Tag Archives: storytelling

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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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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Roleplaying and Research-the joy of finding details

A few nights ago I was talking with a number of friends online and one of them used a spelling of Yankee that I wasn’t familiar with, Yankies and I went and looked it up to learn about the etymology. My friend, who’s a wonderful woman from Wales teased me about how she loved my dorkiness about words, but for me that’s just one way that I’m always researching. Currently I work as a reference librarian at a university and in my spare time, I roleplay, both of these allow me to indulge my love of researching details and ideas from a variety of sources. In this entry, I want to expand upon how these two things that seem rather disparate actually work so well together.

To start out, I need to provide some context of what I mean when I say roleplaying as I’ve used a number of different systems throughout the years but the general idea stays the same. I began roleplaying at a summer camp with Dungeons and Dragons which is based around dice rolling to decide outcomes combined with in-character discussions. In high school and college, I did Live Action Role Playing where we used rock, paper, scissors to figure out random outcomes combined with improvisational acting for character interactions. Currently I roleplay online on a blogging platform where actions are decided through player discussion and interaction happens in comment threads and collaborative writing. In this form, roleplaying creates for me the perfect balance between improvisational acting and collaborative writing, because as a roleplayer you have to understand how your character might react in a number of situations. A roleplayer has to know their character well enough that they can decide how they will react to various situations but also write it in such a way that the person who’s responding will have something to interact with. A tricky part of roleplaying is how do you make your characters seem three dimensional, actors and writers are faced with this same question and for all three creators the answer is the same, understanding of the underlying motivations and choices the characters make. The type of research that I do for my roleplaying is exactly the same as the kind of examinations I’ve done in the midst of my writing and acting and in my job. How does a character define themselves? How does their day to day life work?

I prefer to play characters that are from other times or other worlds, because as I said in my previous post, the past is truly another world. This means that I’m constantly researching small and sometimes odd details to understand how a character might approach something. For instance in a recent interaction, I had a character from the American West offered a deal for a certain amount of money, I had to figure out how much that amount of money would mean to them. This meant that I looked online at various resources about inflation and what the cost of living was in the Arizona in the 1860s, so that I could have my character decide, no this is too much. Simulations are a common practice in education because they put students into a place where they have to consider if I were living or doing something in a certain time or place how would I react? Roleplaying is the same idea but done as a hobby.

In my daily work as an academic reference librarian, I spend my time teaching students where to find the resources they need and helping them to think about how to approach these resources. For me the hardest part of starting a research project is find a specific thesis that I can investigate and craft a paper around. The beginning of this is the same as when I consider a character or a new story, what do I find interesting and what do I want to know more about? Once I have that then I can do the broad work of what’s out there and how can I go deeper? Most of my undergraduate career and graduate work in New Zealand was based around this idea as I did in-depth textual readings of Greek poets and English literature. The joy of research for me is in the little details of everything from how much was a dollar worth is 1868 or why did Pindar make a certain choice in an ode, because as I understand them then I can truly add depth to my writing.

I would like to try and bridge all these various parts of my life and think about how as a youth librarian, I can show that research is simply a way to get into the hows and whys of the past and the present. Roleplaying is personal for me, because it is something creative that I do everyday and so research is part of my work and play. One of the best ways to teach someone to research is to find what’s personal for them and figure out what are the questions and use those. Roleplaying isn’t going to be the answer for every young person but the idea of going deeper into their interests is and then research isn’t a chore but a way of being curious just with different tools.

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Summer of Grant Writing and Job Searching

This summer I’m taking a course at the School of Social Work that covers grant writing, marketing and fundraising. I find it fascinating to think about all the ways that Social Work and the Library world intersect. One thing that was mentioned in a class before break was that as people who work for the public, we can’t strike as we will hurt those who need us. This got me thinking about how critical the idea of advocacy is within the library community but also how difficult it is. As a librarian, my job is to help my patrons and for them to know that I’m there for any questions or recommendations, but public libraries are taken for granted in the United States. The role of libraries is in a state of flux and that is a difficult thing to get across because a library can be a variety of things for all of its patrons. Fundraising ends up giving good advice for how to connect, know who you’re appealing to and figure out what will be compelling for them. I think this is something that all librarians know how to do because its part of our day to day lives of helping patrons, but adding that next step of who needs to know what I do. This is something I keep thinking about as I put myself out into the world in the course of trying to find a job. I need to know who I am and how I fit into various libraries in the hope that I’ll get hired by one where I can enrich their community.

One of the main challenges for me of this course is that by the end of it we have to create a grant. I took this grant as a challenge to design a program that centers around storytelling as its one of my great loves. Today I turned in a draft of a few parts of this grant and I realized that my ideas are in this fascinating place where I know what I want to do, but I need to think forwards and backwards so they fit into the grant format.

I’m also preparing to apply for my first couple of jobs and its exciting to realize how much knowledge I’ve acquired and how many previous experiences led towards being a librarian. When I was in college, I worked for the Swarthmore College library one summer and enjoyed all the things going on around me. I’m also constantly volunteering at my local libraries as they’re truly my favorite places and after college, I had an internship at a museum library. When I did all of those, I wasn’t considering being a librarian, I simply wanted to be somewhere I enjoyed. Its just turned out that they all helped me to get to this place of preparing to step out into the world as a librarian.

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Ann Arbor Book Festival Manga Mania-Ideas to Realization

The Ann Arbor Book Festival is a wonderful event full of numerous types of programming from writers’ workshops to a vendors’ fair and events for children. Since I first moved to Ann Arbor, I’ve heard of this festival but until this summer, I was never able to participate. When the emails asking for assistance started to appear on the SI list serv, I quickly said yes, I’d like to help especially with children’s activities. The first meeting happened on a Friday morning and from the start I found myself deep in helping to think of ideas for structure about an afternoon activity based around manga and understanding narrative. One of the most fascinating parts of this planning process was the mixture of people involved in the planning, professors involved in Chinese, Japanese and childhood education alongside the tech coordinators for North Quad and students who wanted to help. You can see the wide variety of people involved here and a final breakdown of what the day looked like.

The first stages of creating Manga Mania were full of what at times felt like too many ideas and quite diverse opinions such as that we shouldn’t have too much structure or too little. A challenge happened because this was the first time this particular event had gone on and so there were no expectations of how many or what age of children to expect. The North Quad staff was helpful because they had held events in the community space before so knew what was possible within it and that helped us to build ideas around that. After much discussion, we decided to create activities that would work for all ages but aim for the eight to ten range as by observation those seemed the children most likely to appear. On the day of the event, this was true and our predictions were mainly correct. As we had a sense of the age of the children, we then had to think about the activities, here it helped that a few of the organizers had done events such as this before and knew what worked and the flexibility of the North Quad space.

We decided to create a few different stations; illustration and character creation, pop ups and 3D art, and lastly puppetry. In the end a map was created of these stations and represented them as a participant going from their house, character creation, city hall, storytelling and finally the amphitheater for puppetry, face painting and 3D art. This map didn’t fully map onto the arrangement of the room on the final day but did provide a way for children to be aware of what was available for them to do. Character creation was something that I brought up as an idea for a template that the participants could have with them and as a way to think about characters within stories. As a roleplayer in various mediums, I have a lot of experience with how creating a character can stimulate creativity and understanding of how people and stories worked.

As the focus of this activity was to be about manga and art, we planned to include a large space on the paper for drawing characters alongside some basic traits; strengths, weaknesses, name, age, zodiac sign. On the day of the event, most children were proudly carrying these templates that had been filled in off with them alongside 3D art and spoon puppets. A benefit of the space we used in North Quad is that all of the tables are covered with white board, which meant children could draw on the tables or on papers we ended up providing. This made for a relaxed event as everyone was drawing on the tables no matter their ages and sharing what they created. The day of the event things came together wonderfully as slide shows with manga and other action characters showed on screens along the walls, the artists predrew on some of the tables to make things easier and wonderfully inspiring handouts kept appearing with character ideas. The North Quad space has tickers to show words and alongside the already chosen words, character names, skills and qualities were added.

I spent most of the event at the front door where I explained what was happening and helped people find what they needed. One of the disadvantages of North Quad is that its a confusing building and since we had a clearly marked open door for the Book Festival, I fielded questions from many participants. We did have a small issue with our sign and the door but that was something we couldn’t have predicted alongside the strong wind.

I was also able to say goodbye to most of the participants and see what they had created and give them handouts to take with them so they could continue creating. It was gratifying to see how much every child enjoyed the event. I think next year this event will be even stronger as an expectation has been formed of what it is like and parents and children will remember. For me this was one of the best experiences I’ve had since it helped me to learn what it takes to bring such a large event together and what good programming looks like.

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Transferring Knowledge-How do you do it?

The first reading for this week is from How People Learn and is chapter three: Learning and Transfer. I’m curious about the order we’re reading the chapters in because it seems as if transfer should be thought about before assessment. Transfer seems like a complicated idea, because its not always obvious what parts of lessons can be moved from one discipline to another and I think it can be unexpected too.

I like where the book begins by stating that unless there’s mastery of the initial learning, it can’t be transferred, because its a common sense idea but one I never thought about. The next step with the fact that you need to truly understand something before you can transfer the knowledge fits in with how people learn. I know in my experience that I tend to make connections to things I feel sure about. So I’m more willing to connect to my knowledge of literature or performance, because I have so many years of approaching them from numerous angles, which allows me to bring them into play with new subjects.

The numbers that the book cites for how long it takes to truly master something jump out at me, because at 50,000 hours and more, they’re much larger than was mentioned in the gaming video last week of 10,000 hours. The difference in time makes me wonder how these numbers have been calculated, because it seems a tricky thing. Recording how long you do something is difficult unless there’s a set format for it. I can say that I worked this many hours at my various jobs, because they have clear shifts, but in terms of studying, its much more fluid. I might not be sitting at my computer typing something but I could be discussing what I learned in class with someone and that adds to my understanding. I know this is a tangent but the amount of time you have to learn keeps arising so I want to know more. Time is such a precious commodity in schools and libraries, because there are so many things that have to be done so time for instruction must be used wisely.

I wasn’t aware that contrasting could help so much with learning but I can see how it makes sense. If you only know something in the abstract or in a very particular set of circumstances then it will be much harder to use that knowledge elsewhere or understand it on a deeper level. Though I find it compelling that it can also go the other way, sometimes its hard to actually know what you know if the types of learning are so different from each other. This is something I’ve come across in terms of presentations in my formal education. I’m incredibly comfortable with acting and storytelling so running a storytime doesn’t require a lot of changing of my knowledge, but a powerpoint presentation with a defined structure can be hard for me. That’s because learning how to transfer my skills to fit into a specific presentation model isn’t obvious for me. This is something I’m improving on, but my preferred presentation model is closer to my safer space of telling a story then interacting with a screen behind me and the audience in front of me.

I appreciate that the book lays out that how we learn in school is different from how we act in other places and that can hamper transfer as its not always obvious how to move things from one part of life to another. Though this can be complicated, authentic learning can be important and key to what someone takes away from school, but as the book points out abstract learning also has lessons. As with so many things in terms of teaching, there are no easy answers.

The second reading for this week is an article by Wiggins and McTighe called Teaching for Understanding from 2005. This article starts off strongly by showing how most students don’t see their education as something they can take and use in the real world and how important it is for them to learn how to do that. The three instructional techniques mentioned near the beginning; direct instruction, facilitation and coaching seem like powerful tools that have many different names. The author then uses transfer, meaning and acquisition to help think about how these styles of teaching can be brought into the classroom. Again its the combination of types of teaching that will help students understand the material and be able to take it outside the context of school.

As always with these articles, I’m struck by just how much research and thought has been put into how people learn and what helps students and how difficult it is to make this work across curricula. One of the trickiest parts of the world of education is just how big and diverse it is and in the world of libraries, some of the same problems appear. What might work and be enjoyed in one library might fall flat in another and so it can be tricky to create successful nationwide programs.


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My Reading Experience

I recently wrote this for my amazing History of the Book class and it says so much about my thoughts on the changing world of reading that I’m going to post it here.

I have always been a reader. Since I was old enough to have a proper backpack in elementary school and read, I’ve always had a book in there. Even now when I finish a book and don’t have another one set, I’ll pick one up. To me reading is physical and personal and I find the format depends on what I’m reading. I do a lot of writing online, through various collaborative formats and so there it makes sense to be online where I can constantly connect and be part of a conversation. Sometimes when I’m reading articles online, I’ll skim them and then go back to look more in-depth. At this point, I don’t mark them up like I used to do the articles I would print out for my undergrad classes where reading online didn’t make as much sense. Now I do find it simpler to refer from what I’m reading to what I’m writing on my computer. I find when I write on my blog or friends’ blogs, it’s a different style of writing, shorter but still words on a page that are connecting people. The medium does dictate how I connect to the words on the screen or the page, but my love of finding new worlds and getting deeper into them doesn’t shift that much.
When I’m reading a novel that I want to get to the end of, I adore being able to find a spot in a cafe and just sit and read to the very end. One of my favorites parts of traveling is having the time to immerse myself in a good book, the time moves on and I just can be in the moment.

An issue I’ve always had with the dealing with new mediums makes us lose something is that this argument is constantly coming around just with different devices. From writing to books and now to digital formats, I think the heart of it is that we worry about change, but as humans, we’re built to adapt. We might not like the actual process and it takes time, but the way that we have made our way through the world is by improving the tools we use. As Carr lays out quite clearly in his chapter from The Shallows, there’s this sense that now that e-readers are working better, books will become antiques. I think this isn’t true and if it does happen, it will be slow, because books are still one of the most comfortable ways to read. Jasper Fforde deals with this slightly in one of his Thursday Next mysteries that is set within the pages of books, a new technology that’s rather like modern e-books with connections and various things is brought out but it doesn’t work. I think it one thing is that reading is a personal experience and its wonderful to have the resources to reach out and connect to similar readers and authors, but when you read, its just you and the text. Sometimes the text will take you on a journey through hyperspace from one link to another while other times the journey is to the other world of the author or a point in history.

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