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Our Local Bookstore Partner is Book Passage. Check them out -- 
Mention Redwood and a percentage of your purchase goes to the Bessie Chin Library -- Over $550 since mid-2005!
Book Passage Author Events is a terrific progam of author visits at their bookstores in Corte Madera and at the San Francisco Ferry Building.

Library News

April 2007

A Visit to Google
              Most teachers belong to some kind of professional association connected with the subject they teach, whether it be the California Association of Teachers of English or the California Council for Social Studies or any of the other professional organizations, they are in business to educate their members and promote the issues and concerns of those teachers who teach those subjects.
              School librarians are no different. In California we have the California School Library Association and nationally there is the American Association of School Librarians. I am a member of both associations and have been active with both over the years, especially CSLA where I have served on both state and section boards.
              As I said, one of the main purposes of such organizations is providing educational and professional development opportunities for their members.
              Our Northern Section has regular Saturday workshops all around Northern California but March I attended one like none I’d ever attended before. Seventy school librarians and teachers got to visit Google for a whole day to find out what Google can do for us and how we in turn can help Google do a better job of what it does. The days started bight and early in Mountain View at Building 46 (one of over twenty buildings Google uses there). After checking in we had a continental breakfast provided by Google and split into two groups to meet with Google employees and hear presentations about various Google products and services.
              All of the six presenters were young and most had extensive knowledge of Google beyond the particular issue they were presenting. We heard presentations on the history and culture of Google (and the way it makes it’s money); the Google search engine beyond the basics; Google Earth (always fun); Various Google tools such as Doc and Spreadsheets, Blogger, and a web development tool and how they could be used to integrate work that students and teachers are collaborating on. We also had a session about Google Book Search, a massive digitization process which is going to revolutionize the way we use libraries, and Google Scholar, a way of getting to at least reference to scholarly works online.
              Besides the six presentations we also got a chance to tour the Google “campus.” Google has many buildings spread over several square blocks but there is a central core where we got to have lunch at Charlie’s Café which reminded me of a food court in a nice mall. Many cuisine choices—and for Google employees and visitors—all free of charge. Google also famously provides gyms and laundry rooms for its employees so they won’t be as distracted thinking about how they are going to do all those things everybody tries to do in their off time. Google feels those perks enhance the work experience and makes their workers more productive—and it certainly seems to work.
              One of the things I used the day after I came back was setting up a custom search engine. This is a Google tool which allows you to restrict or prioritize your search to certain pre-selected websites.  I have a CSE currently on the library’s mathematics, propaganda and curriculum pages and also on the home page where it searches the entire library website. The pre-calculus classes have already used the math search engine and say it is helpful in narrowing down the millions of choices which typically are returned from a regular Google search—and there are no ads.
              Although we librarians are known for our trying to wean kids off of, we are not averse to using Google in more sophisticated and efficient ways and are trying to teach kids that general web searching is not the beginning and end of the research strategy. With the variety of tools Google offers it would certainly make no sense not to take advantage of then in imaginative and creative ways.

February 2007

ETS Publishes First Results of ICT Testing
              Last spring ETS, the folks who produce and administer the AP, SAT, GRE, and various other well-known tests, gave the first ICT Literacy Assessment to a group of 1,400 college students and high school seniors. The results of that testing were recently made available and may be instructive for the information literacy teaching and learning that goes on at Redwood and throughout the Tam District.
What is ICT Literacy?
              According to ETS, Information and Communication Technology literacy "is the ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks to appropriately solve information problems in order to function in an information society, ICT literacy includes the ability to use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information, and possession of a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information."
              This goal meshes well with what school librarians have called information literacy: the ability to access, evaluate, and use information in socially responsible and ethical ways.
The First Test
              Last year's test was given only to a select group of students who were volunteered for the experience by teachers and professors, but the results do provide some insight into what students know and are able to do, and more importantly, those areas where better teaching and learning must take place. A survey of students following the assessment found that students thought the test was challenging and required both thinking and technical skills and reflected activities they had encountered at school, work, or home.
Positive Findings
              Test takers did recognize that .edu and .gov sites are less likely to contain biased material than .com sites; 80% of test takers were able to complete an organizational chart; most test takers correctly categorized emails and files into folders; and 70% of test takers were able to select the best question to clarify an assignment.
Negative Findings
              Across several tasks few test takers could adapt material for a new audience; only 40% entered multiple search terms to narrow the results; fewer than half were able to sort information to organize the information efficiently; and only half of the test takers used a strategy to minimize irrelevant results in a database search exercise.
              In other areas fewer than 20% of test takers chose only relevant points to include in constructing a presentation slide; 65% could not properly narrow an overly broad search; fewer than half were able to correctly evaluate a set of Web sites for objectivity, authority, and timeliness; less than half were able to identify the statement that captured the demands of research for a class assignment.
              In summary, the ETS report states: few test takers demonstrated key ICT literacy skills; on average, students earned about half the points they could have earned on the test; and female and male test takers earned similar scores.
The Challenge to Redwood
              I hope that Redwood students would have done better than the average test taker in this preliminary sample. However, there are still many things which our students need to learn before they can demonstrate proficiency in such an assessment. In a much simpler assessment we gave to three U.S. Government classes last fall, our students did quite well, but the test was not a sophisticated one like the ETS assessment where students actually do short projects and make judgments about the results.
              We will continue to improve our ICT instruction and assessments with the goal of having every student who graduates from our school be ready to meet the information and technology challenges of further education and their careers: able to identify trustworthy and useful information, manage overabundant information, and communicate information effectively.

January 2007

Online Homework Help
              Marin County Free Library has started an online homework help service. Students can just log into the Marin County Free Library website ( and click for Live Homework Help. If a library card number is requested, the 14 digits from a library card issued by any library in Marin County will work. After entering grade level and subject area, the student will be connected to a tutor who can assist with math and science questions, and English and social studies assignments.
              Tutors can help with questions from a fourth grade to community college level. The tutors never know the student’s name, school, or any other personal information.
              The Live Homework Help service is accessible from 1pm to 10pm, seven days a week. Tutors who can communicate in Spanish are available from Sunday through Thursday, from 1pm to 7pm.
              The tutors who respond to students’ questions are college graduates, hired and trained to provide online homework help. Tutors are screened through background checks and their work is monitored.
              The tutors will not answer a student’s questions, but assist the student in the process of completing a math or science question, finding information or editing a paper.  A Live Homework Help session can last as long as necessary.
              Please note: This service requires a PC (not a MAC) and Internet Explorer, and works best with a high speed connection Students may also connect by using computers at county library branches.
              Live Homework Help adds to the other valuable resources offered to library users, including online magazine and newspaper articles and 24/7 online reference services.
              Marin County Free Library is able to provide this Live Homework Help program, offered by a company called, partially through a grant from the California State Library.

December 2006

Librarian Wins Award
              I hate to toot my own horn but I was recently awarded the annual Follett Software Technology Award by the California School Library Association. I am grateful for the support the parents and the entire Redwood community give to the library program and know that the support the library receives went a long way to helping me win the award.
            As I explained in my application letter, I have been doing “library” for over thirty years and have seen a lot of changes in that time, especially in the area of technology. When I was in library school in 1974 there was one pre-requisite class in BASIC programming. For the class we only had access to a main frame computer and used Hollerith cards to program, one line to a card, the progress of a rat through a maze. Didn’t seem to have much relevance then. And I never did pursue a career in computer programming!
            Nevertheless, libraries have always been on the cutting edge of technology and I followed suit as computer technology became available and affordable for individual users. I had an Apple IIe in the early days for some (really) basic word processing tasks and I can remember when an overdue writer program became available and then a program to help teach students how to find and use library materials and the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Gradually schools began to add personal computers for staff and student use. I was always on the committee which made decisions about technology and we traveled around seeing what various schools and companies were doing. The first school I was at which developed a computer lab used IBMs and then I came to a Bay Area to school where Apples (the first Macs) were the computer of choice. I’ve always had a preference for PCs and although I have an aversion to Microsoft (my anti-monopolistic, independent streak) I’ve certainly grown to know and respect Microsoft products, owning one of the first versions of their now ubiquitous operating system when it was “windows” in name only and very clunky.
            I was fortunate enough to be at a school prior to my coming to Redwood which was a test bed for the local cable company. They gave the school district ten cable modems (some of the first) and the high school got five altogether with the library ending up with two or three. Up to then access to the incipient Internet was by phone line on a very slow modem using the Mosaic browser. With our Internet access I began to learn the possiblities for accessing information and developed my first “cybrary” webpage using Netscape Composer and file transfer protocol.
            Since I came to Redwood in 1999, online access and resources have grown exponentially. The library website, which I can access continually, is  constantly “under construction” as new and interesting ways are found to use the Web. Last spring I started “Bessie’s Blog,” a place where I can record random thoughts about the library and my profession. I have also begun a wiki about library databases which is still not quite ready for “prime time.”
            Other technologies which the library is exploring are: audiobooks in MP3 and Playaway formats, a new catalog interface which will work somewhat more like an web search engine, and various ways of allowing patrons of the library to search across many databases (federated searching). As public and academic libraries improve their collections and ways of accessing information online, it is important that we be aware of new technologies and to the extent possible make them work for our entire Redwood community.
            Although I’m closer to the end of my career than the beginning I’m still discovering daily new and interesting ways to help kids succeed and become better users and producers of information. And am glad that I am living through this part of the Information Revolution and can proudly refer to myself as a cybrarian.

November 2006

Thanks to the Bessie Chin Library Volunteers |
               This month, as we express our thanks in a public way nation-wide, I’d like to extend a special thanks to those of our community who volunteer in the library. Our volunteer coordinators this year are Barbara Gossel (Alison) and a new volunteer, Ellen Karel (Claire). They recruit and introduce new volunteers to the many tasks which can be accomplished by those who have a few hours of time to give every week or so. Barbara has been working in the library for a number of years. Last month Barbara and the library staff hosted a coffee in the library to thank the current volunteers and introduce some new prospects to the Redwood library media center. Nancy Neu expressed the appreciation of the Redwood community to all those are able give time to our great library. As a result of that welcome the library now has several new parents who are going to be volunteering for the rest of the school year. They include the aforementioned Ellen Karel, Carol Aceves (Justin), Ellen Whalen (Natalie), Elinor Craig (Mose) and Barbara Frazier (Lauren). What’s great about this group is that most of them have 9th graders and we hope that means they’ll be with us for some time to come!
                Our dedicated veteran volunteers returning this year, besides Barbara, include moms Ellen Garcia (Adrienne), Amalia Molineaux (Robert), Carol Kerr (Ailie), Pat Klansko (Nicholas), Kathie Cummins (Michael) and dads Drew Deer (Samantha) and Peter Martin (Christopher). We expect to see Armelle Futterman (Emilie) and Jennifer Vournas (Zoe) later in the year. Several do a great job getting new books ready for circulation and repairing older materials so they can be returned to the shelves. They are also invaluable in the never-ending task of putting the books away that our voracious student readers and researchers use and making sure that materials are kept in perfect order on the shelves. Ellen Garcia, who now works part-time at the Branson School, continues to enter websites into the library’s catalog.
                The hours of service these folks contribute to all the students and staff of Redwood High really make a difference to the kind of program we can provide our entire community. We are fortunate at Redwood to have a large and comprehensive collection of materials. It takes lots of hands to keep all these materials processed, inventoried and orderly. It’s not too late to make a commitment to help out. As a matter of fact we would love to have someone who could write short reviews of current books for the Post like Anne Miller did so well last year! Please contact Barbara Gossel ( library media teacher, Tom Kaun ( or 945-3662), to find out how you can become part of the great Bessie Chin Library team. Check out the library's Volunteer Page for more info.

September 2006

Welcome new parents and welcome back veteran parents.
The Bessie Chin Library would like especially to welcome parents new to the school community to take a close look at the library’s website ( which provides 24/7 access to many resources for you and your students. Even though you may not be able to come to the library during the school day, the online resources are always available. Starting with the library catalog (click on “Off-campus Catalog Access”) you will be able to peruse the rich resources of the Redwood library. The library has over 30,000 cataloged items, including books, magazines, websites, pamphlet files, videos, and audiobooks. The library also subscribes to a rich collection of online resources which are accessed from the homepage.
A new feature on the page is a link to all the usernames and passwords which are used to get into various databases. Click on the link which says DATABASE PASSWORDS and enter the word xxxxxx (please email librarian for password) when prompted. That will bring you to a page which has all of the usernames and passwords listed.
The library’s main magazine and newspaper database is provided by Ebsco, which also has NoveList, Advanced Placement Search, TopicSearch, a literary database, and professional journals for teachers. We have two online encyclopedias, Britannica and World Book, and many other reference books through Oxford Reference Online and the Gale Virtual Reference Library.
The library subscribes to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and several magazines which have online editions. The access information is listed on the same page.
Another really useful database for students is Questia, “the first online library that provides … access to the world's largest online collection of books and journal articles in the humanities and social sciences, plus magazine and newspaper articles” I recommend that every student who is taking an AP course in those areas get a personal subscription and keep it throughout their college years.
Check these out all the databases from the library’s website.

We also encourage parents who have time to volunteer in the library. Last year we had about fifteen parent volunteers who were able to give a couple hours every week or so. Volunteers perform a variety of tasks and we couldn’t run the excellent program we do here at Redwood without their help. We have parents who help with book processing (covering, stamping, typing labels, etc.), filing books and other materials, looking up web pages and adding them to our online catalog, clipping articles from newspapers, magazines and the internet, and more. To see which of your friends is signed up when, go to the library volunteers page.


Summer Literary Calendars

June ( Dairy / Candy / Rose Month)

11 - James Billington born, 1929 
12 - Thomas Hardy born, 1840-1928 
13 - Allen Ginsberg born, 1926-1997 
14 - Dr. Ruth Westheimer born, 1929 
15 - Federico Garcia Lorca born, 1899-1936 
16 - Thomas Mann born, 1875-1955 
17 - Nikki Giovanni born, 1943 
18 - Sara Paretsky born, 1947- 
19 - Donald Duck created, 1934 
10 - Maurice Sendak born, 1928 
11 - King Kamehameha Day 
12 - Anne Frank born, 1929-1945 
13 - William Butler Yeats born, 1865-1939 
14 - Flag Day
15 - Magna Carta Day (Signed 1215) 
16 - Joyce Carol Oates born, 1938 
17 - John Hersey born, 1914-1993 
18 - Paul McCartney born, 1942 
19 - Salman Rushdie born, 1947 || Emancipation Day
20 - Charlemae Rollins born, 1898-1989 
21 - Jean-Paul Sartre, 1905-1980 || Françoise Sagan, 1935
22 - Anne Morrow Lindbergh born, 1906-2001
23 - Irvin S. Cobb born, 1876-1944 
24 - John Ciardi born, 1916-1986 
25 - Gay and Lesbian Pride Day
26 - Pearl S. Buck born, 1892-1983
27 - Paul Lawrence Dunbar born, 1872-1906 
28 - World War I begins, 1914, and ends, 1919 
29 - Antoine de Saint Exupery born, 1900-1944 
30 - Gone with the Wind published, 1936 
July ( Parks & Recreation / Hot Dog / Ice Cream Month)
11 - Canada Day 
12 - National Teacher's Day
13 - May Sarton born, 1912-1995 
14 - Horace Mann born, 1796-1859 | Independence Day |
15 - Karl Marx born, 1818-1883 
16 - Rabindranath Tagore born, 1861-1941 
17 - Robert Browning born, 1812-1889 
18 - VE Day (Victory in Europe, WWII) 
19 - James M. Barrie born, 1860-1937 
10 - Nelson Mandela inaugurated president of S. Africa, 1994 
11 - Stanley Elkin born, 1930 
12 - Edward Lear born, 1812-1888 
13 - Daphne du Maurier born, 1907-1989
14 - Dante Alighieri born, 1265-1321 
15 - L. Frank Baum born, 1856-1919 
16 - Studs Terkel born, 1912 
17 - Gary Paulsen born, 1939 
18 - International Museum Day
19 - Lorraine Hansberry, 1930-1965 || Malcolm X, 1925-1965 
20 - Honore de Balzac born, 1799-1850 
21 - Alexander Pope born, 1688-1744 
22 - Arthur Conan Doyle born, 1859-1930 
23 - Margaret Fuller born, 1810-1850 
24 - Bob Dylan born, 1941- 
25 - Ralph Waldo Emerson born, 1803-1882 
26 - A.E. Housman born, 1869-1936 
27 - Rachel Carson born, 1907-1964 
28 - Ian Fleming born, 1908-1964 
29 - 1 
30 - Countee Cullen born, 1903-1946 
August ( Romance Awareness / Home Business Month )
11 - Herman Melville born, 1819-1891 
12 - James Baldwin born, 1924-1987 
13 - P.D. James born, 1924 
14 - Percy Bysshe Shelley born, 1792-1822 
15 - Conrad Aiken born, 1899-1983 
16 - Alfred, Lord Tennyson born, 1809-1892 
17 - Garrison Keillor born, 1942 
18 - Andy Warhol born, 1930-1987 
19 - Jose Aruego born, 1932 
10 - Jorge Amado born, 1912-2001 
11 - Alex Haley born, 1921-1992 
12 - William Goldman born, 1812-1888 
13 - Alfred Hitchcock born, 1907-1989 || Int'l Lefthanders Day
14 - Julia Child born, 1912-2004 
15 - Edna Ferber born, 1887-1968 
16 - Hugo Gernsback born, 1884-1967 
17 - V.S. Naipaul born, 1932 
18 - Virginia Dare born, 1587 
19 - Ogden Nash, 1902-1971 || Ring Lardner, Jr., 1885-1933 
20 - H.P. Lovecraft, 1890-1937 || Edgar Guest, 1881-1959 
21 - Aubrey Beardsley born, 1872-1898 
22 - Dorothy Parker, 1893-1967 || Ray Bradbury, 1920- 
23 - Edgar Lee Masters born, 1869-1950
24 - Jorge Luis Borges born, 1899-1986 
25 - Bret Harte born, 1836-1902
26 - Christopher Isherwood born, 1904-1986 
27 - Theodore Dreiser born, 1871-1945 
28 - Johann Wolfgang Goethe born, 1749-1832 
29 - First Native American reservation established (NJ), 1758 
30 - Warren Buffet born, 1930 
31 - William Saroyan born, 1908-1981 

Most Recent Additions
Most recent materials added to the Library are now viewable at Check back often since we will be adding to the list as we add materials to the catalog (OPAC).