Free Databases

Welcome to another week of working from home. As you already know by now, most of the Internet, while fun and entertaining, is not meant for use in school. Luckily, many creators of educational materials and services are using this COVID shutdown as an opportunity to get their wares into our hands … many times for free. Below you will find links to some of these, along with descriptions mostly lifted from their sites

Gale Cengage is one of the providers for the Massachusetts statewide databases, and for the time being, they are also offering free access to the following resources that are not usually available to us without a subscription. These databases are not set up the same way as our Gale databases. If you get asked for a password, use “open” (no quotes).

  • Miss Humblebee’s Academy – an interactive kindergarten-readiness program that introduces children ages three to six to key concepts in math, science, social studies, language and literacy, art, and music. It’s as challenging as it is fun!
  • Gale In Context: High School – supports student papers, projects, and presentations while empowering the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills with content aligned to national and state curriculum standards.
  •  Online Health Information toolkit – authoritative information on the full range of health-related issues including high quality digital content and interactive 3D models.

Another trusted and credible resource familiar to many educators and students is ABC-CLIO. To help support virtual learning, they will be providing open access for middle and high school students. The student site features learning resources such as video lessons, quizzes, inquiry activities, and more all aligned to your class assignments for spring topics in American History, American Government, and World History. These will be free from now until June 30, 2020.

If you like what you see at these free databases and are interested in exploring more of ABC-CLIO’s resources, I have signed up for a free month educator preview that expires on May 7, 2020. You can use the following credentials to get in and explore.

Username: haverhillhighschool-student
Password: mfxmzpq

Thank you for stopping by and keep on learning.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2020. All rights reserved



March Quick Hit: Quarantine Edition

Hello Hillie Nation. It has been several months since I last posted. Before the state-mandated shut down, I had been out on sick leave dealing with medical issues, which are now on hold due to the Coronavirus Pandemic that has taken over the planet.

During my time away, (two and a half months, so far) I have basically been in quarantine, since my family lives in another state and my wife and two boys were in school during the day. While some of my energy has been devoted to my physical therapy, I would say much more has been focused on maintaining my mental well-being. This doesn’t make me an expert in dealing with any of this, just an expert on what has been working for me. Here are six things that I have found useful during my time at home:

  1. Keep a schedule; it does not have to be set in stone, but you should try to have some regularity in your day-to-day life. Don’t ignore the power of habits during this time away from your “normal” life. Depending on what you are dealing with, you may already be in your new “normal”. It’s going to feel different, even uncomfortable, but you’re going to have to find a way to build a life around it, so start now.
  2. Keep a journal/ notebook: maybe this is just one of those things I always do anyway, but I find that writing down how I am feeling or what I am doing is really useful for tracking changes, and growth. Especially when day-to-day changes are minor, it is difficult to feel like you are accomplishing anything or advancing in any way. A journal or notebook allows you to pick up on little things that are changing. It also gives you a place to write down your “To Do” lists and keep a track of your routine.
  3. Do for others; the worst part about my own medical hardship is that it limits my ability to help others. As a father, husband and teacher, so much of my identity and feelings of self-worth come from my helping others. While my medical condition has severely limited my mobility, this makes it even more important for me to do the little things I can still do for those I love and care for. It also takes my mind off of my own struggle for the time being.
  4. Accept the bad days; especially during times that are drawn out and painful, it is impossible to remain optimistic and sunny all the time. I don’t care who you are, you are going to feel beat some days. That’s okay. You need to cry and kick and scream. You need to be able to express the grief and anguish that comes with dealing with hardship. It’s why the myth of Sisyphus still resonates with us today.
  5. Reflect on what matters; not to get too philosophical, but sometimes life has a way of interrupting our regularly scheduled programming. It’s a reminder that we are not as in control as we like to believe. It is during these times of crisis that we learn about our own character. Embrace this as an opportunity to realign yourself.
  6. Keep growing intentionally; whatever else may happen, you are going to have to make a life of it. Change is the only constant in life and with it can come growth. But don’t be passive about it, especially now that you are forced to stay at home. No one is going to come and shake you out of your Netflix binge or your video gaming marathons. You are going to have to direct yourself and make sure you are learning, practicing or mastering some useful skills.

During the shutdown, I will continue to post weekly. I have over two hundred past posts with over a thousand links to articles and online resources. I will try and highlight online tools available to students and teachers, as well as updating links to current information regarding the Coronavirus, our response as educators and more.

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you stay safe during this crisis.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2020. All rights reserved

Freshman Orientation

I love welcoming our new students to the Library Media Center (LMC), introducing myself and talking about what we have available. This year, Ms. Parent and her freshman classes were the first to visit the library to check out books, and that gave me a chance to give them a brief orientation.

I began by talking about the LMC and how it is a hub of the high school and a space that is often shared by one than one group. I reminded the students that this means we need to be respectful of each other and mindful that the LMC is an academic workplace. And what a place it is.

Unlike libraries of the past which were quiet and tended to be isolated from other activities, the HHS LMC reflects the modern vision of how libraries have evolved to adapt to their changing roles in our lives. I have provided a map below to help anyone unfamiliar with the LMC to get an idea of how multi-faceted the space is.

Housed in the library are three computer-related classrooms, the EMT/ Nursing class, Gradpoint and the ERC (where students serve in-house detention). What used to be the library staffroom and archiving area now serves as the Family Resource Center. There’s also an area reserved for the Robotics classes to construct and test their robots. In short, the LMC is a heavily trafficked area, even when no one is checking out books.

Ms. Parent’s classes, however, came precisely to do just that, so after talking about the library space, I introduced them to the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) available via the HPS Launchpad. This handy little tool is something that even teachers often forget they have available to them, and since it exists online, it means anyone can access it through their smartphones.

This time around, my intro to the OPAC was very brief, as experience has taught me that most kids would rather ramble through the shelves when they are looking for something to read independently. Since most students were looking for fiction titles, it was important to familiarize them with how we organize the largest collection in our library. We have over 6,000 novels and their call numbers all begin with F (for fiction, obviously) followed by the first three letters of the AUTHOR’S LAST NAME. So, for example, any book by John Green (Looking for Alaska, Turtles All the Way Down, The Fault in Our Stars, etc) can be found under the call # F GRE. If you can find one book by your favorite author, you can find them all, because they should all be shelved together.

But, as I said before, unless the student already has a title or author in mind, most reluctant readers are looking for a cover or title that catches their eye … despite the old adage about judgment and book covers.

To help our students find their way without having to use the OPAC, we recently put up new labels such as “Diseases”, “Animals”, “World War II”, “Sports” and “Shakespeare” on the shelves where these topics are concentrated. We also have visual cues, such as pictures of animals or WWII planes, to assist them in their search. With that, I sent them off to find a book and welcomed them to Hillie Nation.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you found something worthwhile.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2019. All rights reserved


December Post Marks 10 Years

……….In order to officially make it to ten years of writing on this blog, I have to get in at least one more post, and it has to be done this month. It is Sunday, Christmas Eve, 2017 when I start writing this (I won’t be finished tonight). I am home on vacation from a job I still enjoy (most days), with a family I treasure (beyond measure), in a house I purchased nearly twenty years ago with the best friend I have ever had (… I’m the pain in her sash). Those are about the only things that haven’t changed in the world around me since I first started sharing my thoughts and discoveries on this blog ten years ago.

……….A decade is a long time when you really think about it. Ten years ago, I was just entering my forties, the father of two young boys, ages 3 and 7. Back then, I was thinking more about after school meals and activities, than making college visits or having “the talk”. A lot has changed in the world in those intervening 3,652 days. It often happens so slowly, so incrementally, that we barely take notice. Until we stop … and take notice. Below you will find a table comparing a few things that popped into my mind.

2007 2017 % Change
World Population 6.6 Billion 7.6 Billion +15%
Tallest Building Taipei 101, 509m Burj Khalifa, 828m +63%
Price of Gas $3.38 $2.49   -26%
Avg Red Sox Tix $47.71 $54.79 +15%
Median Home           sold in Nov. $249,100 $318,700 +28%
Ounce of Gold $630 $1278.10 +103%
Tuition at Harvard $30,122 $44,990 +49%
Largest Company,     Sales Revenue Walmart, $351B Walmart, $485B +38%
Median Household Income $50,823 $59,039 +16%
Federal Minimum  Wage per Hour $5.85 $7.25 +24%
MSRP Honda       Accord EX $23,145 $30,860 +33%
Wealthiest person Bill Gates, $56B Jeff Bezos, $100.3B +79%
Number of iPhones sold 1.39 M 216.76 M +15490%

……….A lot of things have changed that can’t be measured in terms of money (but still will be by someone, somewhere). I placed the iPhone last on this list intentionally for two reasons. First, 2007 was the year that it was launched and immediately it was hailed as a revolutionary item. Second, even though it wasn’t the first smart phone, Apple’s contribution to the marketplace forever altered our world in ways big and small, good and bad. After the iPhone, no longer were our phones, just our phones … now they were packed with connections to the world, loaded with tools like cameras for video and still shots, teeming with little distractions like puzzles, games and twitter feeds. More than almost anything else that has changed in the last ten years, is the impact that has been made by iPhone and its many competitors on our daily lives, especially in school.

……….When I first started in education, portable phones didn’t exist. When mobile phone began appearing in the late 1990s, most people couldn’t afford one. In the early 2000s, the first affordable cell phones started showing up and our war in the schools against these intrusive items began. In the very beginning, I remember that our school policy was clear that students couldn’t bring their personal electronic devices to school. Back then, you needed a camera for pictures, a video recorder for movies, a music player and headphones for your tunes, a gaming device and a phone. These were all separate items and it was understood that these things were mostly meant for entertainment, and served as a distraction to our students. But little by little we changed our minds (or was it changed for us) and we moved from encouraging students to leaving their devices at home, to allowing them to walk around with one earphone in.

……….As a librarian, I am against most things that discourage you from reading, and by reading I mean long form reading. Having your personal electronic device with you makes it really easy to find a dozen things to do other than read a book. Just having it near you may actually cause you stress. And yes, of course, I understand all the arguments in favor of having your smartphones with you (I wrote about it in 2013), I am not arguing in favor of a zero-tolerance policy. I just wish there was an easy way to convince people to turn off their phones for the school/work day, and when they find themselves with some “free” time, read a book.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.

Thank you to everyone to who has stopped by since 2007. I know you are out there.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2017. All rights reserved

The Latest Welcome Back Post Ever

So here we are, September 27th and I still haven’t posted a “Welcome Back” entry. I know that is very bad form, but since I don’t have any readers, no one noticed. That is the nice thing about anonymity, you can slack off because no one is watching.

But 2017 also marks the 10th anniversary of this here blog, and so I wanted to post enough new material this year to make it to December (maybe?), when it will officially mark 10 years of writing … and trying to share information online with my colleagues and students. The first line of my first post was, “Consider this an experiment in online librarianship”.

And the first post of every new school year is usually pretty boilerplate stuff; information for the Hillie Nation about our hours of operation, and such. (Yes, that was a rhyme or at least a bit of verbal syncopation). So, below is just that:

Library Media Center Hours:     Monday – Friday, 7 am – 3:15 pm

Students that want to use the LMC computers or space after-school, do not need to make an appointment. Many clubs, groups and other people book the library for meetings or other events, and students may, on rare occasions, be asked to leave. We can give students a pass for the late bus (T, W, TH) but they are expected to be in the library working, reading or otherwise engaged in a school related activity.

Haverhill High School OPAC:

Anyone can access our collection through the “HPS Library” link at the bottom of the HPS Launchpad. We have a great selection of books for a high school library, that includes an expanding collection of graphic novels, including many which are non-fiction.

Class Visits

Teachers that would like to bring their class to the library can arrange their visits by checking the LMC log kept at the circulation desk. There is no online version of this to book the library. Please call us (xt. 1143) to check if we have room to accommodate you and/or your group if you have NOT already booked a visit in the LMC log. We love to see our space full of students, teachers, aides, counselors and everyone else who makes HHS a great place to work.

 Study Students

Students who would like to use a chrome-book during their study periods can come to the library (with a pass, of course) to borrow one. We encourage them to bring their school IDs with them, but haven’t enforced it as a rule (yet).


The LMC has two computer labs and a chrome-book cart.

  • Lab 1 is one the left hand side of the “pit” and has 20 PCs.
  • Lab 2 is in the right hand side of the “pit” and has 26 Macs.
  • The chrome-book cart has 30 laptops that connect wirelessly, but do not print.

We have one color and one mono printer/copier which both get heavy use throughout the day.

There is a laminating machine for staff use only. Currently we only have 25” wide laminate available.

Copiers, projectors, overheads, etc.

As a media specialist, I am here to get you through some of your frustrating technology encounters. I know how much our faculty and staff rely on copies, printouts and scans to get their work done, so please make sure you call me whenever you’re having trouble with one of our many Toshiba machines. Contact me if your local machine needs its toner or staples replaced, if you’re experiencing chronic paper jams, or if you get an error message of any kind. I am also able to assist you if you still use a television, VCR (what?), DVD player (huh?), overhead projector (why?), CD player/radio (how?), or other antiquated machine that helps you do your thing in the classroom.

 Contact Information

School Extension:    1143

Henry Toromoreno, Librarian 

Melissa Tarpy, Library Aide      

Thank you for reading, and I hope you found something useful.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2017. All rights reserved.






LMC Announcements, March 2017

Hello, anyone. Forgive me for not posting more regularly, but time seems to get away from me very easily. With my apology out of the way, let me share some library news with you:

  • Things have been busy as always in the LMC, especially with the addition of regularly scheduled classes in our library rooms. The EMT course, the robotics lab, and the math & tech classes housed in the library have been a great success this year. In no small part this is a reflection of both the teachers’ high expectations and our students engagement in interesting, relevant and dynamic courses.
NAF students with teachers Cliff Ashbrook (left) and Lance Gomes (right)
  • 2016-17 was also the first full year of our new National Academy Foundation (NAF) program spearheaded and painstakingly cobbled together by a team of incredible educators led by Victoria Kelley and Lisa Hunt (whose office is also in the LMC). Below you can view a short video that introduces the program.
Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 12.54.22 PM
One of the courses offered through NAF, 3D printing, not only teaches students how to use the software, but also has the students build the printers from scratch.


  • We’ve had two more great Coffee House Nights in the LMC thanks to Mr. Jordan and the Student Council. This bi-annual event has become a great event to showcase all sorts of talents in a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. Below you will find a few pictures taken by Ms. Caradonna. You can find more pix on her Facebook page.
Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 1.02.46 PM
Lights turned down, all eyes forward as the LMC is transformed into Haverhill’s hippest Coffee House twice a year.
  • Thank you to Mrs. Blaustein and her classes for encouraging me to develop what is becoming our “Technology Museum” in the LMC. Our collection of outdated and obsolete hardware is a testament to the continuing improvements made by scientific inquiry and the application of those discoveries to our everyday lives. Right now, I am still in the gathering and labeling stage of organizing the collection, but eventually I hope to have an interactive, hands-on “museum” that will allow students to handle and even use the equipment, some of which still works.
Cameras, computer mouses, mobile phones, floppy disks … Just a few of the many “old-timey” pieces of equipment on display in the LMC.
  • Lastly, beginning Monday, March 13th, the LMC will have its own Chromebook cart with 30 computers available for in-library use only. The cart can be reserved by teachers to use in the pit or individual computers can be checked out by students, with their school IDs. These laptops are to be used for school work, but will not permit students to print.

Lenovo n22

Thank you for stopping by, have a great weekend, and I hope you found something useful.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2017. All rights reserved.

Belated Welcome Back, 2016-17

……….So, here we are back at it again. Another September has rolled up on us, and the Labor Day weekend marked the official end of summer for students and teachers. Four weeks into the new school year and there have been plenty of changes around HHS*. To all our new teachers, paras, ESPs, lunch workers, building maintenance, security staff and, of course, freshman, I say, “Welcome to Hillie Nation”!

……….To our returning students and staff, I say, “Welcome back. I hope we can all do a little more and a little better this year.” And I don’t mean just in the building, and just in our work. I hope for myself and for all of you, that this year is full of great things and that even when things don’t go as you might expect, that you find strength and allegiance to get through whatever challenges you face. We are not alone, after all, if we remember that everyone around us is also in some quandary, in some struggle against something.

……….And remember also, that most people want to help, want to extend a hand to someone they see struggling. Especially in a place like a school … we are surrounded by people who like helping others. So, take advantage of the brains, brawn and brotherhood/sisterhood in your midst.

……….Now, onto the business I usually take care of in my first blog of the new school year.


Library Media Center Hours:     Monday – Friday, 7 am – 3 pm

Students that would like to use the LMC computers or space after-school, do not need to make an appointment. Many clubs, groups and other people book the library for meetings or other events, and on rare occasions, students may be asked to leave.


OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog): You can search our collection here.

There is a link available through the HHS Launchpad, but most people don’t realize that it is embedded in the “View More Links” at the bottom of that page. I didn’t even know there were more links until a few years back when I accidently scrolled down in my partially opened window.


Class Visits

……….The LMC has two PC computer labs. Lab one is on the left side of the “pit” and has 20 working computers. Lab two is on the right side of the pit and has 24 computers, including six that are around the bend.

……….If you wish to bring your class to the library to use the computers, search for books or work in the “pit”, you must check the LMC log kept at the circulation desk. There is no online version of this to book the library.

……….Please call us (xt. 1143) to check if we have room to accommodate you and/or your group if you have NOT already booked an appointment with us in the LMC log. We love to see our space full of students, teachers, aides, counselors and everyone else who makes HHS a great place to work. But we don’t like to be surprised and we don’t like having to turn you away at the door if we don’t have room.


Study Students

……….Students who would like to use the library during their study period need to first report to their study class so that their teacher may mark them present for that period. Study teachers can then send up to four (4) students to the library for that period, with a signed pass of course.

……….Study students may lose the privilege of coming to the library if they disturb others or if they cannot follow these simple rules:

  1. No food or drink.
  2. No hats, hoods or phone calls.
  3. Be respectful of others and the space.
  4. Stay seated until the bell rings.


Copiers, projectors, overheads, etc.

……….As the librarian/ media specialist, I am here to get you through some of your frustrating technology encounters. I know how much our faculty and staff rely on copies, printouts and scans to get their work done, so please make sure you call me whenever you’re having trouble with one of our many Toshiba machines. Contact me if your local machine needs its toner or staples replaced, if you’re experiencing chronic paper jams, or if you get an error message of any kind.

……….I’m also able to assist you if you still use a television, VCR (what?), DVD player (huh?), overhead projector (why?), CD player/radio (how?), or other antiquated machine that helps you do your thing in the classroom.


Contact Information

School Extension:   1143

Henry Toromoreno, Librarian           

Melissa Tarpy, Library Aide               


* P.S

You didn’t think I would write this post without mentioning Ms. Sicard, did you?

It finally happened. My very special friend and amazing assistant, Barbara “Babsy” Sicard, retired after 13 years by my side. She had plenty more years under her belt from way before I showed up on the scene, but I wasn’t around for those, so I can’t comment either way. All I know, is that my time with her was pretty great in the way that special things are amazing just by being ordinary, everyday, mundane. The way you expect a light to come on when you flick a switch without thinking about how hot a filament has to get to light up a room. The way the smell of cut grass or fresh bread or pine on a cold day always takes you back to a memory that’s good. In an age of disembodied electronic friends, Ms. Sicard was a connection to a time when people sat around talking across a table (or the circulation desk in her case) sharing small talk, being interested in each other’s lives … not to comment or ridicule or lambast each other, but to sympathize, to listen, to share, to exchange stories about hardships and triumphs, small complaints about the grind of life, to laugh not at one another, but at themselves.

So many kids who knew Ms. Sicard tell me how much they miss her. And so does everyone else who stops into the library. For the thirteen years she was my assistant, I woke up every workday knowing one thing … Barbara is going to be there when (or if) I get in. And she was out only one day due to illness. Imagine, just imagine, how much I miss her.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you found something useful.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2016. All rights reserved.