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.