Tag Archives: public libraries

New Lewes Library and Pokemon Go at the old

I’ve joined the masses who are hooked on Pokemon Go and so far its helped me discover places I didn’t know about and start up conversations.

This past Monday,  I was volunteering at the beautiful new Lewes Public Library which officially opened on June 20th. Every time that I’ve been in either to help out or to look on my own, the library has been full. On this Monday morning, I began by sharing some of the wonderful posters I picked up at ALA Annual Conference to help decorate the space and discuss Pokemon Go. It turns out that there are two gyms near the library, two PokeStops across the railroad tracks at the old library, one was even at the Children’s Learning Garden where Maureen was headed to for a storytime.

Once Maureen went out to run the storytime, I didn’t have time to think of Pokemon as the Children’s section was busy. In the midst of shelving books, I was answering questions and seeing what the right space can do. There was a group of tween girls discussing book series that they love amid exclamations of ‘Have you read this one?’ Little kids were picking books by pulling them out and finding ones they enjoy. I love a busy library and it did take a while to get the shelving done but it was more important to answer every question.

When I finally left, I stopped by the library sign to check out the PokeStop and got into a conversation with two women in scrubs. I showed them where the PokeStop near the sign was and pointed out which was the Children’s Learning Garden was from where we were. After that, I walked around for a while, catching a few Pokemon before lunch then later stopping behind a motel to find a mural and a PokeStop. I think a lot of the set up of the stops is slightly random other than being in public places but for me, they’re getting me exploring. I’m looking forward to seeing how this game builds interaction in other places.

 

A lovely mural I never knew about but thanks to #pokemongo I found it. #mypictures #instagram

A photo posted by Kate K.F. (@ceitfianna) on Jul 11, 2016 at 12:06pm PDT

 

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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.

 

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Censorship close to home: Cameron Post and Cape Henlopen School District

Recently I had the odd experience of learning about something occurring in my own neighborhood from the online young adult world and then watching it play out online and in the local paper. I’m referring to the Cape Henlopen School District removing The Miseducation of Cameron Post from a summer reading list. A lot of great posts have been written about how misguided this choice was and I’ve found it inspiring to see how the YA community worked with the local community to get the book into the hands of kids who want it. Here I’m going to speak about the latest development a writing contest that gives teenagers a chance to say their thoughts about the book as well as provide a sense of the local context.

To start, the wonderful coda that is the essay contest. To quote the text of the flyer which is currently hanging over the new young adult books section at the Lewes Library.

The adults have had their say. Now it’s your turn. If you’re a high school student in Delaware, you’re invited to:

  • Get a free copy of The Miseducation of Cameron Post from Browseabout Books (student ID required)

  • Write a 250-500 word essay about what you think board members should know about the book before deciding whether it belongs on a school reading list

  •             Submit your essay to ncac@ncac.org by September 1st

I love the idea of this because one of my main complaints as I read through all of the articles that kept appearing in the Cape Gazette, the local paper, was how there weren’t enough student voices.

Now to get into a little explanation of where all of this happened since Sussex County, Delaware is currently in a great deal of economic and demographic flux. Sussex County and especially the area which Cape Henlopen serves is compromised of a number of different social groups and they don’t all fit together. Along the coast in towns like Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, retirees with liberal backgrounds from major cities such as Philadelphia, Washington DC and Baltimore have second homes and many live year round. Rehoboth Beach is known for being a welcoming place for the LGBTQ population.

A little further inland, farms and developments vie for land with places that conservationists have saved carving out their own spaces. According to the Sussex County Economic Development Office, the three main industries are manufacturing such as PATS Aircraft, Agriculture/Food Processing with the Mountaire Farms, mainly known for poultry the largest and then the three main hospitals; Beebe Medical Center, Bayhealth Medical Center and Nanticoke Health Services. Tourism and educational services also provide jobs through a University of Delaware Campus, Sussex Tech and a branch of Wilmington University. This means that the area can sometimes feel split between those who’ve been here for a while and tend to be more conservative and the newer and older residents that can be more liberal as well as immigrants that move here to work. A good explanation of how this looks politically comes from a write-up of Delaware around the 2012 elections from The New York Times:

“Almost all of Sussex County is rural. It is the top poultry producing county in the country. Along its coast, however, more than two decades of investment has cultivated a string of resorts, Mr. Pika said, and now liberal pockets can be found there. Rehoboth Beach, for example, has a substantial gay community.”

My family came down to this area to retire into one of those liberal pockets and they’re steadily making inroads into changing the political climate but it’s not easy to do.

All of this background is to show how in a place where same-sex couples are common a book can be banned for bad language with underlying homophobia. One aspect that I found fascinating was how little thought apparently went into choosing the list as it was apparently the first year it was done. It’s good that they trusted the Delaware Library Association to make intelligent choices, but the fact that most of the School Board and parents didn’t know much about these books wasn’t. Also none of this went through the normal process for challenging a book, which in the majority of libraries I’m familiar with requires the one challenging to read the book. All of the books were from the Blue Hen list which is selected by the Delaware Library Association, these books were then offered to incoming ninth graders to read. The way it all played out was strange too, the book was banned, then put back on the list and then the entire list was pulled. An interesting aspect was how a major part of rallying around the School Board came not from any thought on the book itself but more supporting the local government.

One letter that stood out for me was from someone who grew up in the area, was proud of not reading the book and fully backed the board; “I would like to commend the board on its decision to remove the above mentioned book from the summer reading list for incoming freshman. I hope that you are able to stand by that decision. I have not read the book.”

In a recent article from July 29th, a number of locals are quoted which gives a good sense of what happened.

“She’s promiscuous, drinks all the time and does drugs,” Hesson said. “Are we pulling students up, or are we just handing them stuff?”

While the Metcalfes and Hesson represented about half of 50 people who attended the meeting, just as many continued to support the book and the message it offers for gay students.

Recent Cape graduate Madison Bacon said gay kids are bullied in school, and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” could help them handle adversity.

“It is a wonderful book. When I heard you removed it, it made me very sad,” she said.

Looking back over what happened, I think that the entire area has been surprised by how involved the outside world became in the book banning. I know that Browseabout Books is still giving books away as they’re provided for part of the contest and according to a librarian friend, Emily Danforth is going to give a Skype talk to a LGBTQ book group that meets at the library. The entire experience feels like its reflected a lot of the cultural conversations in the country as well as the power of connecting in as many avenues as possible.

I feel proud to be a librarian, a reader of young adult literature and someone who can add a few words to this conversation. For my own part, I read The Miseducation of Cameron Post at the end of 2012 and enjoyed it immensely.

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Lego Leagues and Public Libraries

I completed my move back to the East Coast and its wonderful to be connecting here. One of the trickiest parts of my last couple of years in Michigan was how it was all new to me. Michigan is scaled differently than where I grew up and spent most of my life outside Philadelphia. I enjoyed the challenge but its good to be in a place where I understand better how to find my place. I’ve also returned to volunteering at the as I continue my job search and I’ve been reminded how I adore working at public libraries. Every library has its own energy and the Lewes’ library serves a diverse population of retirees, immigrants, rural families and others. Also they’re in the process of beginning a major building and design campaign which is a point of discussion in the community.

One of the joys of returning to this area was a chance to work with a mentor and friend who helped me realize that being a youth librarian was my career path. At the moment, the largest project I’m helping her with at the Lewes Library is working with the LEGO Robotics’ team as they start a new season. LEGO Robotics is something that I’ve known of and been curious about, so this is a great chance. This is only the second year that this team has existed in this county, which means everything is still new and exciting. At the first meeting, I helped to put together model kids, watch how the team interacted and learn what is of interest to the fourth and fifth grade boys of Sussex county.

For those who don’t know about , its a wonderful program that is aimed at kids from ages 9 to 16 all around the world to teach them about meeting a variety of challenges and thinking about how they can help the world. I admire how in the instructions given to teams that there’s an emphasis on how there’s not one right way to complete any challenge. This is a powerful lesson and it can be a tricky lesson to teach because it requires an adult to give more trust to a student to decide what their way is. Each year’s challenge is about a real problem and this year’s is called Nature’s Fury and presents the competitors with missions to get them thinking about how to prevent and help after natural disasters. I plan to update more as the season progresses and I learn alongside the team how they’re going to solve the missions.

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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.

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The Worth of a Book

The price of e-books has been in the news quite a lot due to the Department of Justice suit and has created a huge amount of amazing posts. To begin with, I’m going to link a few of the posts that helped me make sense of the issue and then I want to write about some of the intangibles of what makes a book and what defines a book’s worth.

Today is not Tomorrow-a great article about Amazon’s weaknesses
The Department of Justice and Publishing from Smart Bitches Trashy Books, one of the best round ups of links and explanations that I’ve found so far.
Why e-books cost so much? from CNet is a highly informative article and part of the genesis of this post.

What I wish to look at is the question of who is putting value into the books and what do we as readers and librarians need to be thinking of as the world of publishing keeps shifting. This breakdown is based on the classic model of an author working with a publishing company but I will try to work in some of what has changed.

The Author-Every book begins with an author and to that author, their book is the culmination of an idea that they have worked on for possibly years. As the book is being published, that means that they have had the joy of hearing a publisher go, yes, we want to make sure this is made available to the public.

The Editor-They have taken on a book and helped an author through the journey of preparing their book to be released upon the world. The editor is an ally for the writer as they help them polish and craft their work so it can be the best shape possible.

The Publishing House-The editor and the author are within the publishing house but they are only a small part of what it takes to see a book come together. Cover artists, marketing, other editors, they work with the author to figure out how best to share the book with the world. Publishing houses come in all shapes and sizes, the same considerations occur whether the publisher is a dedicated group of five or a huge company with hundreds of staff. One of these considerations is how to profit off of the book finding its proper audience. They are all the allies of the author and they will make certain that the final result of the book in whatever format is the best that it can be.

The Intermediaries-I consider the intermediaries the ones who get the book into the hands of the perfect reader for the book. This grouping is where the world has changed because for a long time intermediaries were only bookstores and perhaps libraries. Publishing houses aimed most of their publicity at them and still do as they will see the right book put into the right hands. Due to the advent of the internet, the intermediaries have grown to include bloggers, online retailers, friends, the author who promotes the book on Twitter and Facebook and many other variations. Now a publishing house and author have a harder time knowing who should they be aiming their publicity at and how many formats should be possible for this book to be read in.

One of the most worrying parts of many e-book discussions is how often these intermediaries are taken out of the picture instead the ideal seems to be the reader finds the book. This is certainly possible but its not as simple as it seems. Every e-book reader is a device that requires time to learn how to use it properly, if there are no intermediaries to help a reader understand their device, there are more steps to the book. Also one of the greatest voices for a book is a reader who has read it and says to their friend, you read it too. With a print book, this step is easy, you lend the book to your friend or tell them where to get it, yet with an e-book, there might or might not be multiple steps before it can be lent. This is where I believe the first article I linked presents some of the best ideas of how to make sure that a company like Amazon doesn’t dominate the conversation. E-books shouldn’t be anymore complicated than they need to be or else they become something that gets in the way of the reader getting to the book.

The Reader-To a reader the book might be many things; a chance to discover a new world, a return to a world they enjoy, a way to connect with a friend who said read this and know me. The end result of the work of the author, editor, publishing house and intermediaries is to get the book into the hands of a reader who will enjoy it. One of the amazing aspects of how the internet has changed the book world is now a reader can become an intermediary as well. They can praise a book on multiple platforms, connect to the author on social media and thus find the best audience for the book.

The digital world of e-books, social media and other venues of publishing all present new and fantastic opportunities for the book world along with confusion. How can a self-published author best connect with their audience? How can a publishing house stay connected to their readers? How can an author balance their public and private lives? How can the steps between each piece be done well and easily for all involved? How can we get the right book into the hands of the right reader?

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But its not accurate! The joys of anachronism in historical shows and fiction.

I was recently introduced to an amazing show on CBBC called Leonardo! by a friend of mine who wrote a fantastic post about it, which I highly recommend though it is full of spoilers. Reading her post got me thinking about how my levels of forgiveness in terms of anachronism depend on the work and its attitude. I studied Classics’ as an undergraduate, but do not consider myself a historian though I love history. I love the idea that the past is another world and when we try to put it into a form that will be recognizable to a modern audience, it changes due to what we expect to see or the story requires. Examining how this plays out is the beginning of my idea for this combination program watching/book group.

The power of historical fiction in print or on TV is that it invites you to enter the world of the past on street level and amongst perhaps characters who are even your age. As a librarian, I started to wonder what programming possibilities might be lurking in one of my favorite genres. In college one of my favorite experiences was social watching, sharing a new episode of a TV show together is a simple joy. My thought would be to combine that joy with a show like Leonardo or a book group about a fairly historical series and go from there. With every episode have the watchers pick on something to pay attention to, are they curious about art or clothing? Then before the next meeting, they do some research enough to find out what’s real and what’s not.

As my friend showed in her entry, a lot of these answers are easy to find online, but the joy comes in discussing them. To think about not only why was this presented this way but does it make sense? Was it done because the creators don’t have a large budget or did they change the story to involve more characters? What’s the driving force? As historical fiction or fantasy in a historical setting is a common setting in books and television shows, this could become a long running program with changes of medium depending on what the group finds interesting.

It also draws out ideas about what is important to us as the watchers in terms of what is acceptable to change and what isn’t? In terms of how people interact with media, we all have our points that make us go, no. These are key things that we learn as we’re growing and testing out genres to find out not only what do we enjoy but what pulls us out of a work. To create programming that gives young people a chance to discuss and experience various genres and think about how they work will help them become better readers and writers. At this point in time I don’t have a library to run this program at but someday I hope to as historical anachronism is a gateway to research and discussion brought by statements like, “But he’s wearing sneakers!”

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