Parent’s Night + New York = Nap

Last night was Parent’s Night for the middle school. The library hosted a number of information tables (fine arts, auxiliary services, PE), plus the food, so we were pretty busy! It was great to see so many people and to get some parent perspective/feedback on the things we are doing in the library. We heard about our interns loving being interns, our readers loving our collection and suggestions, and our makers loving the Makerspace. How nice it is to hear, “Every day when he gets in the car, the first thing he talks about is what he did in the library today.”

To make things a little more fun, I set up a Makey Makey/Scratch piano with playdough keys and a Make an LED Throwie for Your Child station.  (Throwie = LED + battery + magnet + tape.  Makes a simple little light that can stick on your locker or refrigerator.) I didn’t know what to expect in terms of interest, but I think parents made at least 75 throwies! I hope they stayed lit overnight because a bunch of parents put them in their kids’ lockers to surprise them this morning. My test one lasted a few days, so I think it was probably okay, but you never know. And I wasn’t there to find out because. . .

I’m in NEW YORK CITY! for the World Maker Faire, where the SEW for SOS kids will have an exhibit. I am so excited to see the Faire!

When I got to my hotel (after a smooth but exhausting morning of travel–two straight nights of 3-4 hours of sleep did not make for a happy traveler), the guy at the desk asked if I wanted a smaller bed in exchange for a room on the top floor, on a corner, with a better view. I said yes. This (poor picture, sorry) is what I got to see this evening:


Once I got in my room, I decided to close my eyes for a few minutes.  I woke up several hours later, thankfully in time to catch that sunset.

And that is all my news! I’m going to try to crash early so I am well rested for a busy day tomorrow of Maker Faire and evening of seeing some local friends.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Independence, Frustration, Etc.

I was greeted this morning by this lady on the library door.


I thought she was a he, but a student corrected me and told me that the presence of wings means she’s female. Another student added that female praying mantises (manti?) bite the heads off males. Amusing start to the day!

Last night’s #makered chat on Twitter was about frustration, so I had that topic on my mind today.

It’s interesting how some kids want a lot of help, and others clearly want to be left alone to just explore on their own and only seek me out to share their successes. I am trying hard to build a culture where, when they do want help, they can ask each other instead of me or another adult. It takes some time to get this going, especially at the start of the year with a whole new batch of 5th graders. Today I caught myself falling into the old habit of doing something for a kid because the bell is about to ring and they want to be finished and they say, “Will you please help me do this last part?” Once I recognized it, I stopped, but it’s funny how easy it is to go into that “fix it” mode when you have a kid who has been working hard on something and just desperately wants to see the finished product. But it won’t kill them to either wrestle with it themselves after school or come back tomorrow! I know this! D’oh!

What they wanted help with: origami.  I made a variety of little origami things the other day when I was waiting in the library for my daughter to finish sports practice, and I have them out on the circulation desk. So today I had kids wanting to make cubes and ninja stars.


Meanwhile, the Raspberry Pi crew continues their work–I have no idea what they are doing exactly, but they are focused and happy. The Flying Box boys are really progressing with each new iteration of their project–as I told them today, whether or not their creation flies, they have really impressed me with how each new version is clearly a thoughtful attempt to fix a problem discovered in the previous version. The box itself was actually gone today, replaced by much lighter “legs.” (Wish I’d snapped a pic, but I was pulled into origami world before I got a chance!)  These kids are really a model for perseverance and analysis of problems. I want to bottle what they bring to the Makerspace!

Another great day in the library!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


I have nothing particularly interesting to report, but it was a joyful day in the library.

  • Some kids are playing with the Raspberry Pi (it has been in a box in the Makerspace since last spring, but it was only just discovered last week when we did our enforced clean-up!).
  • The Flying Box kids are continuing their work.  One came up to me and said, “So here’s our hypothesis.” (Someone has been listening in science class, right?) They think they either have the propellers on wrong or “maybe it’s just too heavy.” But I did witness the hovering they’ve been talking about, and it’s pretty exciting. They are now seeing if they can get coin cell batteries, which are lighter, to provide enough power to make the motor run fast enough.
  • The Library Intern program continues to grow. I need to at some point get a photo of my colleague surrounded by eager interns. They like to all talk to her at once.  :)
  • I sat and made origami boxes with a 5th grade boy as the chaos of collaboration/help time swirled around us.

A very good day.  Especially for a Monday!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Student Ownership

I’ve got two highlights from my day, both of which involve student ownership of the library.

The first is the Library Intern program. At the end of last year, a few girls wanted to become “library helpers”–helping sort books for shelving, recommending books to other kids. They picked it up again this year, and we now have kids every day asking to become library interns (boys, girls, all grade levels). We asked the founders to come up with some Rules for Library Interns–because we need to have some structure (when there are 10 interns on duty at once, it’s bit overwhelming!) and some quality control on the shelving that they’ve started doing. I’m not sure if you will be able to read it in this photo, but here they are:


My favorite of the rules are:

  • Always shelve with a buddy.
  • Anybody can be an intern! We are not exclusive.
  • Keep reading so you can make good recommendations!
  • Be nice and helpful to all library patrons.

Here are some of the interns:


I love the enthusiasm of the interns, and I’m so proud of them for coming up with a really solid list of rules that solved some of the problems that were popping up with the growing numbers. One rule is that only 3 can be behind the desk at once (I gave them permission to break this rule for the photo op!). I think the next task for the organizers/leaders will be to create an intern schedule, but for today, the rules were a wonderful start in adding some structure.

My other highlight is the organizing of the Makerspace.  Makers were greeted this morning with a closed space and this sign:


[The Problem:  Cleanup.  1. Stuff randomly thrown in bins, so you can't find what you need later.  2. Mess on counters.  (Could be worse, but needs work.)  The Solution(s): ??? You all come up with some!! Please!]

The kids have, in general, been good about keeping the counters clean, but this has been accomplished at times by just tossing everything into an empty bin. I wrote the sign above and then also pulled off all the bins that were full of random stuff and put them on the tables. There were about 8 bins just filled with mixtures of fabric, needles, duct tape, electronics components, scissors, etc.

I think during activity period, they just looked at the sign and then walked away. (I was with a reading class, so I’m not sure.) Then during lunch, a few kids came and made a plan. A different (more detailed) system for the bins. Putting smaller bins inside larger ones. More labeling. Etc. And getting it all sorted out today, during recess.

Then recess came.  The usual big crowd showed up, and the planners passed along the plan to get to work–they had already started going through bins and were prepared to just do it themselves, but they asked for help. A few kids ran out the door to go to recess, but lots of them stayed. And this is what happened:

IMG_0060IMG_0061 IMG_0062

They got it done!!  They cleaned out all of those bins; created their new system; even sorted types of thread into different bins! I am SO PROUD of these kids.

The lesson that I take from both of these stories from today is this one: TRUST THE KIDS. Trust them to solve problems, especially problems that arise as a result of giving them freedom/choice. I can’t count how many people have asked me, when discussing Makerspaces, about whether mess is a problem. Of course it’s a problem! It will continue to be a problem! I told the kids today that things would get messy again, and when they do, we now have a way to deal with it. They don’t have to be perfect; they just need to be willing to take responsibility for the less fun parts of having ownership of the library. And they are absolutely willing and able.

I’m happy. Tired, but very happy and oh so proud.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The fun returns

What a great day to be in the library!  We were so busy, and it was all the wonderful kind–kids working in groups; kids studying together; kids looking for books; kids SEWing and tinkering.

I want to highlight one thing in particular, and that’s the group of boys who were working on the propeller thing last week.  This was where one kid kept saying “a boy can dream big!”  The dream was to make the box they were working with fly.  Yesterday they were holed up in a classroom working and reworking on it, and I never had a chance to check in with them on their progress.  Today, the “dreamer” came up to me and said, “It worked!  It hovered!  Then it fell apart, but it did fly!” I said, “So your dream came true?” Oh, the smile on that kid! Today a few of them got to work on a revised version. They got into a very detailed conversation about aerodynamics and how to arrange and shape the propellers. They were so focused, and yeah, I’m going to say it, they were pretty much being geniuses. I’m proud of these guys: for their perseverance, for their willingness to dream and to work; for their joy in the process. 


It flew!

We also were lucky to get a donated old laptop for kids to take apart, and that group took the thing apart as much as possible (including taking off every key on the keyboard) and they now almost have it all back together.  


Laptop Dissection 101

Finally, we had another busy SEW for SOS day, with some journalism students from VCU coming out to interview the kids. Many pillows were sewn and much goofiness was on display. What most struck me today, though, was how SEW has become a smoothly running machine–they get right to work, and are getting pretty efficient with cleanup (efficiency not always correlating with quality of organization, but we’ll get there! they might not be thrilled when I ask them to sort the bins they they’ve been tossing random things into, but they will do it).  


Master fabric cutter!



So, it was a fun day. I’ve got my groove back. Thanks, kids, for being your awesomely inspiring selves.


Filed under Uncategorized

Rough Day

It’s so much harder to write a reflection after a hard day!  

Yeah, it was a rough one. The work day started with my least favorite task, coding purchasing card receipts, and I hit a snafu with that because of some missing receipts. That was solved with an online chat with Amazon (I think there was a glitch when I swapped computers this summer; all of the missing receipts were from the same day), but only after I ranted and raved for a while about it. (Sorry, colleague!) 

Then it was basically just one stress after another. I got my feelings hurt about one thing; felt pressured about another thing; totally goofed up on another thing; and felt (and still feel) pulled in too many directions, like I’m trying to do too many things and consequently not doing any of them nearly as well as I’d like. I’ve created my own problems, so I only have myself to blame, but that doesn’t really help much.

I’m working to try to find balance. Today I told the recess kids that they need to split days; 5th and 6th can come M/W, and 7th and 8th can come Tu/Th. I’m not sure yet about Fridays–it will probably be all or nothing. But anyway, the split means I can actually eat lunch without simultaneously trying to manage the Makerspace crews. I hate to limit SEW for SOS and our new, student-invented Library Intern program, but it’s much easier to make changes this early in the year, before we’re all burned out, than later. 

I just need to keep working on balance–between maker education and my traditional role of librarian. I love both so much. I love working with the kids in both capacities, and I love the chance to keep learning new things. A colleague suggested pulling other faculty into the Makerspace, and I would love that. 

Bright spots:

Someone donated an old laptop to the Makerspace, with the understanding that the kids would be taking it apart and seeing what’s inside and figuring out how it all goes together. Today, a group of boys started on that project (the remote control car crew, plus a few more), and it was fun to watch them problem-solve the dismantling (harder than you might think!) and start to learn about what the different components do.

After school, outdoor sports were cancelled due to rain. I had a large afterschool group in the library, and then for the last hour I was there, waiting on my own kid to finish up volleyball practice, I chatted with a student I have talked to before, but never for that long. It was a really interesting conversation–we talked about art mostly–and it was another one of my “this kid is a GENIUS!” moments because of how articulate and thoughtful she was.

Then I took my kid to IHOP and ate french toast, because french toast makes me happy.  :)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Collaboration and Chaos


Another back-to-back activity/recess block survived!  It was crazy in here today!  It felt very chaotic, but at the same time, everyone was behaving (a bit of noisy laughter; a remote control car that “escaped”; but nothing worrisome), and they cleaned up at the end.  I think folks coming through might see the chaos more than anything, but what I see, or at least try to see, is the creativity and learning going on underneath it.

I put a call out last night to faculty for old, busted or outgrown electronics.  The remote-control-car-modification crew has been having so much fun with that project, I figured they could probably get a lot of mileage and learn a lot from taking some things apart and using the components for their own creations.  Today, we received an old laptop!  And promises for an old, non-working iPhone and a busted sewing machine.  We also had a broken old tape/CD player returned to the library, and I turned that over to one of our Makers for tinkering.  She had it cracked open in no time!




The remote control car crew continued their work.  The car is getting faster!  “Significantly faster,” as one of the kids said.


And, lastly, this group of boys started a new project.  They worked mostly today on making the propeller for a fan, using wooden sticks covered in painter’s tape, all connected to a motor/battery combo.  I’m not sure what their plan is (something involving the fan and a pretty involved wooden frame), but one of them kept saying, “a boy can dream big!”  I love that they are dreaming big, and working together.  I love to hear, “Mrs. LaMontagne!  It WORKS!” from across the library.



My main challenge right now, I think, is keeping that chaos at a reasonable level.  We are getting more and more kids using the Makerspace, which is what I want, but I am hoping that organized activities (which will start in a few weeks; I plan to offer one just about every day, and of course kids will be in other activities around the middle school) will space out the energy a bit.

The other challenge is that the same periods that are Maker-heavy are the ones that are book-recommendation heavy, and I don’t want to lose that part of my job. I love talking books with kids!  My reading class visits (which are regular for grades 5 and 6) will help me keep a foot planted in that world of books, but I love the informal conversations around books that pop up during those activity/help periods.

I’m sure it will all balance out, but right this minute, I’m grateful that it’s Friday!  The chaos is a lot of fun, but it’s exhausting for an old introvert like me!


Filed under Uncategorized