Transliteracy – Another AASL Conference Take Away

In my November 8 posting about the American Association of School Librarians Conference I attended in Minneapolis, I promised to write more about it as I processed my notes, materials, and thoughts from the conference. One of the sessions that resonated with me  was “Transforming Learning for Today’s Students: Libraries as Sponsors of Transliteracy” presented by Buffy Hamilton, the “Unquiet Librarian” from the Creekview High School Library in Canton, Georgia. Fortunately, the session was taped, and I was just able to watch the recording, since it took me a second time through to absorb all that she shared.

So, first, what is transliteracy? Buffy shared several definitions for what is clearly an evolving concept. Transliteracy, I believe, means being literate across the entire spectrum of the most traditional forms of communication to the most cutting-edge social media platforms. Our students are using many new platforms, including software like Facebook and hardware like smartphones, in their personal lives. We need to embrace these options and help them use these media as part of their educational experience as we also introduce them to new media they may not be familiar with. Here are a few of the points that struck me in Buffy’s talk that I want to make sure we foster at our library:

  • We need to move from just helping students learn to helping them learn how to learn.  We need to help them move beyond being just knowledgeable to being knowledge – able.
  • Don’t tell students not to use Google to search or Wikipedia as a source. We aren’t going to stop them from using these tools. Instead, we need to teach them how to use and filter them effectively. (Whenever I see students using Wikipedia, I never discourage them; instead, I always share that it may be a good place to start research, but not to end.)
  • We need to be wary of the myth of the digital native. In practice, most students know a little about a lot of things. We must be careful not to make assumptions about prior knowledge of both tools or concepts.
  • We must also be wary about assumptions that all students have access to technology. The library needs to take ownership of helping to close the participation gap in access.
  • New technology tools can be powerful, but pedagogy and sound practice needs to come first. And, we can’t rely either on just theory or just experience from practice. We need both, and we need a sound framework before introducing new tools.
  • We need to help build inquiry-driven lessons and projects. A sound model is Barbara Stripling’s “Inquiry  Model” which includes six non-linear, recursive phases: wonder, investigate, construct, express, reflect, and connect. Many students have lost the power of wonder, since they have not been given an opportunity to exercise it. We need to think of strategies to engage that. (Here is an article that outlines Stripling’s model and includes a great graphic Buffy included in her talk:
  • We need to allow students to fashion their own research questions and find what they are passionate about. We need to celebrate their strengths and differences and encourage them to share their work. We need to fight the idea that there is “the answer.”
  • We need to include students in the assessment process. The ultimate empowerment is when students can evaluate their own work.
At Mira Costa, we are blessed with outstanding teachers. I look forward to building on our strengths by working to foster these concepts in our library programs.

AASL Conference

I had the pleasure October 27 – 30 of attending the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Conference in Minneapolis. This event is held every other year and draws an incredibly talented group of school librarians from all around the country. I am still processing all the information and great ideas I received there and pondering how I can implement them in my practice. Here, though, is a summary of a few of the highlights:

Digital Collection Curation

During the “Treasure Mountain” pre-conference and one of the conference concurrent sessions, I heard Joyce Valenza, the Teacher Librarian at Springfield Township HS Library in Pennsylvania, speak about the importance of digital collection curation in school library practice. So what is curation? Joyce described it as not just finding the pearls, but actually stringing the necklace. I would call it the next step after pathfinders. When classes come to the library to do research, I usually create a pathfinder, or guide to quality resources on a topic, to assist them with their work. Curation goes beyond pathfinders because it aggregates and actually embeds content on a topic into a guide. And, a good curation guide generally focuses on a specific topic, not just a broad subject area, and includes both automatically-generated hits based on well-crafted keyword searches and human additions and edits. For more details, click on the thumbnail for slides from Valenza’s talk:

Fortunately, we don’t all need to reinvent the wheel for every topic, since there are a lot of good curated guides out there already. But I think that creating your own guide on a topic you are passionate about can be an empowering experience for a learner, both student and adult. This year, I plan to begin transitioning as much as possible from pathfinders to curated guides for class projects and to helping students locate and create their own guides on topics they are researching or interested in. As Joyce commented in her talk, “students need new types of containers. They need to create reflective portfolios with their own curation.”


One of my goals this year is to begin a collection of ebooks that students can access online and possibly also download to handheld devices. I don’t see us ever abandoning print, but I want to help students take advantage of the digital options available for reading and researching. There is a large, growing selection of ebooks out there, both reference materials for research, and fiction and non-fiction for independent reading. Some titles in the public domain are free and others are for purchase. Some ebooks are licensed for unlimited simultaneous readers; others allow for a single user at a time, just like print books. I focused on attending several sessions about ebooks and spoke to several vendors during the conference. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer as to what is the “best’ platform in this rapidly-evolving market. I wish that I could find a way to add all the titles to our library catalog and have them accessible in the same way through that one portal, regardless where they came from. That isn’t possible, at least not yet. Everyone I heard from at the conference acknowledged that we have a ways to go before the options and market settle down. We can’t, though, wait until that happens to start offering ebooks to our students. I do plan to begin our Mira Costa ebook collection very soon. Stand by for details!


The conference was also a wonderful opportunity to hear and meet authors and get some great free books. Here is the pile of free books I brought home 🙂 :

aasl books
Mrs. Lofton's books from the AASL Conference

At the Authors’ Banquet on Friday night, I had the treat of sitting at the table with Author Andrea Davis Pinkney and hearing her share that “we all know that librarians will go to the end of the earth to help you with research.” I was also very impressed by how passionately Joan Bauer described her interest in creating heroes who are survivors of adversity and Pata Mora share that “we cannot have a democracy without literacy.” I enjoyed meeting Maggie Stiefvator, author of The Wolves of Mercy Falls series (ShiverLingerForever), and hearing her present at the Sunday Author Brunch about the story behind her new book, The Scorpio Games, her most deliberately autobiographical work. Stiefvater explained how she is fascinated by “world” novels, and wanted to create her own world. Being a food lover, I was amused to learn that she wanted to “torture readers with imaginary foods.” Here’s a photo of me meeting her in the Exhibit Hall and relishing the opportunity to receive a free, autographed copy of Forever:

Maggie Stiefvater

I will share more in coming postings.

Dear Parents, Staff, and Students,

I would like to extend an invitation to all of you to attend a very special “Cyber Sunday” event being convened next Sunday, November 13, by the California School Library Association (CSLA) at the Pasadena Convention Center from 9:45 AM – 3:15 PM. As an addition to CSLA’s regular annual conference, CSLA is hosting a day of sessions by experts from the field – elected officials, reps from Yahoo, Facebook, the CA Dept. of Education, CA Dept. Office of Privacy Protection, and more – on all aspects of cyber citizenship, online safety, digital literacy, and empowering our 21st Century learners online. This program is being offered free of charge, and intended for educators, parents, government leaders, and any other interested parties. Please consider spending the day at this event, which I am confident will be very informative and rewarding.

Here is a link to the event Invitation:

Here is a link to the program Brochure:

Here is a link to the Cyber Sunday Registration form. Registration is free, but the organizers will appreciate knowing that you are coming.

For general information, visit the Calif. School Library Association website at And, please do contact me if you have any questions. I would love to have you attend.


Jane Lofton
Your Mira Costa Teacher Librarian and Incoming President Elect, Calif. School Library Association