Busy days-Fact-checking and the School-Librarian as Goalie

The past month and such has been incredibly busy for me in wonderful and interesting ways. I discovered that my love of research translates into an ability to do fact-checking and I’ve had great conversations at two Carney Sandoe Forums. During one of these Forums, one of the best ways to describe a school-librarian in terms of hiring and schools came up, the librarian as Goalie. In this entry, I’m going to talk about these two points which have been on my mind and with the fact-checking taking up a great deal of my time.

On my grad school list-serv, there was a mention of a publisher of children’s books needing fact-checkers. I emailed them, because I’m always looking for ways to connect to the world of children’s literature. It took a few weeks from when I emailed to when I was sent a PDF of a reference book on a state for Middle Grade kids. Then I had three weeks to work on the book checking everything from the obvious facts such as statistics to the statements in the text. I found it a pleasure to research for a job, to find and explore sites to discover how trustworthy they are and think about what information is out there. It was an intense job as I only had so long and had to cover every piece of data presented on the book’s pages, which meant I wasn’t doing that much else during it.

Along the way I discovered thoughtful historical sources in places I hadn’t immediately thought of such as websites put together for National Historic Sites by the National Park Service. Though as I thought about it, it made perfect sense to find strong scholarship put into easily accessible formats from the National Park Service, which exists to make history and nature closer. One of the challenges was that because I was fact-checking, I was searching for particular nuggets of facts, which meant at times having to pull up three different biographies of one person to cover all that was mentioned. Along the way, it was a pleasure to do my best to eliminate some common historical fallacies that sound nice but aren’t always true as well as learning a great deal about how many Native American tribes choose to be referred to. Whenever I found an error, it was important to have either the correct fact to replace it with or something else. In many places, I found myself disagreeing with some of the author’s choices in terms of the sorts of numerical facts that were put down. Those facts were usually the hardest to find as they tended to be created by combinations of sources and thus I couldn’t always find confirmation. In those cases, I would try to find more information that presented the same idea which was usually about the scale of a historical event, the size of a geographic feature or the size of a part of the economy. The experience brought together many facets of my knowledge and life since my friends know that if they wonder about something, I’ll go and find the answer. Fact-checking also reminded me of how much I enjoyed my internship at the Independence Seaport Museum as I was reading logbooks to put together archival descriptions and had to do research to understand their times and context. The process taught me too of various ways to approach research so that its not just something to do for class, but enjoyable. Now I have more ideas about bringing more of that joy of finding the fact that puts an event into context into the library and classroom. As its so key to make looking for information interesting and remind students that research comes in many flavors and what counts is understanding where a fact comes from.

The Librarian as Goalie came from a conversation I had at a Carney Sandoe Forum where someone I spoke said that librarians were like goalies; schools normally didn’t need more than one or two but it was key to get the right one. This resonated with me as a concise way to show how key a librarian is to a school but how librarians also don’t fit in the normal boxes. A hockey or soccer team might have two goalies, who they have to have to keep the team working as it should but they won’t be replaced as often as other members of the team. A school hopes to not have to hire librarians too often as they want them to be the goalies who are dependable and there to provide a foundation for the rest of the school. With a good librarian, a school can build on research and technology basics allowing teachers to experiment in ways they might not have first thought of. Its a way of talking about school librarians that I plan on using in the future as its simple and effective.

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Shapes of Creativity

An interesting benefit of living as I do in coastal Delaware with my retired parents is being aware of how many ways creativity can be nourished. For me, creating has meant writing in classes or online and performing in the theater, at the moment, the main one is my writing. Sometimes though the words don’t come easily and I’ll have ideas that feel like they’re dammed up in my mind waiting for something to unclog them and then they flow free. Of late, this has been an interesting contrast to my father who recently discovered writing as a new avenue of creativity for him. Most of my life, his main artistic endeavors have been wood sculpture and photography, the sculpture has grown more prominent as he has the time and space to stretch himself. The photography has always been there but since he began thinking about writing a memoir and taking classes suddenly he’s writing an hour or two every day. Its been fascinating to talk with him about writing and hear him finding the joy in shaping the right words as well as exploring how to capture his own experiences for our family.

My mother has always been a writer, when I was younger she was working on a novel and from her, I learned a lot about editing and how important it is to get the words down. Since her retirement, her creative shift has been a return to music and rediscovering photography. There’s a wonderful camera club in this area which has competitions, trips and various other programs. For my mother, its become a teaching course where she’s learned to approach what she sees through the lens differently.

All of these interactions with creativity have at their heart a balance of a desire to create for one’s self and choosing how to best share them. My father has found a small gallery where he displays his work alongside another friends’ prints, my mother plays piano with friends and enters her photos in the camera club competition and now my father shares his work with a writing group. Most of my words are shared online through this blog and the various fanfiction sites that I participate in but the heart of all of these interactions is finding that welcoming and familiar audience. I look forward to the day when in a library, I can discuss with students what they make and who they want to share it with.

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ALA Midwinter-Seeing where I fit in

January 24th to 28th was ALA Midwinter and held in Philadelphia, which meant I was able to go and explore more of how I fit into the huge organization that is ALA. Due to the kindness of geography, I’ve now attended both an Annual and Midwinter conference and they’ve helped me to understand better where I fit into the diverse world of librarians. At this conference, I participated in a few events that to me summed up this issue of understanding what I want to make of ALA. Also I want to talk about Philadelphia, which is the city of my heart.

To begin with, I grew up outside Philadelphia in Swarthmore, Philly has always been the city of my life. After I graduated college, I interned for a year at a museum on Penn’s Landing and spent months taking the train to Market East and then walking out to the river. I’ve stood on Market street and froze while the Mummers marched by and worried about missing the last train home after being out on South Street. For this visit, I was staying with my brother in New Jersey and so took one of the commuter lines back and forth, that meant I did miss out on some social aspects of the conference, but did see my family. Also the only reasons I’ve had for going to the Convention Center were mainly to see the Philadelphia Flower Show. To see all of the ALA signage and publishers that I’d last seen in Chicago in my own city was strange and wonderful, it helped me feel more like ALA was more a part of my life.

Now to begin with the events that made this conference click for me. The first was that I went in to see the opening of the exhibit hall which I had missed in Chicago due to attending an alumni reception for the University of Michigan School of Information. This year, I was there when the doors were opened and it was a great beginning to my conference as I had a few wonderful moments of different worlds crossing. First I found the booth for YALSA where I would volunteer on Saturday morning and will speak about next.

Then I came upon the Harry Potter Alliance, a wonderful organization that channels the energy of fandom into social action. I knew of them because a dear friend who works in politics has been involved with them for a long time and it turns out the people there knew of her. This was their first time at an ALA conference and it seemed a highly successful one considering that the wizard activist ribbons they were handing out were highly popular. In the same aisle, I spotted SFWA or the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, who were also first time exhibitors, as a reader of many SFF blogs and writers, I’m aware of their work. It was nice to see them connecting with librarians though I was surprised that they hadn’t exhibited before. I went home with books in my wonderful conference bag and a sense that the conference was reaching out in interesting ways to fandom. There was also a quintet of Mummers strutting around the exhibit hall which made me grin like mad. Below is not the best picture but captures their energy and the feel of the opening.

Mummers' performers

Mummers at Midwinter

Saturday morning after a cold wait at the PATCO station, I arrived at the opening of the exhibit hall to volunteer for two hours at the YALSA booth. This was probably one of the best choices I’ve ever made connected to ALA. I was able to see the traffic going by, talk to anyone who was curious about YALSA; long-time members, students, and see how much of a community exists. 9 to 10 was quiet as many people were at meetings, but at 10, I was joined by another volunteer and by the time I left at 11, there was a crowd of librarians and friends at the booth. It was great to see friends meeting up and colleagues discussing the swiftly changing world of young adult librarianship. I’m going to work to become more involved in YALSA, because they’re a huge part of where the world of libraries are going.

After lunch with a relative, I headed to the Best Fiction for Young Adults teen session, which was amazing. The teen session is where local teens from a school or library come and talk to librarians about their thoughts on the long list of possible books for inclusion into the Best Fiction for Young Adults’ list. I learned what books the kids were reading and clearly recommending to each other because many books were talked about by multiple books. Those works brought about interesting moments as it was obvious which ones were loved, which ones kids’ thoughts depended on their own preferences. There were few that were truly hated, most of the time, a book didn’t work for someone, which was informative as if there was time, they explained why. It was a great reminder of how aware many kids are of what they like and don’t like and what’s good writing. I didn’t stay for the entire time, but most of it as I wanted to talk to the Joblist, then home for a Robert Burns’ supper.

The next major event that felt to me as if it had snuck in from a different sort of convention was waiting in line to get a copy of Fangirl signed by Rainbow Rowell. I wasn’t even aware of this signing until Friday, but due to having a friend who follows her on Twitter, I was one of the early ones in line. Macmillian press did a great job organizing the signing, everyone got a piece of paper that assured them a signed copy. In theory that meant we could have left and come back but most of us chose to lean against the back wall and hang out. There’s a vibe that you get when everyone’s waiting for a chance to meet someone who’s books matter to them, a friendly camaraderie that made the time go quickly. Most of us were reading or talking with friends and all of us were hauling about bags loaded down with books, because we were librarians. Then Rainbow Rowell was a joy and her entire backlist and new book are high on my to-read pile.

The final event I attended was the Morris’ awards and Nonfiction awards presentation that was done after the announcement of the winners of the Youth Media Awards. Since the announcements started at 8 am, I followed them on my Twitter, which was such fun. All the librarians, publishers, authors, bloggers and various book news’ outlets were sharing the winners in different ways. I was able to see some of the same energy when I got to the convention center as the noise spilled out of the various rooms where the announcements were going on.

Later, the winners of the Morris awards for the Debut fiction and Nonfiction award for young adults spoke in a different space and were available for signing. Two of the speeches left a great impression on me and made me even more conscious of the kind of librarian that I wish to be. Carrie Mesrobian, the author of Sex and Violence, spoke about how growing up she was a library rat. As a child, she was involved in many activities and then as a teen would do her own research but rarely spoke to librarians. Now she sees how those librarians made sure the books she wanted were there and that she wished more activities had been available. It was a powerful reminder of how sometimes a library can do a huge amount by just being there. The other speech that hit home was by Elizabeth Ross author of Belle Epoque, she spoke about how in her family, her sister was seen as the bookish one and that her brother didn’t read a great deal. When she decided that she wanted to write a book, she had to go against these expectations that she had internalized of herself as not a reader. Its so easy to implant these ideas when adults talk to kids and air their own perceptions instead of leaving kids space to define themselves. As a librarian and an educator, I think one of the key jobs I have is to provide resources for kids to explore, to listen and especially to let them tell me who they are.

It took me some time to put these thoughts together because ALA and its conferences have many layers and as a newer librarian, I’m still working out how I fit inside the organization. I feel like in Philadelphia, I was able to find my feet and get a better idea of how as a youth librarian, I can be part of the future of libraries. To end, here’s a picture of the Delaware River that I saw as I headed back to New Jersey and my regular life.

Philadelphia Waterfront

Philadelphia Waterfront

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Busy and strange month

January always seems to go by faster than I expect and my 2014 has started quickly and is going to end in a busy way. I’m preparing to go to ALA Midwinter as I’m now living on the East Coast which means I can visit family while getting to spend time with librarians. Before heading north tomorrow, I wanted to recap some of my favorite events that have happened this month, because there’s been a lot of creativity and reminders of how I am a librarian for me.

To start off, I helped run a great celebration on New Year’s Day called Noon Year’s Day. This is an event that was inspired by something that happens at the Delaware Art Museum and was the first time it was run at the Lewes Library. The set up is rather simple, throw a party for the kids in the area and instead of celebrating the New Year at midnight, do it at noon. The big part of the set up was attaching a parachute, a small one to ceiling and filling it with balloons that could be dropped when noon hit.

Noon Year's Day

Noon Year’s Day

Below you can see the wonderful chaos as the balloons dropped when the countdown happened. I found a countdown on timeanddate.com which was projected onto the wall. There were three crafts and food and in the end almost a hundred kids went through, because its been a cold winter and this was a great distraction. I love events like this, that aren’t too hard to pull together, a lot of the craft supplies and set up were based off of what the Children’s Librarian does for Summer Reading. It was simply a matter of altering them for New Year’s. Crowns with 2014 on them, handmade tambourines made out of paper plates and using pipe cleaners to create fake sparklers and string cheerios on to feed the birds plus seats for the adults. Entire families came and enjoyed themselves including making a lot of noise when it was noon. It was one of the best New Year’s parties that I’ve ever been to for the joy going on in it.

A few days later, I was able to revisit a favorite place of my childhood and feel rejuvenated by the presence of art. The Coastal Camera Club is something that both my parents are active with and I’ve been attending meetings. Its a wonderful organization that welcomes all levels of photographers and works to help them be creative and thoughtful. A part of that is they organize trips to places to take photos and there was a trip to , now this is a place that I used to go to as a young girl. The gardens were built by some members of the DuPont family with the idea that they would be open to the public, plant research goes on and in the summer performances. The day we went it was bitter cold so we spent most of our time in the Conservatory, which is a sprawling series of greenhouses containing all types of gardens. Since it was a cold day, there were few other people there and I was able to walk around following my eye. This is how I prefer to look at art and that day, all the plants were art and I found a way to capture some of their beauty with my camera. I’m going to post one of my pictures since a place I’d forgotten is the Children’s Garden that is full of playful fountains and statues that seem to invite you to another world. Below is a picture of one of my favorite places in the Conservatory, the Orchid Room where I was lucky enough to be in on my own for a number of minutes.

Orchid Room at Longwood Gardens

Orchid Room at Longwood Gardens

Also this month, I finally had a chance to read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and it was a book that surprised me in the best way. My review can be read As someone who has been involved in many types of fandom and roleplaying, various activities that made me on the edges, this book clicked with me. Rowell was able to capture how powerful the internet can be for finding your tribe out in the world and also how writing fanfiction provides another way to connect with favorite authors. I would recommend to anyone who is working with teenagers and college students and isn’t sure what they’re doing on Tumblr or what’s so special about Teen Wolf to read this book.

On that note, I need to go and finish getting ready for Midwinter and I hope to meet with one of my groups, the librarians.

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Connecting through Art: Rehoboth Beach Film Festival and Grounds for Sculpture

One of the reasons that I love being a librarian is seeing how books and media can connect people, it’s also why I adore being part of fandom. Yet I’ve noticed that some of the random moments of ‘oh look at this’ that happen easily online can be trickier to have happen in person unless you’re in the right sort of situation. In my experience, I’ve been able to find these interactions at conferences where there’s this idea that everyone is there to enjoy or learn and focus on the same general topic whether its science-fiction fantasy, anime or the world of libraries.

Recently though I was reminded of how sometimes all it takes is to be celebrating art in the same space. At the beginning of November I attended which feels like a wonderful small conference just about films. Then the Friday after Thanksgiving, I went to , a beautiful sculpture garden in New Jersey, where it was accepted to point out to a stranger a piece of art they might have missed. I’m going to take this entry to talk about the films I saw at the festival and the wonderful atmosphere of it and share some of the art I saw at Grounds for Sculpture. Art is important and the way it helps people connect with strangers always amazes me.

The genius of the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival is how its set up, as there aren’t many movie theaters in this part of Southern Delaware, the festival is held behind Movies at Midway. Now Movies at Midway is right off Route 1 as part of a long shopping area and has a large parking lot in front and back. They let the festival take over about half the theaters for their use and erect a tent directly behind the theater. This tent is the heart of the festival and a place where tickets can be bought, people will happily sit down with strangers and ask, what did you last see? Then in the movies, before and after, waiting in line and after, everyone shares their thoughts. There’s good food provided by local vendors, the Film Festival sells merchandise including cheap videos and DVDs which also create conversation. Also many people will see a lot of films and have a great deal to say. My family has visitors every time it happens because our friends enjoy it so much. This year, I only saw three feature-length films, but they were all films that I would highly recommend, mainly because I want more people to discuss them with. What I found interesting was that I somehow ended up seeing films focusing on young people and that felt as if they’re part of the same world as a lot of young adult fiction. I also saw a collection of German shorts which is harder to review but I recommend if you find any shorts on Vimeo or YouTube to give them a look.

Key of Life

Key of Life is a strange and wonderful Japanese film that reminded me a lot of an anime or a screwball comedy from the 1930s more than a modern comedy. The premise is fairly simple, two men go to a bathhouse and one of them steals the locker key of the other, when they are knocked unconscious. They end up switching lives and everything gets more and more complicated as both men work to understand exactly who they’re meant to be because nothing is truly as it seems. When I left this film, I was laughing and wanted to share it with everyone I knew. A warning about is that there is a subplot about gangsters so there is some blood but not a lot and the violence is not the focus of the film.

The Rocket

The Rocket is a beautiful and difficult film from Laos about tradition, progress and family. At the heart of the film is a young boy who’s believed cursed and his family who are forced to leave their village due to a new dam. This move sets off a cascade of difficult changes which they struggle against along with the remnants of the past all around them. It’s a painful film with violence, hatred and a great deal of honesty. The Rocket is also a beautiful film amongst the varied landscape of Laos and it shows a country in the midst of change. A warning that in the trailer, there’s nudity and violence but it gives a good sense of the film itself.

Wadjda

Wadjda is a film that has been given a lot of press that it well deserves as it’s the first film by a Saudi Arabian woman director. The story felt to me like a very good young adult novel in terms of the story and structure. Wadjda is a girl of about 12 who lives with her mother and finds lots of ways to be herself though by doing that she ends up getting into trouble. She decides that she wants a bike and begins to save up money for it and the movie shows her struggles and joys as well as all the moments that define being a girl and woman in Saudi Arabia. One of the most interesting comments I heard about it was my father said he felt that the movie kept repeating how women are squelched in Saudi Arabia. My mother and I disagreed since to us it didn’t feel like that was being presented that way but instead the director was showing how life is for women.

Another reason I found all of these films fascinating was the glimpses into growing up, families in places that I don’t know. The discussions all of them created were wonderful and I hope to have more about them in time.

At Grounds for Sculpture, a park that sits near the Hamilton train station in Hamilton, New Jersey which was once the fairgrounds for the New Jersey State Fair, other sorts of conversations were created. The park itself isn’t huge but its big enough that if you begin to walk, you can get lost in small paths and find yourself confronted with art. The day we went, I was in the mood to be on my own and so started to go about on my own, but as I walked as I found sculptures, I also found other people. When I saw a person walk by a sculpture that they’d passed, I told them about it. To be able to create a place where not only are you surrounded by art but others and feel comfortable speaking about the art to me is an amazing place. One thing that Grounds for Sculpture has done brilliantly is they’ve created places enclosed by walls or trees that invite you to peek in and feel as if you’re the only one there. To end I’m going to share a picture of one of these places where I felt I’d found another world, which is what art is meant to do.

A grove of statues.

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Lego League-alchemy of making a team

I haven’t written much about the Lego League because sadly the library’s team won’t be competing. The team wasn’t able to pull together and get motivated on their own to get done what was needed. For me and my fellow librarian and facilitator, this put us in a difficult position because we weren’t meant to be pushing the team just helping them. If the time had went like a classroom then more would have been accomplished but that felt like it was going against the idea of the Lego League which is about getting the kids active on their own.

I’m glad though that we were able to get a few weeks of time together, because I was able to get a sense of what drew the boys to want to participate. It was clear that they all love Legos and creating and thinking outside the box since there were moments when they would get interested in the challenge and start to approach them. The bigger issue was finding a way to get them all thinking about the same problems as the Lego League asks a lot of all the teams since they must build a robot to complete almost twenty missions as well as doing research and presenting it.

What seemed to be missing was that alchemy that makes a group of people into a team. In my experience with group projects and various hobbies where people work together, it seems like sometimes all the proper pieces can be there and still nothing quite clicks. This happened to be one of those cases, but I feel like some of these boys have made some new friends. I hope so and next year the Lego League might perhaps have a longer build up to get kids excited. Also I look forward to other interactions I might have with Lego Leagues as I find the program a fascinating way to get kids thinking outside the box, addressing issues in the world and learning how to program.

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Halloween-looking sideways

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, because its a chance when everyone can play openly with their imaginations. For the past ten years, my costume has been simple but I’ve found rather effective:

As you can see, I’ve painted the top half of my face to look like a red fox, which was a skill I learned how to do when I took a theatrical make up class at a local theater in middle school. That was one of my favorite theater classes because I find it fascinating how it doesn’t take much to shift the character of your face and body.

Halloween is full of people who understand that and a chance for everyone to share various sides of themselves. Since the explosion of YA lit and cosplay becoming more widely recognized, costumes based on what someone loves are easier to spot as we share our inspirations. When I was in elementary school, I had two costumes that were my favorites and both of them grew out of my love of books. One was Glinda the Good Witch from the Oz books, I based my costume on illustrations in the original hardcovers that my parents had and my mother and I found all the makings at a craft store. The other favorite was Will Scarlett/Stuteley from Paul Creswick’s Robin Hood, I made myself a felt hat and my father cut me a quarter staff which I carried to school. For most of my life until my parents moved out of that house, the staff rested in the corner and the hat perched on my desk chair, because Robin Hood is a story that I happen to love. As I grew older I got involved in theater and Live Action Role Play which gave me chances to try on various guises and learn more about how to make someone see me differently. When I try on another identity through a costume, writing, roleplay or another avenue, I find myself examining things from more angles.

Now my costumes are simpler but I’ve found that this face paint gets everyone to look twice at me. Today when I went to pick up something, a woman meowed at me and other people smiled in surprise when they noticed that no, I wasn’t looking normal. I think my favorite reactions to this face paint are the quick smiles as that person has had a little bit of weird in their life.

I hope everyone who does something for Halloween enjoys it and remember to look at the world a little sideways sometimes to see that nothing’s ever quite what it seems. As in Celtic mythology, Samhain and the turning of the seasons means today is when the walls between the worlds are thinner. Also its a time to celebrate the harvest of the summer and prepare for the cold of winter. Brew a hot drink and keep your eyes open. Happy Halloween!

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