Quick Hit: HHS OPAC is online

The Haverhill High School Library Catalog is online and available for use!


For the first time in many moons, students, teachers, and anyone else in the world (thanks to the internet) can peruse the extensive print and material collection we still hold onto, even as we march bravely forward into the ephemeral digital world.

Of course, we have already created a link for the OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) in the side bar, and the i-school folks are looking into whether or not they could get a similar shortcut placed somewhere on our HHS Launchpad.

Many thanks to everyone who finally made this happen and we hope that it will encourage everyone at Haverhill High School to consider our collection for future reading and research. We also hope that this online presence will generate feedback from our users to improve both our collection and the circulation.

Even as we integrate digital technologies into our everyday lives, I still can’t imagine a world without books or newspapers or magazines. I hope you can’t either.

Thank you for stopping by and please, tap into our resources.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2013. All rights reserved.

April’s Online Finds

……….No long essays or observations about the world in this post. What I have instead is a grab bag of online tools I’ve (re)discovered and would like to share.

Research Tools

Massachusetts Databases: If your computer is in Massachusetts, then you can access the free database available here. According to the site it is, “maintained by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that fosters innovation, leadership and a lifetime of learning.” The great thing about the search returns is that the articles highlight your search term AND they provide you an MLA citation you can cut and paste. Nice.

Google Scholar: Practically everyone uses Google, but how many people remember Google Scholar? Hidden somewhere in the dozens of things that Google is trying to do in it’s attempt at online dominance is Google Scholar. But you’ll have to search hard to find it through the drop down menus. The easiest way to get to Google Scholar is to type “Google Scholar” in Google search. The hits in this search do not include Wikipedia and the typical internet finds, but books, articles and PDFs. Some hits require you to buy the book or pay to download the article, but there are enough free finds to make it worth the trouble. Best of all, the articles all feature a “CITE” link that provides citation information in MLA, APA and Chicago styles. Again, very nice.

Clustering Search Engines: Regular search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo do a great job of returning relevant hits. Clustering search engines, like Yippy and Carrot, return the same hits you get with your favorite vanilla engines, but also have a list that breaks down and/or expands your search term. Try it to see the difference.

Brainstorming Tool

Bubbl.us: I wrote about this website a while back and mention it again only because it is free and it is fun. It doesn’t make you register, unless you want to save your work, but it does allow you to print your concept web … which is all I usually want.

Springboard Tool

Visual.ly: I think I don’t quite get yet, what I can create with this website. But that’s okay because I love exploring the “Infographics” gallery that is on the site. It’s a great way to teach kids about design and presentation when it comes to getting ideas across. One of my favorite (albeit sad) graphs is the one that points out that, “Sharks kill 12 people a year, while people kill over 11,000 sharks …. every day.”

One more stunning graphic is the “Sea of Plastic”. Very cool (and sad, again).

Even if you can’t use the site to create your own graphics online, exploring the available gallery should give you (and your students) ideas about how to create your own unique “Infographics”.



Paper Rater: Paper rater is a free online tool that allows you to cut and paste your text onto its site and then have them … rate your paper, just like the name says. It’s basically a sophisticated version of tools your office software probably also contains such as spell check and grammar check. Additionally, Paper Rater analyzes your sentence and paragraph length, the level of your vocabulary, your use of transitional words and it gives you statistics about the readability of your text. Each kind of writing error is highlighted in a different color, and some suggestions are useful. The site is easy to use and there is no registration required, but beware, Paper Rater does not “understand” what you are writing. Yet.

TED Talks: Still one of my favorites online resources for inspiring talks. They have expanded their offerings to include many “educational” videos, though in my opinion every video in this collection fits that bill. Here’s a wonderful talk by Wade Davis, filled with beautiful photographs of a majestic Canadian landscape, that may soon be littered with roads and pipelines … drilling for energy.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you found something useful and interesting.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2013. All rights reserved 

February Quick Hits

Every once in a while I find myself at a loss of how to tie together a bunch of interesting things I’ve either seen on television or read online. That’s why I created the “Quick Hits”, to give me a place to pass along links and information that I hope someone else will also find interesting. So, before time runs out on me and I miss all of February without a post, here’s this month’s hits: (Titles are linked to the original stories).

  • America’s Most Expensive Colleges: It’s that time of the year and seniors are starting to get their responses from colleges. The good news of their acceptance letters is often tempered, however, by the reality of how expensive a college education has become. Even if you receive $20,000 in financial aid, depending on where you go to school, your family could still be expected to come up with $25-$30,000 to pay for one year.
  • STEM programs necessary to economic growth: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, commonly known as STEM, have been getting lots of digital space in education news, and I am definitely in favor of encouraging more of all of these disciplines. While listening to a public radio interview in the car the other day however, I heard a university president make that revealing Freudian slip that I always keep in the back of my mind, whenever I hear of educational ventures that are “in collaboration with private industry”. The president replaced the word “marketing” for “mathematics” without missing a beat, and the interviewer didn’t seem to notice either.
  • Are the Liberal Arts useful?: This piece in the American Conservative makes an interesting distinction between those who are prepared with the necessary reading, writing, math and abstract reasoning skills to succeed in college, and those who aren’t. I would argue that is evidence of the importance of having a strong liberal arts education in the k-12 schools, so that all students who show up to ANY college are getting their money’s worth, no matter what they’re studying.
  • Where is Curiosity?  I am always amazed at how unimpressed people are with our current exploration of space. Maybe it’s because I was born just around the time we last landed on the Moon, that I still look up at the stars with wonder. It all seems not so far away from us on clear dark nights; the stars, the moon and the bright, unblinking planets we can see, seem to be just a few days or weeks away from us. The truth is that even Mars, one of our closest cosmic neighbors is years away, and so we can’t go there. Yet. But our toys can, and over the summer, August 5th to be exact, our latest rover, Curiosity, landed on the red planet and has been sending back info ever since.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you find something interesting.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2013. All rights reserved.

As November Ends ….

……………This is one of those things that has to get done. It’s been more than four weeks now since my last post here, and with each passing day, it gets more difficult to return to writing here. I don’t want to miss all of November without having written something, however, and so I will string together a bunch of false starts, quick hits and random thoughts to share with you.

About Copiers/ Printers/ Scanners

……………I am now the defacto point person to turn to for immediate troubleshooting on the twenty something machines spread throughout the building. I am not terribly excited about this prospect, of course, but I am always happy to help teachers and other staff members get their work done. To that end, I feel that I should share what I know with all those I am trying to help, so that we may be able to make each others’ jobs easier.

  • ALWAYS check what printer is selected on your computer. TEACH this to everyone around you. Every student and adult needs to do this every time they print anything.
  • Remember that it’s just a machine … and a delicate, complex, amazingly wonderful machine. Don’t get angry at it. Walk away before you get toner everywhere.
  • Tell me about any problem as soon as you can; in the most immediate way you can. Call me at extension 1143, drop in to the library and tell me about it, drop me an email via the Spiceworks support link. If I don’t know about it, I can’t put it on my TO DO list.
  • Stop saying things like, “they’re all broken”. They have never ALL been down at the same time. There are more than twenty printer/ copier/ scanners in the building; there’s always at least one that is working.
  • Stop saying things like, “they’re always broken”. I checked the machines recently and discovered that collectively, we’ve printed or copied some 11 million pages in about a year and a half. That’s enough pages to print 28,000 four hundred page books; about the same number of books in our library collection. So obviously, they’re not “always broken”.
  • Think about what you are printing and what you are asking students to print. Instead of asking students to hand in full color powerpoint presentations, have them e-mail you that presentation … there’s no need to print everything.
  • Pick up everything you print and copy. There are few things as depressing to me as seeing the amount of paper that is simply wasted day in and day out in our building. As a child, I always wanted clean paper … lined, unlined, white, color, typing, oaktag, tracing … all kinds of paper were sacred and pretty scarce back then around our house. Today I have journals, diaries, sketchbooks, folders and file cabinets filled with that paper I collected and diligently filled with poetry, letters, essays, college papers, sketches, drawings, watercolors, paintings, collages. Paper is not cheap. Making good paper is neither technically easy nor environmentally friendly. Just because it is abundant, does not mean we should take it for granted.
  • Final word about the copiers is to please tell me immediately about any problems you are having. I will get to it ASAP, and at least be able to confirm whether or not it needs technical service. You are never bothering me with these kinds of calls, it is part of my job like shelving books and supervising students via LAN school.

About OPAC

……………Believe it or not, it’s been about three years now since we’ve had an Online Public Access Catalog or OPAC. This software is what allows anyone to search our library collection to see what titles we have. Amazingly there hasn’t really been any clamoring for one either. I’m not sure what this means exactly, but I offer a few observations.

  • Most research is done online nowadays, and students don’t feel the need to find books for their projects. Unless teachers force students to use printed books as a source, most students will use all online resources.
  • When students are given a choice to pick a book for “outside” reading, most prefer reading either fiction or biographies/ memoirs. These two collections are most accessible in our library, being near the circulation desk, and they are easy to navigate, being in alphabetical order, according to author’s last name and subject’s last name, respectively.
  • When classes do use our collection for research, each section is small enough to allow students to approach the shelves to see what titles we actually have.

……………Even though there hasn’t really been any demand for the OPAC, we have been looking at getting one that would allow anyone to search our collection. The two leading contenders thus far are Atriuum and Destiny. Destiny is owned by Follett, who makes the outdated cataloging software that we are still currently using. They are also affiliated with Aspen who makes the X2 software that we use. I’ve been calling them and trying to get a salesperson to talk to me about their Destiny product because it would probably also integrate information from the X2 database more easily than other software. But I can’t seem to get in touch with anyone. It’s like they don’t want my business, so I will be moving on and recommending that we try out the Atriuum software. Their salesperson visited me about a half dozen times, always unannounced and uninvited. I didn’t like that, but I appreciated his tenacity, and he obviously means to sell me something.

About Google Drive

……………I just recently started using the 5GB Google storage that was set up by our tech department. This is a great place online to drop school related info. If you haven’t explored it yet yourself, I highly recommend that you check it out. Just follow these simple steps to get to your online storage area:

  1.  Go to Google
  2. Find the “Drive” tab at the top of the page
  3. Type in your HHS e-mail, for example, htoromoreno@haverhill-ps.org
  4. DO NOT type in a password, just hit “Sign In”
  5. This will bring you to a new LOG IN page
  6. Type in your HHS username, for example, htoromoreno
  7. Type in the password you use to get into your HHS email

…………...I started using the Google Drive to store pictures that my Lit Mag kids take of the student artwork using the new iPads. I haven’t checked out what the prints will look like yet, but the pictures don’t look too bad. Here is an uncropped, unedited example:

dot dude

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, and thank you for reading.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

Super late February post

               Even though this is a leap year, which means that I had an extra day in February to write a post, I missed writing anything new last month. I haven’t done that very often on this blog, but occasionally I do miss a deadline (there’s no deadline here … there’s no one here, but me). Having a snow day, however, forced me to admit that it was time to get something new up. To make up for the missing post, I offer you a potpourri of sites, insights and personal highlights, in no particular order.

  • The Winter 2011 edition of the HHS student literary magazine, thinker, is completed and available. Contributors and editors receive a complimentary copy and we ask all others to contribute a dollar for the magazine. Currently we are trying to raise money to purchase digital cameras for the lit mag, as we currently rely on student and faculty cameras. Copies of the magazine are available at the library. The Lit Mag also has a blog (that needs to be updated … and will be soon) where you can find most of the work in the printed version. Over time, that site should become an impressive digital archive of our students’ creative talents.
  • We are looking for submissions for the Spring 2012 edition of the above mentioned lit mag. We ask that teachers keep us in mind whenever they see a good piece of writing or artwork anywhere in the school. Many students don’t even know that we have a literary magazine and that we are trying to expand both our audience and the range of the work represented. We’re not just looking for poetry and short stories, we would like to see more essays, plays, graphic adaptations, and other forms of expressions. Submissions can also be sent to my school email at htoromoreno@haverhill-ps.org. Digital submissions are preferred.
  • I want to thank Mr. Levine’s “Debating Critical Issues” class for the invitation to participate in their intellectual jousts. I have been really challenged by the issues themselves, often finding myself having to defend positions with which I do not agree. The discussions however have reminded and reinforced in me the conviction that education is more important than ever. The range of topics we have covered (drinking age, Columbus Day, internet privacy, school uniforms, etc.) illustrates the number of decisions we have to make as citizens. Being informed and understanding why we should or shouldn’t do certain things is the most important thing we can do as free people.
  • Something I learned from participating in the debates was more information about The Keystone Pipeline. I was supposed to defend the building of the Keystone Pipeline, and I did find a bunch of information that suggested all sorts of economic and diplomatic reasons for green-lighting this project. I only did about an hour’s worth of research and during the class debate, I admitted that I did not know much about this subject. No one told the story the way that Garth Lenz shows what is really at stake when we make key policy decisions that impact the environment. (There’s always a TED Talks isn’t there?)
  • The LMC would also like to remind everyone of our small, but expanding, Professional Development collection. While we’ve purchased most of the books, many teachers have also contributed titles from their own libraries, and we want to thank them for thinking of us. Some interesting titles we have are The Obvious Child: Studies in the Significance of Childhood, Frogs into Princes: Writings on School Reform, and See You When We Get There: Teaching For Change in Urban Schools.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you had a safe and productive snow day.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

Thank you for another great semester

              I love being a high school librarian not just because I am surrounded by great reads, but because I get to interact with so many teachers and students. While I may not have a classroom setting to work in daily, I am privileged to be invited to participate in a variety of classes in big and small ways, and I am always happy to help as I can.

               Thank you to Ms. Medvetz and Ms. Sullivan for asking for assistance for their classes’ English research papers. Both teachers require students to have print and electronic sources. Rather than having students rummaging through the library stacks, however, they have the LMC prepare a cart with the best, most current books and magazines in our collection. Students are still free to look for themselves through our shelves, but with so many good online resources available, most students don’t.

               One thing teachers might not know, is that once a cart is prepared for a particular topic, we scan the books into our Follet’s software where we create a category, such as PRO/ CON Topics or Novels About Math. This can be printed out as a reading list for students, and can be amended as new titles are added.

               In checking on a link for E-Library, Ms. Medvetz discovered that it was broken, and we had to turn to other databases. Ms. Sicard (my trusted aide) found a good alternative in Gale Student Resources, a database I never mention. We also reminded Ms. Medvetz of Pro/Con.org, a site run by a non-profit organization whose mission statement says, “”Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, primarily pro-con format.” 

               Ms. Sullivan’s class was rewarded by Ms. Sicard’s persistence when she checked the E-Library link again and found that it was now working. In order to access these subscription databases, students need a library card from the Haverhill Public Library, so we always remind students to apply for one. (All you need is an ID and proof of residence). 

               Another way I got to participate with a class this past week was by being invited (along with History teacher, Ms. Jones) to debate one of Mr. Levine’s classes. Wednesday through Friday during 4th period, groups of three, four and five students did a wonderful job presenting opening statements, rebutting counter points and examining tough questions that we confront as a society. Among the topics we covered were, “should children’s beauty pageants be banned” and “should Columbus Day be recognized in the United States”? To prepare for the debates, the students used many online resources including a site recommended by Mr. Levine himself, and hosted by the international debate education association. Needless to say, we will be adding it to our blogroll. 

               I also want to thank Ms. Nunez-Donnelly for her recent visit and for helping us recycle our People in Espanol magazines by repurposing them as authentic examples of Spanish language in print. When her classes recently visited the LMC to do research, she noticed that People in Espanol was among the periodicals which we receive. Since we no longer archive print periodicals, Ms. Nunez-Donnelly asked that we pass along the magazines for classroom use. The articles in the magazine are perfect for practicing Spanish as they tend to be short, high interest and non-technical in nature.

               We do keep a few back issues of other magazines, as space allows, and classes often use these for art projects and/or presentations. Ms. Nieves in F22 (aka, in-house) also gets a bi-weekly delivery of older magazines for students to read. When they claim to have no homework or classwork to make up, she encourages them to find something interesting to read. Considering that we pass along back issues of magazines such as Mad, Motor Trend, Seventeen, Hot Rod, Entertainment Weekly, Discover, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone and ESPN, they should be able to find something to spark their interests. 

               Whenever possible, I try to copy and share interesting articles with teachers, especially those who frequent the LMC and discuss their classroom interests with me. Among the articles that I passed along recently are:

    • Elite Athletes Have a Brain for the Game (Science News Magazine): Studies show that what separates the best athletes from the rest of the pack is usually a case of mind over matter. Practice, focus and attention are all variables for how an athlete performs, and in the end it really is in their minds.
    • Self Control Pays Off Says Study (Science News Magazine): According to this article, patient children can be identified as early as age three. Turns out the quiet, aloof ones might be on to the secret of success.
    • 50 Best Restaurants in Boston (Boston Magazine): While the print article is pretty good, the online equivalent has great pictures of delicious food with the restaurant information (I know, your smartphone also has it). What a great list to have the next time your field trip just happens to be in Boston.
    • Friending Atticus Finch: English Teachers’ Perspectives on MySpace as a Contemporary Framework for Literary Analysis (Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy). What better demonstrates the quick pace that technology is moving at than having an article published in 2011 talking about MySpace? By the time the JAAL starts writing articles about using Twitter at school, it’ll be so yesterday. 

                In closing, I’d like to again thank everyone that uses the LMC and its many resources, especially the two humans who staff the place. Nothing makes us happier than seeing the place being well used and feeling like we could help you all in your academic pursuits. Thank you for stopping by. Have a great day and a great new semester.

 Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2011. All rights reserved.

Happy New Year, One Week In

……………A very belated Happy New Year to everyone. I hope that you had a great break and that you found yourself surrounded by delicious food, raucous cheer and friendly faces during the holidays. I had a chance to visit my family in New York and it was a great time indeed.

……………As usual, the idea of New Year’s resolutions came up and we made a game of it and laughed about it. While it was a light-hearted discussion, I think New Year’s resolutions are a great way to jump start a personal challenge, make a positive change and/or develop a skill you’ve always wanted. This blog started for me as a New Year’s resolution back in 2007, for the following year. I simply wanted a place to practice writing regularly and a forum that would allow me to communicate my interests (both professional and some personal) with an audience.

……………This post marks the beginning of my fifth year writing this blog. I have written 165 posts and shared over one thousand links to websites from everywhere around the web. Conservatively estimating that each post is about 500 words long, I’ve written over 80,000 words and I am probably closer to 100,000 words or the length of a 400 page book. I am not listing these numbers as a self-congratulatory exercise, but as a demonstration of how accumulating a little work over time can add up to something you didn’t even envision.

……………My mother used to say to me, “the thing to remember about life, is that one day follows the other”. She used this line in bad times as a way of saying, tomorrow you get to try again. She also used this line in good times as a warning, that without practice or a plan, you end up without direction.

……………New Year’s resolutions are something most of us take lightly, but they serve as a yearly reminder to take inventory of ourselves and of our lives. Planning to do something is just the beginning though. The harder part, as we all know, is doing it … and continuing to do it.

……………Thank you for stopping by and I hope you found something worthy of a resolution.

Quick Hits: As usual, there are some finds I’d like to share.

  • Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions: In the spirit of making changes, this infographic from LiveScience.com shows what most people promise to work on for the new year.
  • The Big Waste: The Food Network is not the first place I think of when I think of educational television, but they do have some delicious (and ridiculous) ideas for what to do with food. This program is advertised as something with a conscience, as the Food Network takes a look at how much food we waste on purpose. We throw away lots of food (surprise, surprise) because it just doesn’t “look good”.  (Sunday night, 1/08/12 at 10 pm)
  • A.J. Jacobs: How healthy living nearly killed me. In the spirit of Morgan Spurlock’s 30 day documentaries, Jacobs gives his short talk revealing how following all the best advice about how to live a healthy life led to some small changes that really matter.
  • Sebastian Wernicke: 1000 TEDTalks, 6 words: This statistician has given other TED Talks, and in this one he tackles the job of trying to distill the meaningful content of one thousand presentations to just six words. I could tell you what those words are, but that would rob you of the chance to wonder what they could be.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2011. All rights reserved.