Monday, July 11, 2016

"For the night is dark and full of terrors."- George R.R. Martin

The title of this post could easily be "Why It Is Important to be a Librarian, Part II," but I will let you arrive at that conclusion on your own.

A friend of mine was just censored on Facebook.  I don't know what she posted that was found offensive (she is not the least bit vulgar), and that is scary, because the Facebook bar for acceptability is pretty low.  I am assuming her post was political in nature.

Ironically, I decided not to post a Canva I made yesterday for fear of a) inciting a political rant, and b) possibly being surveiled by the Secret Service.  But because of my friend's experience, I will post my Canva here, where I have a better shot at explaining what it means to me.

I am sure there are those who see this as a political shot at both candidates, and I suppose in a way it is.  The primary thing this means to me is that we have way too many problems for one individual to be accountable. We as a country as ridiculously polarized, and no one political candidate can put this country back together.  Congress might have some power, if we could elect people who would vote their consciences and not their pocketbooks, but no matter who is elected president, they cannot reasonably be expected to fix things that have been broken and that have been escalating for years.  It does not help that these two candidates are polarizing themselves.

So my friend and her friends are righteously angry that her Facebook post has been censored.  I suspect we don't know the half of what is being censored and how much we are being watched. I suspect that these activities are going to increase over the next decade as we move closer and closer to a military state.  You think not?

I wish I knew why there is a disconnect in so many places between the black community and law enforcement, but I don't. I am a member of neither subset and have no right to assert my views as a gospel of the disconnect I believe  exists.  Dallas, Baltimore, Ferguson, Tavon Martin.  Black Lives Matter.  So do the lives of the police officers that serve and protect us.  I honestly don't know what to say, what to think, what to believe, but I believe the media, including Facebook, feeds my angst and confusion.  The government cannot allow this slaughter to continue, and the answer to that is military intervention.

Folks walk into movie theaters and schools and open fire with semiautomatic weapons.  People argue that if more people were armed, the gunman wouldn't have got off as many shots.  Others argue that with more stringent gun control this wouldn't have happened.  Perhaps with better mental health care this wouldn't have happened.  Who knows?  Better mental health care takes time.  Military intervention, not so much.

Back to censorship.  I think we should be prepared for more and that we should seriously question everything we read, see and hear.  I would recommend re-reading Animal Farm, because I think like old Boxer, our civil rights are being metaphorically led to the slaughter.  Re-read 1984 and Brave New World while you are at it.  Big Brother is watching all of us.  And we participate in his watching daily.

Back to libraries.   There are two theories as to why public libraries were formed.  The first is the noble idea of the "people's university," where knowledge can be obtained in any doctrine or discipline.  The second theory is that public libraries were established by the elite to give the common folks the appearance of access to knowledge and power, while in fact keeping the most valuable of these among the chosen few.  I believe both of these theories are correct, at different places.

I leave you with the admonishment that more restrictive times are ahead.  Please don't believe everything you hear, see or read, but treat each piece of news you receive as a possibility to be investigated.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Why It is Important to Be a Librarian

I don't mind telling you I am proud to be a librarian.  It is not so much because of the time and money I have invested in my career, and certainly not about the paychecks I bring home as it is the satisfaction of knowing that I could help someone.  Sure, there are lots of ways I could help someone.  At the risk of perpetuating stereotypes, we librarians mostly do our good deeds in quiet.  You don't even know what we do.  But you would definitely know if we were no longer around.

Librarians organize knowledge

With the plethora of choices available to us today, it is the librarians who make sense of it all.  We index, we study and we know what choices are best for you, based on your needs.  We know that you don't want to Google "George Washington" for your kid's fifth grade report, because you will get 10,000-plus hits about everything containing George and Washington, but not necessarily George Washington.  We know how to help you evaluate the information you do find to see if it fits your needs.

We create value-added guides to information and help you find the data you need quickly.  We know where information is stored, because we stored it.

We protect intellectual freedom

No matter how much of an ass we think you are, or how outrageously ridiculously we might think you are, we will defend your right to your opinion to our death.  This does not mean we will put 12 copies of your manifesto in our collection;  it simply means that you have a right to publish, research, read and create whatever you need.  Our job is not to judge but to make it happen.

We keep information free and accessible for all

If you believe information is power, than you must believe that in a democracy information must be available to all.  Could you imagine if only the select few had information about job prospects, health care, housing choices?  

We help those who cannot read 

Whether a young child or a struggling adult, we help interpret information for those with a need.  We provide programs to help those who are struggling become more proficient.

We provide access to arts and culture outside our particular area

We provide concerts, author signings, poetry readings and other events that take us beyond our cultural mindsets.  We reach out and branch out to bring the world and its experiences to our community.

We are the People's University

You can learn anything and everything at your public library.  Knowledge has no bounds.  What we don't have, we can find.  We are here to help you reach self-actualization. All you have to do is ask.  We will help.

And you probably are thinking, "I know all of that!"

I am glad you do.  Please know how proud I am to be part of a profession that makes this happen.  And when you hear any inkling of proposals to cut library funding anywhere, speak up.  We are your voice for information and access, but you are our voice for survival.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Little Individuality is Nice

Recently I prepared a series on Job Exploration for Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library.  The workshop was to take place over the course of three consecutive Saturdays and was to focus on three topics:

  1. Writing a Resume
  2. Interview Skills
  3. Dressing Appropriately
I found many wonderful resources and put together what I feel is a decent subject guide on the library website. Yet what I found, despite how wonderful it was, left a bad taste in my mouth on a number of levels.  Here are my reflections.

The books on resumes did a nice job of addressing all levels in the workforce, including kids looking for their first jobs, entry level white collar and college graduates, moms going back to work after raising a family.  What was really hard to find was job information for felons, but after switching search engines from the one that came with my browser back to the one I love, I found several good sites offering help for that service group.

Almost all colleges and universities have wonderful job search sites that were easily accessible by both search engines. Therein lies the problem.  These sites tend to clog the pipe of information for those looking for blue collar and unskilled employment advice.  Assuming that those unskilled workers would have more difficulty generating key words, this could be a real handicap.  (Of course, that statement may not be accurate; my basis is that those with less formal education might have fewer searching skills.  This may be horribly incorrect.)

At any rate, my big pet peeve came from the part about professional dress.  Seriously?  I watched one expert assemble five matching pieces for business travel.  They matched so well I couldn't tell them apart.  All professional dress advice talked about the three piece - black or navy, the long sleeve shirt and the conservative tie.

This led me to two conclusions:

First, I would never make it in the "business" world, and second, I would be bored to death if I did.  Don't get me wrong:  I think you should put an effort into your appearance. (Okay, some days I don't.) I just think we should show some personality as well. 

(FYI: the suggestion of personalizing your appearance with your fraternity pin elicited a major eye roll.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Back to Roots in More Ways Than One

The last few years have presented me with innumerable challenges, many of my own making and many over which I have had no control.  While there have been some daily ups and downs in my professional life, most of my challenges have been personal, causing me to outwardly express more emotion than I felt I would ever divulge.

Time has a funny way of surprising you. Time has revealed to me that I am most likely coming into my final years as a school library media specialist.  It is not that I don't love the job and the people, because I truly do, but I have realized that I need to pursue other interests that have been tabled for years.

Interestingly and amazingly, things have come full circle for me in many ways.  I am working part-time as the Adult Services Librarian at Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library, where I began my library career in 1982.  In that capacity, I am working on a series of organic gardening classes, which has reawakened my original passion -horticulture.

I believe it was the summers of my seventh, eighth and ninth grade years that I spent a week at VFW Youth Camp.  I believe the  goal of the camp was to embed a deep sense of patriotism that I never truly bought.  What I did give me is memories of lifelong friends - Bob Boyles, Tim Ware and Brian Lantz - and exposure to a myriad of professional possibilities.  My favorite activities at camp were target practice and the educational experiences brought to us by the WVU Extension Service.  Horticulture was a class I will never forget, as I was told I had a knack for landscape design.  I was totally empowered until I returned home and realized I was allergic to everything that came along with my plan.  So I settled for suitable female professions - nurse, teacher or hairdresser.

My parents never had the financial or information resources to help me realize my dreams, but neither that nor my allergies deterred me from messing around in dirt.  I cherished our flowers, annuals and periennials, at our house on Hall Street, and ever since I was little I loved helping Daddy in the garden or sitting with Grandma as she stringed beans.  When I moved into my own homes, planting bulbs and designing our landscape was my favorite passion.  While I detested weeding, I loved mowing grass, trimming bushes, planting and transplanting, and I loved our vegetable garden.  Over the years as I have become busy with other endeavors, I have let this pastime behind. Now that I have been researching organic methods, I am even more inspired to expand my visions in home landscaping.

And, of course, also coming full circle in a family sense is that my husband and I now own my great-grandmother's farm, which was my dad's biggest comfort and treasure.  I am thinking that perhaps in November 2019 I will hang up my school library clothes and move there, where I will have virtually unlimited vistas to design.  I am looking forward to digging in and becoming more in touch with God and nature. Hopefully I will keep my part-time gig to fund all the work I hope to do.

Closure will be complete.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Three Days In - Summer Reading Program a Success

I have to admit I was psyched about this year's summer reading program.  We were fortunate to partner with our town's new minor league team, the West Virginia Black Bears, so naturally I felt that baseball - "We're All About That Base"- would be a perfect theme,  Since I love baseball, this seemed to be a wonderful fit for me.

My county hired "assistant teachers" for each library media specialist.  I hit the gold mine when Sherri Pisegna agreed to be my coteacher.  Sherri was the second grade teacher of both of my children.  I generally refer to her as the "best teacher ever." Even though she professes no knowledge of baseball, she immediatelycame up with wonderful ideas for activities and snacks.  I feel we have a great working relationship, and planning with her was a pleasure.

Still, when Monday morning rolled around, I was apprehensive.  Would anyone show up?  Would they enjoy the activities?

I was relieved to see our attendance figures during the first three days - 20, 21, and 21.  Maybe one or two kids came Monday, not Tuesday, but returned again on Wednesday.  Monday's survey indicated that parents and students are pleased with the activities.

The part I am enjoying most is student buy-in.  Regardless of the topic, our kids are willing to share and go deeper.  One boy brings his ball and bat everyday.  Today he brought the minor league program. and shared information with our group. A parent asked me if her son could share his baseball memorabilia and his experiences winning the Little League championship. Twins told me that the spent the preceding afternoon playing wiffleball.  And one girl told me that she read two biographies on Jackie Robinson and watched a movie of him last night.  Today, she checked out a biography of Roberto Clemente.  I told her I loved her.

The feedback from parents has been rewarding as well.  I am hoping our final five sessions are as successful. Overall, this experience has encouraged me to look at new possibilities for programming.  I am very thankful for the opportunity.

Monday, June 29, 2015

We Can't Wait Any Longer: Time for a New Plan

For the past two years I have been chair of my state's school library division.  From the outset my goal has been to increase communication among school library media specialists and to increase membership.  Here is a summary of my goals:

  • Increased communication:  Fairly successful.  I have created Facebook groups and Yammer groups that do see some use.  In January I taught an Office 365 class just for media specialists.  Have these groups resulted in the full-fledged collaboration I had hoped for? No.  Was it worth the effort?  Yes.
  • Increased membership: FAIL.  FAIL, FAIL, FAIL.  And it is demoralizing.  In an attempt to see why more people did not join WVLA, I conducted a survey of the 300-some SLMS in West Virginia, asking them their thoughts.  I received 46 replies.  Respondents cited the following reasons for not joining WVLA:
    • Cost (15%)
    • Relevance or Lack Thereof (13%)
    • Other (44%)
    • No response (28%)
Basically, my attempts at unifying our profession and creating dialog have been unsuccessful, and for the most part (72% of the respondents chose Other or did not answer the question) I don't know why.

I strongly suspect WVLA isn't working for WV school librarians because WV school librarians are not trying to make it work.  I have sat at the table and watched the faces of academic and public librarians who are trying to reach out to include school libraries in the agenda.  I have heard them ask how they can help.  They have tried.  We have not. You can't sit back and expect programming to be delivered to you. You have to be part of the machine that provides that dynamic.  As a profession, we have failed.

(I feel like the Lorax as he led the animals out of their formerly beautiful home after the last Trucula tree was cut.)

Now in the interests of advancing (what do I mean, advancing? Maintaining!) school library media services in West Virginia, I am working with a friend to develop a new association not just for media specialists, but also for technology integration specialists, academic coaches, and technology systems specialists.  Here is a rough logo I have devised:

Is this what I wanted? Not originally.  Am I selling out? Possibly.  But there are not enough engaged library media specialists to effectively advocate our mission.  Need examples?  Forty-six librarians took the time to complete the survey.  That is 13%.  Those 46 responders were asked if they would assume leadership in a new organization just for school library media specialists.  Eighteen percent of the 46 responders said they would be interested in leadership.  That sounds solid. But 18 percent of 13 percent is not very many people to depend on when starting an organization.

Academic coaches are responsible for carrying out curricular mandates in our schools.  They coteach and often buy resources.  Library media specialists should be academic leaders in our school, helping implement the mandates.  We know what the materials are.  We can advise the coaches if we see them as colleagues and not the competition.  They need to see we are involved in the total curriculum, not merely recreational reading.  We need to agree on ways ethical use of information, citing and paraphrasing are taught.  We can help them, and they can help us.

Technology integration specialists are responsible for introducing technology support to the curriculum. We do that, too, but we are specialists in resources that are not readily apparent to TISs.  We can provide them with more resources to show teachers.  Better yet, we can coteach with the TIS and the classroom teacher for exceptionally effective lessons integrating technology and academics.  We are partners in technology integration.  We bring different pieces to the same puzzle.

We need technology systems specialists.  We need to articulate our needs and the needs of our teachers and students. We need to understand their concerns in order to propose solutions that better fit our needs,

I am hoping that by partnering with TISs, TSSs and academic coaches we can all define our roles without feeling we are in competition.  I am hoping we will have more immediate access to information and can be at the table when deciding upon resources and programs for our students. I am hoping that partnering with these groups will elevate our profession as those who choose to be involved will bring a high level of professionalism to our conversations.

I am not abandoning WVLA.  I will continue to be a paying member. I appreciate all the leadership WVLA has provided to help school libraries...without the help of school librarians themselves.  I am very disappointed in myself and my colleagues for not doing better.  Let me be clear in saying the reason WVLA has not worked for WV school librarians is because WV school librarians, as a whole, have not WORKED with WVLA.  Our fault.  Mine.  Yours.

But I am not sitting back and watching library media services for West Virginia children dwindle away due to complacency.  I hope everyone who reads this will be joining me as we establish this new group.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sign the Declaration for the Right to Libraries - I Love Libraries

Sign the Declaration for the Right to Libraries - I Love Libraries