Karen Howell, District Librarian at Shell Lake School in Northwest Wisconsin and current BadgerLink Advisory Group member, is a problem-solver at heart and a lifelong learner. From adapting to the requirements of social distancing in the library, to finding new ways of connecting with teachers, Karen is not letting the current situation keep her down. She has increased her use and instruction of reader’s advisory resources like NoveList, so students find new books, even when they can’t browse the shelves. She’s promoting the creation of Book Snaps, digital snapshots of book excerpts annotated with reactions in the form of emojis, drawings or added text, as a way to get students engaged in what they’re reading. Karen is also looking forward to introducing the library’s resources to middle grade science and phy-ed classes and returning to research instruction using Britannica School.
With 6 years in school librarianship, Karen also has previous teaching experience at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Adult Basic Education, and at North St. Paul/Oakdale as an Elementary Reading Interventionist.
How has education (or library profession, or libraries) changed since you were a kid?
Compared to my childhood, it seems the world got smaller while knowledge got bigger. Perhaps it was the internet? Maybe the breakthroughs in brain science/how people learn? Increased sensitivity to the diversity of life? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that it is an exciting time to be in education and libraries. We are focusing on the individual to create systems of support, varied resources, and access for as many as possible.
What’s a typical day like? How has that changed during pandemic?
School libraries have always been busy places; however, with this pandemic we have really had to think outside the box to provide the very best resources to our students while keeping them safe as possible. At this time, Shell Lake does not allow browsing in the school library. This means that students have been taught how to access and place holds on books via our OPAC system. Our reader advisory, book talking activities, and web presences have taken on more importance as we try to get information out to families and students that we are not seeing face-to-face on a consistent basis. It has been a learning experience that has challenged staff to really consider what it means to provide resources and that “the way it always has been” really doesn’t make sense right now —-so let’s rethink and keep on moving forward!
How has your online resource use changed in the last 6 months?
As a Library Media Specialist, I’ve always been a heavy online resource user. However, my use of these resources to teach and to share with students has increased substantially this last 6 months. For example, picture eBooks have been my go to for in classroom read alouds. Being able to project the full book on the screen so that the 8 — 12 socially distanced students in the classroom can see the pages as I read is a blessing. I am accessing and sharing Sora eBook reading app with more frequency. It is wonderful having students interested in learning how to access these resources. Our school has been hitting the “be prepared to go home” scenario; however, last week I got my first request to start research with students by using BadgerLink’s Britannica School for Students. Yahoo! I think as a school, our technology comfort level has stabilized and teachers and students are ready now to dig deeper into the rich resources available for our school and community.
How long have you known about BadgerLink, and been a user of BadgerLink resources?
I’ve known about BadgerLink for about 20 years; however, my use of BadgerLink really began in grad school (about 8 years ago).
What do you wish Wisconsinites knew about BadgerLink that you don’t think they do?
How easy the resources are to access. I think in the past these resources could get tricky if you didn’t know your library number or your IP address could not easily be identified as in Wisconsin. However, the work by BadgerLink staff over the last year or so to create an easy login process has really improved the process. If you haven’t been back for years, you need to give them another try!
Tell us the benefits you’ve found to statewide availability of an online resources library like BadgerLink.
The cost savings and quality of credible resources was so important for my graduate level college years. Now I am so happy to have book resources — NoveList, Teaching Books, and Britannica School which support my career and ability to assist students in their learning journey.
Tell us the BadgerLink resources you’ve found yourself using more often during the pandemic. Are there any resources you found yourself using less during the pandemic? How have you used online resources like BadgerLink differently during the pandemic?
My reader advisory skills are really being challenged as students email me to ask for help in finding the “just right book” or at least “a book as good as my favorite all time book”. My use of NoveList and Teaching Books has greatly increased as a result of needing to keep myself informed and supporting the reading life of my students. We are only now getting to a point of semi-normality where teachers are ready to dive into research. I’m very excited to start getting students into the updated Britannica School and Explora resources.
Knowing what you know about libraries, educational institutions, and/or non-profits, is there a BadgerLink resource or something about BadgerLink that gets you excited to share this resource collection with colleagues, compared to other resources?
You can’t beat the cost! Once you get a colleague past the hesitance to sign in — the world is your oyster. Honestly, I find the best way to share is to have a specific page or article to recommend. There is really so very much within this resource that it is easier to guide others to access gently and with purpose.
Which BadgerLink resources do you use in your professional development?
Over the summer, the Professional Development Collection and Library, Information Science & Technology were great resources to focus my learning. During the school year, these resources are my go to when needing specific questions answered. School librarians often work as a solo professional staff, so having such a large collection of support for professional learning is appreciated!
Which BadgerLink resources do you use in your library/classroom?
Which BadgerLink resources do you use outside of your professional life?
The library is my life so I tend to be motivated to stick to research for work and supporting students.
Thank you, Karen, for your insights into the profession and continued dedication to school libraries!
Share your story with us at https://badgerlink.dpi.wi.gov/get-word-out/share-your-story.