Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Life Related’ Category

Why do this?

Posted by lpearle on 14 August 2014

Sadly, I succumbed to the Lure of Summer Vacation (June? well, I’ve had a stressful year so I deserve some time off… July? 31 days to get things done in, right?… OMG it’s AUGUST!!  how can I possibly get everything done).  So as I’ve scrambled to Get Things Done I’ve also had time to think about why I do things both professionally and personally, and why I blog about some of it and review books publicly and submit items to school bulletins (my alma mater, my previous places of work, whatever) and post on Facebook or Twitter.  In other words, why have a public life?  Why not just do things for the sake of doing them?

Because, honestly, what does it matter? This blog doesn’t have huge readership or generate many comments or links.  I’m not going to be an L&J Mover or Shaker, and the time is long past for me to Emerge as a Leader. As I’ve pondered this, I’ve been remembering a guy I knew years ago, a coworker:

I spent a few months working for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, mostly working on the close-out of the restoration of Ellis Island.  Because it was a joint venture between the Foundation and the National Park Service, there was a ton of paperwork and part of the close-out was to ensure that the paperwork got filed and archived in the right places (including at the architects/contractors).  So I got to know the mailroom guy rather well.  He was interesting… and I mean that euphemistically.  For one thing, he was a huge sports fan.  And by fan, I mean FAN.  On the walls of the mailroom he would post the ticket stubs (with final score) for all the games (or matches) he’d attended during the season, removing them when the next year rolled around.  His sports? Baseball… hockey… NCAA basketball… NBA basketball… there may have been one or two more, but I don’t remember exactly.  He’d drive to the games, and if they were far enough away – say, Baltimore or Chicago – he’d sleep in his car either before or after the game (sometimes both) and then drive home.

One day he told me about his ex-fiance.  I forget how they’d met, but after a while they took a vacation in Florida.  The day they’d arrived was a semifinal (I think) for that year’s NCAA basketball tournament and he wanted to stay in the hotel room and listen to the game (this was pre-March Madness and hundreds of channels on tv; when he told me this story, it was pre-my having cable in NYC!) and – he didn’t understand it, even at this remove – she didn’t and was a little (ok, a lot) cranky about his wanting to do so.  They broke up and years later his college basketball team defeated her college basketball team in the NCAA finals.  He was convinced that she hadn’t contacted him because she was embarrassed by the loss.  It came as a shock to him when I mentioned that it was far more likely that she wasn’t even aware of this crushing blow, given that she didn’t pay attention to the tournament when they were together and probably still didn’t

So, why the digression?

This story is a reminder to me that what’s important to me is probably completely off someone else’s radar.  I can’t blog… or create a wonderful program… or win a trivia quiz… because I want someone else to notice.  Malcolm Gladwell talks about destroying a great friendship, a college friend whose approval he wanted – one wonders if even now he doesn’t hope that what he’s done since then hasn’t impressed his former friend.  A YA author I know was so impressed/in awe of a high school classmate (with whom she, and the school, had lost all contact) that she wrote a book with a character based on, and similarly named, this friend in hopes she’d reach out. We all have those people (a former friend or classmate, a distant family member, a former teacher) who we want to impress, whose approval we desire because – for what ever reason – they didn’t think highly of us or notice us before. Or, even worse, someone who denigrated or bullied or shamed you because, well, who cares why “because” decades later.  It still rankles, right?  However,  the reality is, they’re probably not paying attention, they’re getting on with their life.  The bullies, haters, people we put on a pedestal – they’ve moved beyond middle and high school and are getting on with their lives, not checking Google (or the alumni bulletin/local paper) for our doings.

It’s a difficult lesson to learn, that we need to do things for us and us only not for those icons whose notice we crave.  This isn’t a speech I can easily give to my students, but it’s important for them to learn this now, as they’re starting out, rather than suffer a life of unfulfillment because that person doesn’t call, writer, text (or whatever form of communication we have in the future) to say, “You’re amazing!”  We have to believe it ourselves, and do things because of us, not them.

It’s taken me years, but I’m there.  And so when I blog, or update, it’s without regard for others approval, it’s a record for me – so I can see that I’m progressing and improving my practice.  And if others care, well, that’s nice, too.

Posted in Life Related, Musings | Leave a Comment »

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…

Computers

 

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 »

 
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