Tag Archives: writing

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

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

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

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

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

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Shapes of Creativity

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

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

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

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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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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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Accessibility, Joy and Inclusion: My Librarian Philosophy

This entry is something I wrote for an amazing job agency that is helping me explore jobs in the independent school world. They asked me to write a statement about my educational philosophy and this was the end result. I’m posting it here as it brings together a lot of ideas that I have written about earlier on this blog.

a boy sitting on a stool by a fireplace reading.
Image from the University of Michigan Museum of Art website.

On my desk, there’s a notecard of a painting called Boyhood of Lincoln by Eastman Johnson. In the image Lincoln, as a boy of perhaps twelve, is reading by the fireplace and so concerned with his book that he is almost falling off of the stool he’s sitting on. He has moved as close to the fire as possible to take advantage of all the light and is deeply lost in his book. This is an old image of reading but it holds within it many lessons that I believe are still important in the currently changing landscape of books and writing. The boy in the image can read his book where he wants to, he finds a joy in his reading as he borrows the firelight to not miss anything and he’s a part of a community of readers. This image captures for me many meanings about reading and librarianship. Accessibility, joy and inclusiveness are major themes in the way I think of myself as a librarian and educator.

One of the simple powers of a book is that it can be carried everywhere and historically this possibility created a new type of access to information and enjoyment beyond the elites of society. Current technology has increased this accessibility even further. Although not everyone can read an ordinary printed book, there is now an array of digital tools to provide ways for children who might not consider themselves readers to discover that in fact they are. Children with dyslexia can discover how to manipulate the text on an e-reader so that it makes more sense to them thus opening up entire worlds of books. E-books with audio capability are a helpful channel for people with visual impairments, compared to the bulkiness and difficulty of Braille materials. Electronic links to dictionaries can help a student find a word without being pulled away from the book and students can share their thoughts about what they are reading through social media. These are all tools with great potential, but it is the teacher-librarian who must figure out which ones each student needs to succeed in reading.

Once students have been introduced to the most comfortable way for them to read then it’s time for the fun part of helping them learn what to love about reading. A reader is part of a community, now more than ever through social media that allow connections to authors and other readers. A young reader can find out about how a book got started, why it was chosen by a publisher and most important, who else is reading it and what they think about it. The sharing of reading experiences reveals the variety of the lives of readers through the diversity of what they read about and in which formats. This offers encouragement to young people who may not have read what their parents or teachers are most familiar with. Classics have their place but it is also important to let the child who grew to love reading through comic books or fantasy feel that this makes them a reader too.

A sense of inclusion combines access and joy and is another necessity for every reader. A key responsibility I feel as a teacher-librarian is to make sure that every reader knows that they will be able to find books that include characters like themselves. This doesn’t have to be every book but there need to be options; our books need to be as diverse as our students.

I look forward to carrying this image of Lincoln with me as a talisman for my journey as a teacher-librarian, providing access, joy and inclusion to today’s young readers.

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In which life gets away from me

I last wrote a post here in February which is longer than I wanted it to be, but my job search has been full of ups and downs. At the moment I have many ideas for a post about e-books and the language used to talk about them by publishers, authors and librarians.

In the meantime, my job world has opened up in a wonderful new way as I have always been considering work in the world of independent schools but its now in motion. Currently I’m in the process of writing a statement about myself as an educator and I keep coming back to how comfortable it feels. To me a good librarian is always a teacher/educator but sometimes its not always as obvious. In my work at the moment as a reference librarian, it feels just as a part of who I am as I help my patrons navigate Michigan’s complex resources and I learn how best to help them. Though I am eager to educate and get involved with a younger generation, because while technology and the tools available are changing, education shifts with them. Though I think the heart of education is never really going to move that much, because a love of learning can be sparked by many things and as long as it can be harnessed, the world can change.

One of my favorite courses during my masters was a professional practice course that was focused on how to be an instructor as a librarian. In this blog, many entries are about that course as it connected to multiple issues that I have always been fascinated by such as how do we learn, what are effective ways to teach and how do we as people learn and educate throughout our lives. These are lessons I know I will keep learning and I look forward to what the next step will be for me.

I will also try to put together a post about e-books as that is an issue on which there’s quite a lot to say.

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Recipe for a Librarian-A piece of poetry

How do you make a librarian?
Begin with curiosity, bubbling and brimming, wishing to know all there is know.
Add a love of words, I don’t care their form but words,
Mix them together until they start to escape, searching for knowledge.
Then next and quite important but hard to spot is empathy,
A listener, a carer, someone who wants to help.
A good dollop of humor for we humans are silly things,
Though be sure to have a sense of history with all its twists and turns.
For good measure, flexibility though it may try to escape the pot,
Tempt it in with promises of how things will ripple and shift.
Then provide a space to play and empty shelves to fill,
A place to gather for sharing a love of books,
And ask what will we discover today?
Then if the combination works,
You’ll find a librarian saying “How can I help?

This poem was inspired by a meeting I had during the summer where I realized that I’m in the right profession. Over the Thanksgiving break, I talked to librarians and had fantastic informational interviews and was struck by how much this world works for me.

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