Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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The upside (maybe) and other collection thoughts

Posted by lpearle on 21 August 2014

In my last post, I mentioned that I hate shelving.  The upside, besides nice, neat shelves with books that are findable is that it’s a great way to look at your collection, particularly if there’s a research project ongoing (inventory is another great tool, and if you’re not doing an annual inventory, shame on you!).  The collections at three of the four schools I’ve worked at have been… neglected.  There are many wonderful books on the shelves, or they would be wonderful if we were still in the 1980s (or an earlier decade).

At my last school, there were a number of books published in the late teens-early 20s of the last century.  Now, that part of the  collection should be an automatic “weed” right?  Not so fast there! The 11th grade history class was entitled “The Twentieth Century World” and the initial focus is on the Treaty of Versailles, which essentially sets up the entire political world we now inhabit, and those books? They were written by people who were at the talks, crafting the treaty.  So while in the 90s or 80s those may have seemed outdated, by the early 00s, they were primary source materials.

Weeding, it’s tricky!

I saw this tweet a while ago,

and immediately thought, “oh my! wouldn’t that be nice…” The reality is that in a school, you can’t be quite that draconian.  You can do what we’re doing, which is replacing old versions of books like poetry – books we need, but are just so old the students don’t want to use them – and really evaluating the history and social sciences selections.  We did a massive weed of the literary criticism (no longer used) and the science collection already, which dropped about 6,000 volumes from our shelves.  My guess? We’ll probably weed another 3-4,000 this year.  And we’re using Thrift Books to help ease the guilt of getting rid of some of these books.

Without doing shelving, I wouldn’t really be looking at the books that we have, comparing what’s being used for research and what’s still sitting there – too old, too decrepit or just too out-of-date.  So there is an upside… maybe.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries | 2 Comments »

A love/hate relationship

Posted by lpearle on 18 August 2014

Over the past 30 years I’ve had several “careers” (in the theatre, in finance, as an office manager or a project manager, and finally as an executive recruiter before starting the librarian gig) and worked in many different environments, from small 2-person offices to multi-branch companies.  Every job I’ve had has been filled with things I’ve loved – beyond the paycheck and other benefits – and things I’ve hated.  I’ve never had a job that’s been pure love, and sadly, I don’t expect to ever have one.

It’s one of the things I think we need to teach our students: that yes, absolutely, follow your passion.  Do what makes you go to bed at night feeling fulfilled and at peace.  But – and this is important – no job is going to be 100% of that.  There will always be “lesser” days, and lesser tasks.

What I do now, for example, is a pretty good 80-20 mix.  Sadly, the past few days have been more of that 20 because I hate filing.  I hate shelving.  I hate processing books.  I hate them hate them hate them.  There.  I said it. But they’re all so very necessary if we’re to be ready for the opening of school (and by that I’m including tomorrow’s New Faculty Orientation meetings, taking place right in my library!).  Even when I’ve had an assistant, shelving and filing have been things I’ve had to do.  Oh: keeping track of statistics, like the number of questions we get asked daily or how used the databases are.  Not as bad as filing, and miles better than shelving, but not a favorite.  Yet, like a good doobie I’ve spent time this summer updating our spreadsheets in preparation for the new year.  The stuff I love – working with students and colleagues, doing Reader’s Advisory, collaborating on projects and research – has been paused as everyone scatters for the summer.

Our academic dean is a big proponent of “flow” and working with faculty help them achieve it in their practice.  In theory, that’s great.  But in reality? I’m sure that grading papers/tests is an “unflow” moment for most of my colleagues.  Necessary, but not why they got into teaching.  Dealing with parents is probably another “unflow” moment.  I could go on, but you get the point.  And then there’s the question of the outside world interfering with the work world, for whatever reasons.  That can turn any day that should be filled with “flow” into a day you’d rather not have.

A personal goal for me for this year is to create more concentrated time for the “unflow” work, getting it done promptly rather than putting it off and getting angsty about it.  Maybe, if I’m lucky, I can get that 80-20 to 85-15.  What about you?

Posted in Musings, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

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 | 2 Comments »

I read…

Posted by lpearle on 11 August 2014

Ok, to be honest, I almost titled this post “iRead” but I don’t want to jump on any bandwagons!

So, yes, I read.  A lot.  It’s one of my few real talents – reading, reading, reading.  Since January I’ve read 180 books (well… started 180 books.  some were so bad I couldn’t finish) in a variety of genres and for a variety of audiences.  Format, on the other hand, was limited to print and ebook.  Frankly, I prefer print but for ARC/ARE books, I’ll accept (grudgingly) the e version.  When I left my last school, several friends banded together and bought me a Kindle, making it easier to get e books.  At my current school I have an iPad (there’s a 1:1 program) but I never read on that.

Here’s the thing: there’s something wonderfully immersive about a print book.  I open the book up… dive into the world the author has created (that’s true even for non-fiction books)… and woe betide any animal, human or feline, who disturbs me.  When I’m reading on my Kindle, I don’t feel as immersed.

Last year I was given a copy of the recent Brown/Haverford/Trinity/a few other schools e-book survey.  The results didn’t surprise me, but I suspect they surprised the administrators: students don’t want to go e: they prefer print for both research and pleasure reading (sorry, no link).  The Chronicle reported something similar  in 2013, and Publisher’s Weekly  and the Financial Times did the same in 2014.

And in a completely unscientific survey of 100 students at Porter’s (nearly 1/3 of the student body), the girls said the same: give us print, please.

As mentioned earlier, we have a 1:1 program, with a mandate from the administration that if a textbook is available in e format, that’s what the students should buy.  I’ve heard from some parents, and not a few students, that it works for them with math and science texts, but for their English books?  Please, can we have print?  Some are buying two versions, the e and the print, so that they can read in their preferred format and still comply with school requirements.

How has this affected our collection?  We subscribe to Credo Reference and EBSCO’s Academic E-books, giving the students a wide range of books for research.  They’re pretty heavily used, which is great because we certainly couldn’t keep that many books on hand! It’s also allowed us to remove older books from the collection, knowing that the information is covered in the online collection (and eliminating the “wow – this book might just fall apart in my hands” factor).  But in terms of the fiction collection, we’re still going strong with print.

Last [academic] year I was a panelist for a conference discussion on ebooks.  One of the other panelists uses Axis 360 at her school and has great success; part of that is because she has a co-ed population and it’s a great way to get sensitive books into the hands of readers (by “sensitive” I mean GLBTQCA* books, or books about health/emotional issues… and quite possibly “girl” books being read by boys).  If I had that population, it might work better at Porter’s.  The previous librarian subscribed to some Follett shelf books, and there are six Kindles with books loaded (we even borrowed the themed Kindle idea espoused by Courtney Lewis at Wyoming Seminary.  They’re a hard sell here!

Still, as we move forward into AY15, we’ll be thinking more about this question and trying to see what combination works best with our students.  Note: our students.  As the previous paragraph illustrates, YMMV when introducing ebooks into your collection.  Some schools just force them down students throats (Cushing Academy, I’m looking at you!) but to me, that feels wrong.  Far better is to keep taking the pulse of the students, seeing what they want and what’s out there (devices, programs, availability, etc.).

How are you dealing with this issue/conundrum?  And how do uRead?

Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries, Work Stuff | 2 Comments »

Dream Teams

Posted by lpearle on 7 August 2014

The other day I was having lunch with a librarian friend when she mentioned the name of her new Lower School Librarian (my friend is the Director of Libraries for a K-12 school) and how she now has a dream team.  Knowing the people she’s working with, I have to agree.  Another school I know also has amazing librarians in all three divisions, and consistently “grooms” interns who then go out and Do Great Things in other libraries.

Having worked in four libraries now, three as part of a team, I know how difficult it is to craft and sustain a Dream Team.  Sometimes you get one member who, for whatever reason, doesn’t buy in to the vision you (and, with luck, the school) have for the library.  Sometimes everyone is on board with the vision, but there are external issues, like transfers or parental leaves, or something similar, that break up the team.  And for some, as Wendy says, there are external reasons why people won’t apply for  jobs that could lead to a Dream Team situation.

At the moment, I’d say I’m in a Dream Partnership – since there’s only one other librarian, and no assistant, “team” seems an overreach.  What does that look like?  It’s when everyone has a similar vision, but there’s the ability to disagree, to tweak and to continually rethink that vision.  Working as a solo librarian for eight years, I know the danger of not having that other person’s feedback and input!  It’s also an excitement, an eagerness to get things going – a reluctance to just do the job, with minimal effort.  Reading or hearing about what’s going on elsewhere and having the ability to reflect on how that could work (or wouldn’t work) at “home” is critical (I’ve never understood people who go to other schools or conferences and can’t imagine changing anything they’re doing).

It’s also important – critical, really – to have administrative support.  Some schools don’t know what they really need, or want, in a library and if you have the support to make changes that will lead to a better student experience, great.  Some schools prefer to have that traditional library program, not embracing the idea of librarians as teachers and educational partners – if that’s your school, maybe that works for you and that’s great.  But if you’re interested in innovating and changing, you may need to look elsewhere (granted, that’s not always the easy route or the most available, due to economics or family).

In my case, I have both a partner who not only supports but suggests changes and an administration that is willing to let us make those changes.  Could things be better? Sure.  We could have an assistant.  We could already be where we think we should have been a few years ago and plotting moves far beyond that.  We could have an even larger budget (we are very well-funded, but it’s never enough, is it?).  But truly, it is a Dream Partnership and I’m eager to get started on Academic Year 2015 and see where we end up in June!

Posted in Musings, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Looking backward… looking forward…

Posted by lpearle on 1 August 2014

One year ago today was my first day at Miss Porter’s School.  As with any new job, there were fears and trepidations, not to mention excitement and that “here’s to a new adventure” feeling.  So what has this past year brought, and what am I looking forward to next year?

This past year has been one of transformation at the library, starting early when the other librarian and I moved out of the workroom and out into the main spaces, sitting where we could easily be seen (and, as my favorite sign says, be interrupted):

helpdesk_11x17_fin600

We moved furniture around, creating better comfortable seating spaces for students as well as moving an information desk to the 1st floor – what better way to reach students “at point of need”, as they do research, than to be right there, in the stacks with them?  I know that I wouldn’t want to go upstairs to ask a question then return back downstairs: why would a student? or a teacher?  Books were moved upstairs  as we updated the fiction collection, and some really creative displays were made (not by me but by Lulu; I don’t have a creative bone in my body).

Based on our analysis of a few systems, we decided to migrate from one OPAC to another and at the same time migrate from Dewey to Library of Congress.  Talk about a lot of work!  Not only did we have to add call numbers to about 3,000 items that couldn’t easily translate, we had to physically move every book and relabel them.  Oh, and continue to do all our other work, including help with a few research projects and papers.  Speaking of research, our model is that of the embedded librarian, not the Shh’er-in-Chief:

 

As I said to my boss (and several others) during my interview, the library won’t be there immediately, but if we’re not at least 50% there after two years, fire me.  Clearly I’m not doing my job.  Analysis at the end of a year?  We have one department’s buy-in and a few other teachers are interested.    So progress is being made!  The Research Guides have been hugely helpful, and now that Springshare has updated the LibGuides platform, they’ll help us help students and teachers even more.
There was so much “good stuff” to share this past year that our Annual Report is kind of stunning, and I was there!
Outside the shelves, this is a 1:1 iPad school and that’s been a real transition.  No one here believes that simply because there’s this powerful tool in students hands there’s no need for a librarian or a library (whew!) but learning how to use one in the most efficient way possible is still a struggle.  Which stylus should I use?  What’s the best way to collect stuff: Evernote or Pocket Informant (or both, or something else)? What about NotesPlus?  How can I use iBooks to “sell” the library?
So, on to Year Two.  To be honest, I’m a little afraid of Sophomore Slump… but we’re already starting strong.  Upgrading the Guides from v.1 to v.2, working with EZProxy to eliminate off/on-campus database access issues (and multiple logins/passwords issues), even more furniture moving around (new projection devices in the Periodicals Room and the stacks, plus more tables in the stacks for students to use with classes)!  Getting the Archives Club and the Varsity Reading Club running effectively, not to mention creating even more opportunities for “non-traditional library programming” are other challenges/opportunities.
Luckily, I’m not alone.  After one year I’ve made some good connections with my colleagues (some of whom are now friends), the other librarian and I make a great team, and the students seem to be enjoying our innovations and changes.  Stay tuned for more library goodness in the months ahead – I know I’m looking forward!

Posted in School Libraries, Student stuff, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 28 July 2014

I promise: this blog will be better attended in the coming weeks and months.  In the meantime, enjoy these links and ideas that I’ve tucked away since, oh, January…

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Stuff

  • We bought Twitterature for work, and I’m hoping that some of our English teachers take on the challenge (perhaps not Beowulf, but other books?).
  • Joyce highlighted Buncee a few months ago; maybe for tutorials or resource guides?
  • We’re going to create a writing table in the library, encouraging students to write notes and letters.  I picked up some great paper in Montreal, and these formal sets are piquing my interest (so do the ideas in the post).
  • Trying to figure out ways to introduce these Super Searcher Tips to students, since we have no real class time with them.
  • I’m sharing this article, What do College Professors Want from Incoming High School Graduates, with my faculty. And, with luck, we can do a Professional Development session using this quiz so they understand the students take on research.
  • I used an Office template for our annual report, then published to Issuu.  These look like some great alternatives.
  • Is anyone using Postach.io with Evernote? Wondering if that would be a good way to push content to the school.

Etc.

Posted in Books, Links, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Words from the wise

Posted by lpearle on 21 July 2014

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

Would you rather…

Posted by lpearle on 16 July 2014

At sit down dinner, the teacher who sits at “my” table on Thursday uses this game to keep conversation flowing.  I’ve never done that, but I have been thinking about this question for a few years now:

Would you rather be liked, or respected (professionally)?

Here’s what triggered the thoughts: a few years ago I was at a gathering of work colleagues and suggested a resource to one of them.  She mentioned that I was doing a great job reaching out to the faculty and recommending resources, doing reader’s advisory, etc. and that while they (the faculty) all liked the previous librarian, she’d never done that.  I flippantly said that I’d rather be professionally respected than liked.

Over the years, that comment has stayed with me and I’ve pondered if, in fact, I’d rather.  In my many work experiences, I’ve worked for and with people I’ve liked and respected, but it’s been few and far between that I’ve done both.  That’s particularly true for administrators, in part because it’s difficult to be in that employee/administrator dynamic and actually develop enough of a relationship to like them on a personal level; having said that, there are a number of administrators I’ve worked with that I’ve liked professionally.  There are a few that I’ve become friends with, but the respect isn’t always twinned.  At this stage in my career, I’d guess that I do command a certain amount of respect, and there are a few that like me (really like me, not just professionally like me).  Do they do both?  Hard to say.  I’d rather have both, but if I can’t have that I’m still unsure which I’d rather…

I’ve also thought about which I’d rather with respect to students.  A number of my professional friends (and I) have followed librarians who have been institutions: they’ve been at their school for decades, sometimes working with literal generations of students (my high school librarian retired after 30+ years and had both my classmates and my classmates’ daughters under her care).  Are they truly beloved, a la Mr. Chips or William Hundert, or are they simply part of the institutional fabric?  And how do you follow that person successfully, particularly if you don’t know the answer? What relationship would you rather have with the students: one of respect, or one of friendship?  Can you have both?

At the end of my first year at Porter’s, this is what I’m reflecting on personally.  Professional reflections to follow….

Posted in Musings | 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 »

 
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