The Great Library Makeover – Part 1

The Great Library Makeover Part 1

I realized the other day that while I’ve been posting tons of pictures of our library makeover on Instagram and Twitter, I had yet to properly blog and show off how amazing the library looks.  So this post is Part 1, since we aren’t quite done with everything yet.  You’ll get to see our fiction section, reading nooks and brand new cafe.  The instruction area and Makerspace are still works in progress – so I’m waiting until they’re a little more done to make the big post on those areas.

Norms posters - originals via the, with colors and fonts changed to match library

Norms posters – originals via the, with colors and fonts changed to match library

I wanted to set the right tone for the beginning of the school year, with a focus on creating a culture of camaraderie, creativity, and collaboration in the library.  I chose to set the media center norms with posters from the amazing Krissy Vensodale of Venspired.  I tweaked them just a bit to work with our library’s colors, but the sentiments are still the same: We are a team; We try our best; We learn from our mistakes; We create; We respect each other; We celebrate each other’s successes.  I love that this is one of the first things that my students and teachers see when they come into the library.

New catalog station

New catalog station from the IKEA As-Is section

We repainted the library over the summer as part of our Lowes Toolbox for Education Grant.  The beautiful blues and greens really brighten up the library, and it creates an atmosphere that is vibrant and calming at the same time.  You’ll see them throughout the posts I’ll be writing – it’s made such a huge difference.

I spent a lot of time this summer going to IKEA to get little details that help make the library nicer.  One not-so-little detail is our new catalog station.  It’s a former employee station from IKEA that I found in the as-is section for $22!  I couldn’t resist that price, and I love how it looks.  It has nice little cubbies on the sides – we keep our loaner books for students who have overdue or lost books here.

Our amazing new reading cafe!

Our amazing new reading cafe!

This has been one of the biggest new things that our teachers and students love.  My supervisor bought these for our library from Demco (these are the tables and these are the chairs).  These have been INSANELY popular. Teachers love sitting here during their planning period.  Students love them for working on homework and eating snacks.  Parents visiting our campus will use them to chat with their child’s teachers.  I’ve heard many comments from students and adults that it makes the library feel like a Starbucks, only cooler (and without coffee for the kids).

Our new book display rack

Our new book display rack

This new book display rack was an investment I decided to make to create a little more space in our reading cafe.  I used some of our bookfair funds from last year to get it from Demco – it’s pretty economical for its size.  You can see the red racks we had before in this post.  My library is on the small side for the size of our student population, so when I found out I was getting the cafe tables and chairs, I knew that something had to go.  I decided to change out our red display racks (which didn’t really fit with the new color theme) for a more compact book display.  This one holds as much as one of the red racks, and I think it makes the area much more user friendly.  I’m repurposing one of the red racks for our Makerspace – you’ll see those results soon :)

reading nooks

At the end of the school year last year, I rearranged the fiction shelving units to create two nooks in this area.  This also created more visibility in this area, and allowed me to create a little more space in the computer lab.  I’ve moved some comfy furniture over here, and my students love sitting and reading or chatting with their friends.  I plan to add in some charging stations over here later.

What do you think of the change-ups?  How have you changed up your learning space this year? 

Book Review: Girl, Stolen

Girl Stolen Book Review

My students have been telling me to read Girl, Stolen ever since it was available at our bookfair a few years ago.  I finally got around to it this summer, and now I see what all the fuss was about – this is a really great, gripping story.  Here’s my review from GoodReads:

Cheyenne had fallen asleep in the back of her step-mom’s car. When it started moving, she didn’t think anything of it. Until she realized that someone else is in the car – with her still in it. Griffin was only stealing a car, he never intended to kidnap someone. He doesn’t know what to do – Cheyenne has pneumonia and is blind – so he takes her back to his father to figure out what to do. But when his father discovers who Cheyenne’s powerful family is, he demands a ransom. And the question becomes whether or not she will make it out of this ordeal alive.

This gripping, suspenseful book switches back and forth between Cheyenne and Griffin’s perspectives. It’s a great choice for reluctant readers – pretty much every kid I’ve recommended it to has loved it. There is one attempted rape scene and some discussions of rape, and discussions of abuse and drugs. Nothing too major though.

Weekly reads: August 24, 2014


*Welcome to Weekly Reads.  As I read blogs, peruse Twitter, and save things to Diigo throughout the week, I come across a lot of great resources that I think others would benefit from.  This post is my place to bring together some of my favorite finds of the week and share them with you.  Enjoy!*

My DonorsChoose project got fully funded last week!  Thanks to donations from my PLN, family, random strangers and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, our LEGO wall will start going up in the next week or so.  Follow me on Twitter and Instagram to get immediate updates; I’ll be writing a longer post on here once it’s all finished.


Learning Spaces

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Instagram Display: #StewartReads

Our #StewartReads Instagram display

Our #StewartReads Instagram display

At a recent professional development day in my district, one of the workshops focused on creating displays that promote literacy and reading in your library.  One of the examples was a “get caught reading” display, where the media specialist took pictures of students reading in the library and displayed them.  This got my gears turning.  On Pinterest, I had seen several pins of Instagram displays, and I loved the idea of bringing something digital into a physical form.  Thus, the #StewartReads display was born.

Making sure students know my Instagram handle

Making sure students know my Instagram handle

I’ve been using my @MrsRendina account for about a year now to promote things that are going on in the library with my students.  It’s been an amazing tool – my students love to see themselves being pictured at different events, seeing something they made in our Makerspace featured, finding out what new books are out. And I post an occasional cat picture too :)

But not all of my students have Instagram accounts.  And Instagram is blocked by my district’s web filtering, so the only way my students can see the posts is by using their data plans or checking Instagram at home.  Which they do, but I still recognize that this doesn’t reach all my kids.  After thinking about the display ideas at the workshop I attended, I had the perfect idea – create a physical board of Instagram photos.  And focusing them on reading and books – catching students reading in the library, pictures of new books, bookfair activities, etc.  We’ll be using the hashtag #StewartReads on all of these posts, so the digital version will be easily searchable.

Our new hashtag to promote reading at Stewart

Our new hashtag to promote reading at Stewart

I love that this display will be both physical and digital.  I think that it’s going to be a great way to engage my students with what’s going on in the library.  I’m really proud of how it’s come together – it makes for a compelling visual display, and it’ll be constantly changing as I post new pictures on my Instagram account.

The window behind our checkout desk

The window behind our checkout desk

Book Review: The Here and Now


A little back story here – back when I was working on my Library Science degree in 2008, I took a class on young adult literature.  One of the books I had to read for that class was Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and I loved it so much that I proceeded to read all the sequels.  So when I got my hands on Ann Brashares’ latest book, The Here and Now, I was eager to check it out.  It did not disappoint.

Here’s my review on Goodreads:

Prenna comes from a horrible future – a place that has been devastated by mosquito-borne disease. She and others from her time travel back to 2010 in hopes of having normal lives again. But there are strict rules – they are not allowed to interfere with the lives of time natives, to make themselves known. But Ethan saw Prenna when she first arrived, and their lives continue to intertwine after that. When the two of them discover that they can change the course of the future and stop the plague, they have to decide just how far they’re willing to go.

This was a beautiful, magical book that deals well with the concept of time travel and it’s potential consequences.

Weekly reads: August 17, 2014


*Welcome to Weekly Reads.  As I read blogs, peruse Twitter, and save things to Diigo throughout the week, I come across a lot of great resources that I think others would benefit from.  This post is my place to bring together some of my favorite finds of the week and share them with you.  Enjoy!*

(Note: I currently have a DonorsChoose project going on to help us build a LEGO wall and store Mindstorms robots in our Makerspace.  The code INSPIRE is still good for a match through Tuesday.  Please consider giving and helping my students have an even more awesome library)

Education/ Libraries


Technology/ Tools


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Epic LEGO Wall and Mindstorms DonorsChoose Project

The inspiration for our LEGO wall

The inspiration for our LEGO wall

We’ve just posted our first DonorsChoose project of the year.  At the end of last year, we funded a project to get a start on creating a LEGO wall in our Makerspace like the one shown above.  After looking at the size of the area with some of my students, we decided that we wanted to expand the LEGO wall so that more students could use it at one time. The final size will be like the one in the picture above, but ten inches shorter.  This project will help us to make our LEGO wall awesomely big, a focal point of our Makerspace, and an amazing space for students to create.

Here’s where it will go (the green paper is on the wall to give you an idea of the scale):

Our future LEGO wall

Our future LEGO wall

We also had an amazing donation of a bunch of LEGO Mindstorms NXT robots to our Makerspace.  Our school’s robotics team is switching to VEX robots, so we now have all the Mindstorms in our media center.  Our after school Maker club will be using them this year to learn coding and create some amazing robots.  In order to make it easier for students to tinker with our new robots, we need a cart that we can store them in and roll out whenever we have programs.  We also need some books to inspire new projects and ideas.

Our LEGO Mindstorms robots, in need of a storage cart

Our LEGO Mindstorms robots, in need of a storage cart

Please consider donating to our project and helping us continue to grow our Makerspace at Stewart.  At the time of writing this post, we only have $421 to go.  Also, all donations in the first week are matched with the code INSPIRE.  Here is the link.  Thank you so much!



My Summer of Connecting

Me, Andy Plemmons, and Okle Miller at ISTE EdTech Kareoke

Me, Andy Plemmons, and Okle Miller at ISTE EdTech Kareoke

When I first got into education, I thought of networking as something that only people in big businesses did.  It was an ugly word, with sleazy, self-serving connotations.  Fast forward a few years, and I realized that my favorite thing about going to conferences was getting to hang out with like-minded, passionate, inspiring educators.  I joined Twitter and met other teachers and librarians from all over the world.  And I began to see that networking is not a dirty word – it’s about making connections, helping and inspiring one another, and building up a network of others who you can rely on for ideas, help, and encouraging words.

I had a very busy summer this year, and looking back on it, I’ve realized that it was all about connecting with other educators and finding a shared passion.


Me and Allison Fuller-Mulloy

Me and Allison Fuller-Mulloy

Obviously, the highlight of my summer was ISTE 2014.  I got to meet and hang out with so many of my Twitter friends.  I met new people who I’ve since talked with a lot on Twitter.  It was so inspiring and encouraging to hang out with all of these visionary educators and hear about the amazing things going on at their schools.

3D Printing at the HIVE

3D Printing at the HIVE

I spent a lot of time this summer visiting local Makerspaces, learning from those who work there and getting great ideas.  It gave me a chance to share about what we’re doing at my school and to make connections with other Makers.  We already had Tampa Hackerspace visit our school last year and I see opportunities for working together with The Hive and Mosi’s IdeaZone as well.

Benito Middle School's Makerspace

Benito Middle School’s Makerspace

I got a lot of chances to meet up with other media specialists in my district too.  I met up with friends for breakfast and coffee at our HASLMS (Hillsborough Association of School Library Media Specialists) Book Club.  I visited a first-year high school media specialist and got to hear about how she’s redesigning her school’s media center.  I met up with another media specialist to help her get started with Twitter and Instagram.  I got to visit my alma mater Benito Middle School and hang out with Sundi, where we chatted about Makerspaces (their school is going to have an awesome new makerspace this year – she’s already ordered a Makerbot Mini, organized a Maker club and set up monthly collaboration projects with the Technology teacher).

And then of course, there’s all the wonderful connections I’ve made on Twitter.  There’s so many people on there who I’ve never met in real life, yet continue to inspire me everyday.  I’ve found such a supportive, encouraging community there.  When I posted my image of the plans for our Maker Corner, I received reaffirmation that we’re moving in the right direction at my school (and I may have inspired a few people to create LEGO walls in their schools too).

What connections did you make over the summer?  How have other educators influenced and inspired you?

The Third Teacher

third teacher
I’d been hearing over and over again from pretty much everyone that I absolutely needed to read The Third Teacher.   I received it as a birthday gift back in Februrary, but didn’t get around to reading it until this summer.  At first, it took me a bit to get used to the design of the book.  There’s a lot of different typefaces, pages of nothing but quotes, and articles that get interrupted by shorter pieces.  But once I was able to get into the flow of the book, I loved it!  It was such a wonderful reaffirmation for me on the importance of creating physical spaces that are conducive to learning, of taking care of the health of our students through things like clean air and good food, of creating opportunities for students to be exposed to nature.

Here’s some of my favorite take-aways and quotes from the book:

“Make it new – look at your space with 21st century eyes: Does it work for what we know about learning today, or just for what we knew about learning in the past?” – p 57

Over and over, The Third Teacher emphasizes that our learning spaces need to change to reflect the way that students learn today.  Rows and rows of desks set up as a lecture theater are not helping our students to learn and grow.  We need to be willing to invest time and money to create spaces where students can develop the skills they will need to become productive citizens: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, inquisitivenss.

“An environment rich in evocative objects – whether it’s a classroom or a museum – triggers active learning by letting students pick what to engage with.” – p 67

“Children of all ages need places where they can learn by touching, manipulating, and making things with their hands.” p 175

I love this concept of creating museum-like spaces in school.  So many of my students are hands-on, kinesthetic learners.  Having physical objects that they can touch and explore will help them to discover and grow.  This is part of why I’m creating a Makerspace at my school.

“A learning space that can be reconfigured on a dime will engage different kinds of learners and teachers.” – p 89

Yes!  This is why I have loathed the heavy wooden tables and chairs that came with my library, and why we’re getting new furniture (in a few weeks!) to create flexible collaborative spaces.

“Children need comfort just as much at school as they do at home.  Give them a soft, quiet, and cozy area to play in by themselves or with a few friends.” – p 133

This is one of those areas I need to work on.  My library is very active, and it can get loud sometimes.  Most of my kids are fine with this, but there are some who really crave a quiet, calm space.  I’m working on ideas to set off a little corner of the library that can serve this purpose.

“Every school is located in a particular place with its own features and natural history.  Call attention to a school’s site with design, construction, and signage.” p 147

My school is located right on the shore of the Hillsborough River.  We have science classes that learn about water quality by testing river water.  Our PE classes have a fishing unit that includes catch and release programs.  What other ways can we take advantage of this amazing natural resource?  How can I bring some of that in to the library?

This book has given me a lot of ideas and resources for future grants and projects I’d like to see happen at my school.  I want to collaborate with some science classes to study air quality and see how we can improve our school’s air quality with purifiers and indoor plants.  My PTSA has been talking about creating an outdoor classroom, which has so much potential.  I’d love to see the quality of the food made available to students improve as well, but that one will be harder to accomplish, being in the 9th largest school district in the country.

Book Review: The Eye of Minds

eye of minds

I loved The Maze Runner when it first came out, and quickly devoured the sequels.  When I heard that Dashner had come out with a sci-fi gaming thriller, The Eye of Minds, I knew I wanted to read it, and it did not disappoint.

Here’s my review from Goodreads:

In a futuristic world, virtual reality gaming has risen to another level. Gamers can step into their gaming coffins and have a complete sensory experience for days at a time. They can take risks and do things they wouldn’t normally do, because even if they die in a game, they’ll just wake up back in their coffin. But someone named Kaine is messing with that order, and people are dying in real life.

Micheal is a gamer who longs to get to make it to the deepest hidden levels of the gaming world. The VNS, the government authority over gaming, give him a mission to find Kaine and stop him. And they don’t give him a choice either.

This was a great, fast-paced, action packed sci-fi thriller, with lots of twists and turns that you don’t expect. The book is satisfying, and leaves you itching to get the sequel. There are a couple of mature parts (witnessing a suicide first-hand, references to “pleasure shacks”), but they aren’t bad enough to push it into YA territory. Awesome middle grade read.