Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Life Related’ Category

Words from the wise

Posted by lpearle on 21 July 2014

Posted in Life Related, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Celebrations done right

Posted by lpearle on 19 May 2014

Last weekend I had the incredible pleasure of attending the Bicentennial Celebration at Emma Willard School.  It wasn’t just the thrill of sitting in the classroom my favorite teacher used as his “home” (and where I took economics from another favored teacher), listening to a new generation of faculty and students talk about their classes, or that for the first time in over 30 years I got to see friends from the classes surrounding mine (that pesky 5-year reunion cycle).  Or the amazing  dance party – with fireworks – thrown Saturday night.

What’s difficult to do well is balance that mix of paying homage to the founder’s vision (that girls deserve the same education as boys, enabling them to transform the world), honoring the generations of alumnae (who have different memories and attitudes toward the curriculum and changes to the physical plant, traditions, etc.) and inspiring the current students.  Unsurprisingly, this weekend blended it all so well, with today’s students playing an integral part in all events, not just performing for the returning alumnae. There are things I mourned the loss of, but recognize that staying static simply to please the alumnae would do the school’s present needs a great disservice.  It says a lot about the administration and the Board that they’re able to see past the history into the future.

At the end of this month, Professional Children’s School will celebrate its centennial.  The two schools couldn’t be more different, yet I’ve been to enough PCS events to know how well they’ll blend the past and present, too.  There will be nostalgia for the past, but honoring the  students there now and the accomplishments of the alumni will predominate.

Too many schools look back at the past at these times without acknowledging the needs of the present school and students.  Winning sports teams and teachers whose careers spanned decades are recalled, without a look outside the school walls.  Alumni who have made outsized contributions to the outside world in some way are highlighted, while the more minor contributions are glossed over.  Generations aren’t blended together, with graduates from the 50s clumping together and not really interacting with graduates from the 90s or 70s.  At both EWS and PCS, that doesn’t happen.  And (IMVHO) that’s not just a credit to the schools, it’s to their benefit.

Posted in Life Related, Musings | Leave a Comment »

The end is nigh…

Posted by lpearle on 17 May 2014

Every so often I think, “you are seriously neglecting your blog!” and immediately feel guilty – all those posts I meant to do that simply don’t get posted because “they” haven’t perfected thought-to-text blogging yet.  I do have an excuse, an oldie but goodie: I’ve been incredibly busy.

Working in a boarding school brings about a special time commitment.  There are the obvious ones, like long open hours (8-5:30 M-F) and sit-down dinners.  Add in weekend duty, evening study hall supervision, plus required attendance at various events… Some weeks, it’s a 7-day workweek with days that stretch from 8am to 9:30pm.  So you can see where “busy” comes from.  Lucky for me, I don’t coach a sport! Towards the end of the year there are even more traditions taking place (all schools have them, to one degree or another), all leading to the passing of the school’s leadership to another group of students, ensuring continuity of programs and activities and Tradition and school ethos.   This is my fourth school, so I’m used to much of this, but each school requires a certain learning curve.

My goal for this first year was to take things somewhat easily, starting to create an embedded program and assessing the collection.  Well…. that didn’t exactly happen.  In addition to that, and creating opportunities for students to use the library that aren’t study related or class related, we embarked on a very ambitious project: changing from Dewey to Library of Congress.  The reality is that as a college-preparatory school, we needed to do this.  It’s also given us the opportunity to weed nearly 8,000 volumes already, with more to follow next year.

Graduation is in three weeks (well, a little less than that) and between now and then we have to finish the changeover and find the missing items (“missing” meaning “we printed a new spine label but the book’s not on the shelf… yet”), prepare the suggested summer reading Resource Guide, prepare summer book and supply orders, attend the final Convocation, year-end performances and Traditions, tidy the workroom and get things ready for the summer break.  Oh, and did I mention that the library is now handling the online book ordering site for textbooks?

I’d blog more, but I have three classes worth of bibliographies to assess and an ereader textbook to create for an English teacher.  Before Monday.

The end is truly nigh… and getting nigher.

Posted in Books, Life Related, Student stuff, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Six degrees…

Posted by lpearle on 6 March 2014

My life is incredibly crazy right now and I’ve been neglecting things like this blog – right now we’re on Spring Break at work and I’m hoping to not only catch up but get ahead!  Fingers crossed, etc..

If you ask some of my friends, they’ll tell you that I know everyone.  It’s not completely true, but I do have odd connections to people that may make it seem as though I know everyone.  And when I say “odd connections” I mean odd.  Example? My first après-college job was at the New London Barn Playhouse, a job I got in part because their Marketing Manager was an alumna of Emma Willard (my alma mater years later); I worked in the box office with Richard Lederer‘s first wife, DeeDee.  Now, I can’t claim to know him but there is a connection!

Several years ago I got an e-mail that could easily have been spam, but something told me to open it instead of automatically sending it to trash.  It was from Karen, my BFF when we were in grammar school (grades 3-7, after which she moved).  It’s been great having her back in my life!  Anyway, a few days ago she wrote to tell me that she’d been reading Grace Lin‘s The Ugly Vegetables to her second grade class and realized, from reading the biographical information, that Grace’s parents had bought Karen’s house from her parents: in  other words, Grace grew up in a house I knew very well, one easy to walk/bike to from my parent’s house, and quite possibly in Karen’s bedroom. Connection!!

I’ve hung out with Joyce Valenza on occasion and know Gwyneth Jones, and follow both on twitter.  A few months ago I saw a response to harbeckc on one of their feeds and thought, “hmmm… how many Charity Harbeck’s can there be in this world? Surely this is the one I went to school with, doing gymnastics before school and hanging out in the art room during lunch with?”  Sure enough, it was that Charity Harbeck.

So, when I posted how cool the connection between my BFF and Grace Lin was, Charity responded… which led to a fun three-way chat about former teachers and whom we might know in common.  Charity turned this into a great blog post about standardized testing, but I’m way shallower than that!  Again, it’s all about connection.

My point isn’t how wonderful I am (although I do have an Erdos number, thanks to my father, and I know someone who is good friends with Kevin Bacon, and I worked with a guy who sat on Stalin’s lap so… I am pretty wonderful) but that it’s these odd connections that weave us into a great web.  You may not be able to leverage those connections all the time, but you can sometimes.  And “leverage” doesn’t always mean “exploit”.  It more often means making even more connections, making for more interesting discussions with students or leading to deeper understanding of someone/something, making it not just dry information for them to remember and regurgitate when necessary.

What are your Six Degrees moments?

Posted in Life Related | 1 Comment »

Long time no post…

Posted by lpearle on 28 October 2013

but lots going on behind the scenes, as it were.  The move to a new town and a new school have taken up a lot of my time and energy, but I am starting to feel settled and ready to move forward (as opposed to playing catch-up, as I have been over the past two months).

So, I hear you ask (or, more accurately, I imagine I hear you asking… sometimes I hear things, you know?), “what have you been up to?”  Everything, I reply, from figuring out how to use the copy machine and where to get office supplies to getting to know the collection and the curriculum to meeting colleagues and students, with some purchasing and programming and policy-making along the way.  Let’s start with that last part first, shall we?

One might assume that in the year 2013, all school libraries – especially those in independent schools – would have published policies.  In my research for the evaluation chapter of  Independent School Libraries: Perspectives on Excellence I noted that often the accreditation agencies required policies as part of the ancillary materials submitted, but apparently if they weren’t, no one said anything.  I suspect that the school’s administration assumed policies were in place or didn’t care if there were any and just went about their business.  Until, of course, a challenge arose.  Now, I’m not necessarily talking about the “remove this book from your shelves” type of challenge, but the “have you seen what the librarians are removing from the shelves?” types of challenges from parents and faculty who don’t understand that books that are old, perhaps out-of-date in terms of information or falling apart, that have been surpasses by newer critical texts in that subject area, or where a digital version makes it easier for students to access the information really shouldn’t be on the shelves any longer.  Example?  At Hackley, we had the Bloom’s and Twayne’s books on our shelves and one teacher who assigned a short-story study.  The first student who got to the book on, for example, Salinger or Vonnegut, “won” – but with the on-line versions, all students needing that information could get it.  But I digress.  My point is, school libraries need policies in place, both to explain how the collection is developed and to protect the librarians from well-meaning others who don’t understand that a school library is not an archive, it is not a research library in need of every edition of a work, it is an ever-changing entity that needs to reflect the current interests and needs of the school community.

Much more fun has been starting to do outreach into the community, via a twitter feed (@FordLibrary), blog and updated front-end webpage (still a work-in-progress), and many, many displays:

More exciting is our participation in the Before I Die... project/book launch, which you can follow on our blog (photos are updated daily).

And then there’s the girls, and the pace of working in a boarding school.  Our days aren’t 8-4, Monday-Friday.  There’s sit-down dinner (Tuesdays, 6:20-7pm), Study Hall duty (also Tuesdays, 7:30-9:45pm), weekend duty (only eight during the year, but still!) and advising the JSA group; colleagues have breakfast meetings, advising, coaching, dorm duty and other out-of-classroom experiences.  The time we have off is precious, and for me until now, not as book-filled as I’d like.  But that will change!

And, one hopes, regular posting will resume.

Posted in Collection Development, Life Related, Musings, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Just be kind…

Posted by lpearle on 10 September 2013

We talk a lot about being kind to each other, of the need for diverse students to overcome those differences, and how important it is to lend a helping hand to those we see struggling (emotionally or academically).  But today I want to talk about being kind to yourself.

Once school starts it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the goings-on – sports events, Reunion/Homecoming, Back-to-School Parent’s Nights (or weekends), plays and dance concerts, special lecturers, etc. etc. etc.  We go home and grade papers and prepare two lessons ahead and spend our days working with students and colleagues when we’re not in meetings of one sort or another.  And the pace is relentless.

Another problem?  The change of seasons.  I go in to work wearing a sweater but by noon I’m sweating.  And who knows what it’ll be like when I go home?  Some places have already had frost!

This past weekend, after going full steam ahead for over four weeks (including weekends), I hit the wall.  Or maybe the wall hit me.  Whichever it was, my body said ENOUGH.  I had a migraine, nausea, the sweats and then chills… Did I listen to myself?  Of course not.  And me with over a decade dealing with Epstein-Barr.  You’d think I’d know better, but I had Things To Do.  People To See.  So Sunday I crashed, sleeping over 3 hours in the afternoon.  Monday the migraine was back with a vengeance.

I’ve learned my lesson.

What about you?  One friend was in a fender-bender (a very expensive fender-bender at that) as she DWD (drove while distracted) – luckily it wasn’t at speed and excepting her pocketbook and the fenders all is fine.  Another has contracted a lingering fall cold, despite it not being fall just yet.  And another is so busy that all her home time is spent sleeping, but “all” equals a mere couple of hours a night.  Let’s stop the madness.

Over the past month the phrase “lean-in” has been used a number of times.  That needs to stop.  Don’t get me wrong: we need to have strong, empowered women and girls who aren’t afraid to speak up, to participate and to change things.  I’m a product of an all-girls school and I’m working at one.  But along with “leaning in” seems to be the “having it all” mentality and that’s never going to happen.  “Having it all” should really be “having some” because something will have to give.   No one can really have it all – usually they outsource some (cleaning, chauffeuring, nannying, erranding, etc.).  And if you don’t have the money to outsource, you know what’s going to give?  That’s right, your health.

Let’s stop the pretense that we can do it all and have it all.  Let’s teach girls that making intelligent choices about what they’re doing and where they’re going next is critical.  Let’s remember to listen to our health and our bodies.  Let’s embrace (or, if you must, lean in) to a new mantra about life:

Be kind.  Unwind.

Posted in Life Related | 2 Comments »

Getting to know you…

Posted by lpearle on 15 August 2013

Every school I’ve worked in handles new faculty differently (just as each handles the role of librarian differently – I’ve been faculty, staff, administration and something in between)., just as they handle the opening of school differently.

As my inbox fills with information pertaining to the end-of-summer/start-of-school, I’ve been wondering:

  • what orientation activities will there be? (answer – two full days, and two evening events)
  • will I get e mentor? (answer – yes, and a buddy!)
  • when will I get access to the buildings, e-mail, etc.? (answer – already got most of the access I need)
  • what additional duties will be assigned?
  • how long will it take to learn the school’s culture?
  • what makes this school different from the others? (answer – among other things, three pages of a communications style guide!)
  • when will I truly feel part of the school’s family?

And then there are the professional questions, like

  • how long before I feel the collection is in good shape?
  • what will that look like?
  • can we increase collaborative opportunities between faculty and library?
  • will there be successful integration between print and digital resources?

There are LibGuides to update, a website to maintain, tutorials/tip sheets to create, books to order and process, procedures to learn, additional programming to generate, and students and faculty to befriend and learn from.   Over the next few months, we

Posted in Life Related, School Libraries | 1 Comment »

Everything old is new again

Posted by lpearle on 1 August 2013

New digs…

Library desk



New tools…



New challenges…

  • program development
  • collection development
  • colleague development
  • advising

Stay tuned….

Posted in Life Related, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

What kind of friend are you?

Posted by lpearle on 25 July 2013

Over the past few months there have been some bad/sad things in my life – a few I’ve kept to myself, a few I’ve posted about on Facebook.  Last weekend I learned that two people I knew had died suddenly, neither of which were announced anywhere on social media.  What’s telling is how we deal with our friends when those bad, or sad, things happen.

For example, my 16-year-old cat got very ill and is now comfortably resting in a wooden box on my mantlepiece (next to another cat who died 15 years ago).  That was one of the things I posted on Facebook.  Of my 398 “friends” about 50 commented on my “wall”… another 10 either e-mailed or left me a private message… and a few did both as well as call me to say how sorry they were.  Almost daily I get a notification that it’s someone’s birthday and I’m encouraged to leave a message and give them a gift; frequently I’ll do the former but the latter?  If I’m going to give a gift, it’ll come with a personally written note.

Did you know I have pen pals?  Yes, we e-mail, but we also exchange handwritten notes – sometimes 2 or 3 a week.  I have notepaper and fountain pens and all that stuff.

The people I’m friends with on Facebook and Goodreads are all people I actually know, people I could easily write to (if I had their street address, which I don’t in many cases) or have a meal with.  I’ve never been comfortable with using either platform for the casual acquaintance/friend-of-a-friend thing, and my goal is not gain friends “just because”.  It’s something I just don’t understand about the young’uns today, and something I worry about.

Friendship shouldn’t be a contest – the one with the most isn’t going to win, they’re going to be torn in too many directions.  And being a friend is more than merely “liking” the things they say, it’s being there with a shoulder to cry on or hand to high-five (or fistbump.  whatever.)  So many books have great friendships, and perhaps that’s why few are being set in today’s world.  I see texting in books, but not the obsessive texting we hear about via Pew or newspapers.  One former student was so busy texting with her mother in between classes that she barely had friends!  Maybe my FB friends are different, but I don’t see them on all day, every day, documenting the minutiae of their lives, and I see fewer and fewer of them actively participating on FB (or Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.) as they age and grow into real life.  On the other hand, I’ve watched people text and e-mail through meals with friends, church services and other life events and wondered who raised them that they would act so inappropriately (sadly, a few of them are related to me, and I know who raised them… let’s just say my esteem for them has sunk greatly).

Perhaps I’m worrying about nothing?  Perhaps today’s kids know that being a real friend has nothing to do with social media and everything to do with actually, you know, being a friend.  But then I go out to eat and see people texting while eating and wonder, what kind of world do we live in that you’d rather be with someone electronically than being with the person in front of you?

Posted in Life Related, Musings | Leave a Comment »

Playing by the rules

Posted by lpearle on 27 June 2013

Recently, through no fault of my own, I was elected to the Board of my “condo” community (we’re not really condos, we’re a planned unit development with very limited planning, but whatever).  Last week one of the homeowners submitted plans to replace and expand her deck and one of the other Board members responded to the request with “We have rules. [former manager] has copies he’s sent out before.  Oh, and the color’s wrong.”  OUCH.

I immediately wrote back to say that this had the reek of “because we’re the mommy… that’s why” about it and that surely we could be more tactful.  Another Board member weighed in – he’s lived here since the community was built and holds the honor(?) of being the first person to move in – saying that the size was determined so that the townhouses next door had more privacy, that expanding the deck would enable that home to look into their neighbor’s home.  Perfect!  Explaining why not rather than simply saying “we have rules” is far less confrontational.

Why do I bring this up?  Because this is something that happens in libraries and professional organizations all the time.

When an organization says “we can’t”, I wonder why.  Is it in the rules?  Maybe the rules need to be changed.  Is it because they haven’t before? Maybe it’s time to try it once, see how it goes.  Look at what similar organizations are doing and see if there’s a reason why it is/isn’t going to work in your situation.  One of the biggest problems is the march of technology – very understandable that you might not have wanted to spend a lot of time and effort creating a web page back in the mid-90s, but by the late 90s it was obvious that needed to be part of your organization’s life.  Considering posting videos or podcasts?  Ok, that might be sensitive from a privacy or copyright point-of-view, but if others are doing it without problems, then perhaps you should consider it.  Etc..

Communicating the why or why not is critical to good relationships with the community.  If someone comes in and says, “[organization x] is doing this, why aren’t we?” the response can’t be “because” or “there are rules.”

Posted in Life Related, Musings, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »


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