Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A short article for the OYAN newsletter.

Graphic Novels on the Web

by Peyton Stafford
When I was a child, my parents bought me Classic Comics as a way of getting me interested in Greek and Roman mythology. As a young man, I subscribed to many of the Marvel Comics series and often ended up with two copies of each edition, since I would buy one copy at the local drugstore while waiting for my subscription copy to arrive by mail. The first graphic novel I read was Art Spiegelman's Maus, when he came to the old Looking Glass Bookstore in downtown Portland. Now, graphic novels are big business. We tend to think of them as hip and out of the mainstream, but a whole industry has grown up around publishing, marketing and distributing them. Here are some links to relevant web sites related to graphic novels, as they pertain to public libraries. If you use Delicious, you can also get them in the Graphic Novels bundle at The links below are only a few of the ones I have on Delicious, so you can get into the subject without becoming overwhelmed. Each link should open in a new browser window. If a link doesn't work, then just Google the link name.

Graphic Novels and Libraries

(good stuff if your boss doesn't think you should waste your budget on them) or if you are the boss and want a primer on what your YA librarians are talking about:

The Librarian's Guide to Anime and Manga

Good overview of the formats, their conventions, reviews, etc. Best place I have found to start learning.

Graphic Novels Sources for Libraries:

Diamond Book Distributors

THE major distributor. John Shableski works here. If you don't know who he is, then read this for some interesting insights into the business from someone who seems to eat, sleep and breath graphic novels:

Ingram and some other general distributors handle some graphic novels, but they tend to get buried under science fiction and fantasy. Diamond's web site lets you focus on graphic novels without struggling to identify them among other formats. Why mess around? Diamond makes ordering them easy.

Graphic Novel Reviews & Collection Development:

ALA | 2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens

YALSA's newest hot list. Read what your youth librarian colleagues think are the best.

Graphic Novels Core Collection

H.W. Wilson core collection recommendations. Reminds me that my interest in graphic novels doesn't make me weird anymore. H.W. Wilson's imprimatur says they're legitimate library material.

Graphic Novels for Public Libraries

Written by a public librarian. Dated 2003 so a little old but includes recommended opening day collection.

Words Without Borders

International reviews of literary works. Tip: use Google Site Search for Graphic Novels, and you will find author interviews and title information from around the world. The graphic novel format is popular far beyond North America and Japan.

And Last, Readers Advisory and info for aspiring authors:

The Graphic Novel Archive: trade paperbacks, manga, comic strip collections, original graphic novels.

Current info of interest to graphic novel authors. For librarians, searchable database of graphic novels by series, publisher, etc. Great for reader's advisory work and for filling in missing numbers in series.

no flying, no tights

Original blog of graphic novels reviews for teens. Also good for collection development.

Using Rourke Ebooks in the School Library to Improve Elementary Student Reading Fluency

This is a proposal for a session on using ebooks in school libraries to help elementary students who are struggling with reading. It ties in with my earlier work for AutoSkill, ELLIS (now a part of Pearson) and other ed tech companies. Rourke has always been an ink on paper company, so it is interesting to see them get the ed tech vision and bring out a whole series of ebooks (over 50) that combine ebook technology with solid print publishing understanding of kids' nonfiction interests. Click here for a free online demo of one of their ebooks.

Session Proposal for OASL/WLMA 2008 Combined Conference

By Peyton Stafford

Presentation Title: Using Rourke Ebooks in the School Library to Improve Elementary Student Reading Fluency

In-Depth Description of Presentation:

Repeated guided oral reading with an adult to model correct pronunciation is a research-proven method to improve fluency. Rourke has combined their Discovery Library primary nonfiction with computer technology to produce a series of ebooks that the computer can read aloud to a child, or the child can read with pronunciation and prosody assistance from the computer. Many of these ebooks are also bilingual in English and Spanish for use by ELLs and in dual language programs. Rourke Publishing is a respected name in elementary school library publishing with a long history of publishing for students who struggle. Many of their titles are geared to students who are reading below grade level. Rourke’s newest initiative is to use the talking ebook format to improve reading fluency in young children before they are left behind.

This presentation will give participants

1. Brief overview of guided oral reading in fluency development.

2. Demonstration of Rourke ebooks emphasizing ease of use by students and teachers.

3. Features such as highlighting, bilingual versions and variation of words read per minute according to reading level. Correlation to F&P and Lexiles.

4. Pricing options and licensing arrangements.

The session will conclude with a question/answer period and the opportunity for participants to use and explore Rourke’s ebooks.

Description of Presentation for the Printed Program:

Rourke ebooks in the school library. Fun and easy fluency building.

  • Help motivate struggling readers with audio narration or highlighted words

  • Text and pictures shown on screen.

  • Build vocabulary for English language learners

  • Ideal for auditory learners

  • Promote fluency

  • Easy "Load and Go" technology





Curriculum & Instruction

Information Literacy



Using Marshall Cavendish Digital to Support Student Research

I recently submitted this proposal as a vendor session for the combined OASL/WLMA conference. It will not be a sales presentation, but rather an informational session on how a particular set of online materials can be used to support student research.

Presentation Title: Using Marshall Cavendish Digital to Support Student Research

In-Depth Description of Presentation:

Marshall Cavendish Digital is an online library of secondary-level research sources published by the well-known reference publisher, Marshall Cavendish. It includes over 30 works in curriculum areas such as geography, science, social studies and literature. School Library Journal’s review said, ” As a creative solution to the needs of librarians building their digital library collections, Marshall Cavendish Digital deserves an A for its unique options and quality of content.” Unlike most online materials, MCD has been created specifically for student use, is built to support curriculum, and is priced so that most schools can afford it without special grant funding.

This presentation will give attendees an understanding of

1. The research resources available through Marshall Cavendish Digital, their content and structure as it applies to curriculum support and student research.

2. Features, such as online student folders, remote and home access, built-in citation maker, etc.

3. Pricing options and licensing arrangements.

The session will conclude with a question/answer period.

Description of Presentation for the Printed Program:

If you don’t know where to turn for affordable, quality online research material, and your students need more than they can find at free web sites or through periodical article aggregators, come see what a respected school library reference publisher can do for you and your students.


Middle/Jr. High

Senior High



Information Literacy


2008 OASL/WLMA Joint Conference Proposal Confirmation

This is a proposal that Jim Tindall and I have submitted in hopes of making this presentation at the joint conference of Oregon and Washington school librarians, in the fall of 2008. We hope to make the presentation to an audience of secondary school librarians and library supervisors who are interested in information literacy and technology. If you or anyone you know has some good solutions to this problem, please let me know. Perhaps you can join us on the panel.

Main Presenter: Peyton Stafford
Co-Presenter: Jim Tindall (North Wasco County School District, North Wasco County S)

Presentation: Getting Teacher Buy-In for Quality Online Resources

Short Description: Tired of spending your time and library budget to provide quality online resources, but then having teachers undercut your efforts to teach critical thinking and good research practices by accepting citations from questionable web site? Hear how your colleagues have solved this problem in their schools.

Description: School librarians put tremendous effort into selecting and acquiring high quality online resources that support student research. However, classroom teachers often fail to distinguish between authoritative onlineresources and questionable ones. They accept citations from Wikipedia and web sites that may or may not have correct factual information and may or may not be written with a strong bias. This both undercuts school efforts to teach critical thinking and ill-prepares students for higher education, where strong research skills can make the difference between success and failure in college and work. Librarians know this. The challenge is getting the point across to teachers and then supporting them as they change their practices. This session will be a panel discussion on ways that Oregon and Washington school librarians have found effective in changing teacher beliefs and practices about student use of online research resources. Participants will include school librarians from both states who have had experience working to improve teacher use of online resources as student learning and research tools. They will be drawn from a variety of districts so that the solutions offered will apply to schools of all sizes, funding levels and demographics. Each attendee will be given access to a web-based presentation that can be used in professional development and informational sessions with teachers and administrators. This will be developed by the panelists prior to the conference.

This is an article I wrote for the Oregon Association of School Libraries Interchange, their quarterly journal. It will appear in print, later this year.

Using the Free Google Docs in School Libraries

by Peyton Stafford

We all know that Google is not a reference publisher, in spite of what some of our colleagues may think, but many of us may underestimate how useful Google's non-search products can be in a school or library setting. Along with their search capability, Google offers several free online tools that could be useful to both school librarians and their students. This article will give a little information on how you and your students might use the easiest of these tools. This is not intended as an in-depth analysis or as a step-by-step instruction book. It is a brief overview. If you want to use some of these wonderful free tools, they come with good online instructions and help, as well as with access to various user groups and to Google customer support. Everything described here is free and very easy.

Why Use Google Docs?

Students and educators frequently collaborate on documents. A group of students may work on a paper together. Another group may be preparing a presentation on a topic. A third group may be gathering scientific data and analyzing it mathematically. A teacher may have written a document or prepared a bibliography for class use. As a librarian, you may have collected a series of links to research web sites, and you need a way to publish these so that a particular class can use them. The student groups all need a way to collaborate as they move through their busy days, working at various networked computers in multiple locations, and then to produce a finished product. The teacher needs a way to publish her document on the internet without going through a lot of trouble to get it done. You need to publish your links list on the Web and don't want to mess up your library web site to do it. Google Docs offers solutions for all of these needs.

What is Google Docs?

Google Docs is an online office suite, consisting of a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation tool. These correspond to Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint. None of them has all the features you would find in MS Office or in Open Office Suite, but they have enough to perform the functions that students and educators need when producing short papers, spreadsheets and presentations. Each of the Google applications works very much like its MS Office counterpart. I am not going to describe each application's functionality in any detail since, if you know how to use an office suite, you already know what Google Docs applications will do. Instead, let me give some examples of how I have used Google Docs. The main thing to keep in mind is that these are true office suite applications and they are Web 2.0 applications, so they combine the best of traditional office suite functionality with the ability to easily collaborate via the Web.

What Can Google Docs Do for You?

Google Document Application.

Here is an example of how you or your students could use the Document application. I am writing this paper as a Google document. I will save it in Word format and email it to Linda Ague when I have finished. I will also send her a link to the web-based document so that she can share it. Since she is the editor, I will give her the right to edit it as she wishes. I am hoping she will do her editing online so I can review her changes and approve them prior to publication. Kelly Bryant is involved in this, too, so I will also send her a link. Then, when she receives the Word version as an email attachment from Linda, she can edit the online one, too, if she prefers. If we all end up editing and collaborating online, we will save ourselves a lot of effort and put Google Docs to good use. Google Docs will automatically save our work as we edit it, and it will preserve the various revisions automatically, noting which of us is responsible for each change. If we had agreed to collaborate in this way at the beginning, then we could have dispensed with emailing Word attachments, entirely. Up to fifty people can edit any one document at the same time, and as long as no two are editing the same part of the document at once there should not be any conflicts. We can also publish the document to a blog or a web site more or less instantly. Note that, if we do our editing in Google Docs, we do not have to worry about whether some of us are working on PCs and some are working on Macs, or whether we have compatible word processors. We can also work from any reasonably new networked computer with a current browser. If we were students who did not have laptops, we would not have to copy our document onto a floppy or USB key to carry it around with us. We would be able to log onto our Google account from school, public library or home and work from wherever we were. Google Spreadsheet Application.

This corresponds to MS Excel and has all the collaborative features of the Google Document application. I have experimented with it a little, and it seems to work enough like Excel that I have not had any problems. I am not a numbers person, so I am not going to get into the spreadsheet too much. So far, I have used it only once, and that was to help coordinate exhibit booths for the OLA/WLA conference, rather than to crunch numbers. It worked, even for some of my computer-challenged book rep colleagues. Enough said. Google Presentation Application.

This corresponds to MS PowerPoint but with one major advantage: you can publish a presentation via the Internet instantly, and you can present it to people over the Internet without additional software. You don't need a third-party provider to host your presentation. It includes a chat feature, too. So, if you or a student needs to show a presentation to multiple people in multiple locations, you can do it with the click of an icon. This probably might be more useful for educators who need to do professional development sessions remotely than it would be to students. Google Notebook.

This is not technically part of Google Docs, but I am including it because it is instant and it is very helpful for anyone who researches on the Web and then writes about what they find. It is really designed to be used with a browser plug-in that must be downloaded and installed on each computer, so it is not as portable as Google Docs, which do not require any downloading or installation at all. However, it can be used without the plug-in, and it works fine. Many of your students will already have an iGoogle page with links to their Gmail accounts, and they can add Notebook to the page and locate it from there. It lets you write notes as you do your research. These can be shared with your collaborators or kept private. You can also export notes to Google Docs in order to build on them, there, and to use the more powerful word processing and formatting functions.

Disadvantages of Google Docs.

There are two kinds of disadvantages to using Google Docs compared with a hard-drive based office suite. One is that there are some file size limitations. Documents cannot go over 500 KB, presentations over 10 MB, and spreadsheets over 1 MB. Most of the time this will be enough for student use. The other disadvantage is that Google Docs lacks some of the features, such as indexing, that make MS Word so powerful. So, if you're going to write a book in Google Docs, you will have to write it in chapters and then export them to another word processor that indexes and builds a table of contents. You might do this, but your high school students won't need to. The Google help files also document some problems related to web delivery. Sometimes a document won't open or cannot be deleted, or it opens but the text does not appear. I haven't had any of these things happen, but some people have. Google Docs is still in beta, and it is free, so it's not perfect. Google is making it better all the time.

Why Use Google Docs Rather Than Something Else?

I think it is clear that Google Docs is superior to emailing documents back and forth for collaboration and editing. The major drawback is the size limitation, but most of the time that doesn't come into play. Exporting a Google Doc into MS Word, RTF or Open Office format is easy, so if a document gets too big you can always move it off the web and continue working on it on your hard drive. In comparison with other web-based options for collaboration, I think the biggest advantage of Google Docs is that it is truly an office suite. It is also fast and easy to use. Wikis take time to set up, and users have to master the wiki formatting if they are going to do more than write basic text with a few font options. Google Docs and wikis both track version changes, it's just that Google Docs gives you a real word processor to work with. Google Docs also allows the option of letting people view a document without having the power to edit it, which gets around a common problem with wikis. Lastly, if you have ever tried to set up a data table on a wiki and then keep it updated, you know how frustrating this can be compared to putting the information into cells in a spreadsheet. Google Docs lets you use a proper spreadsheet on the web, which is much easier than creating and updating a wiki table. Wikis are wonderful for building a whole community of documents and for linking hundreds of pieces together, but if you just want to write a paper you need a word processor. Blogs are another option for collaboration, but a blog is really set up to post a series of writings rather than to edit a single piece. I love blogs and enjoy reading and writing them, but I don't use them to edit or collaborate as I would a word processor. I use them to communicate finished short pieces. Google Docs and Notebook will quickly export to a blog, and you can link into them via a blog or web page, so if you want to blog your Google docs, it is easy. But again, the advantage of Google Docs is that it gives you a real word processor, spreadsheet and presentation app to work with.

How to Get Started.

Before exploring any of these tools, you will need to set up a Gmail account. This is simple. Just go to, click on the Gmail link and follow the instructions, or go directly here: The log-on name and password you choose will get you into the tools described above, so pick something that isn't too silly. From the Gmail screen, click on the link at the top to Documents. Here is a direct link to save you time: You will need to log in again using your user name and password, but then you will be ready to go. If you want to add Google Notebook, you will need to locate it among the other Google applications that they list under More, or just go here: We all have different ways of organizing our favorite sites, so I'll leave it up to you to decide how you like it best.


Google Docs and Google Notebook provide a strong combination of applications for online collaboration. Since they are free and highly portable, they are excellent for use by students and mobile professionals (that's you with the bags of books in your car!). They are superior to hard-drive based office suites for collaboration, though they do not have all the features that power users need. They are also superior to wikis and blogs for document creation and editing because they provide a true word processor and spreadsheet. Since wikis and blogs do not provide a presentation tool, there is no comparison in that area. I highly recommend Google Docs and Notebook. I use them myself. Give them a try and see if they don't make your online and teaching life a little easier.

Welcome to my new blog

This blog continues my Bloglines blog, which was at

I am moving the blog to blogger because I find it a little easier to use, and it integrates better with the other Google products.