Summer Newsletter 2011

Ramblings from Anna Bolognani, VSLA President

My school year has ended, but I am still cleaning up a messy desk and need to finish a book order. As I look around the empty library I realize I miss the hustle and bustle of students coming and going, using computers, talking about classes, talking about summer jobs, talking about, well, everything. The library has given me an opportunity to interact with all the students in the school and to know most of them in a more personal way. This is definitely one of the unexpected pleasures of my job.


But school librarians are an endangered species these days. My belief that libraries are not only important but essential to our school and our society is just not enough anymore. I need to do more. I need to show the unbelievers, the non-users, and all those that say, “I know it is true, I found it on the internet” what a librarian can do. I realize that I can no longer rely on the good sense of most people to ask the librarian. I need to be more proactive. I need to show students and teachers how I can help them sift through and understand what they find using Wikipedia or a Google search. Or how I can guide them through a search using our subscription databases. And, yes, I can even suggest a book to read. I want to make library services more visible, increase usage, and show how, more that ever, librarians have an important role in education.


This summer we all should relax and rejuvenate - read a book in the hammock or on the beach. Do something fun. When the end of August rolls around and it is time to start thinking about school again, join me in starting the year off by thoughtfully promoting your collection, the services you provide, and most of all yourself. The work we do is essential to maintaining a well read, democratic, free society.

 Marsha Middleton Retires from North Country Union High School

by Lindy Sargent & Karen Hennig

Marsha Middleton, past president of the Vermont School Library Association, was honored at the Dynamic Landscapes conference in May, 2011, for her many contributions to school librarianship in Vermont.  

Following are comments from the ceremony:

To do Marsha justice in these retirement comments, we’d have to be Marsha – speaking five times faster than we are, crossing all our t’s and dotting all our i’s, and really having given 200% preparation to this address.  

But Marsha is unique and irreplaceable, and she is going to be missed big time in our profession.  We’ll just share a few words to sum up her many accolades and achievements.  


She’s been 22 years at NCU, more at Lake Region & more in PA as an English teacher.

Back in the day she traveled to Burlington weekly with Harriette Phillips-Hamblett to finish her Library Media courses at UVM in the days when they had to stay late to get their homework done because nobody had computers at home.  She must have learned cataloging really well there, because she’s the resident expert on this subject.  Oh, and she raised a family of 4, took care of her husband in his illness, and has helped nurture a wonderful granddaughter.

Passion, Innovation & Persistence:
Marsha comes home from library conferences with all these great ideas – automated catalogs, security systems, online databases, research programs, flip cameras, electronic books, cyber-bullying training – anything to get kids and teachers the latest in technology and information, and she’s found money for them and fought for money and interest – she’s “dragged NC into the 21st century” where administrators and tech people seem fearful to go.   She doesn’t give up, and she’s “the little engine that could,” as her assistant commented, “at the far front of the train where everyone else (at NCU) is not even on board.”

She’s pushed literacy as well with kid book discussions, adult book discussions, storytelling, newspaper serials, producing a home-grown Reading Rainbow series of videos, Stories from the Kingdom, inviting authors, speakers, and movies to school, and of course brainchilding our beloved GMBA program for teen readers.  She’s sponsored crossword puzzle contests and guess the teacher from their prom & graduation pictures contests. 

Problem-Solver and Model for L4L: 

She’s been the cataloging guru for years and the Destiny expert if not aficionado, as their tech desk will concur.  When something’s wrong she spends hours fixing it.  “You’ve got the picture reversed and you need to send me the errata,” she writes a publisher.  If a program doesn’t work, she’s the model of research and problem-solving and is right on it until it does work.  Her exactitude and high standards set the bar.  She’s always trying something new or different.  

Dedication & Energy: 

Marsha’s dedicated her life to the library profession in Vermont and beyond, through service in VSLA as secretary and president, and listserv participant extraordinaire.   Her day starts at 4 a.m. as she gets ready for spin class and ends quite late, after curling or a book discussion or church or care of her grandchild – or all of the above in one evening!  She may have 6 balls in the air at once but through sheer hard work, long hours, and energy, she gets it all done. 

And we don’t expect anything less in her retirement!  But we really and truly wish her a restful vacation before she starts it…with a passion!

Pictured above: Lindy Sargent, Marsha Middleton, Karen Hennig

Natalie Kinsey-Warnock: An Engaging and Inspirational Author Visits MES

by Liv Perry

Do you have family stories that you tell or have written down? We all have family stories that should not be forgotten. This was one of many messages conveyed during the recent author event on Wednesday, May 4, in the Morristown Elementary School Library. Vermont children’s author Natalie Kinsey-Warnock presented to all the students Kindergarten through Fifth grade, as well as the Elmore School students. “Natalie was highly engaging and kept the students “oowing” and “awing” for over an hour…as a teacher, I even left feeling inspired to start asking more questions and collecting stories!” reported Leah Belitsos. Third grader Haleigh Audet said: “I liked when she told us all about her life and her animals.” “What I thought was cool yesterday was that she collects images from a long time ago and brings them back before they’re forgotten,” said Kaylee Spaulding, third grader. Based on the high level of engagement during the program and feedback in the week following, it was a widely popular and inspirational event for all ages.

Natalie was very thoughtful in the way she answered students’ many questions. Some were the standard sort: what’s your favorite book you’ve written (As Long as There Are Mountains), how old were you when you started writing stories (Second grade), and why did you first decide to become a writer (to tell people about my grandma, who was an amazing woman – The Canada Geese Quilt). Other questions were a bit more specific and sometimes trivial: How big is your horse (19 hands), how old were you when you rescued your first animal (four years old – a puppy was left behind the barn), how many books have you written this year (5), and how many books have you written in your whole life (over 100). One student asked her why there are always babies in her stories; this was the first time she had that question, so it gave her reason to pause (it wasn’t intentional, families used to have more kids, when there are big families someone always seems to be having babies). Based on the questions, students were well versed in her books as well as listening closely during her talks.

Natalie told many different family stories that she has uncovered over the years. Some have already worked their way into books, while others are waiting their turn. When asked about what they thought was interesting about her talk, students mostly focused on animal rescues and old family stories. Here are just tidbits from two of them. Joe Yando, 5th grader, said, “I think the story was funny about how they were skinny dipping and waved to the king and queen.” The King and Queen of England were travelling by train through the Vermont countryside when they passed a lake with swimmers who jumped out and waved to the royalty – some of Natalie’s ancestors! The longest story she told was found about fifteen years ago while conducting research. Natalie learned about the sinking of the Sultana (America’s worst ship disaster) and the fact that her relative survived it. It was a paddle wheel steam boat on the Mississippi River that was transporting Northern soldiers back home after the Civil War ended. She compared it to the Titanic disaster. Many more people died from the Sultana’s last trip on April 27, 1865, when its cracked boiler exploded and sank the ship, yet most people have never heard this disaster. This was the story that seemed to illicit the most reaction. There were close to a dozen more family stories that she related to the children during her visit.

Natalie says that staying active, healthy, and spending time outdoors help her to be a better writer. She has had very close encounters with many animals: coyotes leaping over her as she slept; bear, bobcat, and moose in her path or road while biking and rollerblading. While snowshoeing a wild turkey didn’t see her and flew into her head. It certainly helps her tell stories! She is definitely inspirational to us to get outside to see nature and to exercise.

Natalie also talked about her writing process. She writes by hand with paper and pencil outside in a field, with her many dogs and Dog-Cat (a cat that acts like a dog). She usually rewrites her stories at least 40 times to make them better and so she can be proud of them. This was well received by teachers who sometimes struggle to get students to work on rewrites. It can take 4-5 years from the time she writes until the books are printed. Unfortunately, many of her books are out of print. Buy she is working on bringing some of them back. Fifth grader Annie Keith responded, “While I am interested in reading her books, I’m more inspired to go visit my grandmother and talk to her to find out her stories.” Natalie wouldn’t be disappointed; her message got through.

There’s no doubt that the author has made a strong impression on the students and staff. Stephanie Viet reported, “When I picked up my two boys, Charlie and Gus, at GMK, they were overflowing with enthusiasm about the author visit along with other kids! My kids shared stories throughout the night and we read her books!” Some people are looking for ways to help animals – through adoptions or volunteering. Others are talking to their family members looking for stories. Three days after the visit, one parent commented that her typically quiet son has been chatting up a storm telling about multiple stories from Natalie’s presentation. Liz Winn, music teacher, wrote, "She really inspired me to get back to my own writing since I have so many stories. I hope the children can see that writing isn't something they're supposed to do, but a way to share their stories with others." The librarian was even inspired to write this article. Let’s hope that the effect Natalie has on MES is long lasting.

Author Natalie Kinsey-Warnock presents to 4th and 5th grade classes

Photo: Leah Belitsos

Natalie shows books she has written from family stories on both sides of her family as 2nd and 3rd graders listen closely.

Photo: Liv Perry

Natalie shows one of her grandma’s quilts as Teacher Jenn Batten helps, while Kindergarten and First graders look on. It was her grandmother who inspired her to become a writer – so she wouldn’t be forgotten.

Photo: Liv Perry

Dynamic Landscapes 2011

by Marsha Middleton & Marcia Peterson

At the Vermont School Library Association meeting at the Dynamic Landscapes conference in May, Claire Buckley, President of VSLA for 2010-2011, passed the gavel to Anna Bolognani, the VSLA president for 2011-2012.

The VSLA Board honored the following retirees: Debbie Wheeler (Stowe), Barbara Marvin (on leave from Colchester), Elizabeth Kinney (Randolph Union High School), and Marsha Middleton (North Country Union High School). Marsha Middleton was the only retiree who was present, and Karen Hennig and Lindy Sargent honored Marsha by reading about her library experience and many contributions to our field (see related article).

Cheryl Kissel received the VSLA Award, having been nominated by Christine Gilbert and Sue Monmaney (see related article).

AASL President -Elect Sue Ballard presented at Dynamic Landscapes on Friday.  One presentation was on crosswalking – tying our efforts with AASL, ISTE, P21, and the Common Core standards and giving evidence to school decision-makers of our impact on student learning.  Her other presentation was with Judy Kaplan and was entitled “PLCs, CoPs, PLNs, and U!”

Thursday evening Vermont librarians had dinner at the Windjammer with Sue Ballard and Friday’s keynote speaker Kristin Fontichiaro.  She was a terrific speaker – funny and to the point.  It is so easy for students to create products that look terrific but have very little content.  She stressed the need for e

valuating student work for signs of critical thinking and deep learning.

Claire Buckley, outgoing VSLA president, passes the gavel to new president Anna Bolognani.

Cheryl Kissel Receives VSLA Award
by Jessica Langlois

The VSLA Award Committee was happy to present the 2011 VSLA Award to Cheryl Kissel from Northfield Elementary School. We received reports from several people, including her coworkers, testifying to Cheryl’s dedication to her school, community and colleagues. 
As Sue Monmaney wrote, “Any time a librarian is in need, Cheryl is there to help. She is an ever-present and thoughtful participant in all relevant listserv queries. She has been the Central Vermont Regional Representative for a number of years -- planning meetings to best suit needs, interests, and schedules, and if there is someone new in the area, you can be sure that Cheryl will reach out to them. She has been an active member of the VSLA board in other capacities as well, including serving on the website committee and co-planning a very successful fall conference. No board meeting is too far to travel to, and she's even offered her home as a stopping off place for those board members traveling by Randolph on their long trek from one corner of the state to the other.” 
Christine Gilbert added, “Cheryl has been a wonderful friend and great source of information and support during my three years as the School Librarian. I know that there isn't anything that she wouldn't do to help expand my information literacy skills and improve the quality of my collection as she helps me to become the best school librarian I can be.” Vermont school librarians and educators are lucky to have someone like Cheryl to serve as an inspiration and mentor, and we hope she knows how much she is appreciated. 

Pictured above:  Christine Gilbert, Cheryl Kissel, Sue Monmaney

School Library Leadership at Dynamic Landscapes

by Judy Kaplan

At the Dynamic Landscapes conference in May, several presenters shared their experiences in the UVM Fall, 2010, professional development course: School Library Leadership.

From left: Susan Ballard, Jennifer Faith, Angel Harris, Heidi Heustis, Liv Perry, and Judy Kaplan (standing)