Creating a Classroom Library of eBooks

Make a Classroom Library – of eBooks

Last year we began our eBook journey (and I never looked back). To date, we have about 150 carefully selected titles – both fiction and nonfiction and we’re adding a bunch more this month in preparation for our literature circles project. Most of the titles I purchase are student or teacher requests. They get used for the project, and then they just kind of…don’t.

But sure enough, every time I show a kid MackinVIA, I get comments like, “Whoa! I had no idea we had this!” or “Are you kidding!? That’s beast!” or “That’s legit”. (Middle school here…if you couldn’t tell).

And as they scroll through the titles I see them favoriting 5 more titles. It’s not a matter of kids loving VIA – they do. It’s a matter of keeping it at the front of their minds when they’re looking for a book. I guess it’s just ingrained in them to think “physical book” when they are looking for something to read.

I needed a way to remind kids about MackinVIA aside from the many times I’ve told them before. But I get it – they’re middle schoolers. When they come to the library and get to pick their seats, they’re totally engrossed in the boy that sat next to them rather than the awesomeness I’m telling them.

So – time to get creative!

In case you didn’t know, Mackin has these awesome FREE eBook shelf markers. You can get them made, customized to your collection (with title and cover art), sent to you as a PDF or they can print them for you. We decided to print ours ourselves. We printed them on card stock and laminated them.

Image courtesy of

When I originally printed them, I had intended on using them as pictured above. I was hoping that kids would see the shelf marker for a book that was checked out and turn to the eBook without leaving disappointed.

It just didn’t work. The shelf markers were getting mistaken for bookmarks and the ones that weren’t taken, were all over the floor. That ended quickly. The book the kid wanted was checked out and they would say, “It’s okay, I think my teacher has it in her classroom library.”

Then it hit me!

I was advertising eBooks in the wrong spot. The magic of ebooks is their convenience and portability. So I should make it as convenient as possible to access them.

Instead of disposing of our eBook shelf markers, we actually had 50 sets printed (yeah…7,500 eBook shelf markers). God bless my library aide and my library helpers for cutting and laminating them all. Oh, and hole-punching them. Why hole punch?

Because of THIS:

We put them on keyrings! And we’re giving them to every teacher in the building. It’s going to be EPIC! Kids can now “browse” our eBook collection without even having their device. Once they find a title they want, they simply scan the QR code and they’re directed straight to the book. BAM!

We also made this handy little poster for the teachers. They can hang it next to the eBook keyring or anywhere in their classroom. The QR code on this poster directs to our MackinVIA homepage.

Obviously I’m a little biased, but I think this is genius at its best.

I had genius like this once before. That is when I attached a shovel to my son’s Power Wheels. I really think I’m on to something with that one.

Want to get your hands on your eBooks shelf markers? Reach out to your Educational Sales Consultant. They’ll get the specs you want and send you over a PDF file of your shelf markers.

Looking for other ways to promote your eBooks? Check out Mackin’s resource page – they have a load of bookmarks, posters, flyers, table tents, stickers, etc. to promote your eBooks.


The Makerspace. When it didn't work...but it wasn't a failure.

It Didn’t Work…but It Wasn’t a Failure

Last year I immersed myself in maker education. I followed everyone imaginable, read every book published, and learned as much as I could. As my knowledge grew, I became more and more excited about what a makerspace could look like at my school. Our district was also immersing itself in blended education and was big on the idea of the library as a Learning Commons. After working with our Director of Infrastructure Technology, Director of Instructional Technology, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, and my building administrators, a makerspace vision was developed.

I also made this infographic.

Knowing I would be on maternity leave for the 1st marking period, I did as much planning prior to the start of the school year. Unfortunately/fortunately, my bundle of joy arrived nearly a month early and I wasn’t at the spot I needed to be in order to officially “start” the Makerspace.

I returned to school a few weeks ago and had the official “grand opening” of the HMS Makerspace. Kids flocked to the library. I mean FLOCKED. It was chaos. Beautiful chaos. And I loved it! It was the best distraction from being away from my children.

And after a few days, the beauty disappeared and it was just chaos. Pure and simple.

And I was devastated.

So I paused. I put everything on hold and just watched and observed. I needed to know what was going wrong in order for me to fix it. And I’m so glad I did. I learned that some of the “best” things about my school and my library were actually working against the way I had set up the Makerspace.

Wide Open Spaces

Our library is this large, open space with huge ceilings and glass wall/window overlooking our courtyard. It’s a beautiful space. Unfortunately, the echo is AWFUL. Imagine having a library in a natatorium without any sound barriers (yeah, it’s that bad). So the echo is great if you’re trying preserve the traditional quiet library space, as even a whisper travels across the room. Without saying too much more, you can see why this is an issue.

Staggered Classes and Study Halls

Our middle school operates on a traditional 7 period day, but each grade level has a slightly adjusted schedule (don’t worry if you don’t understand, I don’t either). Students visit the library before school, after school, and during “flex” (study hall). Since each grade level has a slightly adjusted schedule, 7th grade could be in core classes while 8th grade is having their flex period. I work on a flexible schedule which is AWESOME, except for when the class overlaps with flex (which it ALWAYS does). Because of problem #1, I am forced to close the library for flex when I have a class scheduled.

Not Everyone Wants to Use the Makerspace

This was big for me. I think I was trying to make the entire library a makerspace. I think I was so excited to eliminate the notion of the “traditional” library, that I forgot that it still serves a purpose. School libraries are first and foremost a place to support the students and the curriculum. And while the makerspace has a huge curricular impact, it addresses one piece of the pie. I still needed a place for students to read quietly, work on homework, and makeup tests. Not every student comes to the library to code or make Justin Bieber’s eyes light up with LittleBits. And while it seems obvious now, it took me a while to realize this. Fortunately, everyone around me realized it and pointed it out to me. Some kids explained that they couldn’t concentrate in the library. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to enjoy the makerspace, but they had priorities and I was making their decision difficult by tempting them with these cool things. Teachers explained that they really counted on the library as a place to send kids if their study hall was noisy and kids needed to focus.

What to do?

It was clear that we had students that wanted to come to the library for the makerspace and students that wanted to come to the library for a focused, academic purpose. Unfortunately, because of our open floor plan, they were on top of each other. So I was sitting in my office drawing up some plans of how I could once again rearrange the library (my maintenance department was going to kill me). And then it hit me. My office. Let’s move the makerspace into my office. 


It took me all of 30 minutes to clean out my office. It was only my second year at this school so I hadn’t accumulated much stuff. Further, I hated being in there anyway. Even though the office has glass walls (which makes it PERFECT for the makerspace), I always felt as though there was a barrier between me and the students. Again, barrier = PERFECT for this situation.

I had already scheduled my maintenance department to come in and help me move things, but while they were there, I ran by an idea that I found at AASL. And it worked AWESOME! We have these beautiful, sturdy oak tables, but they aren’t the best for flexible spaces. So we purchased some castors and my maintenance department replaced the feet with wheels 🙂 It’s awesome! Now I have beautiful, study furniture that is also moveable!

So here are some pictures of our “NEW” Makerspace. Although its a little cramped, it doesn’t seem to bother the kids.

LittleBits station (on our “new” moveable tables)
MakeyMakey station (my old desk)
Ozobot station

I learned so much through this process.

  1. Makerspaces aren’t a one-size-fits-all model. Keep your school’s vision and mission at the heart of the space.

  2. Creating a makerspace doesn’t mean abandoning your library.

  3. Succeeding after a failure is SO much more rewarding. And after all, isn’t that what we’re trying to teach our kids through maker activities?

Making Digital Reading Easier

Literacy is the ability to read and write. Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. []

As a librarian in a 1:1 school, my students are consuming most of their information in a digital format (eBooks, websites, databases, video clips, etc.). In addition to consuming information, students are doing a great deal of producing via digital tools. While there are tremendous benefits to using digital tools, they can also pose some challenges. Finding. Reading. Organizing. Saving. Sharing. All of these can be difficult for some. Not only can it be difficult, but some students and teachers just prefer reading print.

At my school, my students and teachers have access to eBooks via MackinVIA. Fortunately, MackinVIA has a bunch of built in features allowing my students to adjust size, color, contrast, and even highlight text. And since MackinVIA works on virtually all devices, my students can customize their reading experience no matter what they are reading.

Unfortunately, these customization options aren’t as easy to access or as obvious when reading text on the open web or through a database. Here are some of my favorite tips and tools to make reading online text a bit easier.

1. Change text size

Seems obvious right? The easiest way to change text size is using your keyboard shortcuts. If you’re on a Mac, use Command +. PC users use Ctrl +. Unfortunately, the keyboard shortcuts will zoom your entire screen, which can sometimes distort what you’re trying to read. If that is the case, you can always change the default text size through your browser settings.

I am a lover of Chrome (there’s no place like Chrome), and it is very simple to change the text size. I had to get into the Advance Settings to see the text size options. As you can see, I have multiple options and I can also change the font (note: depending on how the website is formatted, not all fonts will be impacted by this change)

2. Readability

Readability is my go-to for making reading easier. It removes all the clutter and makes online reading much more like print.

Readability is available as an app on both iOS and Android and is also available as an extension for Chrome.



I love that you can send to Kindle or print this version.

3. Clearly by Evernote

If you’re a user of Evernote (or even if you aren’t) another option is Clearly. While Clearly has some more customization options than Readability, it isn’t available as an app. Clearly is an extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.




4. BeeLine Reader

I am so excited about this one! BeeLine Reader is different than anything I’ve used before. Instead of changing font or size, it changes the gradient (crazy, right?). I’m totally digging it! It took me a few paragraphs to figure out which gradient I liked best (I like dark), but it made a huge difference.

Want to see if BeeLine Reader can help you? Click here to take the challenge.

BeeLine is a web extension but you can also copy and paste text to be changed. You can also upload PDFs.

BeeLine Reader is free with unlimited use for 30 days and 5 times per day after that. The Premium plan is still very reasonable at only $10 year.

There are many other tools out there that can help make your digital reading experience more enjoyable. Although a lover of technology, I prefer reading text in print. However, most of my reading is done digitally simply because it isn’t available in print. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. But you don’t need to suffer. Since using these tools, I have found reading text online to be much easier. Do you have any go-to tools that you or your students use? Share your favorites in the comments!

[For more information on the advantages of digital resources, check out this webinar]

Why Summer Doesn’t Have To Mean Slide

It’s currently summer vacation. Take a moment to imagine what your students are currently doing. How much of it involves technology? Whether it’s watching YouTube videos, playing Candy Crush, or texting a friend, odds are a large portion of their summer holiday will be spent on an electronic device. Now think of your library collection. What part of your library collection is available on that student’s device? Even if your digital library were available on that student’s device, how many different applications or websites would they need to open in order to access them all?

With MackinVIA, you can have all of your electronic resources available on a single platform, regardless of where you purchased them. MackinVIA offers a single sign-on option for all of your electronic databases and is a one-stop shop for all of your schools eBooks. Whether you own thousands of eBooks or just a handful, MackinVIA can help you manage them all in a single app. Imagine…students with any device (because MackinVIA works on nearly every platform) can have access to your entire electronic library collection in ONE app. No more remembering passwords or jumping between different publishers’ apps. MackinVIA gives you the ability to have all of your eBooks, audiobooks, databases, videos, and curated links in one central location.

Worried about the investment? No need because MackinVIA is absolutely FREE. You wouldn’t guess that from the robust features and the phenomenal customer support that comes with MackinVIA. Mackin has been in business for over 30 years and is dedicated to providing schools and libraries with quality resources to support instruction. This is why you will only pay for the content you choose to purchase. Signing up for a MackinVIA account will give you access to tons of promotions granting you free eBooks and audiobooks to help start your collection. Even better – the promotions continually change and even existing customers can take advantage of them. No more “only for new customers”.

MackinVIA has the potential to revolutionize the way students access digital content and is already doing so in thousands of schools across the country. Wondering how to get started? Visit It’s fast, easy and best of all, it’s free!

Why eBooks? My top 5 reasons.

Why eBooks? Top 5 Reasons

My library recently made the leap to including eBooks in our collection. The biggest question I’ve received isn’t about the platform or the prices, but WHY. After answering this question to many fellow librarians, I decided I better just write a blog about it.

So – why eBooks?

Well…why not?

This is my first year in my new school and I inherited an immaculate collection. Both fiction and non-fiction are very up to date, with all of the hottest books and a well rounded mixture of the timeless classics. The collection was recently weeded too (yippee) so we don’t have a lot of older materials cluttering the shelves.

Our school embraces BYOD (bring your own devices) and our 7th and 8th grade students are given an iPad mini (with plans to push to 6th grade in the 15-16 school year). When talking with my students about their favorite apps, students repeatedly listed the following apps (among others):




What do these apps have in common? They’re all eReading apps! Some of the students I spoke with are actually my best customers in the library, so I asked them “Well why don’t you just check out a book from the library?” Their responses have led me to the following reasons WHY I have embraced eBooks and why you should too.

1. Anywhere – anytime!

I’m sure this doesn’t hold true in every school, but our students are no longer permitted to carry backpacks for safety concerns. Therefore, the students store everything in their lockers aside for items necessary for class. Many students expressed that their iPad allowed them to carry around thousands of books, while only carrying their iPad. While our school library permits 4 books at a time, some students whip through them in a night. We are just finishing our Thanksgiving break and I logged in to see the circulation statistics of our eBooks and WOW! I was so amazed at how many students were checking out books from our MackinVIA page over the holiday vacation. Unless their parents would have taken them to the library, they wouldn’t have been able to exchange their books.

2. Privacy

Not everyone is ready for “The Fault in Our Stars” or “The Book Thief”. Some students are ready, but choose to read titles that aren’t as challenging or as serious as some of the NY Times Bestsellers. While that’s always been okay, the fact is this is middle school. Kids can be cruel sometimes and judge people for the simplest of things – including the book you’re reading. eBooks allow a student to read whatever they want without anyone knowing.

3. Text Size

My school has amazing kids. Three of those kids happen to be almost completely blind. If one of these students wanted a book from the library, he/she would tell the teacher and his/her parent and the book would be ordered in large print. By the time the book would have arrived, the kid has moved on to something else (again – they’re kids). I’m in my twenties and can see perfectly fine but I’ll admit to loving the ability to increase the text size on my eBooks.

4. Cost

Books are expensive. Particularly ones with library binding. We’ve tried our luck with paperbacks but even with covers, they just don’t hold up. Our ‘well-loved’ hardbacks look pretty nasty after a year. And then there’s the issue of student’s moving away without returning items. This happens pretty frequently and while I know it’s not always the student’s fault, it is so frustrating.

Did you know that some eBooks have UNLIMITED, SIMULTANEOUS USE?

Amazon: $9.16 for 1 book for 1 user
MackinVIA eBook: $36.99 for 1 interactive eBook for UNLIMITED users (for life)

$36.99 gets you the same title with many more features (see a demo here) and all of your students could access it at the same time. Think of how that would benefit teachers doing class book studies? *Note: not all books are available as unlimited, simultaneous use (up to publisher)

5. It’s where the kids are

A part of me agrees that kids spend far too much time using technology. I’m guilty of it myself. But I’m not spending hours playing Flappy Bird or Farmville – I’m using it to be productive and usually I’m using it to learn. As teachers and librarians, our job is to show students how to find and use information. Ignoring the fact that students can read using technology is like ignoring the existence of Google. We have to show them how to use it. I did a quick poll and 50% of my students say they still prefer a print book over an eBook. Some of my fellow teachers made comments like “Yep – I thought so – we just aren’t ready for eBooks” HELLO!? There is still 50% of our students that PREFER an eBook! We can’t forget about them.

Right or wrong, I have decided to only purchase eBook titles that we can also purchase in print. I don’t want to force a student to use an eBook if they don’t want to, so I don’t want to purchase titles that are exclusively available as an eBook.

So there you have it. My Top 5 Reasons. Of course there are more, but I these reasons may apply to many of you. If you’re interested in starting an eBook collection, I urge you to look into it. There are many options out there and one of them is bound to fit the needs of you and your students.

Educator Newsletters

Educator Newsletters

It is so exciting to see all of the new tools and resources that emerge each day to help teachers and students. Although it’s exciting, it’s also very overwhelming. Staying on top of the latest tools and trends in education can be time consuming, particularly if you’re doing the research on your own.

Fortunately, that isn’t necessary. There are many great educational websites that share information on these topics. Even better is that many of them offer email newsletters which will send this information in a digestible format. Short, sweet, and to the point. Perfect for busy teachers and librarians. 🙂

Here are a few of my favorite educational newsletters:

Edutopia is one of my favorite newsletters for a few reasons – it covers pretty much every aspect of education (technology, social skills, grants, and upcoming educator events). It also features a weekly giveaway! This week’s prize is a Sphero. Newsletters are published on a weekly basis. Click below see a preview of the Edutopia newsletter.

In addition to being an amazing website and an awesome Twitter account to follow, MindShift has a wonderful newsletter. It is a daily newsletter, which can be a lot, but it covers some incredibly interesting topics. Articles like “What’s Going on Inside the Brain of a Curious Child?” and “Pediatricians Say School Should Start Later for Teens’ Health” are incredibly interesting!

If you love edtech like I do, EdSurge is a MUST! There are two newsletters to choose from, but I suggest signing up for both. EdSurge “Innovate” is geared for anyone with particular interest in educational technology, while EdSurge “Instruct” is all things education. Both newsletters are published on a weekly basis. They tend to be lengthly but I always take the time to read it from beginning to end. Newsletters feature articles on a variety of topics, but there is also a section for opportunities (awards for educators), events, edtech jobs, and grants.

There are many more out there with tons of information. Have a favorite you’d like to share? Add it in the comments below!