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Head for the Edge, Library Media Connection, February 2006

Johnson’s Observation on Visitors: The number of students in the media center is in inverse proportion to importance of anyone visiting.

I always carry a digital camera with me when I visit school libraries. Invariably, I capture HPLUKs in action. Oh, that’s Happy Productive Library Using Kids. (I think I’ve just lost my good standing in the AAAAA – the American Association Against Acronym Abuse.) You should use your digital camera to photograph HPLUKs too, and here’s why.

First, you should be the digital photography guru for your school. This seems to be one of the first and most simple technologies adopted willingly by classroom teachers. Easy to use cameras, basic editing software, and cheap color printers have allowed teachers to create personalized booklets, posters, timelines, and bulletin boards, often with pictures taken by the students themselves. When teachers are asked to “integrate technology into their curriculum,” we should remember that digital photography is a simple and effective way to do this

But all technologies, no matter how easy to learn, are even easier to learn with help. And you can provide that help if you’ve practiced yourself. Along with knowing the operation, settings, and downloading procedures of a digital camera, it doesn’t hurt to learn some basic principles of visual literacy - or at least, what are the qualities that make a photograph a good photograph. Just as we can’t just teach a word processing program and ignore writing skills, we can’t be teach kids how to use a camera but ignore visual composition and editing techniques.

But another use of digital photography is also important. As the “observation” that begins this column suggests, it’s rare that there are others present when the really magical moments happen in our libraries. Who hasn’t said, “If only ________ (parents, the principal, the school board, legislators, etc.) could see this, they would support my library program!” Well, with a camera and a little cleverness, those important decision-making people can see how kids benefit from having a good library media program.

I like the ways our clever library media specialists in the district use digital photography.  They use pictures of HPLUKs:

  • to promote reading by creating personalized “READ” posters of both kids and the role model adults in the buildings holding their favorite books
  • to illustrate their articles in school parent newsletters
  • to illustrate presentations to the school board, PTOs, and community groups

hpluktable.jpgWhen using pictures of students, we should consider their privacy rights. One should either make sure we have parental consent forms on file, or run the pictures through an artistic filter in a photo editing program so that students are unrecognizable.

Influence guru Gary Hartzell reminds us that a person’s proximity to a happy event creates in the mind of the observer an association of that person with happiness. (Go to any award ceremony in your school, even if you have had nothing to do with giving or receiving the award.) Pictures of HPLUKs in your communications, I’m convinced, also create that association. Your talk or newsletter article can be dry as dirt, but if it is illustrated with HPLUKs, the audience or reader will form a connection between you and happy children.

Get your cameras out! Always remember, there are more visual learners than meet the eye.



Most of my Head for the Edge columns, updated and edited, can be found in my latest book. Buy it and I might be able to afford a nicer nursing home one day. Thank you.


Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 07:19PM by Registered CommenterDoug Johnson in | Comments2 Comments

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Reader Comments (2)

Hey Doug,

I'm making a "tech tip" page on a wiki for my School Library Media courses. Is it ok if I link to this post and use the picture on it as an example (with proper credit of course).


August 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterteacherninja

Hi Jim,

You and all readers are welcome to use anything you find on the Blue Skunk or my regular website without needing to ask permission. Everything is under Creative Commons licensure.

Thanks for asking,


August 29, 2008 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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