Come on baby, Don’t fear the (librarian)

I was just going to shut down this so-called blog, since I definitely failed at trying to blog once a week. (My last post was in January – ouch!)

But something today has made me sad and frightened for today’s college students, and I need to write about it.

My younger sister, a 20-year-old college student, headed into her senior year of school, admitted to me that she has never gone to the library at her university to “actually get a book.” What’s worse is that she is AFRAID to ask the librarian for help, so I have been guiding her through her university library (which I have never been in) through emails and tweets.

Now, she is shy, but what about librarians makes us unapproachable? We are here to help, we WANT to help. That’s why we are librarians. (That’s why I’m a librarian, anyway.)

If college students fear approaching librarians, what can we do? I don’t know that I have the answer. I know there is a lot of talk of “roving librarians” in the stacks, but I don’t think this is really feasible in today’s environment.

At PLA in Philadelphia back in March, I attended as session called “Revitalizing Reference”. One librarian reported that their library made their reference desk more visible – moved it out into the open, removed phone/email/chat duties, and saw a 39% increase in transactions. Wow! Simply by making the librarian seem ready and open for questions, they came. When a library user sees someone sitting behind a desk staring at a computer, they are more reluctant to approach that person. Nobody wants to be a bother.

Here’s the other problem – she has never actually used the library, and she is entering her forth year there. HOW is she writing effective research papers? I don’t even want to think about it.

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Focus on the story

I recently saw a public library’s slogan on twitter. It said something to the effect of “Forget Google, come to us!” I totally understand the sentiment they are trying to convey…the thing every librarian feels, pretty much. Librarians are more reliable. We provide the human touch. We return the right answer, not millions of hits!

But let’s get serious – no one is going to forget Google. In fact, I know librarians use Google. And those who say they don’t are probably lying.

Here is the problem at hand. When people think libraries, they think books. Is this really what we want the public to think? Books are old, they are the past, bury ‘em deep. Don’t get me wrong, I love books and love to read (paper) books. But I also think that it is time the library evolved to become more in tune with the community. Libraries are so much more than books.

This morning, I saw a post about what the Dallas public library is doing, and I got really excited.  A new branch will have artist space, and they have not only employment help, but a small business center. I love this quote from the interim director, Corinne Hill: “My vision is for people to come into DPL and whomever they encounter can help with whatever they need.” This is what I’m talking about!

How do we bring in the digital, wired community who looks beyond physical books and information? Fun events. Learning. Collaborating. Libraries are partnering with fitness centers, art galleries, musicians. The possibilities are endless! The library should be an awesome place for people of all ages to hang out, not just a place to pick up a book.

I’m not saying forget about books. I’m saying let’s focus on the story, not just the book.

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2012 Resolutions

As promised, I’m looking forward into 2012. My 2011 had many ups and downs, and now that I’m back on my feet (see previous post), I’m ready to immerse myself in the library world again.

Without further ado, I bring you my 2012 Library-World Resolutions.

1. Write more, blog more. I love writing, and have always loved writing. I was the weird one in college who enjoyed writing research papers. That meant more time in the library! But lately, I haven’t been writing so much. Blogging gives me an opportunity to hone the craft and express my thoughts and ideas. I resolve to blog much more in 2012 than I did in 2011.

2. Find a permanent, full-time library position. I love my current job. I work at a university library part-time as an assistant on a grant project.  It’s flexible, I’m helping people achieve their goals…but, it’s a part-time assistant position that I have somewhat outgrown. I love the library, the people I work with, but I want a full-time position that utilizes my skills now that I have MLS.

3. Build confidence. I don’t know if this comes from being the fourth out of five kids, or just that I am me, but I  sometimes lack confidence in myself. I think this can make me timid at times. I do have the skills, passion and desire to be a librarian, I just need to show that confidence to the world!

4. Network. Networking is essential, especially in libraries. I am thrilled that I will be attending the PLA conference in March in Philadelphia, and I will be making the most of the experience. I also love this idea from Joe Hardenbrook, or Mr. Library Dude: Library field trips! It’s a mini-conference and networking session, all while checking out another library. What librarian doesn’t love to visit a new library??

My resolutions are all very me-centric, hopefully next year my resolutions will be more library-centered. I’m looking forward to making some great things happen in 2o12!

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I broke my leg -OR- Where I have been the past few months

I broke my leg.

With the luck I had in 2011, I didn’t merely break my leg. I broke the crap out of it. A spiral fracture up my tibia, and my fibula was severed in two places. If you are thinking ouch! you are right. And all because I was trying to work off those few pounds I gained after my emergency appendectomy. Like I said, 2011 was not good to me.

So, that is where I have been for awhile. Laid up on my couch, neglecting my blog. You would think that with all the time I had, I could have been writing my little behind off. You would be wrong. My pain-pill addled head would work from home for about 5 hours a day, then submit to iPad-induced bliss, in the form of a highly stupid but highly addictive game, Tiny Tower. And Friends reruns start at 4 pm! Heaven.

But it’s a new year! And I’m ready to jump back in, with both feet (literally, although with a bit of a limp). I drove to work for the first time since mid-October today, and it felt GREAT! Everyone around had a case of the post-holiday Mondays, but I was all smiles and enthusiasm for actually returning to some sense of normalcy, whatever that is.

Last year, I did what a lot of library bloggers were doing – a look back on the year in the form of a “what-I-learned-this-year” post. But I have no desire to look back on 2011, I’m ready to bury it deep. So – soon, I will be posting a 2012 resolutions post, or what I want to accomplish in 2012. Here’s a big hint – more blogging is at the top of the list!

I’m back! Yay!

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Children: The saviors of printed books!

Today, I ran across a link on twitter to an article from The Atlantic: Will Children Save Printed Books? The upshot of the article (more of a blurb, really) is that kids will continue to read print rather than e-books because they do not dare do what their parents or older people do – especially since the average age of an e-reader owner is 40. (How ancient!)

This seems extremely farfetched to me. Really, books saved because kids will do ANYTHING to not be like their parents and elders? Yeah, I remember being a kid/teen, but come on!?!

However, I DO agree that children will help keep the printed book alive…but not as a way to separate themselves from their parents. I believe the printed book will endure, especially for children, because of the nature of children’s books. I have written about this before, and even now that I have a Nook Color loaded with kid’s books, I still believe children’s (print) books are not going anywhere. My son, the 2 year old book-devourer, could really care less about the books on the Nook – not even the interactive version of Go Dog, Go! No, he wants to listen to his mom or dad read to him, help turn the pages, point at things and ask what it is without the screen flicking to the next “page”. When he was younger, he loved books with movable parts and touch-and-feel aspects. Kids (and adults) love to touch, feel, even smell books, and to share that experience with others, and a tablet with a book loaded on it just is not the same thing. That is why I think print books will last.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I cannot see a total death of print, I see a mix. In my life, I read books on my Nook, read books in print, and listen to audiobooks in my car. The words are what are important, not the container.

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The Censor’s Library

“Kids are living stories every day that we wouldn’t let them read.” –Josh Westbrook

I am reminded of this quote due to the recent back-to-school book banning articles that have cropped up everywhere recently, it seems. Even my local rag ran an article about the recent banning in Missouri of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. (This is not my paper’s story, but read about it here.)

Now, I haven’t read Twenty Boy Summer, but you can bet it is now on my “to-read” list – and the “to-read” list of teens everywhere. As I write this, I came across another censoring incident, this one in New Jersey. Yes, you can add one more book to my “to-read” list: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.

This entire book banning nonsense got me thinking—what would the library look like if censors got their way all the time? According to ALA’s list of Frequently Challenged Books for the past decade, children would be deprived of Harry Potter, The Giver, Bridge to Terabithia, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, among many, many, many other wonderful books. Not to mention all the challenges that go unreported. ALA only collects information about book challenges from newspapers and personal submissions, I’m sure there are many more out there that we haven’t heard about.

In the recent New Jersey story, a parent is quoted, saying that Norwegian Wood is not relevant for any teenager, due to a lesbian sex scene. Wesley Scroggins, leading the charge in Missouri, challenged the books in question because they “teach principles contrary to the bible.” But the one quote that gets me the most is by Peter Sprigg, with the Family Research Council (an organization that advances “faith, family and freedom in public policy and public opinion”), who says “Here we see the intersection of parental values being offended, the hyper-sexualization of our youth and the homosexual agenda being pushed. This just illustrates why a lot of American parents are not willing to entrust their children to the public schools anymore.”

What?!? Read that again, let it sink in.

So, let us visualize what censors would like to the library (public or school) to be:

  • There would be no health books that have anything to do with reproductive health, sex, or reproduction.
  • Absolutely no fantasy.
  • Probably no history books.
  • No books that even hint at homosexuality.
  • No books containing any sort of sexual expression.
  • But I bet there would be bibles.

Maybe I’m being harsh, but children are not islands unto themselves. They are living in the real world, with real problems and in real neighborhoods. Books allow children an escape, a chance to empathize, a chance to relate, an opportunity to understand. By banning, censoring, or removing books, we are not doing our children any favors.

I love Josh Westbrook’s quote, because it is so succinct and sums up how I feel about censoring books. Kids are not stupid. They are well aware of what goes on in the world, and are living much of it.

And I really do want to know what books people like Scroggins and Sprigg want America’s children reading, instead of what they definitely do NOT want them to read.

What do you think the censor’s library would look like? Please share your thoughts!

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Reflections on attaining an online MLS

Two and a half years ago, I began my journey toward my Master of Science in Library Science degree. With no library experience under my belt, I was a bit nervous, but I was sure that this was the right path for me. I had hesitated in the past to go back to school because I did not want to move or have to drive an insane amount. When I found out that the University of Kentucky had an online degree program, I was sold.

But I often wondered, for someone as social and hands on as I am, would online classes be right for me? After graduating on May 8, I can look back and see what I liked, what was hard, what I learned, and gain a bit of perspective on the whole experience.

Why it was great:

  • I’m a mother: When I started my course work way back in January 2009, I had recently found out that I was expecting my first child. Not a problem, I could work through it. The online courses turned out to be perfect for a mother. I rarely had to be somewhere at a certain time, I didn’t have to be sure someone would be around to watch my son so I could go to class, and when I had not slept or showered, I could still complete my course work. Win!
  • I work: I was employed full time when I started classes, and after the birth of my son, when to work part time (this time in a library – yay!). Working and going to school can be tough – but with the flexibility of online classes, it was much easier.
  • It was not easy: Sometimes people have the idea that just because the course work is online, it will be a breeze. Not true! I put a lot of time and effort into my course work, and there were times I wanted to pull my hair out with frustration (government documents, anyone?). If you go into online classes with the idea that they will be much easier, think again. I know that through all the blood, sweat and tears I put in, I really earned my Masters.

What was tough:

  • Connections: Sometimes, I really missed the relationships that you build in school with professors and other students. I didn’t have anyone to really discuss what I was learning with, except for my husband, who could usually care less. Even graduating was a little weird – I barely spent time on campus, so when I walked in the graduation ceremony, I felt a bit disconnected.
  • Time management: Online courses are great for their flexibility, but can also be hard for the same reason. It is so easy to blow off readings or listening to lectures, especially when there is something more interesting to do. And there is always the temptation of getting on Facebook or Twitter when you are supposed to be doing schoolwork.
  • Family Life: With any masters program, online or not, there will be sacrifices. When my son was an infant and slept a lot, it was easy to find time to focus on school. As he got bigger, and more mobile, it was hard. I often felt like I was neglecting my husband, and of course my house was always a big mess. But it was worth the payoff.

Lessons learned:

  • Always save in two places: A week before I gave birth I had a major melt down – I thought I had lost my entire summer project, hours of work!
  • Dedicate time to school: Life can get in the way, but when you actually schedule the schoolwork in your day, it’s more likely to get done.
  • Stay on top of due dates: I almost missed turning in an essay exam, simply because I did not keep a date book with what was due when that semester. This is imperative, and with online courses, work is often due at a specific time, for instance, at 9 am on a certain day. Be sure to note those times!
  • Keep in contact with your advisor: In the online learning world, it is easy to avoid any contact with school staff. Be sure you contact your advisor to make sure you are on the right path – you don’t want to discover that really hard class you slaved over counts for nothing.
  • Self-Discipline: Many times, it feels as though you are almost teaching yourself, and in a sense, you are. You don’t have a professor that knows you (in person) and can push you when you start to slack off. You don’t have hours dedicated to being in a classroom. You have to be sure that you are spending the appropriate time necessary…no one else will do it for you.

I don’t think that online learning is right for everyone, but it worked for me. I had more motivation to go to school, and since I was paying for it myself, I had even more drive to do well. You have to be disciplined and a self-starter. If you are not someone who can push themselves or often slacks off, really consider if it would be worth it for you to take online courses. You may just be throwing your money away, which I have seen happen. All the hard work paid off for me – I can proudly say I earned my MLS, and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. I am eager to get my library career off the ground!

Have you earned your Masters degree online? What did you like about it, hate about it, or learn in the process? Please, add your comments!

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