Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Now on to everything else. . .

I was going to post yesterday but the conference was a whirlwind (I barely had time to get into the vendor hall to stock up on free pens), and then I got back to school and was on duty till 10 (after being up since 4), at which point I hung out on the couch for a while in order to get the energy up to go to bed.


In case you can't tell by the fact that this post is not about me freaking out about my presentation, my conference was yesterday. After getting up at the aforementioned 4am I drove to Hartford--very little traffic that time of the morning, for those of you looking for an easier commute. Getting set up was a bit nerve wracking, as the projector was not exactly the most intuitive system I've ever encountered, and the microphone from the next room over was somehow feeding through the speakers in my room. But I figured it out (partially by begging for help from the guy in the next room).

By the time 7:30 came there were six people in the room waiting for me to present, which is two more people than I thought would be there, so that was cool. And then as I started another person came in. And another. And then more. Eventually there were about 20-25 people there, which is WAY more than I anticipated (and if any of those people are now reading this blog: Hi! Thanks for coming!). And it went really well. People were nodding along, and smiling, and they all clapped at the end!

The response, overall, was really amazing. I had several people tell me that it was helpful and informative and that there were things that they could bring back to their schools and put to use, which was really gratifying. I love going to conferences and workshops that are inspirational or aspirational in tone, but a) I don't think I'm really at that level quite yet and b) the best workshops I've ever been to give me something based on those aspirations I can put into practice. My greatest hope in doing this was that I would be able to give the participants something--an idea, a tool, a new understanding--that they could take with them. To be told that I've done that. . . wow.

Giving back professionally is far more energizing than I anticipated it would be. It's a total high, and I'm hooked. For the rest of the day yesterday I was thinking about what else I could do--whether it be more presenting, or writing, or even developing more of an online presence to share the work I'm doing.

The rest of the conference was great, too. I'd been so anxious about my session that I'd forgotten how much I love being able to spend a day with my peers getting that inspiration (I was able to spend two sessions with Jamie McKenzie, who is amazing and gave me a lot to think about--much of which I may write about later), as well as generating ideas that I can bring back and put into use. Given that I don't work with another librarian, it's nice to be able to spend time with other people who know what it's like to do what I do. Also, free pens!

We were supposed to give our name badges back at the end of the day, but I kept mine. If anyone from CASL/CECA is reading this, I'm sorry, but this is my first ever presenter badge and I couldn't help it. I promise I will give back all of my badges for any future conferences I present at. Unless they're really cool.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I know I work in a private school (which I often refer to as an independent school, as it feels less weird to say), but I believe passionately in the fundamental importance of public education. I went to public schools. My dad, the most amazing teacher I have ever known, teaches at a public school. I taught at a public school. Some of my best friends are public school teachers.

Also, I don’t think all charter schools are, by definition, bad, but I certainly don’t see them as a cure-all for our public school system—particularly when a charter school, by its very existence, undermines the education public school students are getting. It’s like blaming someone for having a broken leg when you’re the one who pushed him down the stairs.

Since I’m not a lawyer and am not intimately familiar with New York’s education laws, I won’t mention the fact that what they’ve done here is pretty much illegal.

And what of library services for the charter school students? This could have been an amazing opportunity to make that space the center for these schools that—due to poor planning—are sharing limited space. What a squandered opportunity.

I have an inkling as to how the library blogosphere will react to this—it just shows that we as school librarians need to be better at promoting what we do and how important it is and blah, blah, blah. But I don’t think for a second that that’s what’s going on here—look at how lovingly that library was renovated, with all sorts of support from people from within and outside the school; that is not a librarian with weak PR skills. This was a decision made by shortsighted idiots who aren’t going to be convinced by research, or arguments, or evidence, since they operate on the assumption that everything they do is Right.

The fact that this beautiful library is now being used, in part, as a Teacher’s Lounge has, I’m relatively certain, raised more hackles than if it were being used as a teaching space. And I get that. But I’ve worked in schools with and without a dedicated space for teachers, and the availability of a Teacher’s Lounge makes a difference in the attitude and energy of the faculty, and the overall climate of the school. I get that Teacher’s Lounges are important, and are far more than a place to drink a cup of coffee in quiet (not that that’s not important), but I can’t imagine being able to use that space as a lounge in good conscience.

More here: Stephen Krashen at Substance News and here:School Library Journal

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Would my microwave make a good audience?

I just finished delivering my conference presentation to my kitchen table, and I can say, based on the reaction, that it's pretty awful. I clearly need to practice more—and fix some significant errors in slide arrangement that made me feel even more awkward than the average person talking to her kitchen table. And add some slides. And be more familiar with my notes. And have more and better examples. And maybe some jokes. And be less nervous. And, generally, suck less. That would help tremendously.

I wish I had a real live person to practice in front of, as I think I would feel less awkward talking to a person rather than my furniture. Or should I try talking to my couch rather than my table?

I am generally pretty confident when presenting to faculty at school--and rarely even practice beforehand. But in presenting to other school librarians I'm worried I'm going to get called out on not knowing or doing something that a "good" librarian would be doing; I'm worried I'm not going to make a good enough case for what I do and why I do it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I needed that

A student who was giving a tour of the school this afternoon introduced me by saying, "This is Ms. K-M, the best librarian in the world."

Also, after what could accurately be described as a minor meltdown last night while trying to find suitable images for my presentation (go ahead, you try and find copyright friendly images that accurately represent the idea of "learning differences"), I am 90% of the way to a working draft. So I feel a bit less like throwing up.

Also also, I was informed during study hall tonight that I am wearing "fresh kicks." Which I'm going to go ahead and assume is a good thing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It was either "Stand By Me" or "We Are Family"

Last night I had a dream that I was performing in a talent competition of some sort, only I hadn't rehearsed and didn't know all of the words for the song I would be singing—or even, for sure, which song it was. Let alone the fact that I don't really know how to sing.

I think this is the clearest my subconscious has ever been in translating whatever is stressing me out into a dream. I don't even have to pretend to try to interpret this one.

Next Monday (as in a week from tomorrow) I am presenting at the CASL/CECA conference. And I am, to put it simply, not prepared. I have a folder of photocopies and scratch paper and books full of sticky notes and—finally—five pages of notes that will be turned into a storyboard of my presentation today (I swear, really, it has to happen today. Because I'm supposed to submit a final version of my presentation tomorrow) and a vague sense of what I'll be talking about and I know, somewhere in my brain, that this will come together and it will be fine and my presentation is at 7:30 in the morning so it's distinctly possible I'll be the only one in the room, but here is what I comes down to and what—besides everything else I'm behind on—is keeping me from working on this: I am terrified.

There are a few reasons for this. First, I read too many library blogs, and there is a lot of confidence and certainty and "vision" in the library blogosphere, and I feel none of those things. And I don't know if that means I'm more realistic, or completely inept. Second, I'm presenting on learning differences in the library, which is not an area for which a lot of material and information exists—which I know from trying to do research when I first got this job. So I feel this pressure to be authoritative, but on the other hand a lot of what I'm talking about is based on my own work and experience, and I'm not sure I feel like an authority. I am taking a lot of work about LD and UDL (Universal Design for Learning) and translating it into the library environment, but the simple fact is that I don't think there's really anyone who is an authority on the specific issue of learning differences in the library, so I kind of feel like I'm working without a net. Third, I live and work everyday with LD students; I'm pretty familiar with this issue and believe passionately in the importance and relevance of what I do—I worry, alternately, that the other people in the room won't buy in to what I'm saying, and also that I'll inadvertently talk over the heads of everyone who doesn't do this stuff day to day. What if I accidentally start gushing about the possibilities of downloading DAISY books for the Kurzweil? Most people I work with understand that and get excited about it, but I feel like the rest of the world probably doesn't.

The other thing is that I know that the only place I'll be able to practice this presentation is in my apartment, talking to a wall (or, if they come out from under the bed, my cats), and I know I'm not good at rehearsing without an audience. I'd like to have at least one run-through under my belt, but I'm not sure how to make that happen at this point. Which is another reason I should have gotten my act together on this before now, I know.

So I guess I'm looking at a week of dreams about me performing ineptly in talent shows. Which is one of many reasons you should be glad you're not in my subconscious.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Are somewhat weak analogies also an Internet cliche?

I recently adopted two cats. Yes, I am a single librarian blogging about her cats. The Internet may collapse under the sheer weight of that many cliches.


I first tried to adopt a cat through a local shelter. I went and visited and found a cat who clearly loved me; even the shelter volunteers remarked upon how much this cat loved me. Completed an adoption application. Waited. And was ultimately rejected because I could not produce vet records from the last time I owned cats. Which was, for the record, five years and at least three moves ago.

Having failed to keep what ended up being necessary records makes me feel like a Bad Librarian. During my first year at my current job I purged the file cabinet; I purged the crap out of those files. And even though every logical fiber in my being tells me otherwise, every once in a while I still wonder if I made a mistake in tossing library accession records from 1988. I know, logically, that they're not even close to being an accurate reflection of my current collection, and that with an automated catalog accession records are, at best, redundant. But finding myself in a position where I had gotten rid of records that were, apparently, more useful than I realized, I found myself questioning my willingness to purge; what if tomorrow someone comes through the door and offers me a million dollar grant--but only if I can produce library accession records from 1988? What then, I ask?

Then nothing, really. 'Cause when I think about it, anyone who has such a ridiculous, rather arbitrary, mostly meaningless standard for giving me a million dollar grant is probably going to have other ridiculous, unreasonable demands, and is definitely crazier than average. And after talking with some people about how ridiculous this shelter was being I discovered that they had more than once adopted out pets without disclosing health and behavioral issues. And if I get either cats or a million dollars from someone, I want the person I'm dealing with to judge me--as either a pet owner or a librarian--by who I am and how I do my job, not on my ability to keep outdated paperwork around.

So I went to a different shelter, staffed by sane people enforcing reasonable standards. And now I have two cats who are, naturally, named after characters in my favorite book. I am, however, still waiting for someone to offer me a million dollars.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I have a computer in my office; does that make it a cyber-office?

The headmaster of Cushing Academy issued a statement about the "transformation" of their library to electronic access (and, if you recall, awesome cappuccino). Actually, this came out a while ago, but this is not what one would consider a "breaking news" blog.

Anyway, you can read what he has to say here: Library Update from Headmaster Tracy

I would like to address a few points from this section in particular:
At the same time, we are adding to the staff of librarians and transforming the library into a dynamic, interactive learning center that includes monitors that provide students with real-time interactive data and news feeds from around the world, state-of-the-art computers with high-definition screens for research and reading, a larger and more centralized circulation desk, quiet cyber-carrels, open classroom space, a faculty lounge, and a cyber-café in a convivial setting for formal and informal student and teacher interaction.

1) I am "transforming [my] library into a dynamic, interactive learning center", and it has nothing to do with the format in which I make information available. Though my collection is already smaller than Cushing's; maybe those extra books get in the way of the dynamism.

2) I'm having a hard time envisioning "monitors that provide students with real-time interactive data and news feeds from around the world" as anything other than a bank of TVs tuned to CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and maybe the Food Channel.

3) "state-of-the-art computers with high-definition screens for research and reading" read: kick-ass monitors

4) "a larger and more centralized circulation desk": I am pro-centralization of the circulation desk. As for the size. . . as long as it's big enough to get the job done, larger does not necessarily mean better. I'm just sayin'.

5) What the hell is a cyber-carrel? Is it a study carrel where you can use your laptop? If so, how is that substantively different from any other kind of carrel? And isn't "cyber" as a prefix sort of dated? Shouldn't it be Carrel 2.0?

I am not a fanatic when it comes to books; I don't believe that individual books are sacred. I do think the knowledge and the wisdom found in books is sacred, and it makes no difference to me if that information is displayed on printed paper or a computer screen. But as someone who spends a fair amount of time trying to provide electronic access to books, I know better than most that all books are not available in electronic format--particularly older titles and books used for class study--and the ones available in e-text are not necessarily accessible for LD students (it's distinctly possible that Cushing is not concerned about the LD accessibility issue. But they should be).

E-text is where we are, almost inevitably, headed. And in terms of the possibilities for making information universally accessible, I think this is a good thing. But we are not there yet. I think of the print/e-text issue--as I do with so many things--as a Venn diagram, with print being one circle and e-text being the other. The area of overlap keeps getting bigger and bigger, but it is not one circle yet. And until it is, I fail to understand why increasing access to electronic text means it's necessary to decrease the number of print books.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Certain levels of formality must be maintained

This was alumni weekend at school, and several recent grads were on campus. I ran into one (a student I'd always had a good rapport with) in the parking lot last night and the following conversation ensued:

Him: Hey, guess what I can say to you now?
Me: What?
Him: Shit. Douchebag. Penis.
Me: I figured you were just going to call me by my first name.
Him: No way, I couldn't do that. That'd just be weird.

Friday, October 2, 2009

National Information Literacy Awareness Month

I just discovered that October is, apparently, National Information Literacy Awareness Month. I read about 8 bajillion library blogs, and yet had no idea this was happening. Which is, I suppose, not a particularly auspicious beginning for National Information Literacy Awareness Month.

Reference Question of the Day

"Hey, I was just wondering, what's new with punctuation and grammar these days?"