Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Children's Librarian

I started a new full-time job yesterday at the Philadelphia Free Library. I'm very excited about this position. I think it is fantastic timing.

My branch is undergoing some renovations, which means I spent part of a day there and now part of a day at a different branch. I'm just learning the system. It is a gigantic city-wide system with loads of pieces that all need to work in sync. I can't wait to learn more!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Quiet and Busy

I've been neglecting this site a little, mostly because I've been busy. I've moved, found some free-lance stuff, and have been "house mom" in the house I'm living in.

As always, if anyone needs anything or has any questions for me, please reach out to allegra@cybrarianinpink.com


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Copyright in the Digital Age

A common problem in the digital age is copyright and copyright infringement. It's so easy to find images, music, text that we want to use. We just need to be very aware that other people do still own their creative works, even when those works are digital.

For example, I have a Creative Commons copyright on all work on this website. What that means is that anyone is allowed to use my work as long as they credit me. I'm an academic at heart; my work is out there to inform others. All I want in return is a attribution. Furthermore, if anyone does use my work and publishes some variation of it, they need to also have a similar license so that other people can use their work, and so on.

This all seems based on an honor system, doesn't it? Someone could easily use someone else's work and not give credit, if the original work is not well known. Sadly, that is true.

However, there is a legal system in place for copyright protection (Wikipedia article here).
Copyright infringement is the use of works protected by copyright law without permission, infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works. The copyright holder is typically the work's creator, or a publisher or other business to whom copyright has been assigned. Copyright holders routinely invoke legal and technological measures to prevent and penalize copyright infringement.

Copyright law goes far more into detail and legal-speak than I'd like to get into here. If you're interested in the legal side, please see Copyright Law of the United States.

Now, the reason I decided to delve into copyright information today is because I came across the following flyer:

Flyer for SteampunkCon (steampunkcon.com)
This is a flyer for a Steampunk convention happening in 2019. As you can see, there is no accreditation, no artist signature. 

The header they are using is simply a cropped version with a green logo: http://steampunkcon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/cropped-steampunk_con_banner_1400.jpg 

As a for-profit company, VampireFreaks, is using this image commercially.  

This makes is very interesting that they are using an image that is clearly based upon a photograph of the character of Lady Clankington, model Sarah Hunter, photographer Julie Ray, leather and metal work by Thomas Willeford of Brute Force Studios.

Lady Clankington
Photo from https://i.pinimg.com/originals/75/72/9d/75729dad857912aca7b7785bfd96b180.jpg
Model is Sarah Hunter.
Photographer is Julie Ray.
Leather and metal work by Thomas Willeford.

I suppose it is possible that VampireFreaks reached out to any of the three people involved in the original work and came to some sort of agreement. However, the image they are using on their promotional materials should be credited somehow to the photographer at the very least. They would be using this license (or similar) to allow for commercial use of a derivative work 

What happens if I offer my material under a Creative Commons license and someone misuses them?
A CC license terminates automatically when its conditions are violated. For example, if a reuser of CC-licensed material does not provide the attribution required when sharing the work, then the user no longer has the right to continue using the material and may be liable for copyright infringement. The license is terminated for the user who violated the license. However, all other users still have a valid license, so long as they are in compliance.
Under the 4.0 licenses, a licensee automatically gets these rights back if she fixes the violation within 30 days of discovering it.
If you apply a Creative Commons license and a user violates the license conditions, you may opt to contact the person directly to ask them to rectify the situation or consult a lawyer to act on your behalf. Creative Commons is not a law firm and cannot represent you or give you legal advice, but there are lawyers who have identified themselves as interested in representing people in CC-related matters.

Does the use of an image on your blog require permission?
Certainly, if the image is part of the design of your blog and/or repetitively used or adapted for your use, you will need permission to use the image. If the image is part of a particular posting in a blog, you will need to apply the fair use factors and determine on a case-by-case basis whether your use requires permission. 

When in doubt, cite your sources.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Library as Third Space

I'm always thinking about how the school library should function as part of a whole school. Often, public libraries are called "third spaces," i.e., "where you go and spend time in addition to your home and workplace. ... 'Third places' are
'anchors' of community life and facilities and foster broader, more creative interaction" (Library as the Third Place).

School libraries are a little different, sometimes. Classes are often brought to the library as an extension of the classroom. Students find books, research, use the computers, access databases, etc. This would classify the library as part of a student's workplace (i.e., school), and not a place outside of it. Sometimes, students are given passes to the library, again, as an extension of classwork, and expected to return to class in a matter of minutes after completing a task, such as printing a paper. During class times, the library is expected to be relatively quiet, or at least as quiet as the teacher's classroom would be.

However, other hallmarks of third space are integral parts of a school library:

  • free or inexpensive; check. In fact, many school libraries don't even charge late fees for books, only replacement costs if a book is lost or damaged beyond repair; 

  • food and drink, while not essential, are important; some school libraries allow students to bring in food, some have snack bars. My library allows covered drinks away from the computers, and I occasionally turn a blind eye to cold snacks as long as students clean up after themselves;

  • highly accessible; check;

  • proximity for many; check;

  • involve regulars - those who habitually congregate there; I have a dedicated morning and lunchtime group of students. At my old school, I had about 60 students who were my regular breakfast and lunchtime students, plus after school clubs.

  • welcoming and comfortable; we do our best.

  • both new friends and old should be found there. check; many times, I've had students just open the door looking for friends. 

Based on that list, the school library can easily fit into the third space ideal. Maybe we're only third space during certain times, such as before school, during lunch, and after school. I've had students complain when I've told them the library is closing and I always remind them that the huge city branch is just down the street (in Springfield, it was a few blocks; in Boston, it is a mile walking or a quick bus ride). 

School libraries can also do programming similar to public libraries, if the school day allows for it. I ran yearbook this year during lunch, and that became a gathering time for some seniors. I plan to run a book club next year, hopefully bring back a monthly poetry slam, and maybe get an author to come and talk to students. Programming like this helps the space become less of an extension of the classroom and more of a community space.

I'm thinking a lot about this, since my school is talking to an architectural firm to plan a redesign. The library will be completely re-done in about four years. I need to think about what I want it to become. Do I want an academic space, a space reminiscent of a public library, or something completely different? I know I want some better soundproofing! As much as I love my talented students, many of them have operatic voices that do not have a quiet level.

Ideally, I'd have a space for everything. I'd love to be able to have more than one class in the library during class time, non-carpeted floors so food might be more allowable during lunchtime, space for students to collaborate (maybe soundproof glass study rooms), and comfortable seating for students to sit and read.

Want to read more about Library as Third Space?:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Milk Analogy

My new library collection is far smaller than my collection at HSC. I'm pretty happy about this, which seems odd, but it means I can pay more attention to it and really care for it. It's like a garden! You can't care for every plant on a giant farm, but you can care for every plant in a garden. That being said, oh boy, do I have some weeding to do.

See what I did there?

For those non-library folks, "weeding" is the terminology when librarians remove books from a collection. Weeding a library collection is very much like weeding a garden; just like you have to pull some weeds to let the plants grow, you have to get rid of old/damaged/out-of-date/unattractive books to let the collection grow. It sounds strange, but it is true. Teens especially see old, yellowed books and go "Blech, there is nothing here that I want to read!" when there could be a perfectly good and useful book sandwiched between two books from 1989.

Honestly, what high school student in 2015 wants to read The High-School Student's Guide to Study, Travel, & Adventure Abroad from 1995? Yes, it looks like a cool book. Yes, it would have been fun for me to read in 2000 when I was a senior in high school, but the book is older than all of my high school students! How valid is this information now?

There's a great analogy that compares weeding books to spoiled milk:
The Milk in the Refrigerator

The milk in the refrigerator is past the sell date, has an odor, and is curdled and lumpy. Would you?

  • Keep it, because you don’t know when you could get to the store to buy more?

    • Then why would you keep a book on the shelf with misinformation because you don’t know when you could replace it?

  • Keep it, because otherwise your refrigerator would look empty?

    • Then why would you keep outdated books on the shelf to preserve a false collection size?

  • Give it to a neighbor to keep in his or her refrigerator?

    • Then why would you send outdated encyclopedias or other materials to a teacher for classroom use?

  • Donate it to a food pantry for hungry children?

    • Then why would you send outdated resources to be used by children in this or other countries?

Dr. Gail Dickinson

I know not all of the texts I'm getting rid of are as bad as spoiled milk. Some are still interesting. I'm getting rid of two Joseph Campbell books, and I love his work, but it just isn't something that students research, want to read about, or can't find elsewhere. We are getting put on the Boston Public Library Inter-library loan delivery schedule, so students can even request books from BPL to be shipped here instead of picking them up at their local branch.

I have a goal; I want to make this library as new and as interesting as possible. It is going to take some time, but that's OK.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Library Impact

(Statement was not presented at meeting. This is an edited copy, removing names and quotes from emails.)

Statement for School Committee

“Studies conducted over the past two decades” including a study as recent as May 2015, “…  show that students in schools with endorsed librarians score better on standardized achievement tests in reading, compared with students in schools without endorsed librarians.”

“This increase in scores exists regardless of student poverty level or overall staffing losses.

In a Colorado study (2006-2011), the presence of school librarians positively impacted students’ standardized reading scores even when controlling for student poverty (free and reduced-cost meal status).

In a national study (2011), even if schools had overall staff declines between 2004 and 2008, students’ standardized reading scores were better in schools that maintained or gained a librarian during this time period.”

There have been 7 elementary school library positions cut from .5 to .25. One middle school has cut from .5 to .25, and another middle school (technically three in one building) has completely eliminated the library teacher position.

School library teachers do more than just check in and check out books. I had student interns this past year who can handle check in/check out.  By cutting, removing, and moving library teachers, bonds that we have created to teachers will also be cut. We are part of a team, not just a nameless, faceless cog.

School library teachers are, in fact, teachers. We have the same school requirements of all other teachers, such as a master’s degree and Department of Elementary and Secondary licensing as Library Teacher (All Levels).


  1. Teach literacy and love of reading by reading to younger students, hosting book clubs for middle and high school students, help with choosing independent reading books at all levels, including Life Skills students;

  2. Teach information literacy skills to students by utilizing technology such as Discovery Education, Edmodo, and other Web 2.0 applications;

  3. Teach library skills, such as research and evaluation of sources, to prepare students for higher grades, college, and careers;

  4. Collaborate with classroom teachers to support classroom learning;

  5. Attend professional development to bring back information to support classroom teachers;

  6. Are a point person for technology questions. Many library teachers are also the A/V Tech coordinator or webmaster for their building. Even those who aren’t also in those positions often work closely with that person to help provide technology support;

  7. Come in early, stay late, and miss lunch to help students with homework, independent reading, college advice, or simply provide a safe space that isn’t the cafeteria where students can chat quietly, collaborate with classmates on projects, or even just check their email.

By cutting library teachers, you take away a critical piece in student success. How can we provide our elementary and middle school students with the required skills to do well in classes if we are only seeing each class once a month? How can high school library teachers expect to prepare students for college if they enter high school lacking key skills?

Cutting library teachers is a recipe for failure.

Thank you.

(Information from http://www.lrs.org/data-tools/school-libraries/impact-studies/)

Creative Commons License
Library Impact by Allegra DAmbruoso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Speaking ELL

On Friday, I was talking  with two coworkers and I was trying to express my feelings about our ELL (English Language Learners) kids. Let me begin with stating that I think it is a feat to be bilingual (or polylingual). I've taken French, Spanish, and Italian. I can't speak any. I can understand the gist of slowly spoken Spanish. Many of our ELL kids prefer to stick with other ELL kids. That's pretty logical. Some help and act as translators for us less-lingual teachers, some literally do not speak a word of English and therefore need to speak their first language and stay with students who speak it. I have trouble figuring out which students speak English and which don't, because sometimes, I think that they think that messing with teachers is funny. I guess it is.

So, I explained some of the issues I have had with a handful of our ELL students and I said: "I don't speak ELL."

This cracked up my coworkers.  I think they got the point thought. While ELL isn't its own language, it kind of is. We have kids who speak different dialects of Spanish, kids from Africa, Vietnam, and all over the world. They're not just learning English. They are learning pieces of every other language too, while leaning academic English from teachers and slang from classmates. These students aren't just becoming bilingual. They are learning pieces of everything. And if that means they want to make fun of the library teacher who tries to remember basic numbers in Spanish, that's Ok with me.