Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Week 11 (School Librarianship)

This past week, we discussed collaboration between school and public libraries. Obviously there can be various levels of communication between the two parties; I think we've all heard about magnificent partnerships and nonexistent relationships.
        I'd like to think about this topic in relation to youth programs at a public library (so it may seem slightly off track, my apologies). In particular, I am pondering my upcoming Preschool Storytime at the Urbana Free Library. Rather than being held in the auditorium as usual, this week it will be relocated to Megan's Reading Room due to a Friends of the Library booksale. As a librarian-to-be, I've been pondering how this will impact my program, both in positive and negative ways.
           Megan's Reading Room is a tiered, carpeted room of various heights. It is significantly smaller than the auditorium, and has child-sized doors on multiple walls for different access points. I have deferred to other librarians for suggestions about fingerplays and rhymes for the program. I'm a firm believer that kids like to move, and many of them learn while doing so. Although I'd like to have the preschoolers get up and dance (maybe to Raffi's "Shake Your Sillies Out"), I don't think this is a smart idea, mainly due to the room layout.
           If I had more time, I would have tried to collaborate with teachers. Often times, large groups of day care/ preschool students come to our programs with their caregivers, so this would present an opportunity for me to partner with them. I think they would have great ideas for short, entertaining activities for the kids that don't require standing. I hope in my future that I am employed at a library that encourages such partnership.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Week 10 (Intellectual Freedom)

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the YALSA conference in St. Louis. I’m sure I could ramble on for pages about using e-readers, new library apps, transmedia in books, and pop culture, but I’d like to instead focus on the topic of males reading.

Guys Talkin’ to Guys: What Will Guys Read Next? was my favorite presentation, in part because of the two panels. Four prominent male YA authors were featured (Greg Neri, Torrey Maldonado, Andrew Smith, and Antony John) in addition to four teenage boys from various St. Louis private high schools. They were eloquent, passionate, and showed a sense of humor when offering suggestions on guys reading. Rather than babbling, I’ll list some main points that I’d like to remember for later.

1.     Guys read everything. When asked what types of books they enjoyed reading, the teen panel mentioned adventure, biography, mystery, non-fiction, manga, blogs, etc. We can’t pigeonhole boys into a category that only likes certain topics. It’s unfair to assume that boys may not enjoy romance simply because it’s commonly associated with femininity. Take the Hunger Games for example: the stories are fast-paced, laced with adventure and mystery, but also include romance. None of the teenagers suggested that they would avoid a book due to romance.
2.     Social sway matters. If we can raise the social status of books, we will engage more readers. Torrey Maldonado is a teacher who has witnessed the influence books can have on groups of friends. If one person is positively impacted by a book and comfortably carries books in public, suddenly it becomes acceptable to enjoy reading.
3.     Books need commercials too. When asked how can we encourage boys to read? The teens talked a lot about how they are bombarded with commercials for other media constantly. Each of them supported the idea that with more outreach and a stronger presence, books can grab their attention. One teen grabbed the microphone and gave a ten second book talk in a powerful, stereotypical announcer voice. The gist of it would be, “In a dark world, a boy realizes his true identity as a wizard…coming soon at your local library…for FREE….Harry Potter.” I’d love to turn this into teen programming at a library. I’m envisioning teens recording book commercials that are short, sweet, and attention grabbing. They could post the commercials to YouTube weekly, or to a library blog. Feel free to steal this idea!

Although I cannot find helpful links at this moment, I’m happy to send out book titles by the featured authors if anyone is interested.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Week 9 (Technology and Information Literacy)

          While reading Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online by Anastasia Goodstein, I noticed an interesting dichotomy within teens' online presence. Through blogs, LiveJournals, and social media sites, teens post about their personal feelings and experiences - there is an element of wanting to be noticed or acknowledged. On the flip side, many teens do not want strangers reading and/or commenting on their blogs. Goodstein points out that, "The irony is that because these spaces exist online, teens' most personal thoughts can be discovered and read by the world - whether that world is other students outside of their group of friends at school, students at other schools, their friends' parents, school administrators, or strangers."
           Goodstein suggests that, "not much has really changed about being a teenager," which I find true. Teens are still going to grapple with self-identity, physical and emotional changes, and a myriad of other issues, but the manner in which they encounter such issues changes over time. For example, rather than worrying about bullying, parents may now have to gain knowledge of cyber-bullying. This is not to discount any issues teens face, but to refocus our attention on how they face the issues. I hope the focus also shifts to address how any web presence can affect their professional lives as well. Teens should be educated early in life that much of what is posted online can be traced back and used as criteria by potential employers. Although it's occasionally hard to "censor" what I put up online, I want to make sure my web presence is appropriate for a range of audiences.
          *On a completely unrelated note, we gathered for the Zombie Prom this weekend at the Urbana Free Library. I decided to share my grotesque makeup with you, so please beware.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Week 8 (Reference and Collection Development/ Censorship)

Whelan, Debra. “Out and Ignored.” School Library Journal Jan. 2006, Vo. 52.

One reoccurring issue I've noticed during my LIS education is that of librarians as gatekeepers, which directly relates to censorship. As LIS professionals, I've come to learn that we will encounter a myriad of issues: from collection development policies to Internet filtering and everything in between. The thought I keep coming back to in regards to this issue is that censorship is not the librarian's job. In my opinion, librarians are meant to engage with patrons; to find out what their information needs are and how to best solve them. Librarians are not meant to prevent patrons from finding information. The thought of librarians blocking patrons, to me, feels like a "playing god" scenario. The root of it is this: information is already out there. It is my job to help people find it, use it, and evaluate it critically. I do not hold a master key, and I cannot stop patrons from finding resources.

Whelan touches on the important issue of GLBT materials in school libraries, as they are a hot item to target for censorship. She includes a quote by Pat Scales, director of library services for the Governor's School for the Arts, "The mistake we often make about young adult literature is that it's only for the student who can identify with it. But straight kids need to read Annie on My mind and Deliver Us from Evie to learn about tolerance." Censorship can easily become highly emotional and irrational but we need to remember the ripple effect it may have. I see my job as providing open access to information and reaching out to the largest number of people possible. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Week 7 (Elements of Librarianship in Youth Services: Programming)

This week, I commented on the official Young Adult Library Services Association blog (YALSA). The original post is titled Teen Read Week: Fiction Science (about the positive effects reading fiction has on our brains). A link to YALSA is here:


Canadee, Amy. “Ten Tips for Starting a Teen Advisory Group”
Chapman, Jan. “The Care and Feeding of a Teen Advisory Board” 

Canadee and Shapman's articles brought up similar points regarding Teen Advisory Boards (TABs).  Both articles mention that any TAB should include time for teens to be social. Chapman points out that it's far more logical and realistic to plan for social time rather than attempting to ban it. I must agree, even though I have never created a TAB. The idea of social time, to me, is important for any group of people, regardless of their club's mission or their age. Socializing is important, and prevalent, throughout our lives. Book clubs, baby lap time sessions, church meetings - you name it, there is a social aspect associated. It's only natural, if we consider the implications. When people (teens or otherwise) go for a week or more without seeing one another, they're likely to check in once they do re-group. I worry that adults put teens in a box and treat them as separate entities. Teens are people like the rest of us: they want to feel welcomed, witness the completion of projects, and have an enjoyable time while doing so.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Week 5 (Young Adults)

Jones, Patrick, Library Services to Young Adults. Chapters 1, 3, 4. (2002)

Teens are tricky, but only if we approach them with that mindset. The chapters we read this week by Jones made me ponder the true goal of youth services, and if we are working towards that goal.

Some salient points brought up by Jones include the following:

  • The "problem" isn't with the teens themselves, but how they are treated.
  • Youth development should focus on building strengths and reducing weaknesses.
  • Rather than thinking about what we can do for teens, what if we considered what we can do with teens?
  • Youth services and teen programs can be self-fulfilling prophecies, good or bad. 

I subscribe to the idea that the way in which we as librarians treat teens will dictate their involvement in and behavior at the library. Consider this: if I sit at the reference desk and look unamused when teens enter, shush them for chatting loudly, and sigh audibly when they leave behind stacks of books, will they want to use the space again when I'm working? I doubt it. However, if I great them warmly, ask if they need assistance, and truly engage in their task(s) at hand, I'm assuming the end result will differ greatly. The only way I can help teens build strengths and reduce weaknesses is if I am invested in their cause(s).
          The third bullet point directly relates to the paragraph above. If we use our adult brains and continue to live in our adult bubbles while planning teen spaces, collections, and activities, we will not be truly representing teens and their needs. Even if teens desire unrealistic things within a library (say a hot tub, for example), hearing them express their opinions will not hurt the planning process. And who knows - for every absurd request, perhaps there is an equally logical one we had not considered.
           I view youth services in general and teen spaces in particular as ponds that exhibit the ripple effect. If my library wants to shove teens in a corner and keep them quiet, the teens will hear the message loud and clear. I wouldn't be surprised if they disrupted the library intentionally to spite the approach (and I couldn't completely blame them). On the other hand, if a library encourages a teen collaborative space, works to incorporate their wants and needs, and reaches out to teens through programs, I think the atmosphere would be the polar opposite.

Bottom line: We were all teenagers once, too. Let's try to put ourselves back into our converse sneakers and remember what it's like when adults occasionally act like you bring the plague.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Week 4 (Elementary Age Children)

Kiefer, Barbara. "Understanding Reading." School Library Journal 47 (Feb. 2001).

         One quote in particular stood out to me from this article. Kiefer mentions that, "Like any professional involved in education, librarians will want to try and stay informed about research in learning and literacy through professional meetings and journals. This does not mean that they must become literacy experts or teachers of reading. However, librarians' understanding of the reading process and literacy learning can empower them to speak up for children and for books" (my emphasis added).
         I am fortunate enough to have a fantastic support group of friends and family who have encouraged my endeavors as a librarian-in-training. However, there have been naysayers along the way, too. I've been asked, "Since when do you have to go to school to be a librarian?" I've been told that, "Libraries are dying," and "You have a long, thankless road ahead of you." Perhaps now I should write down Kiefer's quote and keep it with me to silence the pessimistic folks. Surely they will understand that being a librarian is not about the bricks and the physical space. It's not about print material battling electronic material. It's about engaging children (and adults) and helping them discover what type of book makes them forget where they are. It's about leveling the playing field and demonstrating to others that a library (whether the physical space, bookmobile, or personal collection) freely gives all of us access to the same materials.
         I think the above excerpt from Kiefer directly applies to what Margaret Meek said in the reading given below.

Ross, Catherine Sheldrick. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community.

           When summarizing what we know about reading, Meek writes, "A book, a person, and shared enjoyment: these are the conditions of success." I am by no means trying to say that being a librarian is easy or easily defined. Rather, I think we should remember to take a step back and focus on the root of the LIS field: as librarians, we are advocates for children. My job now is to learn more about developmental stages so I can thwart the naysayers with factual information in defense of libraries, literacy, and learning. Even librarians can use some extra empowerment from time to time.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Week 3 (Young Children & Emergent Literacy)

Defty, Jeff. Creative Fingerplays and Action Rhymes. Chapter 1.
  • "The term 'attentionspan' must always be qualified for what?"
Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni and Pamela Martin-Diaz. Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library. Chapter 1.
  • "Repetition is not just something they want; it is something they need in order to learn."
  • "Research has shown that mothers from lower income groups engage in less shared picture book reading and produce fewer teaching behaviors during that time than mothers from middle-class groups."
            In addition to other assigned reading for the week, the above excerpts had me reflecting a lot on my time spent as an AmeriCorps volunteer. [Beware, as I talk about this experience quite often.] I became enamored with a first grader named Megan. She could not sit still in class for more than 45 seconds and it was obvious that school was difficult for her. This is why the first quote, taken from Defty, jumped out at me. While practicing penmanship or reviewing phonemic awareness, Megan was like a jumping bean. She frequently looked around the room, chatted with other students, or stared at the tip of her pencil as though it were magical. However, if I was able to read a book about Disney princesses with her one-on-one, she (generally) maintained laser-sharp focus. I think as adults we must occasionally step back and ask ourselves why children are not focusing on a task at hand. Would we want to sit for 30 minutes straight listening to someone criticize our every movement? 
            The reading from Ghoting also relates directly to my experience with Megan. I found an Easy Reader story called What is a Princess? and we read the story together ad nauseam during our tutoring sessions at the library. I'm fairly certain that Megan memorized the entire story within a short amount of time. However, Ghoting's point that repetition has a purpose, makes me feel validated that I allowed Megan to read the same story time and again. It may not have taught her new words, but it engaged her in a subject matter she identified with and boosted her self-confidence, which was more beneficial. 
             The last quote from Ghoting is a hard truth of reality. I didn't get the impression that Megan's mother (or family) read to her often and it showed. I think Megan craved individual attention and (I hope) she experienced firsthand an adult who truly enjoys reading. It's clear that emergent literacy can be part of an incredibly positive or incredibly negative cycle. My goal was to bring Megan into the positive cycle, as best I could.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Week 2 (Intro to History of Youth Services Librarianship)

Ziarnek, Natalie. School & Public Libraries: Developing the Natural Alliance. Chapters 1-2

Top three "takeaway" issues:

1. A lack of reliable roads during the Progressive Era (1890-1920) meant less access to books and information. This prompted me to question whether or not we have solved the issue(s) today. While our physical roads may be more stable, does everyone have equal access to information? The Internet plays a crucial role in our lives, yet we overlook the fact that not everyone has both the technology and funds available for Internet at home. Perhaps we have our own "Progressive Era" happening now, in different ways.
    • Real life example: I served with AmeriCorps in rural Washington State two years ago. I worked in a town of approximately 800 people and it was painfully obvious that not everyone equal access to information. Thankfully the town had a library, but many parents could not provide transportation to get their children there. 
2. Librarians must strike a balance between promoting services and "lying low." This reminds me of servers at a restaurant. Very few of us like servers who operate too far on one end of the spectrum: I don't want someone hovering over me while I eat, but I certainly don't want someone disappearing until the end of the meal either. Librarians must artfully craft a happy medium where the public is aware of available resources but does not feel smothered and/or driven away.
    • During my History of Library Buildings course, we toured various libraries that partnered with marketing firms. I was highly impressed that they had the initiative (and funds) to do so. I am of the mindset that by providing information through multiple formats (online blogs, social media sites, SWAG, etc), we can truly reach the greatest amount of patrons. 
3. The main goals that both public and school libraries share include: placing the right book in the hands of the right child at the right time, advocating for intellectual freedom, promoting quality literature, and encouraging lifelong library use. This is why I want to be a librarian. These are the values I will continue to uphold.
    • Throughout periods of change in the LIS field, the core remains.