Skype author visit

Gail Giles, a YA author that has appeal to guys, girls, high and low level readers, Skyped into Collins Hill HS a few weeks ago. I was a nervous wreck, anticipating the many things that could go wrong when you combine teenagers, technology, and the first attempt at something new. However, it was a resounding success! Gail Giles was witty and fun, and our students did a wonderful job asking questions and keeping the conversation going. If you want to see the highlights, see our short video here. If you want more details, keep reading…

Amy Golemme, my co-media specialist, and I brainstormed authors that would have mass appeal. Gail Giles was our first thought, so I took a shot in the dark and emailed her. She emailed back quickly and we got the details planned out – one test session a few days before, then 2 sessions during our 2nd and 3rd periods. We decided to use the media center to keep it cozy and inviting, rather than a larger space like the commons area or theater. I made signs for the hallways and classrooms and the media center. I went into all the 9th and 10th grade LA classes to promote it. Students that wanted to participate had to read at least one of her books, answer a few questions, and write a few questions they’d like to ask her. For those students, I gave them a pass out of class during 2nd or 3rd period and they were our VIPs. I also invited two language arts classes per session and any media specialists from the around the county that could come.

In Gwinnett, we aren’t allowed to use Skype, but we do have an alternative – Polycom and the Blue Jeans network. We use those tools and the author uses Skype. Kevin Tomlinson from the county was excellent technical support for us and helped put my technology fears to rest. On the day of the event, we set up about 80 chairs in the media center, created VIP seats, put out a breakfast spread, set up the technology, and hoped for the best! Gail came on, introduced herself, and then we had the students come up to the computer to ask questions. We had a webcam and external mic hooked up to my laptop. The students asked good questions, and Gail was entertaining, funny, and informative. When I polled the students after the event, they all said they had a positive experience and many expressed interest in doing it again. One student even turned in a top ten list of authors she’d like to Skype with!

If you have any questions or want templates for signs, the handout students filled out, or any other details, don’t hestitate to email me at or call at 770.682.4126. It was a lot of work, but a great experience for us and for the students.

Holly Frilot, Collins Hill High School

New year…new website?

I’ve always been a bit of a website addict. The first thing I do when going somewhere new is scope out the website…a new park for my kids, a new restaurant, etc. So it only makes sense for our library media center (which I take great pride in) to have a great website!

However, I also knew I needed an easy way to create a website. I’m all about content – no time to spend fixing layouts or writing code. I settled on using Weebly to help design my webpage because it was easy-to-use, looked great, and came recommended by education and business folks alike.

That was over 2 years ago, and Weebly just keeps getting better. You can choose from a wide variety of templates, drag-and-drop the elements you want on a page, and add as many pages as you want. It’s free, but you may find you need more space (think lots of videos or powerpoints) for about $40 a year. It’s been well worth it to me!

I’ve recommended this website to so many people, and I’ve gotten good feedback from other library media specialists, counselors, teachers, and students. Weebly has recently launched a version for educators, and they’ve partnered with National History Day as a project possibility for students.

If you aren’t happy with your website, or need to create one, spend some time looking at library media center websites, figure out what you want to say to your audiences, then give Weebly a try. Create a few pages and show them to teachers and administrators, but be sure to test it out on students too. I got great feedback from some classes when I asked them to critique the site. And feel free to email me with any questions. Good luck!

Holly Frilot, Library Media Specialist

Collins Hill High School Media Center

A “Real” Audience for Student Voice

Teachers are often the gateway to students being involved in the life of the library media center. With that in mind (and the help of a few LA teachers) I developed several ready-made assignments for teachers to use with “choice” novels that provide students with a “real” audience other than the teacher. Check them out at the bottom of this page under “Publish a Book Review.”

Luckily, teachers often allow me into the classroom to give a 10-minute presentation on what I’m looking for with display signs, posters, blog entries, catalog reviews, and book trailers. I can show good examples, talk about what isn’t good, and answer questions. I also get to explain the benefits – a real audience, and perhaps something to show off at a job interview, college interview, etc., plus a good grade! They also get to know me a little better and know they can come ask me questions in the media center.

The display signs and posters are used in the media center or outside the media center on the bulletin board. For the blog entries, the students are directed to email me the words and a picture; this I’ve found to be the easiest way to make sure that student names stay private (first name, last initial) and that the information is accurate and appropriate. The video book trailers are the most time-intensive but also the most interesting! I’ve been working with three classes the last couple of weeks and hope to upload some good examples to our website soon.

Feel free to respond with your own ideas or send me questions!

Holly Frilot

Library Media Specialist

Collins Hill High School Media Center


READ posters are cool?

Who knew? Put cameras in the hands of teenagers, tell them you’re going to display the pictures, and you’ve got some fun READ posters on your hands. You can even do this on the cheap with no software!

I use to stage student READ posters myself. They were ok. But someone mentioned turning the cameras over to the kids, and the posters are SO much better. They take the pictures, and I use to edit, add effects, and add text. I display them in the library and around the school as well. I love seeing students stop and talk about the posters, then ask if they can have one too!

Last year I took it one step further – I had a READ poster contest. Students had to take the picture and do the editing on themselves. The winner would get a big poster displayed in the media center and 2 free movie tickets. My expectations were low, but I was hopeful. I decided in my advertising to use the READ poster that sparked it all – a breakdancer in the library. It was like I issued a challenged to all the b-boys in the school! I got amazing entries and I’m looking forward to doing another contest next month.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Give kids advice on framing, what works well, space to write READ, but then turn them loose. Let them take the pictures. They like their posters so much more.

2. Include teachers and make it personal. I had one teacher dress up as Frankenstein, one in a wedding veil, one doing a karate move – anything that makes kids stop and look. The kids have also gotten the staff involved – from the school officer to the head custodian.

3. Cost: If you have a color printer, you can easily make mini-posters on the cheap. We’re lucky to have a poster printer in the technical drafting department, so I pay $6 per poster for the big ones. Maybe there’s a business that will cut you a deal.

4. Don’t take it too seriously. The fun ones are what make kids come in here asking when I’m holding the next READ poster contest!

Hope to see everyone at COMO!

Holly Frilot
Collins Hill High School


Things that keep you going…

It’s been a hectic, wonderful, crazy beginning to yet another school year. Here are some of the finer points (think I’d advertise the bad ones?:) that keep me going when I feel like I’ll never catch up:

  • We lost one clerk because of budget cuts, but we still have an awesome team of three to run our high school media center. We are fortunate.
  • We have done SO many 9th grade orientations. I could do it in my sleep. But we’ve gotten good at it. And even though our feeder school’s library looks fancy-shmancy compared to ours, we can usually turn students around by the end of orientation. “This library looks so small” and “Where the second floor?” often turn into “I think I’m going to like this place,” and “Oooh…I’ve been wanting to read this book” and “We can really check out five books at a time?”
  • I don’t know how many checkouts we’ve done (currently at home sick with one sick child too) but it’s about a zillion. Ok, that might be exaggerating…a half zillion. Trust me, it’s a big number.
  • We helped with revamping a couple of our summer reading lists. I had a senior tech student come in and want to see the list again. I assumed he hadn’t finished his summer reading book. “Oh no; I just liked it and wanted another.” My inner dork did a happy dance. (For the record, no actual dancing happened. I have learned that scares high school students away.)
  • We assisted with three research projects by the 8th day of school. It’s going to be a busy year.

We’ve dealt with little air conditioning, no air conditioning, lots of administrative requests, two of our small staff have sent their “babies” off to college, I sent my oldest to Pre-K, I’ve been sick, my youngest is sick, and it’s day 11. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings! I hope all of you out there are getting some good with the crazy that is inevitably the start of the school year. You may be feeling overwhelmed and under-appreciated, but know that what you do is incredibly important, even if you don’t hear it every day. Good luck and happy 2010-11!

Holly Frilot, Library Media Specialist

Collins Hill High School

Words to Widgets

What in the world is a widget? That’s what I thought a few months ago, so I decided to find out. Now I think they are going to help students navigate researching with databases.

I’m in the middle of switching all of our database links from words to widgets. Where I used to have the words “History Resource Center: World” linked to that database, now I have a widget – the words, an image, and a search box where a search can be started immediately (see picture). I think students will like starting their search right away, and may be more likely to remember a database if there’s a picture tied to it. I’m in a high school, but I think this could work for any age group.

Gale databases have great widgets. They provide everything for you and let you customize it if you want. You choose what option you want for embedding, such as HTML code for your website (what I use) or a link to paste in Google sites. The image is also a link, so if you didn’t want to use the search box, the database still comes up.

EBSCO also has widgets available. I received great customer support from Ryan Taylor, who was very helpful in helping me create some of the specific widgets I needed.

For the databases that don’t currently have widgets, I’m not savvy enough to create them myself. But that’s ok; there aren’t too many, and all of them have an icon associated with each product. So I used that icon and made a link. Easy, and I think more recognizable to have an image and text than just text alone. We’ll see in August!

If you are even thinking about trying widgets, go to our Social Studies Databases page and see what you think (it’s the only one I have finished). If you like it, it’s a little time-consuming, but I promise it’s not difficult! I’d be happy to share any tips, tricks, and HTML code that I can.

Holly Frilot

Library Media Specialist

Collins Hill High School

End of the year idea

We’ve all heard the praises of Animoto, but I hadn’t had a chance to really play with it until recently. I decided to create a highlight reel for what’s been happening in our media center this year so I could really get a feel for its pros and cons; additionally, I produced something that showed off what we’ve been doing! Rather than a standard report, this one (I hope) is entertaining and informative.

Here’s this newbie’s take on the pros/cons:

Pros: Looks AWESOME, very easy, quick, easy to share and download, free accounts for teachers and their students.

Cons: Music has to be the right length or pictures get cut out, can’t add more than one song, very limited text space, took a week or so to get the educator code to set up my account.

Here’s a link to our highlight video if you are interested.

Have a good weekend!

~Holly Frilot, Library Media Specialist

Collins Hill High School

Overheard at the library

CHHS Library Happenings:

Scene 1:

Me: Uh-oh. City of Bones is pulling ahead of Hunger Games in our March Madness Book Bracket.

Student: NOOOOOOOOO!  (Busily seeks friends to vote.)

Scene 2:

Student: I need a book I can read by Monday. And prom’s Saturday.

Me: Ok. Short. Got it.

Student: Teacher says it has to be more than 150 pages.

Me: Ok. Like sports?

Student: No.

Me: Ok. What do you like?

Student: Chaos.

Me. Ok. Hmmmm…. Have you read Fight Club?

Student: That was a book?

Me: Yes.

Student: And we have it here?

Me: Yes. Unfortunately it’s checked out right now. But I do have another book of his…

Student: Cool. I’ll take it. Thanks library lady.

Me: Good. Come back when you’re finished and we’ll find another. I’m Mrs. Frilot by the way.  (Resisted urge to tell him to be careful at prom.)

Scene 3: (In hallway near “Have You Read This? flyer near boys’ locker room)

Student 1: Yo, check this out – this book looks good!

Student 2: Dude, I’m gonna go get this one.

(Reported by a math teacher hanging out nearby. Very grateful to him for passing it along!)

Scene 4: (Teaching a class in the media center.)

Me: Photostory 3 is a cool, easy way to tell a story. It’s kind of Powerpoint meets a photo screensaver.

Students: (A librarian knows nothing about cool.)

Me: Here’s an example.

Students: (Grunts of interest and mild surprise.)

Me: (Illustrating first few steps.)

Students: (Interest building.) Huh. Pretty cool.

Me: (Yes! I’ve got ‘em. Finish illustrating. Talk about music. Show final product.)

One student: (Actually jumps up.) This is so awesome! I know what I’m going to do!

Me: (Suppressing chuckle.) A Photostory fan! Let’s get on the computers.

I cherish the day-to-day life that goes on in the media center. It is a fun, surprising, challenging place to be. There are days when I get down about the future of libraries and all that might be wasted. There are days when I get frustrated with discipline issues and old equipment. But there are days when I get to teach. There are days when I get to brainstorm with teachers or students. And there are days I help good kids learn new things. There’s just not much better than that.

Holly Frilot

Library Media Specialist, Collins Hill High School

March Madness!

I’m a librarian that likes sports! As a result, I’ve combined books and sports in our latest incarnation of the bulletin board and displays in the media center.  March Madness (college basketball’s championship tournament) has invaded the media center. It’s been a lot of fun, mostly because I’m a big dork. 😉

Though I originally hearkened back to my opaque projector days, I thought better of it and used a LCD projector to draw the brackets. I can’t tell you how many people I explained this to while drawing the brackets out in the hallway! The library staff determined the “sweet sixteen” books that made the bracket. I chose fonts that fit each book (ok, mostly fit), ranked the books 1-16, printed out the titles, and taped them on the board.  The students are voting on which books move onto the next round.

It’s silly and fun and I’m sure not a new idea, but I thought I’d throw it out there.  I’m always looking for fun, unexpected ways to decorate a bulletin board or create displays, so please share yours too!

Holly Frilot, Collins Hill High School

Back in the classroom again

I’ve taught classes in the library, and I taught language arts for several years. But over the past couple of months, I’ve been teaching research strategies IN language arts classes. A teacher asked if I would come to her classroom, since our library is often a busy, loud place (especially during lunch/advisement) and the kids get really distracted. Makes sense. I was a little daunted by having to totally revamp how I taught research strategies, since the kids would not have computers in front of them. But I was eager to get back in the classroom too – sounded like a fun challenge!

Over the past few weeks, word has spread and I have visited several other classrooms. It’s great fun being back in the classroom, and I’ve covered a little of everything: developing good keywords, why you might use quotation marks in a search, what Control+F is good for, citing sources, databases, taking notes, evaluating websites, NoodleTools, the list goes on and on. I created an MLA game where students use magnetic pieces to put a citation in the correct order, including the punctuation, to drive home the point that a citation is more than the name of a book or a URL! (Thanks to Adria Whitworth and Jennifer Lund at Norcross HS for the MLA game idea.) It’s been at least a little successful I think, and I ‘ve found retention to be higher than when the kids are distracted by computers and traffic we have going on in the media center.

I’m so glad a teacher asked me to do this, because I’m not sure I would have thought of constructing lessons this way. And while it takes me out of the media center, we’re fortunate to have two media specialists. There are added intangible bonuses too – I get to know the kids a little better, and I get to use my corny humor by giving out Nerds candy to the kids who answer the “nerdy” questions correctly. They also seem to be more comfortable asking me for help when they are in the library working. I also get to plug whatever is going with the media center – new books that came in, our Read Across America event, or  a good book I just finished reading.

I think I better go thank that teacher for inviting me in!

Holly Frilot

Collins Hill High School