to aid accessibility for a wider audience.

Keeping offensive language because it matches technical sources, or it has been in use for so long, or any other excuse puts pedantry over people. There are real people who are hurt in real ways by the perpetuation of harmful language and any chance we have to correct that must be taken.

Special formats and collection management

My school librarian does not have many special formats in the collection. Her collection is primarily physical books, with a few eBooks. There is an old collection of VHS tapes, but they are out of date, we only have one VCR on the campus, and no one is interested in them. She is planning on getting rid of them because of the space they take up. She has been strongly discouraged from purchasing DVDs because of the cost and because streaming video is available. The district subscribes to Discovery Education, and YouTube is full of educational content for free, so why waste money and space on DVDs?

There is a small selection of audio-books, but only the kind that you would put in a listening center that come with a book, and she only checks them out to teachers. In her experience our school has a high rate of material loss and damage and discs can’t be taped back together like a book. This is my third year at this school and I was not aware that these listening center books were available because they are kept in the library office and not advertised.

The previous principal did not allow the previous librarian to purchase magazines because they are so ephemeral. Even though that principal and librarian have been gone for many years the current librarian has never felt the need to add them because she agrees that they are too ephemeral and that money could be better spent. She does believe that the magazine format, the photos and text features and overall style, is good for students to see so she has a set of biographies that are written in that style. She pointed out that hardly any of the elementary librarians she knows keep magazines, while most of the high school librarians subscribe to several.

As I said, our school collection is primarily print books, eBooks only make up about 1% of the collection. According to the librarian the upper grade students are taught how to search the catalog for eBooks and how to access them, but most students prefer physical books. Our students do not typically have access to eReaders or tablets, and getting on a computer to read a book is less comfortable.

I believe it is unfortunate that our school collection lacks diversity of format. Students are not being exposed to as many types of materials and are not acquiring those literacies. While I understand limitations of budget and space and the problems from materials being lost and damaged, I wish there was more of an effort to figure out a solution instead of just not including materials.

How many author tags do we really need?

Why do catalogers encode data in both the 100 $a and the 245 $c?

The purpose and function of the 100 tag and the 245 tag are very different. The 100 tag lists the person who wrote/produced/created the work, using Library of Congress authorized name records. The 245 tag records the author as stated on the item, which may be a fictitious character or a pen name. The 245 $c is not included in the author search, so if you only encode the author in that field it will not be returned in an author search. Conversely if you only record the authorized author in the 100 $a field then patrons who are doing a keyword search for an author’s name as it appears in the CSI will not find what they need.

Take Lemony Snicket, for example. If you look on any of the Series of Unfortunate Events books or the All the Wrong Questions books you will only find the name Lemony Snicket. A patron who does an author search for Lemony Snicket, however, will not find these books. Why? Lemony Snicket is a fictitious persona adopted by Daniel Handler. A patron can do a keyword search for Lemony Snicket and find the previously mentioned books because the keyword search includes the 245 $c tag. A patron doing an author search hoping to find the Series of Unfortunate Events would have to know that Lemony Snicket is not real and that the author’s real name is Daniel Handler.

As always, the more information you are able to record the better. You want patrons to be able to locate materials however they search.

What is the responsibility of book reviewers?

Some people think that the purpose of reviews is to warn people away from controversial content. Some people think the purpose is the give an overview of the story. Some people think the purpose is to rate a book on whether or not it has literary merit. Each view has its pros and cons.

Reviews should warn people about every possible controversy in the book.


  • Knowing what a book contains that might cause someone to challenge it allows the librarian an opportunity to prepare a rebuttal in advance.
  • Librarians won’t be caught off guard by controversial material.


  • Librarians might avoid potentially controversial resources in order to avoid dealing with a challenge.
  • Librarians might be opposed to the content themselves and pass over the resource as a way to censor the collection to suit themselves.
  • Reviews that focus on warning people about controversies may neglect to include an overview of the merits of the resource.
  • Labeling all books with homosexual implications/characters with a warning is a way to stigmatize and alienate LGBT patrons.
  • Librarians consciously or unconsciously censoring a book due to perceived controversial content hurts the author and stifles their voice in future works.

My opinion: Reviews should give an idea of what age level the content is suited for, but it is not necessary to police it further. The overall merit of the book is more important than tiptoeing around censors. Patrons need to see themselves reflected in the collection and sometimes that means gay characters, characters who have faced abuse, etc.


Reviews should give an overall summary of the story.


  • Knowing the plot helps librarians to know if the book is relevant to their population.
  • Librarians don’t have time to read every book in the collection and having a solid summary to work from will help the librarian make good recommendations to patrons.


  • If the summary does not mention potentially contentious topics a librarian may be blindsided by a challenge.
  • A simple summary does not necessarily include information on how well the story is crafted and what literary qualities it can add to a collection.

My opinion: Summaries are an important part of the collection development process. If a controversial topic is a main theme in a book the summary will note that, giving the librarian an idea of potential challenges. If there is content that might raise eyebrows but is only mentioned briefly or in passing the librarian should be able to defend the work on those grounds, even if the challenge is unexpected.


Reviews should focus on the literary quality of the book.


  • Exposing students to quality literature is important and reviews that highlight merit make it easier to find.


  • Literary merit is not the only thing that determines a book’s value to a collection.

My opinion: While it is important to expose students to quality literature, the quality literature may not be what speaks to a student or meets their needs. It is important to not only have books that are considered quality, but the books that are just fun for students or that deal with issues that they face.


However you look at it, book reviewers have a great deal of power. Librarians rely on reviews to help make purchasing decisions. A review can make or break a book, a collection, an author. Most importantly book reviews affect patron access to materials. A patron may never get their hands on a book that could change their life because a reviewer was concerned that a character is gay and a librarian was afraid of dealing with upset parents. I certainly do not think that reviewers should flag every curse word every mention of an “alternative lifestyle” because there are always going to be librarians who think with their fear or their own prejudice when making book selections.

In the end though, whatever the reviews say it is the librarian who makes the call. The librarian is responsible for being aware of prejudice and fear that might keep them from purchasing a book and choosing to put the patron’s needs above that.

Book Review: Real Friends

Title: Real Friends

Author: Shannon Hale
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham

Publisher: First Second

Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-785-4

Price: US $12.99 / CAN $17.99

Format: Graphic novel, paperback

Age recommendation: 9-109

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Real Friends is a memoir in graphic novel form. It is 1979 in Salt Lake City and Shannon is a shy child and afraid of starting kindergarten. Until she meets Ardrienne and has a best friend for the first time. Unfortunately for Shannon Adrienne only gets more popular and by 3rd grade is a prominent member of The Group. This is the story of how Shannon navigates the complexities of friendship, cliques, being the odd one out, and sisterhood. The author does not shy away from the truth of her story, even when it casts her in a negative light. As you follow Shannon through her elementary school years you will laugh with her, cry with her, and grow with her.  The illustrations bring to life Shannon’s worlds– the real world, the world of her imaginary games, and her internal emotional landscape. The graphic novel format is inviting and engaging to readers of all ability levels. I highly recommend this book to libraries of all kinds. Students on both sides of the in crowd can benefit from Shannon’s honest story.

Journal Evaluation

I was tasked with examining two print journals that provide reviews of new literature and comparing them to their accompanying websites. The journals I evaluated were Kirkus and School Library Journal. To get my hands on recent print editions I had to go to the Central branch of the Fort Worth Public Library. The librarians there were so helpful in locating what I needed. You can read my evaluations here: journal evaluation

Interview with a Librarian: Popularity vs. Literary Merit

Librarian interviewed: Jana Cocanougher

How much consideration is given to choosing books that are popular with students?

“I give a great deal of consideration to popular books. I almost always purchase books that students request. The subject matter being too mature for elementary is one of the only reasons I would not purchase requested books. Negative reviews would cause me to pause before deciding as well. I get more requests from teachers than from kids. Students tend to request the same things, I get lots of requests for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which I have two copies of each already but they are always checked out and they get lost.”

Do you emphasize literary merit or popularity?

“I always get the Bluebonnet books so that the 4th and 5th graders can read them and vote. I try to keep award winners and replace them when they go missing. I also like to keep the classics because they are usually classics for a reason. Overall I try to balance between “merit” and popularity.”

My take

One of the most important roles of the school library is helping students develop a love of reading. Having a wide variety of popular books encourages students to read because there is something that they like. I agree with my librarian that classics are usually classics for a reason and they certainly deserve a place on the shelf. As with most things in life balance is key. Thinking about this question put me in mind of the first three of the five laws of library science developed by S. R. Ranganathan

  1. Books are for use. There is no point in wasting valuable budget and shelf space on a book that will never be cracked open.
  2. Every reader their book. There is a book out there for every student and the library should have a wide enough and popular enough selection that each student is able to find a book they enjoy.
  3. Every book their reader. For every book that is put on the shelf you need to ask yourself who is going to read this? Do I have a reader in this school who can benefit from this book? Not every book has a reader in an elementary school.


Ranganathan, S. R. (1931). The five laws of library science. Madras: Madras Library Association.

Is encoding notes worth a catalogers time?

All information is useful to someone somewhere. The more information the cataloger can provide the better chance of the resource being discovered by the person who is in need of it. It may be time consuming, but the patron is the top priority. If a cataloger has a great deal to catalog, the priority might be to get materials on the shelves and in the hands of patrons quickly, and thorough notes take a deal of time. In this case the notes field may be sacrificed on the alter of expediency. The information found in the notes is discoverable by keyword searches.

Who cares about the physical description? Why should we even bother recording it?

I once placed a children’s book on hold at my local library. When I went to pick it up I searched the “holds” shelf for ten minutes and could not find the book. Eventually I went and asked for help, explaining that I had already searched the holds shelf thoroughly. To my chagrin the librarian went to the shelf and found the item immediately. I had been under the impression that the book was a picture book and I was looking for a larger book. The book was actually a very early chapter book, much smaller, shelved between two larger books. If I had paid attention to the book details when I requested it I would have been saved time and embarrassment. In most cases patrons will probably not look at the physical description, and if they find the call number and are looking on the correct shelf it usually doesn’t make much of a difference. If a patron is browsing the catalog looking for books on a topic, the physical description can come in handy in determining what type of book they are looking at. As an example I searched for books on UFOs in the Fort Worth public library catalog. The first item had a promising title and seemed like it would be a good source for research, but looking at the physical description I saw that it was an over-sized book with color illustrations, which makes me think it is perhaps more of a coffee table book. Interesting and enjoyable to look through, but not the best choice for serious research. While the physical description may not be commonly used by patrons, it is still valuable information that should be recorded.

Does it confuse patrons to have multiple “titles” attached to a single item?

I believe the level of confusion over multiple titles varies from user to user, but ultimately is not much of a challenge. A patron who is unsure of the exact title but is able to remember enough to search might see a list of variant titles and think they all refer to separate works instead of being tied to the same item. In that case the patron, not remembering the exact title, might be at a loss for which one of the options is what they are looking for. Most patrons however will likely be accustomed to searches revealing multiple results that lead to the same item. In my experience a person who is confused by multiple variant entries will try clicking on one, either because it is most like what they remember or merely at random, and discover that it is what they were looking for after all and the crisis is solved.