“It’s ok to be beta.” – Joyce Valenza workshop

“It’s ok to be beta. You’re not going to be perfect out of the box. Try it anyway.” Wise and encouraging words from a presentation this morning by Joyce Valenza.

Joyce was in Saratoga Springs, NY to present two workshops sponsored by our four regional BOCES school library systems. 75 attended on Friday and 25 on Saturday morning. Preceded by her reputation as an inspirational presenter and enthusiastic advocate for the role of school libraries in learning, she certainly exceeded my high expectations for the day. Thanks to Joyce and the school library system directors (Robin Young – WSWHE BOCES SLS, Linda Fox, CRBSLS BOCES SLS, Dee Portzer – Questar III SLS and Debbie Booth – HFM BOCES SLS) for this terrific session. (all the slides and resources are on one of Joyce’s wikis – If a tree falls in a forest . . . Making your library too noisy not to notice)

The workshop focused on how school libraries can make their impact on learning known to teachers, administrators, boards, parents, everyone! And how to use feedback to improve services to students and teachers. Throughout, Joyce highlighted 2.0 tools that could be used to gather information, engage learners and enhance the research process for students – tools like wikis, blogs, digital storytelling tools, igoogle home pages as research organizers and so much more. Tools we’ve been talking about and playing with in our school library tech camps.

Serendipitously, I was sitting next to Mary Ratzer, a wonderful teacher-librarian who was MY English teacher back in my high school days. As Joyce was talking about some of these fun, engaging new tools that students can now use, I was remembering some terrific multi-media projects we did in Mary’s class and thinking how well these new tools would have fit in with those projects. Mary has lost none of her enthusiasm over the years and is a tireless advocate for school libraries. Yay Mary and thank you.

Enthusiasm was certainly contagious throughout the workshop. Conversations were buzzing about what people could do in their own school systems. I look forward to seeing & hearing what people take from this session and implement in their schools.

As for me, coming from a non-school library background, I particularly appreciated hearing all the wonderful and creative examples of how school libraries are working with students and teachers to create more authentic learning experiences and helping students take ownership of their research and learning. Kind of made me want to go back to high school! (Ok, not really, but almost.)

Run, don’t walk if you get a chance to hear Joyce speak. And share her ideas (and your own!) with your teachers, administrators, boards and parents.