My Site Has Moved

5 12 2015

My website moved

Please join me on my new website:

Pam Harland Learning Commons Librarian

Why a Library is the Right Place for a Makerspace

26 04 2015

The library is the place where people and ideas come together. It’s also traditionally the place where people turn data into original content through reading, writing, analysis, and experimentation. A makerspace is a lot like the library. People turn raw materials into original creations through collaboration, innovation, and experimentation.

I’ve been slowly adding to our makerspace in my high school library. We have a Makerbot 3D Printer, a Makey-Makey, a Raspberry Pi, an old robotics kit, legos, and spare computer parts. Last week I added a Little Bits kit and students love it. I like to see students trying new things, solving problems, and essentially driving an idea from conception to execution. I watched a student say he wanted to create a strobe light with the Little Bits kit. He hooked everything thing up and said “what is going on? it didn’t work!” I did not advise, I simply observed while he unplugged and changed the order of the bits and realized his mistake. He shouted “It worked!” and we saw his face light up with the flashing strobe light.

Makerspaces belong in our libraries because they drive a way of thinking. They help students learn autonomous problem solving, inquisitive processing, and other real world skills they will be called upon to use when they move on from school. Giving students a place to exercise deductive reasoning and build confidence through practice is part of the value that a good library provides.


Just-in-Time Research Skills

25 11 2014
collaborationI find the best method for teaching research skills to students is via collaboration with your faculty.
I believe students learn best when given “just-in-time” research skills instruction, not “just-in-case” instruction.
For instance:
  • Teach them to use your health database when they come in for health research.
  • Teach them to evaluate websites as a formative assignment with your World Cultures teachers.
  • Show them how to cite as they write as soon as they begin collecting resources by showing them how to use the EasyBib add-on in Google Docs.
I use a short “Content Area Research Rubric” that I share with my content area faculty (not the English teachers, but everyone else uses it). I also have a Research LibGuide set up that everyone uses: (my rubrics are there, too.) I try to make sure that all parts of the research process are covered by a variety of classes and that students hear a consistent message coming from across the disciplines.collaboration
I occasionally remind all of our faculty (through staff meeting presentations, PLC collaboration, or one-on-one discussions) about the Common Core Anchor Standards that address Research literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects:
Research to Build and Present Knowledge:
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

MassCUE: Library Space Revival

23 10 2014



  • LibGuides:
  • 123D Design:
  • Explain Everything:
  • Online Newsstand:
  • Library Reports:
  • Putting Dewey on a Diet:


Killer Library Reports

8 07 2014

Nobody wants to read boring statistics about your library at the end of the year. Find a way to show your stakeholders what you’ve really accomplished with a colorful, data-driven library report.

I’ve recently changed my library report to an infographic. I think it’s important to use graphics, color, and even pictures of happy students using your library space and resources. I try to do reports monthly, but they usually come out quarterly.



I asked several colleagues to share their reports with me.

Jessica Gilcreast shares her beautiful Infographic-style library report here:

Rachel Hopkins uses LibGuides to make her report creative and easy to browse:

The brilliant Sue Kowalski (@spkowalski) also used LibGuides for her Library Report. I especially like the headings for each section like: “Culture of Thinking and Learning” and “Enjoyment and Engagement.” I’m definitely going to take some of those headings and incorporate them into my future reports.


I got a tweet this week from Mary Morgan Ryan (@mmorganryan). She made her library report using a tool called smore. Check out her beautiful report:

How do you share statistics and information about your library with your stakeholders?

Reflections on Library Service

17 03 2014

Being kicked out of the library was not my first time being treated poorly by someone from my local public library. Over the past week many people have shared their stories from the same library.

This is a pretty ordinary list for a non-customer service oriented library:

look it up

  • Circulation desk clerks exhaling with annoyance over overdue books and requests for assistance
  • Asked “did you look it up?” by staff members when requesting assistance while looking for a book
  • Not allowing people to check out books on the shelving cart
  • Parents asked to bring their children to the Children’s Room when they simply need to grab a book from the adult shelves for their own reading
  • Foster parents unable to secure cards for their Foster children
  • Teachers from the public schools are not allowed to get library cards because they might try to “check out all of the books”
  • Requested materials not purchased because the library staff thought nobody else would be interested in “insert interesting topic here”
  • Endless stories of shushing & hushing.

Libraries that conduct business this way are the reason all libraries are fighting for relevance.

Because this happened to me I’m picking on Exeter Public Library, but this is happening all over the country in public libraries, school libraries, and academic libraries. I’m tired of non-librarian people saying to me “I can’t believe YOU’RE a librarian,” “why do you call yourself a LIBRARIAN? you should tell people you are a media specialist/tech integrator/teacher,” and people introducing me as “well, she’s MORE than a librarian.” I’m not more than a librarian, you just have low expectations for what a librarian is. I do believe it’s libraries like EPL that set the bar for my profession and I’m not happy about it.

I sincerely hope that EPL reaches out to the community (not only to their current library users) and forms a library advisory board. I also hope they send the staff to some positive customer service training. Even though they deleted comments on their facebook page with links to this blog and to the NYT article about services changing at the Boston Public Library I have noticed an increase in their online presence. Posts about book clubs, knitting groups, and even a reminder of their free wi-fi have gone up this week. It’s nice to see an attempt to reach out in more positive ways.

Kicked Out of the Library

8 03 2014

Last week I went to the Exeter Public Library with a colleague to work on a project for our high school. We needed Internet access, a table to spread our documents out on, an outlet to plug-in our devices, a spot away from the distractions of our school, and a buzzing atmosphere where we would feel inspired to create new ideas for our project. What better place than the local library?


silent library

We arrived to a very still and silent library. Two women behind the main desk looked at us as we walked in and went back to work. Patrons were sitting in chairs reading newspapers. There were some available study carrels in the corners. No group tables near outlets.

We tried the second floor. We were faced with several empty chairs and study carrels and signs that say “no talking.” There was an empty “meeting room” with no table and no chairs. Another meeting room was locked.

epl meeting room

Rules on the locked meeting room door


empty library

Because it was 10 a.m. we went into the Teen room (which is located directly behind the Reference desk.) The room is empty because it is a Friday and all of the teens in town are in school. We sat at a booth with an outlet and spread out our documents. As soon as we started working we were interrupted by a staff member who said that we are not allowed to work in there because we would intimidate the teens. I jokingly suggested that the fact that we are high school teachers/librarians could gain us access to this empty room. The librarian did not think it was funny and asked us to leave. I asked her for a suggestion of a location where we could work together at a table near an outlet. She said there are outlets all over the walls but could think of no table near an outlet. She recommended we try the second floor and I said that we will need to talk about our project. She reminded us we are not allowed to talk on the second floor.

We packed up and spent the day at Me & Ollie’s cafe where we sat on couches around a coffee table near an outlet surrounded by the buzz of the cafe. A young woman was reading a book next to us. An older man was typing hurriedly on his laptop on the other side. People were having meetings, drinking coffee, and getting business done. We were welcomed by the staff. They made us tea. And we got our work done.

Me & Ollie’s Bakery & Cafe, Exeter NH