Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update





Pause a moment

Pause for a moment...

  • Put some air in your tires
  • Check your map
  • Play a game that your kids play
  • Accept thanks for something without over analyzing
  • Read the funnies in the newspaper
  • Take a walk
  • Look at old pictures of your kids
  • Park in space farthest from the entrance
  • Stop at the DairyQueen
  • Plan your dream vacation
  • Give somebody else time to figure it out for themselves
  • Call your mom
  • Kiss your grandchild on the top of his head and find her a cookie
  • Wear your oldest sweatshirt
  • Have two glasses of wine instead of just one
  • Read an old-favorite book
  • Take out the earbuds and enjoy the birds
  • Catch your breath

It's that time of the year. Holidays. Kids in activities. Big projects. Community events. Must read books. End of semesters. Friends and relatives who need your help. 

Here's the thing. If you get to the big stuff five minutes later, it won't make any difference in the long run. 


16 memes about empathetic librarianship

In a recent conversation about personalize learning, I explained to a new coworker why I moved from classroom teaching to librarianship. I found teaching literature and writing skills to a large and largely disinterested group of students less than satisfying. No matter how hard I tried or what methods I used, a high percentage of my 16-year-olds were simply never going to find meaning in Macbeth or 1984 or "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." (There were quite a few pieces in the anthology in which I as a 24-year-old teacher did not find much meaning either.) 

As a librarian, I did not have to find common resources that resonated with large groups of kids. I only had to find one resource that meet the need of one student at one time. By getting to know each student as an individual, I could be a more effective educator. I eventually figured out how to help individual students combine their personal interests with classroom assignments. (You love horses? How about writing your history term paper on how horses were used in WWII?)

I've been thinking a lot lately about empathy and why our students need to acquire it in order to be successful. In nearly every occupation, the ability to understand the needs and concerns of others is a vital skill in order to be effective. Separating successful from unsuccessful used car salesmen, politicians, social workers, and physicians come down to being effectively empathetic? Hmmm, I wonder if that applies to librarianship as well?

As I look back on being involved in school libraries as a grad student, practitioner, supervisor, adjunct professor, and writer/consultant, the skill sets most emphasized have been hard skills - information literacy skills, technology skills, materials selection skills, ethics, program planning and evaluation, communications, and knowledge of children's and YA literature among others. But empathy? Not so much...

Ironically, perhaps the quote for which I may best remembered by future generations has empathy at its core:

I looked back some of the posters I've made and found that quite a few of them indicate that the librarian owes his/her effectiveness not to hard skills, but to soft skills...
















 What personal memes might you add? How do you use empathy to better fulfill your mission as a librarian?


BFTP: 7 Tips for Making Your Principal Your Ally

Librarians, you cannot afford to have an adversarial relationship with your principal. You cannot even afford a principal who is an "agent of benevolent neglect." You need an administrator who actively supports you and your program.

Your principal needs you as well - as a cheer-leader and co-conspirator for change efforts. As a staff development resource for new programs. As an educator who can positively affect the learning environment of the whole school. As a researcher for best practices information. How exactly does your principal rely on you? Are you important enough to be listened to?

Principals and librarians need to be firm allies in helping their schools change in positive ways.

And it will be up to you, not your principal, to create this alliance. Here are some concrete ways you can do so...

1.    Report regularly and formally. We should all be sending out a written (emailed) quarterly principal’s report and a monthly faculty bulletin. These should be upbeat, useful, and short. Every newsletter that goes to parents needs a library column. Including digital photos of happy library-using kids. Administrators HATE surprises - good and bad.

2.    Know you principal’s goals and interests. Can you rattle off right now the three or four things your principal considers important in your school? Test scores? Climate? Meaningful technology use? For what is your principal being held accountable by her boss? Where do your services and your principal’s goals overlap?

3.    Be seen outside the library. If your principal sees you on committees, attending school events and even in the teacher’s lounge, not only can you chat informally about library matters, but you send a powerful non-verbal message as well: I am full member of the school staff. 

4.    Disagree with your principal - when necessary. You may think that some ideas of your principal may not be in the best interests of your students or staff. If that’s the case, you have an ethical duty to give your reasons to your principal. But this is important: do so in private. Always voice your support in public; always voice your differences in private.

5.    Do not whine. What is whining and how does it differ from constructive communication efforts? Robert Moran in his book Never Confuse a Memo with Reality says it best: “Never go to your boss with a problem without a solution. You are paid to think, not to whine.” I know it feels good to just let it all out sometimes about things that really can’t be changed. But listening to that sort of venting is what your spouse, your mom, or your cat is there for.

6.    Do NOT advocate for yourself or your library. Advocate for your library users. Advocating for libraries sounds, and usually is, self-serving. When you talk to your principal whether proposing a plan, asking for funds, telling what’s happening in the library, or suggesting a solution to a problem, make sure it clear the underlying reason is “It’s a change that will be good for our kids and staff.”

7.    Be a leader as well as a follower. Our communication efforts can and should not just inform, but persuade others, guide the directions of our organization, and improve our effectiveness. If we don’t create the positive changes in our schools that improve kids lives, just who the heck will? Clear articulation of our values and beliefs helps create strong relationships.

Original post Sept 10, 2013