Category Archives: programming

Unexpected Connections through fact-checking

The kind of fact-checking I do where I sit at my computer and research for reference books can be fairly lonely work.  I’ve rarely come across many other people who know too much about fact-checking, whenever I meet someone I find myself reminded of other experiences of mine with places not everyone knows such as my small all woman’s college or New Zealand. There’s this moment of mentioning something like that where I don’t expect any reaction except curiosity, which can be nice as I can talk about what I love. The best though is when another person says, ‘Yes, I know about there or that.’ Suddenly I realized I’ve found another connection to one of the many communities I’m a part of and it has me beaming. This happens more quickly online where you can search out your people but in person, there’s still a great rush to that moment of connection.

In the last two months, I had two wonderful connections where I met someone who had worked in fact-checking and I was struck by how through this unexpected job, I’ve acquired another community of people. The first meeting happened when I was in the midst of pursuing my other profession, at an interview for a school librarian job. I arrived at the school early and started to talk with the administrative assistant who had fact-checked for her local paper. We had this lovely conversation about how when you’re fact-checking, you start out learning the sources you need and then they become comfortable and in her case, people she knew. For me, its been more learning the ins and outs of various sites particularly government then sometimes finding a whole other realm is needed. I had to do this with my latest job that was taking on a book about a foreign country, all my knowledge of United States government sites wouldn’t work, I needed to make sense of another government. I loved that discovery aspect which was something she shared as well, the joy of finding what you need.

Then the second conversation happened at a family party where I was actually working on my fact-checking while all the cooking was being done. Once I reached a finishing point, I met a cousin of my sister-in-law who turns out to be a librarian who has also worked as a fact-checker. His fact-checking was from a different angle as he worked on copy that was connected to historical collectibles. He also gave me hope that I would find the library where I fit as it took him a couple of variations on the library world before he found a job that worked for him. I appreciated that reminder as I keep myself open with substituting, fact-checking and applying to various library jobs, but it can get hard at times.

Next week, I’m going to get a chance to do one of my favorite local library activities as I’m running the first story time in the Lewes Children’s garden on Monday. This story time is wonderful as its set in this beautiful vegetable garden run by Lewes in Bloom on the edge of Stango Park. That means that families bring picnics with them as there are always lots of vegetables, everyone goes home with something fresh along with the fun of hearing a story outside. The focus will be on strawberries as a local jam maker will be there, I only hope that the weather isn’t too hot.

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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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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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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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Searching for balance: gaming in the library

Every library faces the question of how to balance play and work? In a public library, there’s always the worry about noisy activities in the children’s department spilling over too much into the rest of the library. In a school library, the question becomes one of balance between students who wish to work and those who wish to play. When space and resources are limited, the librarian faces the challenge of creating a library culture that insures equity of access to users while at the same time making a place where all students feel ownership. This was the first major challenge that I faced as a school librarian and one that has taught me a lot about perception, interaction and school culture.

At the beginning of the year, the library was chaotic as middle schoolers took over computers to play Minecraft. is a popular sandbox game where players can create, explore and play together. They would move chairs to cluster around and watch each other play as well as narrating their choices out loud. If a student needed a computer to work, the group of gamers would complain and bargain amongst themselves for who was to get off. My first solution was to ban Minecraft during the school day. That eliminated a few problems but students would find other games and I had to be constantly alert for what was going on. I discovered that the upper school students were annoyed at the middle school students because for the past couple of years, all gaming had been banned in the library, the change of that rule to ban only one game created friction. The older students felt it was unfair that the younger students were given more privileges than they had had themselves. There was also the fact that the middle schoolers didn’t have as many academic responsibilities and weren’t always as good at regulating their volume level. I found that the best solution was to talk with the middle school students about how they were playing and try to discuss the idea of time and a place for playing. Creating and posting new rules that I enforced began this conversation, which is still going on as new games are discovered and the year draws towards an end. In the new rules which have been enforced since the start of second semester in January, there are no multiplayer games allowed on the school computers during the school day, no Minecraft during the day and when academic work needs to be done, then a gamer must give up their computer.

A major and unexpected roadblock around these conversations came from some adults in the school community who perceived gaming in black and white terms as well as the use of school resources for any sort of leisure activity. I believe this is a generational issue which needs to be met honestly on all sides, because as lives are becoming more digitally entwined, it’s harder to say don’t do this or that. Bringing games into the library or the classroom might not be the right choice for every program but it is important to understand why the students are playing the ones they do, and how some games might be compatible with academic studies. Many times the behaviors that are being lamented as lost due to technology are just being reproduced in new ways. In Minecraft, I’ve seen students work together, discuss strategy, be silly and choose to spend their time after school with their friends. Though they’re playing a game online, they are choosing to play it in an environment where they are all sitting next to each other.

Another challenge of defining appropriate behavior for a school library is the difficulty of having a library that’s shared by middle and high school students because the norms for appropriate behavior change through the years. All students must be safe and comfortable in the library because it’s their space to work and relax. The school where I am librarian doesn’t have a cafeteria so students find other places to hang out and the library is a popular one. The challenge I’ve faced is balancing how to support what kids are enjoying, as well as give them responsibility for choosing what happens in their space and yet make certain that they aren’t learning bad lessons from their play. As a new librarian, I’m still working on how to best achieve this balance as it requires trust and communication among the school community so that students understand my expectations of them and the rest of the school understands why the students are given these expectations. The best tools I’ve found are observing and listening to the students. For example, they will comment on a game that seems overly distracting in terms of how its played in terms of noise level or subject matter, which is usually a sign that it doesn’t belong in the library.

One of the major challenges of this particular library situation is the limited number of computers that are easily accessible to students. In the library, there are ten computers, elsewhere in the school are two computer labs and a separate one for yearbook and journalism. However to enter the other labs, students must have a teacher’s assistance. That means that they’re not ideal for students who wish simply to spend a free period relaxing. Academic work is always a priority and that means that when students are playing games if another student needs access to work, then the gamer has to get off. It took some time for students to understand that the quicker they got off, the sooner that other students would be more accepting of their playing. Once gamers showed themselves trustworthy and understanding that while the computers were available, their primary function was always for work, this behavior was picked up by other students who were using computers for more leisure activities such as watching videos or checking their social networking sites. In this way the gamers who were initially defined as a problem group took on a leadership role in the library.

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Joy of Displays: Where The Hobbit, history and poetry live together.

This blog has been quiet as this year has been busy and complicated for me. A major project that I recently finished is creating the Library’s website, which is linked here and in the sidebar, over time, it will change to reflect how it’s used by students.

A large part of what I’ve done this year has been about the physical space, how do students use it and think about it. To connect with them even when I’m not there, I’ve done a lot of work on the bulletin board at the front. From what I observed when I began the job, it didn’t look like it had been used for much other than school announcements and a few posters. My first display was put together with posters I found on citations and with the help of my fellow librarian at the other campus, it gave me a sense of how I could use the space. It also showed me how students react to what I put up, one of the posters I had posted was from World Book and about internet myths. In truth it was better suited to middle school or possibly elementary school then my shared middle/high school library but I didn’t realize how much so until I student wrote a note under it. Now the note was a little sarcastic but showed me that to make my displays work, they needed to hit the right level for all the students who entered my library.

bulletin board display

First display

I decided for my next display to focus on Halloween, in preparation I got in touch with English teachers to find out what authors were being read and how I might post some works that connected with current classes. In the end, I got a few ideas and then had the chance to make the space mine by going shopping at Michael’s for ways to transform the bulletin board. My collection was a wonderful mix of fall and Halloween decorations and my major find, a Hobbit poster. Below you can see what the display looked like, the first day it went up, a student asked me where I found the Hobbit poster and all the time the display was up it sparked conversation about the upcoming movie.

Halloween display

Halloween display

After Halloween, I altered the display to go from Halloween to Tolkien based in celebration of the upcoming movie. Most of the visuals remained the same but I switched out the Halloween chosen pieces for works of Tolkien’s such as ‘The Washing Up Song’ and ‘Song of the Misty Mountains’. As both these pieces were featured in the movie, it was wonderful to be able to have the originals up on the bulletin board for students to find. When the movie came out, the board helped to create dialogues about it as students knew that I had an interest. It was interesting to me how well many of them knew the Lord of the Rings but weren’t familiar with The Hobbit, which led to talking about issues with tone between the movies.

The Hobbit Display

The Hobbit Display

As the month of January was a strange one, my next display didn’t go up until February but I decided for it to work as much as possible with the parts of the community that worked on diversity activities. An interesting part of this process involved figuring out who were the best people and groups for me to work with. In the end, the club UMOJA chose the elements of the display. I provided a poster while they told me that they wanted to highlight the work of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois. Once I had that information, I explored to find powerful visuals for the display, along the way I was reminded how complex the subject of book covers can be. One of the requests had been for a focus on The Souls of Black Folks and I was able to find a variety of cover interpretations which became part of the board. Looking through my pictures, it turns out I don’t have a picture of that board.

March didn’t come together as I’d hoped, I had talked with the art department about a display but due to a number of events in and around the library, our timing didn’t come together. For April, I put together a poetry display that has generated some great responses. I took a risk with this one because I put up a whiteboard and invited students to write their own works on it. To provide a beginning, I wrote a poem on the board myself and since then, two other poems have been added. You can see the display below.

Poetry Display

Poetry display

Displays have represented a wonderful way for me to connect with the community at Roeper as the bulletin board draws the eye when someone enters the library. I love looking up and spotting a student reading a book that they’ve taken down from the display or seeing someone reading what’s been posted. Planning the displays has given me a way to talk with faculty and student groups about how I’m trying to integrate the library within the community. I’ve found it challenging since the bulletin board is a large space and I’m constantly looking at ways to fill it and make it an engaging spot.

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Inspiration and Mirrors: the stories I’m connecting to

The reason I call myself a librarian and a storyteller all turns back on stories; the stories that I create, the stories that help me understand myself and the stories that inspire me. At the moment, my own story is in a place of transition as I look to where my next job will be and get fully into my career as a librarian.

This is a good opportunity to talk about two inspirations that are the background to my job search. One of them is an amazing CD called Wicked Girls by the fantastic author Seanan McGuire. She is currently nominated for a number of Hugo Awards but one of them is for a song that I keep coming back called Wicked Girls, the link is to the lyrics. This song is about what happens after to many of the girls of fantasy and how quite often, their stories move on without them and the choices they make to take control of their lives. Something I am constantly working on is how to put myself out there in as many ways as possible, so there is no doubt of what I wish and what I can do. McGuire’s words remind me that sometimes that means playing within what’s accepted and other times pushing to see what will bend. In the midst of my job search, I feel quite aware of how I can only do so much in terms of how I’m perceived and what happens. This song and the others on the album remind me to hold true to myself and what I know to insure that the story I tell of who I am is honest. It also leads well into the next idea I want to talk about, which is how by looking deeper into works that change us, we can learn.

Last summer, the movie X-Men: First Class came out and I was utterly caught and inspired by it especially by the character of Charles Xavier. One reason is that James MacAvoy is an actor that I love and have since he was Leto II in Children of Dune, but that’s just a single element. The other reasons are rather more complex and reflect a lot of how I love to interact with works that I like and dislike, all the variations that fandom helps me access and that I wish to bring to students. Charles Xavier is a telepath and a mutant; a man who’s constantly searching for others like him to help them know that they’re not alone and find a way for mutants to be safe. He’s someone that I see a lot of myself in as I grew up in a household concerned about making certain that everyone was happy and healthy. My father was a psychiatrist and my mother an anthropologist, which meant that the way I learned to approach a problematic situation was to ask: What’s going on in this person’s life? What have I done to cause this reaction? What can I change and what can’t be changed? I spent my time learning to find the balance between my perceptions of a situation, how others see it and the repercussions of choices that I make. In Charles, I see all of these questions taken to a different place as he can hear thoughts and so will know many of the thoughts going on behind actions, but as he has to hide his ability can’t react fully to him. At the moment, a great many of the stories I write about him are looking into how did that change his experience of growing up and how did he learn to find the balance he needed to be sane and succeed. Writing his journey is another avenue for me to reflect on how I see myself and the world as well as connecting to a greater community of fans of the X-Men. This is the great power of fiction and creation for me is how it provides mirrors of character and numerous opportunities to create and consider what does it mean to like something.

Charles provides as well an inspiration for me as he creates a place to welcome those who feel unwelcome and off in the world. I grew up as a nerd and books and my creativity gave me a place to be feel safe and think beyond what I knew. As a librarian and an educator, it is part of my role to give young people a place that they will be safe to be whoever they are. I hope in time to be able to use my own experiences as a writer and a participator within fandom as well as a student of literature to give students new ways to approach the stories around them.

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