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Wednesday
Oct012008

First year goals for a library program


From an LM_Net post this morning:
Dear Great Brain, [this was addressed to the collective brain that is LM_Net, not me. But you guessed that.]

I need to write up my goals for the year and give them to my principal. I have a few general ideas such as collaborating with teachers as much as possible, becoming a good resource for them, teaching students to use the databases, starting a lunch time book club, and decorating the library with student art. If you could send me any other ideas that seem reasonable for a first year in high school it would be much appreciated...I love creative ideas.


Diane

Hmmm, I personally get asked this question at least a couple times a year. Below is my standard response to which I can now refer when the question comes up again. Ain't blogs wonderful...

Dear Diane and other LMSs new to the profession or a school:

My advice is based on Johnson's Three Commandments of a Successful Library Program:

  1. Thou shall develop shared ownership of the library and all it contains.
  2. Thou shall have written annual objectives tied directly to school and curriculum goals and bend all thy efforts toward achieving them.
  3. Thou shall take thy light out from under thy damn bushel and share with others all the wonders thou doest perform.

Pretty good, huh? What do you think the job of biblical prophet pays nowadays?

These would be my goals for my first year at a school:

  1. Establish a formal library advisory committee comprised of teachers, parents, and students. And the building administrator if his/her leadership style is collaborative, not dictatorial. (See Advisory Advice.) Oh, get on your building's improvement committee/leadership team ASAP.)
  2. Work with this committee to establish collaboratively-created goals and a good budget. You may wish to conduct a library survey and do a collection evaluation to give direction to these goals. (See tools here for examples.)
  3. Quickly establish a formal communication plan with four main audiences: your students, your staff, your principal and your parents. (See Using Planning and Reporting to Build Program Support)

While I applaud you for wishing to do individual collaborative projects with teachers immediately, do not neglect a long-term, systematic approach to developing a program that has buy-in by the entire staff.  You need a school culture that values and uses the library's program and resources, not just a few enthusiastic teachers. Be strategic!

Good luck and let me know how things go!

Doug

PS. This probably not all that bad of advice for technology integration specialists starting out either.

Blue Skunk readers - Your advice for first year goals???

Wednesday
Oct012008

Strong passwords, weak security

D7B3BE289B1020A8A1D25FFC74

That's the password to log on to our WEP encrypted wireless access in one of our district's meeting rooms. With one or two changed characters, of course.

I've always had a suspicion that the requirement for a "strong" password really creates more security problems than it solves under most circumstances. Strong passwords require a minimum number of characters (12-14), need to be a combination of numbers and upper/lower case letters, and often need to forced-changed on regular basis.

Which all leads normal people to write them down and hide them in a convenient place - top desk drawer, under the desk calendar, on a sticky note adhering to the monitor...

The rationale for strong passwords is they are harder to discover if one runs a fancy password-guessing program to crack a computer security system. These programs rapidly try all common words and names in an attempt to gain access.

So the question I have to ask is: Which is more likely: a middle school student having access to a cracking program or knowing that passwords can be found under the teacher (or parent) desk blotter?

There are compromises that involve mnemonic clues to remembering strong(er) passwords:

  • add a date to a child's or pet's name (sammy411)
  • substitute numbers or symbols for letters (r0o$evelt)
  • create an acronym (1itln - one is the loneliest number)
  • write the password down but with a change in a single character that one can actually remember

None of these are recommended by an computer security expert, I am sure. Be thankful I don't work for the CIA.

Social hacking remains the number one computer security threat, at least according to the things I read. If you call someone and say you are from so-and-so security firm and are conducting an audit and need to verify his/her password, a high percentage of people happily divulge that information.

At last count, I have 54 different programs and websites that require a password for either school or work. I have them all stored in a password-protected database on my computer. Were a person able to obtain access, horror or horrors, s/he would be able to see my frequent flier miles, credit card and bank balances (both embarrassing), and edit my school web page. There are some benefits, sigh, to living a dull life.

So how do you create passwords that are difficult to guess but easy to remember? What are the practical rules for passwords schools should establish - and teach to kids?

Monday
Sep292008

Have To or Get To

Seth Godin's post Get to vs. have to resonated with me. In it he asks:

How much of your day is spent doing things you have to do (as opposed to the things you get to do)?

and suggests the higher the percentage of things you "get to do" as opposed to "have to do," the greater the likelihood of happiness and success.

Were Jessica Hagy at indexed to look at this, she might draw:

Yes, it's a book checkout card, not an index card. Tough noogies.

One workshop I give touches on the difference between intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, revisiting Ed Psych 101. A question I pose to illustrate the difference is "If you won the lottery tomorrow and never HAD to work again, what things do you do at work that you would continue to do?" I am sometimes disappointed that teachers and librarians are rather slow to come up with tasks that they like to do so much that they'd keep doing them.

Eventually a short list appears:

  • I'd still read children/YA literature.
  • I'd still read aloud to kids.
  • I'd still teach kids how to use ____________ software (KidPix, Inspiration, PowerPoint).
  • I'd still try out new software or technologies.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his old book Flow writes about people who are able to take even mundane tasks (washing dishes, loading trucks, working on assembly lines, etc.) and turn them into intrinsic challenges by setting personal goals or challenges. I expect many of us have figured out how to do this one way or another.

So far I run about 80% "get to" parts vs. 20% "have to" parts of my job. I genuinely like coming to work everyday. Well, almost everyday. It's a combination of luck and attitude probably. If ever the "have to" portion of my job gets bigger than the "get to" part, I hope I have the good sense and courage to move on.

What's on your list of "get to's?" What would you keep doing even if you won the lottery? How do we encourage those poor people who seem to live an entire work-life of "have to's" to find a more fitting position?