Best Professional Books of the Year

Abilock, Debbie, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet H. Harada. Editors. Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers. Libraries Unlimited, 2012. 390 p. $45.00. ISBN: 9781610690416

When Loertscher and Koechlin introduced the concept of the Learning Commons in 2008, we introduced the idea of an Experimental Learning Center both in physical and virtual spaces that would be the center of school improvement. It would be a collaborative with the administrators, specialists, classroom teachers, and students working on projects aimed at improvement and even disruption.  Abilock, Fontichero, and Harada have teamed in this book to enlarge on the role that teacher librarians can have in this effort. They have looked for teacher librarians who are taking the lead in professional development in their schools and provide the reader with a banquet of examples that are beyond just the idea stage. This is an essential read; it provides fresh examples of what can and should happen when a teacher librarian moves to the center of teaching and learning. Chapters have been written by building and district teacher librarians and library educators. Thus, there is a broad perspective as the authors use the metaphor of the garden of learning to demonstrate their point that we do have an important role to play. What we don’t see in this collection is a collaborative role by other players in the schools such as administrators, technology directors, reading coaches, persons either at the school or district in charge of professional development, the various commercial and governmental players tuned into school change. Thus, there is a “siloing” effect when looking at the role here. We are not the only players here; we need to draw on the perspectives of other players; and, in the Experimental Learning Center, this is exactly what needs to take place. If the teacher librarian can facilitate a physical space where adults and students can take risks, experiment, succeed, fail, test, and get better and better, the school takes on the characteristics of a professional learning community.  This is not only true in a physical space that might be created as a part of the library/learning commons, but it is even more important to create a virtual Experimental Learning Center as a part of the Virtual Learning Commons (see the Loertscher/Koechlin article of this issue). However, that said, this is one of the most important books to appear in the literature this year. It begs the professionals of teacher librarianship to realize the power they have under their fingertips. Instead of just using the bully pulpit, it provides real people doing real projects that make a difference.  Read it; think about it; and, then reach out to others in the school to form a strong team bent on school improvement. Essential. DVL

Barnes, Mark. Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom. ASCD, 2013. $24.95.  ISBN: 9781416615064.

Mark is totally into the idea of self-directed learning and has his ROLE model, meaning Results Oriented Learning Environment. In this ROLE, teachers are guides on the side; students are using many technologies; they are blogging regularly; they have year-long projects alongside other investigations; Mark gives comments, not grades; and, he does not worry about “the test.” The best news is that he values the regular input of his teacher librarian! The book will lead you to his website: Learnitin5.com where lots of videos  get kids started in various investigations and discussions. This is required reading by every teacher librarian, because as you recognize a teacher like Mark in your building who is doing something different, pounce on that person to help out and partner in the experimentation! Time after time one encounters these teachers who build great names for themselves in the web world and many lack any contact with a teacher librarian, or, if they do, they never acknowledge it. You will hear more from Mark in the pages of Teacher Librarian, but for now, read this one and consider the possibilities. DVL

Bell, Suzanne S. Librarian’s Guide to Online Searching. Libraries Unlimited, 2012. 286 p. $50.00. ISBN: 9781610690355.

Really?  Another text for online searching by librarians?  Yes, and this one is a great one.  It gives librarians a leg up on not only evaluating sources and databases, but the intricacies of the search for the “right” information find—something librarians can always improve upon.  Graphics, screenshots, and practical exercises and questions guide your work.  References are quite good and divided up often to fit the chapter content.  Bottom line: Excellent presentation of a hard to encompass subject and good ways to approach it.  Highly recommended.  EM

Crockett, Lee, Ian Jukes and Andrew Churches. Literacy Is Not Enough: 21 ST-Century Fluencies for the Digital Age. Corwin Press, 2011. 213 p.  $34.95. ISBN: 9781412987806 .

Somehow we missed this 2011 title, but it is and essential think piece for teacher librarians. The author trio present five major ways that a young person needs to develop fluency if they are to succeed in the global world: information fluency, solution fluency, creativity fluency, collaboration fluency, and media fluency. They not only defend their five point model but offer excellent advice on how to implement each of these with young people.  The scientific method is employed by use of a fluency scaffold;  each fluency has its own staircase to develop that ability. For example, in information fluency, their five steps are: Ask, Acquire, Analyze, Apply, and Assess. For solution fluency, the six steps are: Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Debrief. For collaboration fluency, their five steps are: Establish, Envision, Engineer, Execute, and Examine. The authors bring all of them together as a method of creating digital citizens that they define as personal responsibility, global citizenship, digital citizenship, altruistic service, and environmental stewardship. We appreciate the wider conceptual model these authors envision in an attempt to prepare young people for the challenges of the 21st century. It will challenge you as a teacher librarian to rethink what you consider as information literacy and how you implement and integrate your ideas into collaborative learning experiences alongside the classroom teachers. It is time to take a broader look at the IL models we developed back in the 1980s and this book is an important contribution to that analysis.  This is a must read for every Teacher Librarian bent on moving to the center of teaching and learning.  DVL

Evans, G. Edward & Saponaro, Margaret Z. Collection Management Basics  6th ed. Library and Information Science Text Series. Libraries Unlimited, 2012. 128 pp. $ 45.00. ISBN 9781598848649

Now in its 6th edition, there isn’t a better tome to orient oneself to collection development and management.  This edition is nicely updated but maintains the concept of the collection being the heart of a library.  How to manage what is there is what this publication covers well.  Whether used as a ready reference or as a text to come to a good understanding of how to manage and develop appropriate collections in a library, this book is well worth using. EM

Froschauer, Linda, Editor. A Year of Inquiry: A Collection for Elementary Educators. NSTA, 2012. 211 p. $25.95.  ISBN: 9781936959341.

The Common Core Standards may center their attention on Language Arts and Mathematics, but they urge that science be included. You can expect to see a larger inclusion and development around science as the CCS continues to develop and be implemented. This is the case because of the movement toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that is enjoying a new emphasis in many schools across North America. That said, teacher librarians in elementary schools should watch for and encourage more interest in science as they see these signals start to take hold in their school. Now to the book at hand:  Every elementary teacher librarian should purchase this book; read it; and, share it with teachers. It is amazing. Amazing because it advocates that inquiry and science knowledge be integrated to help children to start thinking like scientists. It is exactly what we as teacher librarians would hope that teachers of all disciplines would do; that is, integrate the teaching of content knowledge and 21st Century skills/information literacy. When the readers understand what is happening here, they will see it is like raising the curtain on the true integration of the library/learning commons into the lives and practices of the classroom teacher. The book is laid out in chapters, each with a theme or stage of the inquiry process. Following a short introduction, the editor has collected articles from the NSTA journal that give practical examples of that theme.  The themes are: What do Scientists Do?, Process Skills, Science Notebooks, Investigable Questions, Data Collection and Representation, Selecting an Inquiry Experience, Switching from Cookbook Labs to Full Inquiry, Sharing Research Results, and, Assessing Inquiry. What a natural idea to marry such an idea from science with the inquiry skills teacher librarians wish to teach! Fabulous! What an opportunity! Get this book and start the conversation!  DVL

Hysell, Shannon Graff. Recommended Reference Books for Small and Medium-Sized Libraries and Media Centers: 2012  Edition, Volume 32. Libraries Unlimited, 2012. 321 pp.  $ 75.00. ISBN: 9781610691802.

As with the other volumes of this series, this one is well presented and provides excellent guidance to librarians, if for nothing else than to understand the enormous cost of many of these books.  However, it also is a map to use when considering what to collect, what to subscribe to, and what not to subscribe.  Highly recommended.  EM

Kurzweil, Ray. How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. Viking, 2012. 336p. $27.95. ISBN:9780670025299.

Get ready for a hefty, but authoritative read-in with this one. Ray Kurzweil is a major scientist and futurist. He invented text-to-speech for those who are blind and have low vision among many other inventions, so his name is revered by many. There are a plethora of books out there about brain-based learning that we have reviewed over the past several years, but we have been skeptical about the expertise behind them. In this volume, if you can wade a bit through the complexities, you get the latest on what we really know about brain functioning up until the date of publication. I found as I listened to the audio book of this title, that the novice on brain science can skim over the most technical ideas to glean the essentials and come out understanding major ideas. Kurzweil is the kind of scientist who brilliantly applies what we currently know about science, but has no hesitation about discarding old ideas as new discoveries are made. He teaches the reader how our marvelous brain works and how we can use its strengths in partnership with technology to build deep understanding. For teacher librarians, such understanding helps us help children and teens deal with the ubiquitous information glut and the newest technologies to help us all cope. This book is the kind where you read a chapter and think a while; then, read the next chapter . . . And, don’t get lost in the complex explanations, but ferret out the major ideas and their implications for our own practice. While this is not an easy book, it will tickle your brain with major new ideas and understanding. An incredible think!  DVL

Lindsay, Julie, and Vicki A. Davis. Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time. Pearson, 2013. 340p. $33.99 Trade pb. ISBN: 9780132610353.

Remember the old days of pen pals among children around the world? You are old!, at least in tech time. In the flat world and networked environment, educational experiences can be without boundaries across classrooms and groups of learners around the world. These two authors are co-sponsors of the Flat Classroom Project and have created a super guide to their work with a theoretical and practical guide to success. This is simply the best book on this topic and a must-read. The authors take us through a bit of theory first and then provide seven important steps for getting started. They are experts at this and have created a six-month extension of the book that is free. So, the guide is really a whole world of professional development guides, helps, examples, and tools far beyond the printed page. If you have the slightest interest in building learning experiences collaboratively among teachers or across the world, then get this book instantly. A best book of the year!  DVL

Loertscher, David, Carol Koechlin, and Esther Rosenfeld. The Virtual Learning Commons: Building A Participatory School Learning Community. Learning Commons Press – Hi Willow Research & Publishing, 2012. 133 pp. $32.  ISBN: 9781933170701.

Teaching and learning in the 21st century require new approaches, goals, and practice for teacher librarians, classroom teachers, administrator, and students. Among the many ideas to emerge with significant support is the concept of the Learning Commons. In their previous book , The New Learning Commons Where Learners Win 2d edition, 2011,  Loertscher,  Koechlin, and Rosenfeld presented the basic concepts and spoke primarily about the Learning Commons as a physical place combining the library and computer lab into a newly designed collaborative learning space. As its title suggests, this new book extends the concept to the virtual world and all its potential. The first part of the book presents the foundational ideas of a large participatory Virtual Learning Commons and how and what it can contribute to teaching and learning.  The second part of the book directs the reader to download a Google sites-based template to enable you to start creating your own VLC. The last part of the book addresses several of the issues which might arise when you embark on this route.   The authors state: We hope that the reader will be as excited by the possibilities as we are. Education across the world is changing, and we hope that the Virtual Learning Commons will be the vehicle to help both young people and adults learning to work in a global community. It is time to focus on building young people who are in charge of their own learning; a habit that will serve them their entire lives.”  The books is well cited, indexed, and provides a very valuable further reading part.  Practical and poignant.    Highly recommended.  EM

Perez, Katherine. The Co-Teaching Book of Lists. Jossey-Bass, 2012. 270p. $29.95. ISBN: 9781118017449.

I could not believe my eyes at a recent convention when I came across this book and spoke to the author. Co-teaching? Is anybody except teacher librarians still talking about this topic.  Oh yes, the author responded.  My calendar of workshops and conferences is packed! After reviewing hundreds of books in education, I can hardly remember the last time I read about collaborative teaching as a part of school culture from any of the major educational writers.  Well, here is a practical guide with list after list after list of tips and steps to take during the co-planning, co-assessing, and co-teaching of learning experiences.  Admittedly, Dr. Perez has a bias toward special education teachers because that is her field, but she does include other specialists, just not technology folks or teacher librarians. Well, we don’t seem to be able to have everything, but there is so much wiggle room in the lists that it is a simple matter to include our agenda in an information rich and technology rich environment. Teacher librarians need to be experts at collaboration whether or not they can reach every faculty member. This is a book for your bedside table –  read a list every single night before going to sleep. The ones we can work on, we adopt as our strategy of the week and perhaps we showcase one strategy alongside a classroom teacher at each faculty meeting. Get this book! Use this book!  It can only push you toward that center of teaching and learning whether in the physical learning commons or the virtual learning commons.  DVL

Perrauto, Anna & Aversa, Elizabeth. Information Resources in the Humanities and Arts, 6th edition. (Library and Information Science Text Series).  Libraries Unlimited, 2012. 461 pp.       $ 80.00.  ISBN: 9781598848328.

This book continues to be worthy of trust and time.  While geared mainly to newer professionals, it is a good reminder of how humanities and art are so important to scholarship.  Taking almost 10 years to be updated, it doesn’t disappoint.  There are interesting digital resources as well as standard print resources in this text, and it can be used as a ready reference tool for many different types of libraries.  If used with elementary or middle school students, caution needs to be taken with developmental appropriateness.  EM

Wagner, Tony. Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. Scribner, 2012.  288 p. $27. ISBN: 9781451611496.

Tony Wagner is an outspoken critic of cookie cutter education and lays out in this book a plan for your people to stretch their imaginations and spread their wings in the solution of local and world problems and challenges. Interesting reading that will tweak your brain.  DVL

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