We are Honored to Receive a James Patterson Partnership Grant!

Back in March, James Patterson and Scholastic announced an incredible opportunity for school libraries around the country.  From the official press release:

March 9, 2015 — New York, NY — As part of an ongoing effort to keep books and reading a number one priority in the United States, James Patterson has announced that he will donate $1.25 million to school libraries this year. In the first-ever partnership of its kind, Patterson is joining forces with Scholastic Reading Club to administer funding applications to their network of 62,000 schools and 800,000 teachers. Scholastic will match each dollar with “Bonus Points,” which teachers can use to acquire books and other materials for their classrooms, at every school that receives an award. Applications to nominate a school library for a donation can be found here: www.scholastic.com/pattersonpartnership.

James Patterson is donating this money because he believes that fewer children are growing up in a household full of books – and that the effects of this absence could have a profound impact on a child’s future, and on the future of our country. Every child in America should have access to books and a functioning school library, and he believes that improvements in school libraries will foster children’s love of reading and boost their academic achievement overall.
I immediately took advantage of this opportunity by writing a 300 word or less application for our library. My hope was to get a $10,000 grant to support our student book budget project.  Here’s what I wrote:
Each year, I reserve $1000 in the library budget for a project called “Student Book Budgets”. This money is completely controlled by students to purchase books for the library that matches the reading interests of the entire school. Over time, we have developed a dependable process.  A group of students is chosen based on a variety of criteria, including students who have trouble finding books.They create a survey in Google forms and use iPads to survey all grades.  The students analyze the data to see what the top reading interests are. They establish goals and divide the budget among these goals. We send our goals to library vendors who bring in matching book samples and catalogs. Students make wish lists that exceed our budget. Students narrow the list to match our budget. Tough decisions are made about which books to keep and eliminate. I order the finalized lists. While we wait, students come up with a marketing plan. The students unpack the books and get the honors of the first checkouts. Within hours of putting the books out, they are all checked out and remain among the most popular books.I have shared this process on the national level and many libraries have benefited from the idea. The problem with this process is that we obtain an entire school’s reading interests, but our limited budget only allows us to honor a few of them. If we have $10,000, we could expand our reach to include more student interests and not feel that all of our work creating lists of books is whittled away during the budget process. I am confident that we could spend the money in a way that values the reading interests of our entire school.
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In May, I received an email letting me know that I was a finalist for the grant, but I of course had to keep that a secret, which was very hard to do!  I submitted some additional info and waited some more. Then, in late May, my principal received the call.  Our library was award a $5000 grant from James Patterson with a $5000 matching grant from Scholastic Book Clubs, so we essentially have $10,000 between vendors of our choice and Scholastic Book Club to support our student book budget for the 2015-2016 school year.
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I plan to start this project very early in the school year and involve as many students as possible so that students can enjoy the books that we purchase throughout the school year.  Thank you James Patterson for believing in the power of libraries.  Thank you Scholastic for amplifying this opportunity and matching it with your own resources.  Congratulations to all of the libraries who received grants in this first round of announcements!  I can’t wait to share the news with this year’s book budget students and blog about our process in selecting books.
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Finch Robots are Coming to Our Library Makerspace in Fall 2015

It is officially summer in the Barrow Media Center, so things will be a bit more quiet here on the blog for a few weeks.  Summer is a time for recharging, reflecting, and dreaming up ideas for the upcoming school year.  I’m excited to announce one of a few summer announcements that will be coming your way.  Our library makerspace will feature 12 Finch Robots by BirdBrain Technologies during the 2015-2016 school year.  The robots are on loan to us for the entire school year, and this loan comes with the possibility of these robots being a permanent donation to our space.

A few months ago BirdBrain Technologies announced an expansion of their Finch Robot loan program to include libraries.  I immediately contacted them to see if school libraries were included in this opportunity or only public libraries.  They encouraged me to apply, so it didn’t take me long to put together a proposal for these robots to become a part of our makerspace for use within the curriculum as well as our exploration time.  I’m also dreaming up some fun events for hour of code in December that will involve students, teachers, and families.  These robots will of course be a part of that as well.

We are excited to start exploring suggestions for using the Finch on their site.

What exactly is a Finch?  This video explains it best in three minutes.

I can’t wait to see what students are able to accomplish with this new addition to our makerspace.  For now, here’s the official press release from BirdBrain Technologies.  I’ll share what we do when the robots arrive in August.

Finches Land at David C. Barrow Elementary

David C. Barrow Elementary has been selected to participate in the 2015­2016 Finch robot loan program. The program will provide the school free access to 12 Finch robots for the 2015-­2016 school year, allowing over 600 students, teachers, and families exposure to an engrossing and interactive tool for learning computational thinking. BirdBrain Technologies, creator of the Finch, offers the loans to inspire young coders across the country, especially those who might not ordinarily have the opportunity to program a robot. The Finch robot is a product of Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE lab. The Finch is designed to support an engaging approach to the art of computer science from preschool to college, with support for more than a dozen age­appropriate programming languages and environments. During 2014 Birdbrain Technologies loaned out hundreds of Finch robots to school districts across the country, and reached over 15,000 students.

1936 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

P: 888­371­6161 | F: 412­283­9134


Coders, Innovators, Makers…Please donate to our Donors Choose Project to build our library makerspace

FireShot Screen Capture #019 - 'Coders, Innovators, Makers_ Creating a Library Makerspace' - www_donorschoose_org_project_coders-innovators-makers-creating-a-l_1253089__rf=link-siteshare-2014-07-teacher_accoun

Update:  This project was fully funded in less than 24 hours.  Thank you to all who contributed and shared!

View our project here!

(Don’t forget to use the code “INSPIRE” at checkout!)

Here are the details of where this project is coming from:

Our library has always been a space where we value creating and sharing just as much as consuming information.  Last year because of a Donors Choose project, our library received a 3D printer and it allowed our students to create things that they had never even thought of.  The makerspace culture is alive and well in our library, but we have  a long way to go to exploring makerspaces and how the culture of a makerspace supports students, teachers, and families.

Over the summer, I had an article published in Teacher Librarian about the culture of creation that we are developing in our library and school.  In that article, I talk about the culture, but at some point you have to get some “stuff” to create with.

“Building a Culture of Creation” in the June 2014 issue of Teacher Librarian

This year, one of our library goals is to give students, teachers, and families opportunities to dream, tinker, create, and share.  A part of this is developing the tools that are available for creating in our library.  Our space which we thought was going to be a studio is now going to be a makerspace within our library.  A portion of our library funding this year will be dedicated to developing our makerspace.  After attending an Invent to Learn workshop and focusing on makerspaces at ISTE this summer, I have chosen some next steps for our makerspace.

Our library budget this year will fund:

A littleBits workshop set:


A litteBits Space kit:


4 MaKey MaKey kits:


A Hummingbird robotics kit:


This Donors Choose project will extend our budget and give students even more access to maker materials by adding.

littleBits Cloud:

4 additional MaKey MaKey kits:



I hope that you will consider supporting our project.  It will impact numerous students, teachers, and families within our school through projects, alternative recess activities, enrichment clusters, and afterschool workshops. Even if you can’t contribute financially, please consider sharing this project within your own networks. I will be sure to blog about our explorations throughout the year.  Thank you in advance!

Leader Librarians: A Reflection

Today I received feedback from a survey that was given to the students who participated in leader librarians.  The students were asked:

What did you enjoy most? Almost all students in the group listed “buying books” as what they enjoyed.  They also listed things like using Animoto for the school to see what was done, ordering and unpacking books, and bringing more books into our library.

What did you learn from Leader Librarians? Students said they learned how hard it is to spend the amount of money that you have to buy books.  They learned how to use money wisely and that it’s a big process to order books for a library.  They learned how to be a “good librarian”.

If you could change something or do something differently, what would it be? They wished that they could have bought more books and checked more of the books out to read before other students got to read them.  They also wished that more people could have come to the enrichment fair to see what they accomplished across our 9 weeks together.  Most of all, they said they really wouldn’t change anything.

It was such a treat to hear what these 12 students had to say about being a part of the budgeting decisions in the library.  We ran out of time to sit together and reflect on what we had accomplished, so I was thankful that our enrichment cluster coordinator found time to collect data from all students in the school about their clusters.  Hearing these students’ voices confirmed for me the importance of giving students the opportunity to be a part of decision-making in the library.

Leader Librarians in Action

Today the Leader Librarians’ 108 books went into circulation.  These students spent the last 8 weeks finding out what books students at our school are interested in reading.  They divided their budget among the categories they discovered and met with vendors to look at possible books for selection.  Last night, the students presented their books at our school enrichment fair.  By the end of today, only 24 books were left on the shelves.  Kids came in all day asking if they could check out the books and they raced one another to the display to make their selections!  Here’s a video of the Leader Librarians talking about their work.

Leader Librarians: Students as Part of the Budgeting Process Part 2

Last year, I embarked on a journey to give students a voice in the budgeting decisions in the library.  Last year’s students were a targeted group of below grade level readers in grades 3-5.  That project was funded by a grant.  This year, I wanted to expand the idea to include more than just a targeted group.  I once again obtained a grant of $1000, but I took $1000 of our book fair profits to match that grant.

This year our school began school-wide enrichment clusters.  Every Wednesday from 9-10AM, every student in the school goes to a cross grade level class that is based on interest.  Leader Librarians was the cluster that I offered.  12 students were selected based on their interest to be in my group.  An interesting thing is that 3 of the 12 students were students who participated in my student voice, student choice project last year.  It was great to see their interest in buying books for the library continue.

In our group, the 12 students made all of the decisions.  I told them that we had $2000 to spend.  I shared with them many of the ways that I make decisions about how money is spent from setting goals to assigning percentages to each goal.  After looking at the ways that I normally spend money, the students began brainstorming how to spend their own money.  They decided to informally survey the school from Prek-5.  Students assigned themselves to grade levels and set out with clipboards to collect information about what students liked to read about.  We put all of the data on the table and started looking for themes.  In the end, students identified about ten different categories of books to focus on that ranged from scary stories to comics to superheroes to sports.  Students paired up and chose categories to focus on and we divided the budget equally among the partner groups.  The students decided they wanted to meet with vendors like last year’s group, so once again Jim Boon from Capstone Press brought book samples for students to preview.  We also invited Frieda Julian of Children’s Plus Inc.  Students began making wish lists from the books they saw and the books found in catalogs.  Finally, students began narrowing down their lists to what they actually wanted to order.

Once lists were finalized, I placed the orders.  While we waited, the students worked on making posters, a commercial script for our morning broadcast, talking points for sharing the project with others, and an animoto video of the whole project.

When the books arrived, we made an assembly line.  Students had the following jobs: unpacking the boxes, checking the packing slip, inspecting the books, stamping the books, photographing groups of books.  Finally, students sat down and enjoyed reading the books.

We still have some steps to go, including presenting our project at our school enrichment fair on December 7th.  I’m very proud of these students.  There was so much that they wanted to do that we just didn’t have time for, but they accomplished a huge need in our collection: buying books that are guaranteed to be loved by students school-wide.

Check out their Animoto video here.