Tag Archives: Activities

5/18 Library Services Spring Conference: Exploratorium! Best Practices in Action

among the starircases of the NYPL building
Image via Wikipedia

The first annual Library Services Exploratorium! for school librarians at NYPL was quite the success.  For those who do not know what an exploratorium is: an exploratorium involves a large, wide array of presenters set up at booths or tables in a layout similar to a fair.  Each presenter has a poster and / or screen with running video or slides advertising a pitch to the attendants who mingle, asking questions and stocking up on flyers and booklets.  Basically, at an exploratorium, you get from it what you put into it; one could spend hours walking around, soaking up knowledge and inventive ways to integrate new and old ideas into the school library, or one could make quick rounds, stop for the most intriguing booths, and find oneself at a loss of what to do with the rest of the allotted timeframe.

This particular exploratorium held over 35 presenters, with small lectures and presentations scattered about the Schwarzman building to boot.  Special presentation topics ranged from NYPL’s new Summer Reading site and the DOE-NYPL Union Catalog Pilot, to Destiny software highlights and AASL’s best websites, to Follett E-Resources and NBC Learn.  Each independent table’s presenter passed out lesson planning outlines to put his / her ideas to practical use in your school library: teach blogging, synch up with teachers and hone curricula, and research tips.  On a budget?  No problem for these whiz librarians!  Multiple booths were devoted to grant funding and how to use resources readily available to create critical lessons; one presenter even ships a free box of books to your library.  Use these and any other books you possess to host a Battle of the Books event to jump-start reading, or make a habit of it with a weekly book club–the presenter explains how.  Many librarians at the exploratorium were enthusiastic about the topics and encouraged to try them out, but I did catch one or two older librarians filling out the New York Times crossword.  Once again, you get out what you put in.

One of the most stirring and controversial presentations was “Curriculum Mapping for the Common Core Standards,” hosted by Olga Nesi.  Almost all educators shudder at the idea of common core standards (CCS), but alas, they are an inevitable and necessary element of educational practice.  The presentation began with a “Do Now” of comparing and overlapping the CCS of NYS with the Inquiry Phases and Indicators (IFC) and how these play a crucial role in curriculum mapping.  Some administrators and educators prefer to set blanket curricula and resources for each age group and THEN fit these into CCS and IFC, whereas others prefer that educators teach CCS and IFC principally, using whatever materials desired to ensure that kids receive the full benefits of these standards: the development of critical thinking skills.  Two guesses as to which I prefer.  The latter encourages teachers to break away from the classic, fill-in-the-blank research assignments that the library is stereotypically used for and promote student initiative in topic choice, argumentative and persuasive writing, and critical thought or evaluation.  Educational philosophies united and clashed as librarians threw their ideas into the mix, with Olga’s reiterated “I have no answers” response between breaths.  It’s rejuvenating to hear librarians’ passionate views on education, especially when I agree with most of them.  I have hope for the future of education, though it is surely a hard, long road to reform.  For more info on what was covered in the curriculum mapping presentation, check out the powerpoint on the NYCSLSSpringExploratorium wiki.