Connecting Our Stories

Today I received an interesting email when I arrived at school.  Chaela Herridge-Meyer, Senior Coordinator of Communications with the StoryCorps project, sent me a message requesting an interview about our Barrow Oral History Project.  Many of you know that last year our 5th grade students interviewed 27 former Barrow buddies from as far back as 1925.  During the project, students used online oral history examples such as StoryCorps and also used the StoryCorps National Day of Listening question generator to get ideas for the most effective interview questions.   After the project was complete, I posted the link to our oral history page on the National Day of Listening wall in the hopes that other people who were passionate about gathering community stories would find their way to our project.

Chaela and I had a wonderful conversation about the power of oral history projects bringing history alive for students.  We also talked about how our hope was that the students who participated in this project will go on to capture and preserve family stories to pass on to future generations.  Also, by sharing this project at professional conferences like COMO, GaETC, and the Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature we hope that other classrooms, schools, and libraries will sponsor similar projects.

November is national family stories month.  I invite everyone reading this blog to stop for just a moment, sit down with a family member, and interview him or her to gather some family stories you’ve never heard.  I invite you record your interviews to pass along through YouTube, video, photography, writing, scrapbooking, or any other means you discover.  I would love to hear about your stories.  I would especially like to post some family stories from our school on our media center website.  I’m even happy to help you in recording your story if you want to setup a time for me to help you.

The day after Thanksgiving is the official National Day of Listening.  Their website has resources for creating effective questions and recording quality audio.  I hope you will consider participating in this important day, but even if you can’t sit down for a family interview on November 26th, sit down sometime and listen.

“By listening closely to one another, we can help illuminate the true character of this nation reminding us all just how precious each day can be and how great it is to be alive.” -Dave Isay, Founder & President, StoryCorps

Checking the Stars

We are now two weeks into the school year, so it’s time for me to check the stars and see how we are doing with new initiatives.  This year we started something new:  star reviews (an idea inspired by School Library Journal).  When students read a book they love, they get to put a star sticker inside the book, display the book at the front of the media center, and share a book review in a variety of formats.

So far, six students have put stars in books, 5 students have put stars and written reviews, 3 students have shared their reviews on BTV, 1 student has audio-recorded a review, and an uncountable number of students said that they will be doing a star review soon.  I’ve tried getting students to write book reviews on their own in the past with little success.  I feel like we may have captured something here with this idea.  I see a willingness and an excitement for telling about books, especially from students who want to be on our morning broadcast.  It’s there chance to shine like a star on TV.

One student chose to record her voice for her star review, so you can listen to my conversation with her here.

We’re off to a steady start, and I hope that we can keep reaching for the stars with student involvement in the media center.

Stars are Aligning!

It’s the start of a new year in the Barrow Media Center, and even with our leaky roof and broken air conditioner, the stars are aligning for a great year.  One of our goals for this year is to be a more participatory library.  Two exciting components of this are our star reviews and our leader librarians project.

For star reviews, students will be making recommendations of great books that they have read from the Barrow Media Center to other students in the school.  When students discover a fantastic book, they will place a foil star sticker on the inside cover of the book, and the book will be displayed in a special section at the front of the media center.  This section is decked out with star lights and a star poster.  Students will then have the option to do more with their favorite book.  They can share the book on our morning broadcast.  They can type a review for our Destiny card catalog and blog.  They can record a podcast book review to feature on our blog, website, and card catalog.  The seed for this idea came from a comic strip in the July 2010 issue of School Library Journal.  We hope that this new feature will get students excited about sharing great books in a variety of forums.

In leader librarians, a cross-section of students in grades 3-5 will be involved in a two 8-week projects funded partially by a Foundation for Excellence grant and book fair profits.  These students will survey reading interests from students in preK-5th grade.  They will use these reading interests to seek out vendors to purchase new books for the library and even meet with some vendor reps.  They will be given a budget.  They will examine selection criteria and carefully choose new books for the media center.  They will craft a marketing plan to publicize the new books to the whole school.  After doing a smaller scale project last year with a group of students who purchased books for the library, I’ve seen the power of student choice in the media center.  I’m committed to finding ways for the students of Barrow to be involved in making decisions about purchases for the media center.

In my 3 years in the media center, I have not had an overarching theme for the year, but this year we decided to give it a try.  Our theme is Reading Heroes.  Each mon

th we will feature different kinds of heroes from superheroes to animal heroes to everyday heroes to sports heroes and more.  We’ll have a hero day where students get to dress as their favorite hero.  We currently have a poll posted in the media center asking students who their favorite hero is.  We’re even going to tie heroes into our orientation lessons to the media center and see how heroes can be found in practically every section of the library.

These are just a few of the ideas that are coming together for this year, but I know many more are on their way, including several technology inquiry projects.  Stay tuned for more exciting things from the Barrow Media Center.


This week, the David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center received some exciting news.  We were named the Exemplary Library Media Program in the elementary category for the entire state of GA.  The Annual Exemplary/Exceptional Library Media Program selects  schools from elementary, middle, and high school levels to be recognized based on how well their library media program meets school improvement goals and improves student achievement.  Peer Library Media Specialists and GaDOE staff select the recipients based on the school’s written application, the principal’s narrative, a possible telephone interview, and a probable on-site visit.  Two possible awards can be obtained:  Exemplary or Exceptional.  The exemplary programs are among the top library media programs in the state and are chosen based on the GaDOE library media program self-evaluation rubric.

The Barrow Media Program was nominated in March 2010 and I wrote the narrative for our media center.  In the celebration of being transparent and public about what goes on in our media center, you can read the narrative here.  I will travel to Atlanta on August 12th to be recognized at the State Board of Education meeting.  Another part of winning this recognition is presenting our media program along with the middle and high school exemplary programs at the GaETC Conference in November.  Our media center will also host an open house sometime in the 2010-11 school year for the public and other schools/districts to visit.

I would also like to send out a big congratulations to Shawn Hinger at Clarke Middle School and Anne McLeod at Burney Harris Lyons for being named “exceptional” library media programs.

This is such an honor for our program, our school, and our district.  Receiving an award like this will push us even more to offer innovative lessons and resources for our students and collaborate closely with teachers to support the Georgia Performance Standards.  I can’t wait to see what we come up with in the 2010-11 school year!

~Andy Plemmons

Celebrations are in Order!

We are celebrating in the media center. Ms. Shelley Olin was just named the David C. Barrow Elementary Paraprofessional of the year and I, Mr. Andy Plemmons, was just named Teacher of the Year. This recognition means so much because it is one that is given by our peers. So many people have stopped by today to tell us what we mean to them and the school. We both love what we do and strive to create a welcoming and supportive space in our media center. Our job is made so much easier by the extraordinary teaching and learning that goes on at our school. Our teachers and students have innovative ideas that always lend themselves  to great media center projects.

We’re an App!

Thanks to fellow media specialist, Buffy Hamilton, I found out how to make our library an app for Iphone/Ipod touch.  Our library can be found in the  LibraryThing Local Books app.  It’s free, so download it today!  You can search for our library by name (David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center, zip code, or address.  You can even search our card catalog and view our blog/website from the app.  I hope this helps some of you gain even more access to our collection of materials.

One Week Only!

For one week only, we are raising the limits of books that students can check out.  Why, you ask?  Well…the book fair is coming.  That means that from October 15- October 23 many of our library shelves will be blocked by the 12 cases of books and multiple tables of fabulous merchandise.  This year, I don’t want students to feel like the library is closed and they can’t get new books, so we’re encouraging them to check out some extra books to get them through the week of the book fair.  We will begin this on Monday October 5 and end on Tuesday October 13.  Students in Prek-1st may checkout 3 books.  Students in 2nd grade may checkout 4 books.  Students in grades 3-5 may checkout 5 books.

This also gives students an extra boost to finish collecting their stamps for their passports and reading 600 minutes.  Remember, all passports are due to the media center by October 13.  Happy reading! ~Mr. Plemmons

Who is Your Favorite Librarian?

Nominations are still open for the 2009 Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award.

The award invites library users to recognize the accomplishments of librarians in public, school, college, community college and university libraries for their efforts to improve the lives of people in their community. Nominations will run through October 9 and are being accepted online at

Up to 10 librarians will be selected. Each will receive a $5,000 cash award, a plaque and a $500 travel stipend to attend an awards ceremony and reception in New York, hosted by The New York Times in December.  In addition, a plaque will be given to each award winner’s library.

Each nominee must be a librarian with a master’s degree from a program accredited by the ALA in library and information studies or a master’s degree with a specialty in school library media from an educational unit accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.  Nominees must be currently working in the United States in a public library, a library at an accredited two- or four-year college or university or at an accredited K-12 school.

Nominees will be judged by a selection committee based on quality of service to library users, demonstrated knowledge of the library and its resources and commitment shown in helping library users.

Read Around the World

Our book fair is coming October 16-23.  To celebrate its arrival, we’re going to “Read Around the World” for the next month.  Students will receive a sheet on Monday that is their passport for the next 4 weeks.  Each section of our media center has been labeled with one of the 7 continents.  When you check out a book from that section, you earn a stamp.  Collect all 7 stamps in the next 4 weeks to have your name put into a drawing for free books at our book fair.  Also, on the back of the passport, keep track of how many minutes you read.  If you read a total of 600 minutes, you will have your name put in the drawing a second time.  If you earn all of your stamps and complete your 600 minutes of reading, you will also have a flag with your name on it hanging at the entrance to our book fair.

Do what works for you.  If you want to keep your       passport at school to collect stamps and have a piece of notebook paper at home to write down your reading minutes, then that is perfectly fine.  When you turn everything in, just attach all of the sheets together.  Your passport is due by October 13th.

What are you waiting for?   Let’s read around the world!  Stop by the media center as often as you can to check out great books for reading.  Families and teachers are welcome to participate, too!

Become a Fan

Our media center now has a Facebook page. If you are a member of Facebook, you can become a fan by visiting this link.
I’m excited about having one more way of communicating news from our media center to our learning community. Spread the word and look for some exciting things coming up with our blog in the new school year.