Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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More from the mailbox

Posted by lpearle on 28 November 2016

Part of reenergizing the program at work has included purchasing the LibGuides platform to create what we’re calling Resource Guides (it’s the Kleenex/tissue issue – who knows if we’ll stay with the same platform, so why confuse students with a brand name?).  This is the third school I’ve used these guides in, and they’re an amazing way to collect resources and guide students to them, as well as teaching them how to do research.  The usual sequence is: teacher approaches us with a topic, we create the guide, we meet with the class, and then we forget about it until the next year or next time the project is done.  So imagine my surprise when I found this in our mailbox the other week:

Crucible thankyou

Here’s a guide I whipped up in a few moments, presented and hadn’t thought about in several months that has had an impact on someone completely unrelated to our school!  I’m… pleased.  Stunned.  Thrilled.

Here’s proof that what we do matters in ways we don’t always anticipate or see. And proof that adhering to our mantra of sharing resources (via ILL, online, etc.) is one that serves us well.

So here’s what puzzles me: why do school libraries keep their resources hidden?  Why aren’t all school libraries easily findable on the school’s homepage?  If you’re using the LibGuides platform, why aren’t your guides public (there are ways to hide database passwords and login information that still make the rest of the guide public)?  It’s such a surprise to me when I look for a friend’s website, attempt to search a catalog or try to see what databases a peer school has and I can’t find more than a publicity page created by the communications people.  It saddens me that all that’s available to the public is a few facts, maybe a photo.  Allowing others to see what’s going on and what you have is such a help to those of us looking to find books on a topic that work for a certain education level (“will this work with our 7th grade?”) or ways to present information for a research project.  And it’s free pr for your school and its program.

We’re considering a third revamp of our website in two years, asking students for input on usability and comparing our page to peer schools and colleges.  Are we using similar language? What’s important to share, and what can be hidden? One thing we know for sure is that links to our Resource Guides, our catalog and our databases will be available (we use EZProxy, so you can’t access our database content without being a member of our community).  We want to share that with anyone looking because we know how important that can be.

And if anyone asks why, that email is response enough.

Posted in Collection Development, Musings, Rants, School Libraries, Student stuff, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

Thankful for the little things

Posted by lpearle on 23 November 2016

One of the things I heard – loud and clear – when I was interviewing at Milton was that the library needed to change.  It needed to be more the heart of the school, more comfortable for students and teachers.  It’s one of those concrete-and-glass late 60s/early 70s brutalist buildings, no “curb appeal” as all those HGTV shows say.  Inside, I found a wonderful 20th century library and library program – and in 2015 that’s not a great thing, right?  So my staff and I went to work, upping the digital offerings, removing the microfilm/fiche collection, weeding the overgrown collection so that the incredible useful resources we have shine through.  Then I had to hire new staff, one of whom has the charge of energizing our Middle School program and getting involved with the daily life of that division.  And it’s working.  People are responding, perhaps slower than we’d like but still… baby steps, right?

One innovation (for Milton; I freely admit to “recycling” this idea from elsewhere) was to create two pop-up libraries, one in the MS break room and one in the US dining hall, so that busy students and faculty could easily get some vacation reading.  For two days we sat there, encouraging people to “not leave Milton without a vacation read!”.  Not as many takers as I’d hoped, but enough for us to continue this before Winter Break in a few weeks.

And then, this in our mailbox, from S, a senior:

You're awecome

*blush*

 

 

Posted in Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Who says things on the Internet aren’t forever?

Posted by lpearle on 13 November 2016

http://serials.infomotions.com/acqnet/text/acqnet-v6n033.txt

Untitled via kwout

See that date?  Twenty years ago today I wrote that e-mail to a supposedly private list (ACQ-WEB, if you’re interested) as part of my MLS internship.  Who knew it’d become public and still “out there” today?

Beware what ye post, kiddies… beware what ye post.

Posted in Privacy | Leave a Comment »

Is it October already?

Posted by lpearle on 2 October 2016

My acedia has returned, I think.  Or maybe I’m still exhausted from the summer work.  Or my EBV is acting up.  Whatever.  Anyway, saw this on  Quo Vadis’ Writing Wednesday and decided to use some of it as an opportunity get caught up.

1: What are your goals this month? What actions do you need to take to work your goals?  Trying to stay organized (ok, ok,  get organized), being less aggressive with my Never Ending To Do List, catching up with friends, and keeping on top of both Alex reading and other reading.  The actions are pretty self-explanatory.

2:  What are you excited about in the coming month? We have two long weekends this month!  During the first, I’m heading to a friend’s house and hanging with some friends from high school; during the second, I’m reading reading reading.  Both will be very necessary to accomplishing my month’s goals, beyond being necessary to my mental health.

4: Close your eyes and imagine your ideal ending for this year. What have you accomplished? Where are you? What were the best things you did this year?  This summer’s weeding and rethinking the space and program were probably my biggest accomplishments – it’s a little early to say if they were good, bad or need serious tweeking.  Hiring the right people for our two job openings has been a huge help with rethinking how the library approaches research needs and reaches out to the larger school community.  And personally, getting my life somewhat together in terms of clutter, maintaining friendships and reading for Alex all fall into “best” territory.

6: In the northern hemisphere, days are getting shorter and leaves are turning. What do you love about autumn? Crisp apples… snuggly sweaters… hot cups of tea.

19: Write a list of things that bring you joy: your family, your pet, a favorite book or movie, sitting with a hot beverage in a cozy spot, etc. Look at the list often.  See number six, and add discovering a great new author… casual conversations that lead to really great friendships… cuddling with my cats… helping a student or colleague and getting a heartfelt “thank you”… getting a spontaneous, genuine smile from a someone…

25: What is something new you learned this month? A new skill, new information, a new point of view?  Not sure it’s something new, per se, but the resources my staff and I are sharing fill me with hope regarding changing our practice.  Watching Resource Guides change and grow to better fit student needs has been great, and I love having experienced colleagues to bounce ideas off of and build great projects.

28: List 5 things you’ve been procrastinating. What steps can you take to get these things done?  Tweaking our new OPAC, updating our Resource Guides, creating a better Reader’s Advisory program, organizing our storage room, working in our archives creating finding aids.  What can I do?  Figure out a sensible plan for spending a few hours a week on each of them.

30: What good things happened this month?  Getting our new cafe tables and watching the positive reactions to them.  Despite some concern about the weeding and space reorganization, most students seems to like what we’ve done.

Posted in Life Related, Musings, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

It’s all worth it

Posted by lpearle on 2 September 2016

Years ago, at another school,at a difficult time professionally, I led a Mock Newbery group for some interested Middle School students.  The excitement (literal jumping up and down in the dining hall) when the winner was announced puzzled those not involved with the reading, but I knew these kids had had a great experience.

Flash forward to last night, when I got this message from the mother of one of the girls in the group:

MOW.jpg

What a wonderful message to start the school year: no matter how difficult it may be in the moment, ultimately, it’s all worth it.

Posted in Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

What I did on my summer “vacation”

Posted by lpearle on 29 August 2016

Wow.  I know I promised to post when life calmed a little – guess what, it didn’t.  While my position is on the teachers schedule, this summer we had a major project going on.  In the space of seven weeks, I and two recent graduates worked hard to weed books, reshelve them in a better order, move furniture and really start the process of creating a 21st century library space:

There’s still much to do, but at least the pace will be a lot slower.   I won’t promise to blog more, because that hasn’t worked in the past, instead I will promise to try to blog more.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

From the sublime to the…

Posted by lpearle on 27 June 2016

The past week I attended a workshop on Design Thinking in libraries at my alma mater, Emma Willard School (currently referred to as Hogwarts by students):

EWS Quad

And immediately after, I headed South to a city I never thought I’d visit (Orlando) for ALA’s Annual Conference, where I stayed in the Castle Hotel:

Castle Hotel

Of course, I’ll be blogging more about those two experiences (and much more) once real life has reasserted itself.

 

Posted in Conferences | Leave a Comment »

Difficult year

Posted by lpearle on 21 June 2016

I know, I know: I disappeared.  Because reasons.  One reason, one I’m still struggling with, is that there was a lot of death in my professional circles this year – and when you have to go in every day, not allowing the outside to influence how you are interacting with  students and your colleagues…

Last year I mentioned a former colleague who had passed.  His memorial was the second or third weekend of school.  A couple of weeks later, there was a memorial for  a woman I’d worked with at PCS.  Then I heard about the very unexpected death of a tech guy whom I’d never worked with but who was an integral part of the NYCIST group and a man I greatly admired for his sense of humor, sense of decency and his approach to technology. This gentle man had just retired, was on vacation with is family (including young children).

A few months later, another tech guy died.  Here was someone whose ideas were not mine, but whose passion and commitment I admired greatly (and he was a serious Red Sox/Celtics fan – always a plus for this Boston-born gal!).  Mother’s Day Weekend I read (on Facebook, of course) about the death of a beloved teacher of mine, one who helped make me who I am.  And then, last week, came news of the death of the Head of Hackley School.

As you can imagine, my heart has been very heavy this year.  There’s a lot of good to share, and starting today I’ll be with friends and mentors at the AISL Summer Institute and ALA Annual.  So stay tuned.  But while you’re waiting, tell the people in your life that you admire, that you love, who have changed you in some way how much they mean to you.  Before you can’t.

Posted in Life Related | 2 Comments »

Getting my Alex on

Posted by lpearle on 9 March 2016

In addition to getting to know a new collection and a new school’s way of doing research, I’ve been working on the 2017 Alex Award Committee.  If you’re not looking at adult reads being published in 2016, you’re missing out (trust me on this).

The charge of the Alex Award is to find books with teen appeal, something that is at times difficult for me to suss out.  As someone in her second half-century, putting myself in the mindset of a teen isn’t always easy!  There have been occasional meme-based responses to our Instagram posts and, well… luckily I have staff who are much closer to that age group and get memes.  With Alex, I’m looking for a plot that might interest them – even in non-fiction, as I learned working on the ENFYA Committee and as I’m telling our sixth graders, there can be a narrative arc! – with characters that make sense.  That doesn’t mean I’d expect them to “relate” to Hannibal Lecter, but so many teens love to read Silence of the Lambs thanks to the horror and “creep factor” that it’d probably have gotten the Alex, had it existed when the book was published.

A few weeks ago I booktalked some recently published novels by American authors to an American Lit class.  We came up with twitter “reviews” to pique their interest (eg, “Orange blossoms mean fascination. Chrysanthemums mean you’re a good friend.  More subtle than emojis, flowers speak volumes” for The Language of Flowers, a 2011 nominee)   and they were asked to choose one, read it and then present (to the class and others) on how that book mimicked or expanded on themes in the books they were reading for class.  Talking with them as they chose these books was interesting, with many excited to read something new and not being taught in class.  One or two have even asked for more by that author, or in that genre.

Our fiction collection here was not necessarily bought with teens in mind – Ferrente’s Neopolitan novels, for example – but traditionally we have had a lot of faculty who use our collection for their pleasure reading.  As I continue to read for Alex, I’m wondering about that “teen appeal” part and reflecting on some of the books I’ve read in the past, like Millay’s Sea of Tranquility, which (to my mind) had little adult appeal but was not published at a YA book and thus won the award in 2014.  It will definitely guide my purchasing for our collection in future, as we try to balance “adult appeal” with what will actually appeal to our students.  It will also be interesting to see how we can market these books to both faculty and students without one or the other feeling as though their needs are not being met.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Student stuff | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

My Kanye moment

Posted by lpearle on 29 February 2016

No, I’m not going to interrupt someone – I’m talking about this moment:

Kanye

https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/698926987281371136

Research season (part one) hit us, and once again I thought about how difficult research is for students.  As we’ve been weeding the print collection and bulking up the digital offerings, it’s been interesting to watch how students interact with what we have.  Much of their research has been what I’d call “cherry picking” research: find a fact here… find a fact there… find a quote somewhere else… repeat.  The great narrative nonfiction we have doesn’t get used to their fullest extent, in part because they (the students) don’t really have time to delve into their topics.  Of course, that hasn’t changed since I was in high school!

Over the past few years, I’ve regretted the loss of those Time-Life book sets.  Remember them?  So many of them were great resources for research, perfect for a quick read and cherry pick information, much as they do with Daily Life series.  But, sadly, T-L has ceased publishing (before completing This Fabulous Century!) and what we have is falling apart from use.

Years ago, the Marvelous Marion and I dreamed up a business idea: Sugar Daddy Press (because we’d need a sugar daddy to get things going).  We’d buy the rights to those series and create wonderful reprints, even extending them.  Example?  The Library of Art would move into other arts, giving us The World of Mozart and The World of Bronte in addition to The World of Van Gogh. We’d also take on those Jackdaws, only now they’d be online (Rosen, please get on this ASAP!).  There were so many other books that we found – and I still find – missing from our shelves, if by “missing” you mean “never published” or “out of print”.

Hence my Kanye moment.  Much as I love my job, if someone invested in Sugar Daddy Press I’d leave this one in a second to start getting things moving.  Because Research Season (part two) is about to hit.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »