June 17, 2019

End of year statistics

It’s the end of the school year, the very last day that teachers have to be at my school. That last week with students went by in a blur, and I’m only now catching my breath.

I should have worked on these end of year statistics well before the very last day, but it’s just been too hectic. Now I’m wondering which of these statistics are really useful.

So far, I have worked on the usage statistics, which I do find useful to gauge how well we’re promoting our databases. It did show that our elementary library needs to push the Scholastic ebook collections and PebbleGo. That will be a goal for the elementary librarian next year. I will work on promoting the more advanced databases. We have healthy use of Britannica Online, but do want to increase use of the other ones as well.

database usage percentage chart


We’ve tracked the door count this year. Unfortunately, we’ve lost last year’s data so we can’t compare, but that’s a lesson in itself.

The door count went down as the year progressed. Students were coming in to the library less as academic requirements increased. One reason I wanted to compare with last year was to see if our new expectation for the library as a quiet and productive workspace instead of being a lounge space was reflected in the door count. One reason for the decrease could be that students were coming in less because they were not allowed to just hang out, but in May, during Ramadan, the numbers didn’t go up as much as we thought would happen.

Door count chart


Circulation statistics per se are not too useful. It’s obvious at our school that the daily SSR periods are getting middle school students to check out a lot more than the high school students. Still, it’s rewarding to the top students to be recognized for their checkout behavior. I would like to be able to reward other students, the ones that have the most varied reading life or the “most improved.” Will have to think about how to do that next year.

At my previous school, I did Top 10 books every month, and at year end, but at this school, since we also barcode the books from the book room, those are the ones with the highest circulation numbers. To figure out a top 10 fiction books checked out this year, I have to do quite a bit of massaging of numbers, but still here is our top 10 for fiction.

Top 10 Fiction books 2018-2019


I’m slightly disappointed that none of our middle school Battle of the Book titles ended up among the top 10.

I was going to try to see which non-fiction books circulated the most, but the top 5 titles returned from our Destiny catalog have high circulations because the same two parents checked them out over and over this year.

Some more possibilities for end-of-year statistics:

  • weeding log to see how many books weeded this year
    • 1078 out of a total collection of 31997 copies = 3.7%
  • lost books – but it’s not an inventory year so the number might be off
    • 1,281 out of a total collection of 31997 copies = 4%
  • ebook / audiobook circulation
  • Libguides usage

Will have to give this more thought next year, because I want to create an annual report. Maybe can try one in August to start off the year.

Happy summer!

April 18, 2019

Blank webpages from an insecure URL

My preferred Internet browser is Chrome. Sometimes when I try to go to a webpage, I find myself with a blank page. The URL is correct, but the page just doesn’t load anything. After much investigation, and much head scratching in bemusement, I have found that pages that don’t load are being flagged by Chrome as insecure. To protect me, Chrome is not loading the page.

It might not be a malicious page. The first time I noticed this was with the book distributor’s website that I use almost daily to order books for my library. It could be that their webpage  isn’t as up to date with their security protocols as Google wants it to be. I am so tech-y that I can understand, but I have finally found a workaround.

The workaround is to change the beginning of the URL from http:// to https://.  Adding that s, turns the http to secure http and Chrome allows access.

Here is a screencast.


March 3, 2019

Making the Most of Author Visits

At my current school, the library usually hosts 2 authors visit a year, one per semester. They take a lot of work, but the community appreciates the opportunity to meet authors and performers.

Enter a Google search of “how to make the most of author visits” and you get tips from many different sources, including school and librarian publications, publishing companies, and even authors.  While these are useful, I’ve had to learn about the details myself the hard way.

We are in the process of deciding our author visits for next year. We are considering two authors, one who wrote the play the MS drama department will be staging next year, and the other more geared to the elementary school. That author wrote one of the books in our “one school, one read” short list.

Other considerations for choosing author visitors are curriculum tie-ins. We recently had Ying Chang Compestine visiting the middle school. She writes historical fiction and she led writing workshops for the grade 6 who are engaged in an historical fiction literacy unit. She was also able to talk to the 7th and 8th graders of her experience as a child during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and enhance their social studies units.

Ying Chang Compestine author visit poster

When I was in the elementary school, I found that the most memorable authors were the ones who were also performers. We try to kick off the author visit with a whole school assembly. This is not always possible because of calendar limitations, but when we do have that assembly, it’s the authors who put on a show that are the most effective in engaging with students. Some great presenters have been Steve Skidmore, Kenn Nesbitt, Giles Abbot and Harry Baker. That’s not to say that other authors who have visited have not been engaging; it’s just that these have been particularly good performers.

Now to the nitty-gritty of the author visit planning. Here are some of the things I do: (Note that we’re an international school and our authors most always come to us from abroad.)

  • logistics (I’m lucky enough to have assistants to help with this)
    • letter of invitation to author, setting out details of fees, dates, lodging, transportation – all this has been negotiated with the author, but I find it essential to have one document to collect all the information.
    • hotel booking – our school gets a business rate
    • airfare – we have an embedded travel agent at our school, but sometimes we set an amount for a travel stipend and the author books his or her own
    • transportation
      • from and to the airport at either end of the visit
      • to school and back to the hotel
      • to evening entertainment
    • visas
      • our embedded travel agency has people to meet our visitors and walk them through the visa-on-arrival process
  • student engagement
    • we purchase extra copies of the author’s books so that we can promote their reading before the visit
    • we set up a schedule of sessions for with the different grade levels. In the elementary school, it has worked best to have grade level assemblies with each grade. In the middle school, teachers have preferred a writing workshop model instead of a performance.
    • we hand out bookmarks with the timetable on the back to help build up anticipation

Ying Compestine bookmark-ythu6x

  • community engagement
    • we set up a special session for parents
    • we set up book signings after school with books by the author sourced through local bookstores
    • we share lots of photos of the visit during the time the author is at school through our social media
  • promotion
    • we use Canva and PhotoShop to create posters to post around school and bookmarks with the author schedule on one side. (I’m lucky to have an assistant with a good sense of graphic design to take care of this, but in my previous school I did it myself. With online publishing services like Canva, it’s quite easy and even fun.)
    • we post the posters on social media, starting about 3 weeks before the visit
    • we post items in the school newsletters
    • when possible, we have our library student advisory board/s announce at assemblies in the run up to the visit
    • we let our advancement office know; they arrange for photos and interviews for their own publicity to parents and alumni
  • post visit
    • we elicit feedback from students and teachers
    • we post summaries of the visit, with photos
    • we keep one poster, autographed by the author on the history wall of our workroom
    • we keep a display of books by the author for a couple of weeks to capitalize on interest
  • author hospitality
    • receive at airport and transfer to hotel (our embedded travel agency handles this)
    • we schedule evening meals and/or entertainment for the author with different groups of teachers
    • we introduce the author to our embedded travel agent in case they want to sightsee at their own expense before or after their time with us
    • souvenir gift and promotional materials like posters and bookmarks


It’s a lot of work, but ultimately, it is very satisfying to connect students with authors.

February 10, 2019

Walk in the PAARC

The CRAAP test is a well known mnemonic for criteria to use in evaluating information. I am now a middle and high librarian, but I was an elementary teacher and librarian for most of my teaching career. I referred to the CRAAP test once with a fifth grade class, and the class broke out in snickers and I couldn’t get them back, so I reversed the acronym to say PAARC.

In addition to avoiding the craap giggles, I like the order of the evaluation criteria in PAARC.

Here’s what I tell my students when presenting PAARC.

Students have to consider the purpose of the information first: the purpose of the creators of the information, and their purpose. Those should match, especially when working on school projects. Knowing the purpose of the information can help students detect bias.

Authority is the next criterion in importance. Who wrote this? Why should we consider that/those person/s experts? I ask my students, “If you are researching into the rings of Saturn, who are you going to believe, NASA or Mrs. Weebly’s Second Grade Blog?”

Accuracy is the second A, and helps remind students to verify their information.

Currency refers to the currency of the information but also to the activity on a website. In the year 2019, some websites are almost 20 years old, and many websites probably aren’t updated since they were first created. An active website is more likely to have people revising and updating the information on it.

Last, but certainly not least for my middle school students, relevance is an important last check. They need to make sure that the information is relevant to their work and not just interesting, and that it is not biased or misleading.

My library assistant created this lovely poster. It’s posted in most of our classrooms and we have a bookmark to go with it.

PAARC poster
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(If I were to make this poster again, I’d add a title that stated its purpose: criteria for evaluation of information.)

January 31, 2019

Book A Librarian

I recently attended a IB DP librarians’ workshop. The best part of participating was networking with other librarians and learning about what they are doing. I heard about Book a A Librarian from a secondary school librarian working in a Swedish international school, and I knew right away that it was something I wanted to offer my students when I returned to school.

Book A Librarian is simply an opportunity for students to book a time with me to look at resources. Priority is given to students starting their extended essay journey, but all high school students are welcome to request a time for their school research. The ultimate goal is to improve research at school.

Screenshot of Book a Librarian form

So far, in two weeks, I have had two sessions, and I have another scheduled for next week. I have had lots of fun hearing the students explain their understanding of their topic and articulating the reasons behind their interest. I’m hoping that they will spread the word, not only of the service, but of what they have learned about research from going through the process with me.

The main points I try to cover with the student are:

  1. The library catalog.
    • We look first at our print sources, especially for those classes whose teachers have listed print sources as a requirement.
  2. Our libguides
    • HS Research – a collection of sources divided by subject. I’ve made a point to include our subscription databases at the top, as students don’t always take the time to access them through our library catalog.
    • Extended Essay – a collection of documents and sources for the extended essay students.
    • CAC Referencing – links to citation engines and quick reference citation posters.
  3. Database trawl.
    • We go through our databases, using the keywords we’ve identified. We always go from the simplest to the most complex, e.g., Britannica Online, Facts on File Modern World History, J-Stor.
  4. Keep track of your sources.
    • If the student hasn’t yet created a NoodleTools account, we go through that set up and I demo the main features. We don’t use NoodleTools as a school-wide research assistant, but the more I use it, the more I like it and encourage students and teachers to use.

I set up a meeting document where I enter the student’s name and research question or topic when I receive the request through a Google Form. I enter my initial ideas for the research focus, and I take notes during the meeting. After the meeting, I summarize our process and email the student for reference. That email also goes in my meeting document. Here is the document template I am working on for the moment.  I may end up tweaking it a bit to better document the sessions.

I also set up a folder on my Google Drive for the session. In this folder are the session notes, and any journal articles in pdf that I locate for the student. In this way, the student contributes to future scholarship at CAC.

I have high hopes for Book A Librarian and I hope to be able to share of its wild success in June.

January 24, 2019

7 Days to Learn to Blog with Edublogs

I’ve just finished my personal blogging course with Edublogs, and as a reward, Edublogs is upgrading my account to a pro account for a year.

But, even if they hadn’t, I’d still have enjoyed the course. It’s laid out super well in 10 manageable steps, and you can totally complete it in the 7 days you have left to take advantage of the Edublogs Holiday Gift. Deadline is January 31.

I’ve been a blogger for a while on other platforms, but I’ll admit not since micro-blogging on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter became easy. I am looking forward to retaking blogging as a reflection tool, and this course on personal blogging was a perfect fit.

Here are the 10 steps of the course:  (I’m lazy and don’t want to type  it out, so this is a screenshot from the course.)  The screenshot is linked to the course’s landing page. 10 steps to a personal blog

The very best part of the course is the support given by Kathleen Morris, the Edublogs instructor. She’s friendly, interested, and really tries to extend your understanding and practice. Thanks, Kathleen!



January 22, 2019

Working with Plugins

I’m enjoying my Edublogs blogging course. I’m on step 8, woot!  This step is all about working with plugins.

What are plugins? There’s like little apps you can activate for your blog that let you add functionality. Here are three to try.

Compfight – When working with students, it seems like no matter how much I encourage them to use our Britannica Image Quest subscription to locate images for their school projects, they just Google them. It doesn’t help that the Explore feature of the Google apps allows them to insert images without even leaving the application. I like Compfight because it provides that same ease with the assurance that the images have been cleared for use with a Creative Commons license.

Here’s an image. I entered computer in the search field, and found this beauty. I clicked on the size I wanted, and it popped up in this editor, with attribution to the creator.

It"s all about finding the right connectionCreative Commons License Matthias Ripp via Compfight

The downsides to the plugin is that the search results depend on the tags associated with the images. Entering the search term blogging for example, doesn’t return any results, and the search term blog, gives several Impressionistic digital images that are not associated in my mind with blogs at all, but obviously they do to someone.

Alignment doesn’t seem to work well either. You can see the attribution text to the right of the image, instead of being below it and centered. Still, for a quick boost of inspiration and illustration, it’s easy to use and provide credit.

Another plug in I’ve tried is the Visual Editor for widgets. With this plugin, we can easily create or edit widgets. If you look at the sidebar, you’ll see a widget I created showing the cover of the book I’m currently reading.

It’s easy enough to create an image using html, but having the Visual Editor makes it even easier to set size, alignment, alt text, and a link.

The third plugin is EasyTables, which I think I’m going to like a lot because it will make formatting my top ten lists easier.

I currently enter the image and the text separately. I tried wrapping the text around the image, but it doesn’t really work. Having a table with transparent borders takes care of the layout for me.

Here are my top 5 circulating books for the month of December 2018.

#5 – Booked, by Jason Alexander.

Twelve-year-old Nick loves soccer and hates books, but soon learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams.

#4 – Ties That Bind, Ties That Break, by Lensey Namioka

Ailin’s life takes a different turn when she defies the traditions of upper class Chinese society by refusing to have her feet bound.

#3 – Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party, by Ying Chang Compestine

Starting in 1972 when she is nine years old, Ling, the daughter of two doctors, struggles to make sense of the communists’ Cultural Revolution, which empties stores of food, homes of appliances deemed “bourgeois,” and people of laughter.

#2 – Refugee, by Alan Gratz

Although separated by continents and decades, three refugees embark on harrowing journeys in search of refuge, discovering shocking connections that tie their stories together.

#1 – The War that Saved my Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

A young disabled girl and her brother are evacuated from London to the English countryside during World War II, where they find life to be much sweeter away from their abusive mother.

Unfortunately, the tables resize themselves depending on their contents and at least on my preview, the two rows do not align correctly. Still, it allows me to post my top ten lists of books a lot faster than I was able to previously.

Turns out that one can set attributes for the table, by selecting it and clicking on the EasyTables icon on the editor bar. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to fix my alignment problem. Hmmm. More work needed!


January 13, 2019

Top 10 Fiction Titles for 2018

Here are the top 10 circulating fiction titles at Cairo American College for 2018 . How many did you read?

(Links are to the CAC MHS library catalog record for the title.)

10. Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins  Written in 2008, this book is still in the top 10. Go, Katniss!!Click for more information on this title


9. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

The second book in the series seems to have been the most popular this year, but all of them still circulate well.

Click on the cover for more information on the book.

8. Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry

Set in the universe of The Giver, this story is about a handicapped and gifted girl who must work for the all powerful Guardians.

Click for more information on this title

7. The Empty Kingdom, by Elizabeth E. Wein

This is book 2 in the series Mark of Solomon. I loved Ms. Wein’s historical fiction novels set in World War 2 with their courageous female spies. I highly recommend that series too!

Click for more information on this title

6. The Elite, by Kiera Cass

Also book 2 in a series: The Selection. Cinderella-ish romance in a post-apocalyptic world. We have several novellas set in that universe on our Overdrive collection.

Click for more information on this title

5. Camp Nine, by Vivienne Schiffer

I have been seeing more and more titles set during the Japanese internment of World War II. This one is new to me, so I’ll be reading it this year!

Click for more information on this title


4. The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes, by Soman Chainani

The second book in series has been very popular this year! This is the fourth one in this list of 10 ten.

Click for more information on this title

3. Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

Now a movie. Nicola Yoon is a very popular author at our library!

Click for more information on this title

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Another book still going strong more than 10 years after publication.

Click for more information on this title

  1. The Inquisitor’s Tale, or, Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly

The illustrator for The Inquisitor’s Tale visited CAC last school year. Very glad to see his book in the top spot for fiction in 2018.

Click for more information on this title