Welcome Mandy Peterson, Media Specialist at Schuyler Community Schools in Schuyler, Nebraska, as our guest. Mandy is a long-time NetGalley member, a plugged-in librarian and has been generous enough to answer our questions about the role of technology in her library. Keep reading to discover how Mandy became a librarian, what a 1:1 school is, and what she’s reading via NetGalley!
A great place to start is your librarian origin story – how did you become a school librarian?
In my fifth year of teaching, I realized that the library was my favorite place to go. When my students were at lunch or in specials, I frequently could be found browsing or volunteering to reshelve books. During these visits, the librarian and I developed a nice comradery and I began bouncing ideas around for what grad program I should begin. Originally, I was thinking math or science. She suggested the library program at University of Nebraska at Omaha. The head of the Library program drove 2 hours to come visit me at my house. After that meeting with Dr. Rebecca Pasco, I was not only “sold”, but I was also confident that library was the right direction for me. I continued teaching while taking graduate courses to become a librarian. When the high school librarian in my district retired, I was fortunate enough to snag the position. We are currently taking the library from a traditional library to a 21st century library (as well as changing the role of librarian). I love working with the students, parents, teachers, staff, and community at Schuyler Community Schools!
How has having access to digital galleys impacted how you recommend titles for purchase but also to your students?
Through digital galleys, I know what’s coming up. As I read, I may not personally love the book but I can usually think of the student who will. So I talk to them, “Hey, I’m reading this book you might like. Here’s what it’s about…” Then I allow students to help me decide what to purchase. If they seem interested, I’m all over it. Digital galleys have also encouraged me to go outside of my personal preference zone. I am usually decidedly dystopian and sci fi young adult lit. Through NetGalley, I’ve discovered paranormal/horror, contemporary, and historical fiction that I really enjoyed. These purchases have been incredibly easy to make because I’ve seen the quality of the material. Purchasing on blind faith with tax payer money is rough. I am able to feel more secure when I’ve already previewed the material. I’ve actually recommended NetGalley books to family members, other library buddies, and community organizations. Since I also post my reviews to our blog, Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, and Goodreads, strangers are using my recommendations to decide what they should read – which is a very flattering notion!
Do you have a certain strategy for finding new titles, particularly on NetGalley?
I immediately head to Young Adult/Teen books. Not only is it what is mostly in the SCHS Library, but it is also what I enjoy reading personally. Don’t tell anyone but I am a bit of a total cover snob. The cover is what first attracts me. I am more apt to read the galley of an author I have never read before. Publisher summaries are a big deal. I find that a well-written summary can move a book from “meh, I’ll read it when I get time” to “I MUST READ THIS IMMEDIATELY!”.
What upcoming book on NetGalley are you the most excited about sharing with your students?
WOW! Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran hands down. I hadn’t read any of her books before and historical lit wasn’t really my interest. This book blew me away. I have my dystopian kids who are devouring the Shatter Me series (by Tahareh Mafi) and historical fiction fans reading The Walled City (by Ryan Graudin) – all are eagerly awaiting the release of Rebel Queen.
How is technology incorporated into your library, for your students but also for yourself and your staff?
Technology is a very important tool to engage and enable student ownership of education in our school. Our library has a Promethean board which helps with keeping lessons seamless while housing many different kinds of content. Although our school is 1:1 with iPads, the library still provides much of the traditional equipment to enhance education (laptops, headphones, projectors, digital cameras, digital voice recorders, DVD players, etc.). Giving my teachers the best tools they can possibly have all throughout the year is one of my top priorities. I collaborate with another high school librarian to put out a weekly Tech Tuesday e-mail to our teachers. Each week, we feature a different kind of school technology as well as ideas on how to implement it across subject levels. In addition to providing technology for others, the library uses technology to connect with our patrons and community through Twitter, Pinterest, and our website. We use Google forms to conduct surveys and contests. Many of our newer books have QR codes linking to book trailers or book summaries. In each lesson, I am able to incorporate technology such as Vokis for a quick 2 sentence reflection, memes to summarize learning, and QR codes to register responses to copyright scenarios. Our website is constantly being updated and developed. The catalog is housed and maintained online. Students can search and place books on hold or reserve to pick up between periods. (Drive-thru library!) We also have a huge wall of eBooks as a result of a consortium purchase. The catalog and eBook collection allow access to our materials from anywhere without the limitations of school hours. Symbaloo has been a great tool to consolidate reliable research sources and embed into our website. I email reminders of book due dates and overdue notices, rarely needing to print a paper copy or pull a student from a class. We are even looking at developing a live chat box on our website so my patrons can type questions in and get a real-time response from me. Making the library and librarian as accessible as possible are an area of focused planning.
You mentioned that you work in a 1:1 school, where each student is issued an electronic device – how have you seen this impact the way students interact with library materials?
1:1 has made a noticeable impact on how students use the library. Historically, our library had very good physical material circulation. As I checked the numbers, I knew without asking when the iPads were incorporated. Circulation took a huge hit. As I came into the role of librarian at SCHS, I really wanted to show students and staff that the library is not only still relevant – it is still absolutely the best authoritative presence you have access to. I began by building the website and putting research materials right out there where our patrons could find them. A couple of teachers allowed me to use their class time to show students how to use the website, the research sources, and search efficiently. The roll out of nonfiction sources led to a platform to introduce our eBook collection. It is all very “infomercial”. You start small with one product and then say, “But wait…there’s more!” Library is almost like a never-ending infomercial where I just keep throwing in extra items and it’s all free! Our eCirculation is growing and more students come in to get their log in information. Our physical circulation is currently 300% that of the year we went 1:1! Our website traffic began with 30 visitors a week and now draws enough traffic for every student to be visiting it 2 times a week (1000+ hits). My theory has been that we should meet the students where they are and we will help each other to own the digital age.
How do you see the role of technology growing even more in your school and library?
I have huge dreams! I would like to see every student innovating and proficient in using technology to find information, use information, and express themselves. I am working towards making my library’s space more physically ready for technology and collaboration with square footage, outlets, appropriate seating spaces, and projectors that you can hook up to your iPad or other device. I would love to have a broadcasting and recording studio in the library one day. Who knows what our future holds? (Maybe a robot that shelves books for me?!?)
You work closely with The Golden Sower Award, can you explain the importance of these awards and a little about the nomination and awards process?
The Golden Sower Award is issued for the state of Nebraska. There is a nomination committee who chooses a list of outstanding titles. These titles are grouped according to level: Primary, Intermediate, and Young Adult. Then, students get to vote for their level’s winner. Librarians register the votes on the Golden Sower website and winners are announced. It’s empowering for our readers to know they have an actual role in choosing our state’s award winning books. I even have our community supporting high school literacy by donating prizes for my students who vote!
If you were going on a long journey and could bring no books or devices, but you had time to commit just one book to memory, which would it be?
Of all of the questions, this one kept me awake at night. I have to go with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It’s silly, imaginative, and still laugh out loud humorous. Perhaps it would be entertaining to hear me recite scenes to my travel buddies or by myself. I have yet to tire of Ford Prefect and his antics.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our community?
Social media is more powerful in the library than you realize. Twitter is my big push. I interact with patrons daily on Twitter. However, don’t forget those fabulous folks who are creating your library content! Authors are using social media and connecting with them is going to make your patrons feel connected as well. When I get a galley, I make sure to tweet to the author, publishing company, and NetGalley when I begin or finish a title. You can’t express too much thanks to a publisher and author for letting you read a book early and for free! It’s important to thank NetGalley too so the publishing companies see results from their business relationship and keep throwing galleys to us through NetGalley. Authors retweet my reviews and respond when I mention that I’m reading their galley. Marie Lu retweeting you never gets old. I remember how star-struck I was when Michael Grant tweeted to me and how cool Kristin Lippert-Martin and Katie Alender were as we tweeted back and forth. My students see this and get excited to read the books because the author “knows us”. Such a hoot! Take the platform your patrons are already on and use it to reach them. Market yourself and your library by just letting them see your fantastic customer service, your knowledge, your “connections”, and your passion.
Also, if something in this interview spawned an idea or you have lingering questions, please share them with me! I would absolutely love to hear from other librarians.
*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret