Friday, December 21, 2012

Unintentional Techie

It cracks me up whenever someone else or myself thinks of me as a "techie". It doesn't seem like that long ago when the elementary computer class seemed so intimidating, even if we were just playing Oregon Trail and doing basic skills. I learned to type on a typewriter (ok, it was electric) as a freshman and we got our first computer around that same time. I learned programs in Mac Applications senior year (1998) that I don't think even exist anymore. Coding seemed so intimidating, although now I wish I had taken the computer science classes. Email in college was basic and journal article research was a mix of new material available online and rolling apart shelves to get to the bound volumes. By the end of grad school (2003), IM was still all the rage, distance education courses were picking up and you still had to be in college to get on Facebook.

I realized one key thing that took me from "tech is ok" to "I can do this" - realizing I can't break it. Oh, you can very easily lose whatever you are working on, but unless you physically drop the computer or device it is very hard to break it. Understanding this simple notion can be quite liberating. I learned how to use computers because I had to. It was part of the curriculum and I just picked it up along the way.

People assume that certain age groups are genetically predisposed to using technology and others are too far over the hill to get it. That couldn't be further from the truth. I teach high schoolers and university students and have seen these lines blurred many times. Some teens are resistant to technology and some AARP members are some of the most creative technology users I know.

I constantly tell my university students, many of whom are distance ed, that I make them use technology to try something new. I grade on content, not the scary program they were forced to use. I'm constantly reminding them that it is great that their teen helped them import the pictures, but they must learn how to do it for themselves because junior won't be at work with them. It is a tough job market out there and being afraid of technology just isn't an option anymore. My ultimate goal with my courses is not to just impart wit and wisdom - it's to prepare them for their dream job. Social media is critical for outreach to patrons and e-readers are taking a large portion of the market. Web 2.0 tools can take a library program from good to fantastic - often for free.

Technology isn't replacing libraries - it is making them evolve. Yes, it can be overwhelming at times, but it isn't impossible. Dismissing technology as something for the young or computer geeks isn't cute, funny, or professional. It is now a mandatory part of our job. You don't have to be Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. You just have to remember you can't break it - so what's the worst that could happen?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Everybody Collection

My library serves a wide range of patrons, as all do. My high school is a bit unique in the number of special education students we have. The number is rather high and includes quite a range of abilities.

When I started working at my former district many special education services were contracted out to the Intermediate Unit (IU). Although these students were in our building (such as life skills and emotional support), they were in classrooms and didn't generally mix with the rest of the students. The district later decided to move those services in-house, the library had a new sub-group of patrons to meet the needs of . The new life skills teacher wanted to bring the students to the library, but we didn't have books on an elementary level. Initially, we borrowed books from the elementary schools, partly because we weren't sure if the new classes were a permanent change. They would send over a crate of books, but that quickly became a pain for both them and us. Finally, we established a small collection of books on an early elementary school level.

When I arrived at my new position I started a similar collection. I used some budget money and received a grant from the Home and School Association (HSA) to get it started. I focused on non-fiction that life skills teachers could use in their lessons and award winners. I tried to avoid anything too babyish, while maintaining the appropriate reading level. This year I am adding more books that the pre-school lab needs. The high school students do lessons on specific topics (concepts, seasons, nature) and need books that are more academic than have been donated to the classroom library. I was able to add some concept books recently through a grant.

It is difficult to meet so many patron needs in the library. How do you reach out to your special education students?

Monday, December 17, 2012


Ah, audiobooks. I love'em. I forget how I started getting into them, but I became an addict quickly. Frankly, I don't have time to read. Or shouldn't, between work, dissertation, adjunct work, and all the fun things that come with being an adult. BUT I do commute (although it is a short one), work out (infrequently, but I'm trying), travel, etc., and audiobooks make all of those things more enjoyable by providing a quality distraction. Audiobooks, especially with a talented reader, have also gotten me through many titles that I may not have picked up (gotta keep up with the YA lit) or have time to read (Game of Thrones - awesome but llllooonnnggg). This past summer audiobooks made moving my entire collection for the genre-fy process more painless (thank you George R. R. Martin). Sometimes I buy audiobooks if they are on clearance somewhere (CDs still work best in my car), download from iTunes or, most frequently, download them from the public library. I haven't been inside my local library since signing up for a card, but my circulation stats are pretty high.

I'm contemplating starting an audiobook collection in my school library, beginning with the required reading titles to help out the special education students.

What are your favorite audiobooks?

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Kindle

Last year I got a Kindle and I love it. I just got a basic one since I figured I would be getting an iPad within the year or two. I never thought I would like reading books on a device, but after reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand on my iPhone for a book club, I realized it wasn't so bad. If the story is engaging, it doesn't matter what format the book is in. Oh, and moving last year helped me decide to investigate ebooks, as well. Let's not get into how many boxes there were of just cookbooks, but children's books are the only thing I buy in paper format anymore if I can help it.

What do I like about reading on a Kindle?
  • Battery life - absolutely insane
  • Easy to hold when lying down
  • Adjustable print size - my vision is very good, but it is nice to be able to adjust the print size and screen contrast
  • Storage - frees up so much space in the house
  • Cheap ebooks - Kindle Daily Deals get me trouble quickly - and books needed for my dissertation were cheaper in e-format
  • Free ebooks - so easy to download from the public library
  • Kindle apps - I can use any of my devices to pick up reading right where I left off
What device do you use for e-reading and where do you get your books from?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Funding Small Projects

There never seems to be enough money in the budget for what you want to do. I have a budget that is decent, especially considering what is happening in other libraries and the elimination of staffing and budgets altogether. My vision for what the library could be, unfortunately, exceeds my annual budget. I feel I have a good framework to work from, but the collection could use some updating, I would like to make reference materials ebooks, and I have a wish list of databases I would like. I could give up on my dreams (ok, a little melodramatic) or look for additional funding sources. So this year I have decided to enter the world of grant writing.

Grants can be intimidating, especially if you have never done it before. I have applied for some big ones of several thousand dollars, but that is a discussion for another day. Today I'm focusing on small project funding, specifically is a site where teachers post a list of materials they would like for their classroom, such as art supplies, books, or technology, and donors can help fund the projects. I had seen this program listed on many grant opportunity sites, but hadn't tried it. I decided to give it a shot now since I had heard the site gets a lot of traffic in December from companies and individuals looking for last minute tax deductions. Setting up the request turned out to be a very easy process, from selecting the materials I desired to  describing (aka selling) the project. The site recommends posting small projects since they tend to get funded quickest. Initially I couldn't decide what to apply for so I opted for material for our Everybody Collection which I started last year for our Life Skills and pre-school lab classes. I posted a request for about $400 of pre-school concept books and the total project came to $513 after various fees were tacked on. The project ended up being funded by two very generous donors. The books I requested will be shipped to me after the holiday break and then I have a certain amount of time to fill out the thank you packet. Overall, it has been a very easy process. I have another project posted for holiday books.

One thing I have figured out about funding it that it pays off to try to get monies from outside organizations. The worst that can happen is you lose an hour or two filling out paperwork and they say no. But when they say yes, your patrons can really benefit.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In defense of "Spartan Style"

Last night I saw a former co-worker post on Facebook about a video that was made by students at my former district called "Spartan Style", a parody of Korean singer Psy's "Gangnam Style" hit video. The student video, like the original, has gone viral. However, unlike it's predecessor, this work has been labeled the worst video on the Internet. Why?

I'll admit I was a bit biased when I watched the video. I have obviously seen other student created videos in the years I worked at Garden Spot and was curious to see how this group of students did. I enjoyed seeing former co-workers and students getting in on the fun and creating a video that was supposed to promote school spirit. Was it the highest quality production and the best student parody of "Gangnam Style" I have seen? No. But it was a STUDENT PRODUCTION. What I saw was creativity (original lyrics), school spirit (was not surprised at admin, faculty and staff participation), and courage (as much as I love my students you are most likely NOT going to get me on film doing that). Others have expressed different opinions.

On November 21, 2012, a user by the name of Cym4tic uploaded the video to YouTube, posting "THIS IS NOT MY VIDEO. This is from my high school. And I hate my high school, so no shame. Feel free to hate it and share it with the world!". This warm invitation led to the video going viral and the following headlines:

What Hath Psy Wrought: PA High School’s ‘Gangnam Style’ Parody Dubbed ‘Worst Video on the Entire Internet’ (

Garden Spot High School's 'Spartan Style' video goes viral on Internet (Lancaster Newspapers)

Internet Proclaims This the Worst Video Ever (

And this one with the time-stamped snarky commentary. Can you really hate the video that much to spend time doing this?

I was appalled when I saw the headlines on international news outlets screaming that this was the worst video on the Internet.  And who determined this? The ANONYMOUS user who uploaded the video. I must disagree - I have seen worse. It appears to me that the "journalism" involved in these headlines is no more than jumping on a bandwagon of cruelty. The investigative reporting is further evident on the number of articles that get the name of the high school wrong (Spartan is the mascot, not name of the school, which a simple Google search would turn up). 

This whole event appears to me to be a reflection of our current society. Rather than say, "Hey, good for them. It took a lot of work and representatives from the whole school came together to entertain and promote school spirit. "A" for effort.", many ANONYMOUS people would rather post negative comments online. Watching teachers, administrators and support staff willing to go the extra mile for Garden Spot students - including dancing in a video - was not shocking to me because I witnessed that dedication repeatedly in my time there. In an era of budget cuts, staff reductions, a constant barrage of negative articles on public education, and high stakes standardized testing, we NEED videos like this. The fact that there is still a high school class where students can be creative and not just prepped to fill in dots on a high stakes testing is commendable. Opportunities like this are quickly disappearing as art, music, technology education, family and consumer science, and libraries are being eliminated from our schools. 

I want all participants to know that I enjoyed the hard work they put into this production. And that comment isn't ANONYMOUS.

Steph Sweeney

Friday, November 16, 2012


This year I have been working to fill in the gaps in my series books, as well as acquiring ones that the kids were asking for. It is hard to keep track of all the series and to know which books are part one since it often isn't marked on the book. I decided to get the round colored dot stickers to keep track of series books. I put the dot on the top of the book spine and write the number it is or use a "P" if it is a prequel. For books that are part of a series, but aren't in any particular order I use blank dots. This has made series books really stand out on the shelves.

When cataloging a recent order, I discovered I was going to have to keep track of what color dots are used for each series. It is hard to finish cataloging when all the books in the series are checked out and I'm not sure which dot to put on the book. I could wait until one comes back, but it would be helpful to have a record. I decided to go old school and use index cards. Each card has the author and series titles down the left side, and genre and dot color under the series title on the right. The Juvenile Series and Sequels page from the Mid-Continent Public Library is very helpful for making these lists. I then highlight each title that I have and can easily flip through the cards to add missing titles to book orders. The cards can be used in the stacks to periodically check that each series book has a dot. As I check which titles I have in the catalog, I update the series information in the record. This process has worked well so far.

How do you keep track of series books?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Genrefying: Part IV: Evaluation

The genrefying project has been a success so far and there were some expected and many unexpected outcomes.

  • The classes are more spread out as they look for books. I figured this would happen as the books themselves were spread out. I also arranged similar genres close to each other and each class seems to split into the Realistic/Chick Lit, SciFi/Fantasy/Horror, and Adventure/Sports/Guy Reads sections pretty evenly.
  • Statistics now show up by genre on reports. I was surprised at the circulation statistics thus far. I knew my book club loved SciFi/Fantasy/Horror, but hadn't realized they were the most popular genres overall. I also know that I need more books in certain genres, such as YA mystery books.
  • I know the collection better. Over the last 6 months I handled every single book in the library. This was very helpful since it was my first year in this library and I was still learning the collection. It was much easier to develop a long-term collection development plan.
  • I have parts of many series. I decided to devote much of my fiction budget to filling in missing series books, acquiring new ones the kids were asking for, as well as replacing titles on the sophomore and senior literature analysis list, and getting new Middle Eastern and Asian titles for the freshman projects. It made acquisitions easy this year.
  • I'm surprised at the books that are circulating. Because the books are split into genres, students are finding books that they didn't before. I'm constantly surprised at the titles that students check out. I will be curious to run a master list at the end of the year and see how many books circulated for the first time this year. 
Overall, the project has been a success so far with students and teachers commenting on how much easier it is to find books. Students seem to be able to find books quicker and with less help than before. I'm glad I genrefied my collection :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Genrefying: Part III: Selecting Genres

A very important step in this genrefying project was to decide which categories to use. I opted to follow the method used by Kathryn Makatche. Relabeling every book didn't seem very practical, so I followed Kathryn's method of using colored label protectors to signify different genres. It could also be undone easily if the project didn't work, although I never would have taken on such a task if I wasn't sure it would be successful. It is also easy to change the location if I make a mistake or change my mind. I also used Kathryn's idea of pulling one genre at a time. It took me several lists to decide on the genres, but this is the list I came up with:

  • Realistic - takes place in the last 20 years, appeals to both guys and girls
  • Chick Lit - Contemporary realistic fiction that mainly appeals to girls (Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult, Louise Rennison, Gossip Girl)
  • Romance
  • Historical Fiction - I had many more than I realized!
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Horror - vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons, supernatural, Jaws, Exorcist, Stephen King
  • Manga
  • Mystery/Suspense
  • Adventure - survival, quests, espionage
  • Sports
  • Guy Reads - opposite of Chick Lit, gangs, friends, gambling, humor, S.E. Hinton, Gordon Korman, Paul Volponi, Pete Hautman       

I debated a long time about the Chick Lit and Guy Reads sections, not wanting to turn off potential readers by the placement of a book. If a book could appeal to either gender, then it goes into the Realistic section. I decided to use stickers from Brodart and Demco to designate short stories, verse novels, graphic novels, Holocaust, Asian and war novels. All of these types of books are read in certain curricular areas or are popular with students. I decided that genre beat format for not pulling those books out into a separate section.

Since I did most of the project over the summer, I didn't have to worry about confusing my patrons as I made changes in the catalog and moved books around. I started by using my print shelf list and noting the obvious genres and started making changes. After that I did subject searches for "fantasy", "mystery", "science fiction", etc. Then I scrolled through the remaining records online and decided on genres for the titles I wasn't familiar with based on subject headings and summaries. Some books had incomplete records and I had to look those up elsewhere. I changed the records in the catalog to say "Historical FIC MEY" or "Chick Lit FIC PIC". After I changed the genre in the computer, I ran a new shelf list for that section, pulled the books, put the new colored label over the call number and set up the new section.

Obviously signs were going to be needed so that patrons could find the genre they were looking for. I used Tagxedo to make signs that had an image related to the genre, as well as keywords associated with it. Some were tough, but I managed to find an image that easily worked with each genre.

Now that everything was moved, labeled, and re-cataloged, the big question was would everyone like it?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Genrefying: Part II: Moving the Collection

After I had the fiction books weeded, I had to start rearranging the collection. As in ALL of it. My shelves are off to one side of the library with several rows in the middle and wrapping around along the wall to the outside. I decided that the fiction books, previously along one wall and some of the middle shelves, would now be on the outside. This would keep things a little more consistent and allow classes to spread out when selecting books rather than being jammed into two rows.

 Across the library there is an instructional area that housed the biographies and short story collection. I weeded both of those and integrated them into the main and fiction collections. I moved the Facts on File Yearbooks, encyclopedias, and professional books to this area. I also pulled out the career books, which are underused by the juniors when doing their career development projects, to create a special collection in this area. These changes freed up the space I needed in the main collection to move the rest of the books.

Between last spring and the end of the summer I moved every single book in the library. It took all of the carts I had and meant moving many books several times as I consolidated and shifted while separating the fiction into genres. I feel that the changes have consolidated the collection, removed confusing call numbers and increased the ease of usage by patrons. It wasn't easy, but the labor did help me sleep well on those nights!

Now that I had a plan for how I was going to arrange everything, the next step was splitting the fiction section into genres.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Genrefying: Part I: The Beginning

Part I: The Beginning

Last summer I decided to separate my fiction collection into genres. I like to think that I have a pretty good grasp on YA literature, but I was getting tired of drawing blanks when asked where the survival/adventure books were or for "books like (insert author or title)". I had my go-to authors and books, but felt that my students were getting shortchanged because I didn't know enough about the collection. It was also my first year in the library and I honestly didn't know the whole collection. I sought advice on listservs and got a lot of positive feedback. Some questioned why I would do this, but if our non-fiction is divided into genres, why not our fiction?

The first step was to weed. I pulled many titles that were classics and/or on reading lists. I wandered the fiction section with my shelf list printout and, according to circulation statistics, there were many books on reading lists or that were assigned for literature analysis papers that were no moving. It was easy to see why once I started handling the books. They were OLD, smelly, in some cases, falling apart. I couldn't blame the kids since I didn't want to handle them either. Yeah, yeah, the words didn't change, but obviously new copies were going to be needed if these titles were going to circulate again. I crossed out titles on my list to delete from the catalog and made notes of which titles to replace. Any title that I wasn't sure of I tried to view from a 15 year old's perspective. Would the book appeal to him/her? Most of the time the answer was no.

Now that the weeding was done, the next step was to start rearranging everything.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fiction eBooks

I have been debating the ebook thing for a long time. My number one goal with ebooks is accessibility. In other words, two unlimited simultaneous access ebooks on the Irish potato famine can serve the six students doing projects much more than the two print books I have.

Some school librarians are doing ebooks and ereaders. I haven't been convinced to delve into that yet. It appears to be a  hassle with setting up accounts since they aren't designed for library use, only personal use. I have taken the approach with fiction that I will train patrons how to download from the public library on their own device and will stick to purchasing research materials in ebook format. I am also in an area where many students have their own technology, so this works well. With a limited budget, and only so much time to work on projects, my priority is on updating my print fiction and going digital as much as possible with reference materials.

What is your perspective on ebooks and ereaders?

The Rise of Pinterest

Pinterest is a great site. I have used it personally (is wedding planning too cliche a use?) and professionally. For my students, although I honestly don't know how many have accessed the page, I try to use it for reading promotion. I have set up boards on my GVLMC account for One Book, One School (Maze Runner) and reading lists for chemistry, summer reading, and various award winners. I have also added fun library pictures, book art images, and children's literature.

How are you using Pinterest in your library?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Integrating the Short Story Collection

I have been rearranging and weeding the entire library over the last 6 months. The latest target is the short story collection. It is currently housed across the library and out of sight of the rest of the books so it doesn't get used often, especially voluntarily. I ordered "Short Story" stickers and either labeled or weeded each book in that area. I have been integrating the books into the rest of the collection to try to make the students more aware of them. The books in which all of the stories are clearly in one genre go into the appropriate area of the fiction section. The ones that are mixed genres (or classics that frankly I'm not 100% sure where they should go) I have been putting in the 800s. With the space I have freed up, I'm going to pull out the career and college prep books. My juniors have a quarterly career prep course, so there are many projects that use these books. However, with the career books scattered throughout the main collection they seem to be underused.

How do you shelve your short story books?

Thursday, June 21, 2012


This year I did something you aren't supposed to do your first year in a new library. I weeded. Yup. I did it. A lot. I tried to resist, but I couldn't. I did wait until the second semester, but I just couldn't justify some of the titles anymore. Plus, this isn't my first time at the rodeo. I'm not spending an extra day inventorying books that aren't going to be used. I won't put out numbers, but it was significant. It was really easy though. I ran a list of circulation stats and hit the stacks. Fiction books that were really old, yellowed and smelly are easy. Paperbacks with out of date covers and plot lines could go. Non-fiction that was way out of date in science, biographies, and social studies didn't make the cut. Many titles I will replace, such as classic fiction titles on the Literature Analysis reading list (no wonder they weren't circulating!). I won't throw out numbers because it always freaks out non-librarians. However, when you have all of the weeded books in a pile it becomes quite obvious to all that it would be hard to justify putting the books back on the shelf.

This year I managed to get a district mini grant to get some new science titles and I'm going to apply for an LSTA grant to fix up the social studies section, although I'm having a hard time deciding which area needs it more. I'm probably going with the Western Civ research paper topics since those teachers used the library pretty heavily this year (collaboration gets rewarded!). I'm excited about applying for the grant since it is the first time I've done it. I attended a workshop at the PSLA Conference this year that gave a lot of good advice and inside tips. My biggest concern is that while my budget isn't great (but I do have one and every library is staffed making it hard to complain these days) my district's demographics may be too good to get outside funding. I'm curious to see how this all plays out.

There are a lot more books that need to go, but frankly I ran out of boxes. And I need to be able to weed a certain percentage of the collection every year to apply for LSTA grants, so if it is a success I plan on doing it every year.

Monday, May 14, 2012

One Book, One School 2012-13: Maze Runner by James Dashner

Our high school selection this year for One Book, One School is Maze Runner. I haven't read it yet, but I know it is a pretty popular title, so I'm excited to check it out. I have decided to use this opportunity to try to take advantage of two tools I have been wanting to try to promote the book and encourage discussion about it.

I set up a board on the library Pinterest site. It was so easy to add a few book trailers and interviews from YouTube, as well as links to Dashner's homepage and Twitter account.

I also use with my college students and am curious to try it in my high school library. I set up a private group and added some discussion forums, an interview video and the book trailer for Maze Runner. I am going to try to promote this with my book club to get it started. I know some librarians have had some success with this and hope to get some discussions going about what the students are reading.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The (Second) First Year

As May approaches quickly, I've been evaluating my first year in my new district. It wasn't my first time at the rodeo having taught for 8 years at a MS/HS, which made the transition much easier. Since I already had a personal system for record keeping, I didn’t get bogged down by trying to plan lessons and sort out how to deal with things like the budget and usage stats at the same time. This is a very academic district and they hit the ground running as soon as the school year ends. Even for a non-rookie, a new environment can be overwhelming at first. New faces, politics, curriculum, collection, etc., all need to be sorted out. Here are a few things that helped me make the transition a little easier:
  • Last year’s yearbook - I have learned faces and names, but haven’t put all of them together yet. By keeping last year’s yearbook on my desk I can quickly check names of people I just talked to (unless they are standing next to me and I have to ask to put their name on the schedule. Can get away with that this year, more embarrassing next year)
  • Claim the space - I quickly realized I was going to have to physically make the space mine for my sanity. I love decorating the library for holidays and changing the posters monthly. I bought new posters after throwing out many of the old ones that were left to try to get a younger atmosphere and put my stamp on the environment. Many people have commented on the ever changing decor and how much they enjoy it. It’s an easy thing that really makes the library feel like it is mine.
  • Change it - Remember that it is your library and it is now a blank canvas. You can do whatever you want. Just because your predecessor did things one way, doesn’t mean that you have to keep doing things that way. Give it a few months, though, to get a feel for how the building works before doing anything too drastic. There was an online scheduling system in place here and it lasted until October. I didn’t know who was working on what, classes were signed up at the last minute, not every teacher had a login to the wiki scheduler, etc., and I couldn’t check it every period to see what was going to happen next. I took it down and implemented a traditional plan book and now people have to see/email/call me to schedule. Now I know my schedule and can actually juggle more classes into the library than the spaces on the online schedule allowed.
  • Pace yourself - Realize that you can’t do a promotion for every event and figure out a new school in your first year. I focused on the classes and collection in the fall and then did a promotion for School Library Month (Books to Movies tie-in with Hunger Games) in April. Next year I’ll try to do something in the fall, as well. There are also a lot of  other changes that I want to make in the library, but I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn’t have to be done today.

What helped you adjust to a new library?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Talks

On Friday I did book talks all day for high school students of varying abilities. I must confess - book talking is not my strongest skill. I feel that it requires showmanship skills that I do not possess. When I interviewed for this position I was asked to rank the elementary, middle and high school positions that were open in the order of preference. I chose high, middle, then elementary. I said that while the K-2 position might be interesting after dealing with teenagers for so long, but I don’t do puppet shows. Research and edtech are my things, not entertaining or doing sales pitches.

Over the last eight years I was lucky enough to be in a MS/HS library with another librarian. We shared teaching duties, but I handled the technology things and she handled the print-related things when it came to acquisitions. Throw in coaching and grad school and let’s say I fell a bit behind on the YA lit. This is embarrassing, I must confess, especially when a student asks for a recommendation and I feel like I’m always referring the same five or so authors. I can really be in trouble when they ask for a book similar to one of my go-to recommendations. As a solo librarian I have been trying to rectify the situation, but it isn’t always easy to do so. Especially when you are learning the school culture, curriculum and collection yourself.

It isn’t that I don’t like YA lit. I do. The problem for me has been that it was just a low priority in my crazy life the last few years. One thing that has helped me (ok, forced me) to read more YA lit is the local librarian’s book review session. In return for writing a review, you can receive books that were donated by publishers for free for your library. With a shrinking budget, I grabbed as many interesting titles as I could and, although I had to read them in a very short time, found myself with about 20 new titles that I could talk about with my students. I also created “cheat sheets” - paper folders with lists of recommended authors for chicklit, science fiction/fantasy, sports, adventure, etc. It was easy to do and popular with the students. I saved the lists as a Google Docs file so I can updated it easily when I need to. Resource lists in the card catalog are useful, but sometimes I think I’m the only one using them. The students can take the folders to the shelves as they browse and I’m not blanking on author’s names when they ask me for suggestions.

One of my goals next year is to do better book talks. I have bookmarked a lot of websites that share tips for book talks and book trailers. I also want to use the book review feature of Destiny with students. This is a necessary skill for all librarians and an area I will freely admit I need improvement in.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

eBooks Revisited

I have written before about the issue of ebooks, but I will again today because of one statement I keep hearing over and over. It continues to both crack me up and make me sad when people say, as if consoling me, that it must be difficult for me that ebooks are the new trend. Um, no, not really. While I am continuously surprised that I am considered a “techie”, ebooks are not breaking my heart at all. My concern, as I usually reply, is that the students are getting up-to-date, accurate information, not the format that it is in. With budget cuts a constant threat and limited funding available for consistency in annual database subscriptions, I kind of like the idea of building our own database through ebook subscriptions. I am now focusing on the unlimited, simultaneous access ebooks rather than checking out individual ebooks to students.

This statement also leads me to wonder if the misconception that ebooks are causing librarians’ hearts to shatter the world over is another product of the general public’s confusion about what libraries are. Do they think librarians cursed the book as it replaced the scroll? As I say in my header, libraries are not about books, but free access to information. They provide educational and entertainment opportunities to whomever wishes to take part. I have written before that I have become an ebook/ereader convert. While I value the editorial process, I don’t feel any loyalty to the format of the book. Whatever will keep my students on the right track and provide accurate, timely information gets my vote. Libraries are evolving.

However, there is one thing that does cause me to pause and reconsider my stance. I wish I could give credit to the article I read recently that planted this seed, but I don’t remember which one it was. Growing up there were always books in my house and we made trips to the library. Will future children be as enticed to read if there aren’t books lying around the house like they were for us?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Professional Development

I’m a HUGE advocate of professional development (PD). I’m not sure if it is my fear of not having the resume to get the job I want or the fact that I can get bored easily and am always on the lookout for new things. Either way, I sometimes wonder if it is possible to fall into PD overload.

I realized not long ago that except for an 18 month period during my first year and half of teaching, I have been in some type of formal education program. I went straight to graduate school from undergrad. After a brief break, I started working on an associate’s in accounting. I thought this would be a good idea since understanding finances would be helpful if I ever ran a large library and I could pick up a business education certification. I abandoned that program when I began to question how much I would remember down the line. I also decided that a doctorate would be more beneficial in the long run and I wanted to get it done while I was still young, carefree, and single. I’m currently developing the research prospectus for my dissertatation and am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In between all this I also worked part-time at Huntington Learning Center, coached three seasons each of junior high girls basketball and junior varsity softball, and began teaching as an adjunct instructor.

I also try to attend any workshop or conference that I believe will be beneficial. I have served in a leadership capacity for several local and state organizations and have found such involvement to be a great way to make connections with other library professionals. This can be difficult for librarians who are isolated in their buildings. I have been to the state conference (PSLA) almost every year since I started college and was able to attend PETE&C once. I hope to get to AASL (why is this during the school year??) and ALA sometime in the near future.

Social networking tools are also helpful to stay connected and learn new things. I have a separate email account for all of the list servs I belong to. Last week was crazy in the library (in a good way) and I hadn’t had a chance to go through all of the emails. The inbox had almost 1500 unread emails this morning. As I sort through them, deleting most and saving information from others, I began to wonder if there is too much out there to keep up with. I tend to save a lot of links and information  “just in case”. A good thing or time waster? Twitter is a great tool, but how many people can you truly follow? I have many lists that I break my “following” list into, but it is still overwhelming at times. (And frustrating when an abbreviated link is blocked by the school filter and I know I either won’t remember to check at home or won’t be able to find it.)

The thing about quality professional development is that you have to initiate it yourself. I suppose that is part of being a professional, too. I don’t understand those who say they are too busy to do it-any of it. We are all busy, but we have to do what we can, not drive ourselves crazy by trying to do too much or belittling ourselves for doing too little. You can’t read every Tweet, article and email, but something is better than nothing. It is critical now for librarians to stay on the cutting edge through PD opportunities, large or small, formal or informal.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

iPhone Apps

I love my iPhone. Yes, many apps are distractions when I should be grading or working on my dissertation, but others are just awesome. Here are a few current favorites:

Words with Friends: Who isn't addicted right now?

Groupon & Living Social: No longer need to print out and carry around my deals. I can also get instant deals no matter where I am.

Key Ring: Bye-bye stack of rewards cards! Plus get more deals through the app and you can easily share the cards with others.

HBO Go: All my favorite HBO shows travel with me.

EasyBib: Not for complex citations, but for basic books, just scan the barcode and you are done!

Angry Birds Seasons & Angry Birds Rio: Fun variations of the game

NY Times Crossword: I like the check feature and there are many historical puzzles to try (a lot of Mondays to pick from!)

Flashlight: Very bright tool – don’t point it at anyone!

AllRecipes: Love, love, love the site and now I can take the recipes to the store so I don’t forget any ingredients

Grocery iQ: Never forget a shopping list – and share them with others

Kindle: Still can’t believe I read a whole book on my phone

What are your favorite apps?