Tag Archives: interaction

Good Book Days and Boston

One of my favorite parts of being a librarian is seeing when someone finds the book that they’ve wanted and needed. As an educator, I adore seeing how there isn’t just one place that a person can learn. In the past two weeks, I’ve seen kids falling in love with science and put the right books into the best hands.

Scholastic Book Fairs have a magic about them, the ones I attended in elementary school were held in the library. Weeks before, I’d fill out my form, debating which books I wanted and then they’d arrive, beautiful new books. Then I’d wander around the school library staring at all the other books, the erasers, the pens and pencils, the bookmarks, there waiting for me to choose them. Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to stand behind the register at a book fair and watch kids have that same experience. The shapes of the erasers have changed from fruits to smartphones and video game controllers, but the love of finding just that one is still there. I was impressed by how easy it was to come in and run the fair as well as how reasonable the prices were for books, 1 to 3 dollars for new paperbacks. The range of options from encyclopedias to every genre and pens that lit up or allowed secret writing.  I know I was tempted by the Star Wars’ stickers and three dollars for the new Misty Copeland autobiography, but this time left with nothing for myself other than the joy of seeing kids buying what they wanted from the fair.

The second book day was an aftereffect of the Lewes Library preparing to move. Over the past few months, I’ve been helping Maureen, the head of Youth Services to weed the children’s library in preparation for shifting to the new space. I’ve found this a fascinating process of looking at what books don’t make sense to keep because they’re out of date nonfiction ones, there are multiple copies or they haven’t been taken out recently. Yesterday all thirty boxes of books ranging from board books to juvenile nonfiction were piled on tables and educators in the area were given a chance to take what they needed. In the course of the afternoon, teachers left with boxes and bags full of free books to help new families, fill classroom libraries and preschool libraries. It was wonderful to wander among them and see some of the kids who came along and recommend books I knew were good. Everything was free which made it even better as the teachers realized how these books could help their kids and then there would be space for newer copies and better editions in the library. At the end of the day, there were only eight boxes left which will find better homes and a few came home with me. I didn’t have a copy of The Queen of Attolia and picture books to send to my nephew.

Last week, I went to Boston as I’m planning on moving there in the near future. Southern Delaware is wonderful but there’s an energy in the Boston area along with many friends that will help me to do all that I want to do. Many of my favorite moments in Boston came from being in a place where people were excited to learn and share the joy of knowing something new. At the New England Aquarium, I heard kids and parents pulling each other to different exhibits and talked with a woman who loves her membership to the Aquarium. She was talking about the fur seals and how well she knew all of them. As I wandered into the bookstores and the gorgeous main Cambridge Public Library branch, I was reminded of the energy that comes from being in a place where everyone is looking at the world around them with the mixture that comes from the past and future alongside each other. Below is the wonderful Greenway carousel which was inspired by children’s drawings and connects science and fun.

2016-04-12 15.53.49

One of the unexpected highlights of the trip was walking around Boston Common and seeing the preparations for the marathon, the booths waiting and what would be the starting line lying on the ground. Boston is a great city and one I plan on exploring more. As I keep looking for jobs, my net is still open wide and if a school or a library comes together in another city, I’ll grab it, but I’m planning on finding a way to live in the Boston area.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under goals and career, photographs, Uncategorized

Upgrading and new angles

I’ve begun this new year with the sense of upgrading as I prepare to head to Chicago for ALA Midwinter with a new phone and shoes, which allow me to clear away what isn’t working. As I improve what I can, I have a moment to reflect on what’s been coming together for me and what is to come. A major theme in my last couple of months has been the chance to approach the world from new angles. ALA Midwinter will be another wonderful opportunity to do that and if any of my fellow librarians who follow me across social media will be there, drop me a line on whatever platform works best for you and let’s see about meeting.

In November, the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival was held and I had the chance to experience a number of films where I as an American wasn’t the primary audience. This is one of my favorite parts of going to film festivals and reading books that focus on experiences outside of my own. I saw two films that stuck with me and that I’ve been recommending since November which I want to mention here.

The first one is Lilting, a beautiful and complex film about the death of a young man and how his mother and his partner try to process it through difficulties of language and experience. I recently discovered through NPR that this film was actually financed by Film London’s Microwave Project that works to promote diverse films.

 

The other film that stayed with me was about Simon Bolivar and called The Liberator, its a glorious, epic movie, but what made such an impression to me was how little I knew. So much of the history it was assumed that the audience simply knew in the same way that would be true for an American watching a film like Lincoln. I love coming out of a film with a desire to learn more and see how much I don’t know and I look forward to reading more about Simon Bolivar.

 

I’ve also fact-checked a few more books and along the way found some great resources. I love fact-checking because it gives me a chance to go down fascinating research pathways that are incredibly site specific and find ways to learn the information from the primary sources. A type of site that I’m always happy to find are tribal websites for Native American tribes such as the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which allow me to find their history without the bias that comes from an outside source. For a book, I was able to explore the journals of all the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, they’re posted here by the University of Nebraska. The internet provides wonderful examples of ways to connect to the original sources as much as possible which in terms of history is key as history is constantly being reexamined.

The other area of my life that has provided some new angles is that I’ve begun to work part time as a substitute teacher in the local school district. My first assignment sent me into an elementary school classroom which is a world I’m not completely familiar with. It turned out to be exciting and I realized that it was a place that I understood better than I realized. I found that from storytimes, I had a good sense of how to keep busy children on topic and that the rushing and then pause of the day felt like when I had worked as a school librarian. I’m eager to go into more classrooms and perhaps a few libraries since teaching has always been a part of my life. One reason is because that sense of helping a child or a patron understand something they hadn’t before never ever gets old. The moment that happened in the classroom was teaching a young boy how sentences fit together into paragraphs.

I know that in Chicago, there will be many moments of finding unexpected ways to look at what it means to be a librarian and a reader. An added benefit is that I’ll be traveling by train and so will see the country from a new angle.

Leave a comment

Filed under ALA, goals and career, links

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.

View this post on Instagram

It's been too long since I've been here.

A post shared by Kate K.F. (@ceitfianna) on

Leave a comment

Filed under links, online life, photographs

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under programming

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under gaming, links, programming, roeper reflections

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.

2 Comments

Filed under goals and career, links, photographs, programming, roeper reflections

Finding my feet: the first two months

This blog hasn’t been updated since I began my new job at the Roeper School as I’ve been busy learning about the community and how I as a librarian best fit in. It’s now nearing the end of October, which means that I’ve been a part of Roeper for two months and so it is a good time to look back and forwards. The Roeper School is built around the idea of responsibility and community, a great amount of trust is placed in students to manage their own time and resources. The school was founded in 1941 by George and Annemarie Roeper after they had escaped from Germany and is built around their philosophy in which students are active participants and leaders. There’s a great focus on gifted students as Roeper tries to be a place where every student knows they will get the attention, respect and challenges they need in the school day. On the , there are wonderful write ups of the , and , I recommend reading them, they are linked here. During my orientation, one of the veteran teachers explained that the way this works for connecting with students is that in all interactions, you must be genuine, because the kids will form an opinion of you early on and talk amongst themselves about everyone. This ended up being good advice as one of the first major changes I made was that I chose to sit in the library instead of using an office behind a door that other librarians had used. I made this choice because the office felt too cut off from the library space and I wanted to make it clear from the beginning that I was available and visible to the entire community. A piece of positive feedback that I keep hearing from the community is how nice it is to see me in the library, I’ve heard this from students and faculty. It shows me that my instinct is the right one. One of the complications this presents is that I sit amongst the students, sharing tables with them instead of at a desk in the room but apart. This has been useful for starting conversations students feel comfortable approaching me about a variety of issues and I’ve been given a good window into how the library is used. However I don’t have a specific place and some mornings have to ask someone to move. I’m in the process of getting a desk, which will I hope help to create an anchor place for me in the library.

The library is one of the largest spaces to gather in the building, so students are constantly going in and out of the space. The most common activities in the library are studying, socializing and computer games. Those games present one of my major challenges in creating compromises within the library space. The library has eight computers in the main room and two computers in a quiet room. Due to the trust placed in the students, the Roeper computers have no filters and students have free blocks throughout the day in which to do as they like. This means that at times the library gets loud as students play computer games and discuss these games. One of my first challenges as librarian was how to insure that the gamers didn’t take over the library, that meant restricting playing of Minecraft and being firm with students to get gamers off the computers when they’re needed for work. This is part of a larger question about how to best use these computer resources and other technology resources around the school that I’m going to address in greater depth in another entry.

It’s a complicated issue, because technology education is a key part of modern education and a difficult one. It’s something that works best in a place between all or nothing and needs to be crafted for the needs of the community, because what works in one school won’t work in another. In the contemporary library, I as librarian can do a lot to create a space where students can learn how to be thoughtful online in their work and play. Technology usage and education is a major component of what I’m working on at Roeper and I’m going to dedicate another entry to my thoughts and observations. I’m excited to be a part of the conversation at Roeper about technology use across the school.

At this point when I look over what I’ve accomplished, a lot of it is in terms of what’s to come and there are many first steps that will lead to greater ones. I’ve been focused on learning a new culture and exploring how the library will play the most positive role in it. I’ve been in the process of gathering copies of textbooks to add to the reference collection for student’s use in the library, which is a small change from how the books were arranged before. I’m working on adding many donated books to the collection and expanding the periodical selection. One of my projects that I hope to finish soon, which will connect into how I wish to get more resources available to the school is putting together a library website. The conversations I’ve had with teachers have been about what are good resources for projects and research. I’ve created an outline of the webpage with useful websites grouped by academic disciplines, that when I post them will have explanations of what they will be the most useful for. The great guys in the IT department have been a real help for me in this as I’ve been learning how to get my ideas to fit within the beautiful website that they’ve created for the school. At this point, I’ve been able to help teach in one class, where I realized that there is a need for a lot of resources in one place and easily organized so that students can find what they need, as well as information to help them best use those resources. The class was an 8th grade science class, I came in to get them started on their research for creating a major experiment. Since those classes, I’ve talked with the teacher and we both agree that there needs to be more showing students how things work. Research is a key component of education but can be tricky to create an overall plan for as different teachers highlight various aspects of it. The Lower School librarian and I are hoping to try and create a schoolwide plan to have the libraries be the place that every teacher can look to when it comes time to teach students about research. She and I both attended the University of Michigan School of Information together and its wonderful be working with her since we share the same ideas of what a successful library looks like.

I feel most successful in terms of how I’ve been able to connect with the students as they’re the ones who spend the most time in the library. It’s one of their favorite spots to hang out and to work. When I was starting, I thought at first that I would be connecting more with bookish girls like I was in Middle and High School, and I do talk to them but the students that have reached out me the most are the roleplayers and gamers, who are mostly boys. If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I consider myself a gamer and that roleplaying and fandom is both a hobby of mine as well as how I’ve met friends and learned a great deal about my own creativity. When the students learned that I was a roleplayer, they asked me questions about my experience and I’m now helping to sponsor and run the roleplaying club. Another student has started a video game club, which is also being held in the library, which makes me hopeful. As I’ve observed in the library, a lot of students find great enjoyment in gaming and that’s something I want to try and find more ways to incorporate into other aspects of the school. Since one of the wonderful aspects of Roeper is how much control students have in terms of the courses they spend their time on and how they use their free periods. The chance to find more ways to take what they enjoy and add other educational levels to it, as well as discussing some of the culture of the gaming world feels like a challenge suited to the school and to me.

Something that I find a pleasure and a challenge is figuring out displays to set up in the library and ways to take advantage of the shelf space I have available. Last month, I put up my first display for Banned Books Week and enjoyed having many students and teachers asking questions. Many of the students weren’t aware of Banned Books Week, so I was able to explain the thinking behind it and the principle that libraries provid access to all books. At the moment, I’ve started a Halloween display that’s going slightly slow as I have books, poems and short stories posted but I’ve been having trouble deciding on bigger decorations. I’ve been going into stores full of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and feeling overwhelmed as I try to think of what will be successful, work over a long time and make the library a fun place to be. Recently I was able to look at desks in a store and that helped me see the kind that works for what I wish the library to be.

The desk and decorations are small examples of my great challenges and joys in being a librarian at Roeper-how do I take what’s within my head about the roles of a librarian and library and shape it to fit and succeed at Roeper. I’m learning every day from what works and doesn’t work and finding incredible support within the Roeper community.

2 Comments

Filed under goals and career, links, roeper reflections

Go where you want to be

This post is going to be slightly more personal than some of my other posts but I was reading another blog and it gave me a hook I was looking for. Captain Awkward is a fantastic advice site where much of what’s said boils down to trust yourself, be good to yourself and have a strong Team You. The post linked above is a tricky one about a guy who’s not having a lot of luck dating because he has some issues that he’s bringing into it. Warning for misogyny in his comments but the reason I’m linking isn’t for him. I’m making this connection because in the comments, the Awkward Army and the Captain speak of how important it is to go out and do what you want, be around people that you want to like and that you enjoy. Someone even points out how this isn’t too different from finding a way to do what you love whether its volunteering or working.

This is where I come in, for the past year and at the moment, I’m in the midst of a difficult job search. I’m preparing to move back to the East Coast, where I’ll have more family support as I work. Something that I have been doing in this year and while attending my program was doing my best to be a part of activities that reflect what I hope to do as a librarian.

This past weekend I volunteered with Kids Read Comics, which puts together a small con for kids to talk to artists, make their own comics and be a part of the vibrant world of comics. I at first wasn’t certain how much I would be able to participate since that weekend I was working Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In the end I was able to pick up an artist on Friday night and volunteer for a little over three hours on Sunday. Kids Read Comics lifted up a strange weekend for me as I connected with artists, fellow librarians and was simply among people doing what they loved. The strange weekend was due to the fact that I lost power on Thursday and Friday and the poor artist’s bus was an hour late and she got to see rather more of Ann Arbor than anticipated.

I have a few memories of Friday and Sunday that reminded me why I want to work as a youth librarian and help with organizations like Kids Read Comics. The first was the fact that when I picked up the artist, she was amazed that I was able to figure out who she was, there were no pictures on her website. The simple answer was of all the people getting off the bus and looking for someone, she seemed the most like someone I’d be friends with. She had a fun shirt and her hair was dyed a beautiful color, which to me read as ah creative person and I was right.

On Sunday, the main way I helped out was by manning two artists booths while they went off and ate and enjoyed themselves. While I was sitting there, I had the pleasure of helping all the little kids searching for clues for a game going on and two memorable conversations. The first was with an older woman, she proudly told me she was 72 and that her grandson read manga and comics. We got to talking about what is manga and how comics have changed. It was wonderful to see how enthusiastic she was about what her grandson was reading and later at the con, I saw her sitting and talking with an artist. She even grinned at me then and told me that she went and found an artist to talk to. The second conversation was with a quite shy teenager who was carrying around her sketchpad, but who opened up in time. It was wonderful to see her taking the risk of being there with her work and approaching artists. It felt like those of us there might have been able to show her that she’s not alone or unusual, but instead part of a living community. That at least was how I felt as I talked to artists, hauled stuff and reveled at being in a great library with people who cared. Everyone I talked to was interested and wanted to share what they were doing and learn what everyone else was doing.

It turns out a common thing for artists to do is to make a swap of art, which made me smile. I’m a writer and among my friends, a common birthday gift is I’ll write you a story. There’s a great generosity among creative people and it was a pleasure to help however I could that day.

To return to Captain Awkward and where I began, as I’ve struggled with my job search, the times I’ve put myself out there to be where I want to work have always been wonderful. It’s such a simple truth but one that’s easy to forget. Even if your search for X,Y and Z isn’t working, still go and be with people you like and where you want to be. Then in time, the right job or the right person will find you because you’re in a good place.

Leave a comment

Filed under goals and career, links

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under goals and career, links, programming

Where I fit as a librarian and reader: not either/or but and

My last few weeks have been incredibly busy as I had three in-person interviews at three quite different independent schools. I’m not going to go into detail about these interviews but they did get me thinking about perceptions of libraries, librarians and books. Then last night I was reading an article in The New Yorker about guilty pleasure reading, which is a phrase I dislike and I wanted to write about the views of books and technology.

Two of the schools I spoke to have iPad programs and I ended up dealing with many questions that were variations on: we have it all on the ipad, what can you do? These questions weren’t too surprising considering the language that the media and the educational world use in terms of these new technology tools, that its all right there at your fingertips and your students can do it all. This seems rather short-sighted because another discussion that swirls around technology is how there’s so much information, it’s hard to know how to navigate it. I found that my best answer was by talking about two quite different aspects-the library has a third place and community gathering point and how I as a librarian can help navigate the resources available. This seemed to make sense and it was fascinating to see the different ideas that being in the library brought about in discussions, I could almost guess the people who grew up spending their time in libraries and those who didn’t. Then in terms of technology, when I spoke of how my job as librarian was to gather and curate the resources to get them prepared and easy so that the focus in classes could be on education, that made sense.

I found these conversations amazing as I was able to get a sense of how the sense of what is a library is in such flux, this was something that came up, again and again in the course of my degree. We were constantly debating and discussing what is a library, sometimes in comparison-what is a library in comparison to an archive or online or in a school? I found the chance to bring see how those thoughts played out in the arena of schools a reminder that I have found the right career for myself.

Now the other aspect I was thinking about was who I am as a genre reader. One of the quickest ways to make me lose my temper is to call any book trash since it adds an element of shame to reading, which is awful. Last night at work, I was reading an article in The New Yorker called “In Praise of Guilty Reading Pleasures” by Arthur Krystal. I would link it but its behind the paywall but if you have access I recommend reading it because the author didn’t do a good job arguing for genre books in particular mysteries and thrillers.

What got in the author’s way from the start is the idea that any book is a guilty pleasure, this brings shame and I shouldn’t be reading it into the equation and is insulting. My view has always been if a book brings you pleasure, its worthwhile. If someone wishes to criticize a book there are many other ways to speak of them that don’t make the reader feel as if they’re not good enough such as talking about the quality of the writing, the characters, the plot, the world-building, the cover or even the editing. All of these elements exist in every type of book and create a level playing field. The author was trying to argue that these genre books can be well-written and are good in their terseness and effectiveness and talked about the fascinating history of the novel, which hasn’t always been the darling of the literary establishment. It was at the end of the article that this all fell apart. I’m going to quote the first and last lines of the final paragraph that I tweeted last night to show what I mean about the author destroying his own point.

Apparently we’re still judged by the books we read, and perhaps we should be.

And, if we feel a little guilty for getting so swept up, there’s always “Death in Venice” to read as penance.

I just don’t get this attitude and its so prevalent that people enjoy that on their e-readers, no one knows what they’re reading. If we’re to continue nurturing readers, we need to make it clear that reading is wonderful and we all have different tastes. I think my biggest issue with this article is how it brings in strong and harmful religious ideas about penance and almost a diet analogy in read your veggie books, do your penance instead of enjoy what you like.

To end on a happier note, today on Tor.com I read an article about genre fiction that completely got it about how genre can be fun and deep and complex called Why Genre is Synonymous with Pop. I also highly recommend Tor’s Genre in the Mainstream series as it looks at why some books are literary and some genre and how the lines blur far more often than we expect. Usually what puts a book on one side or the other is the author or the publishing house and how they’re considered. That’s another longer discussion about how publishers decide where a book fits and best left for another time.

In the end, I see myself as a librarian as someone who connects resources and helps makes sense of all that’s out there. We don’t have to do either e-books or print, its a matter of and. The library is a place to meet as a community and talk about what we love. Just as books aren’t a matter of either literary and good for you or a guilty pleasure, a book that you get lost in is a worthwhile book.

Leave a comment

Filed under book thoughts, goals and career, links