Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

  • Tag This!

  • January 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Dec    
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  
  • Prior Posts

  • Copyright

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 23 January 2017

I’ve been busy planning for ALAMW and the YMAs – while I usually avoid the crowds, this year I need to be there as part of my Alex Award committee work.  So here’s a little something to think about and explore while I finish the 2017 award work (feel free to get ready for the Big Reveal!).

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Ego, checked

Posted by lpearle on 17 January 2017

31 years ago, We Are the World was released as a response to both Band-Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas and the Ethiopian famine.  One of the stories about that recording session was that artists were told to “check their egos at the door” (to ensure that, the solos were recorded after the chorus).

Ten years later, I sat in a class discussing collection development and got (in different words) the same message:  the collection I would be creating, or helping to create, was not mine, it was the institution’s and the community’s.   A strong collection development policy needed to be in place, one that covered acquisitions and weeding.  Without one, accusations of bias could arise and challenges could be made.

It’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart.  If you were to come to my house, you would see my carefully curated collection, one that reflects my personal tastes and interests.  Entire genres are missing.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, only one city’s sports teams are mentioned.  And while it can be fun to play “guess Laura’s college major”, there are gaps – big ones – in the non-fiction section.  I feel free to remove entire swaths (cozy mystery series and a certain eight volume set about a boy wizard with the initials H.P., I’m looking at you!).

But that’s at home.  At work, my responsibility is to what might interest students and faculty when reading for pleasure, no matter how much I might dislike the genre or author.  It’s to supporting and enhancing the curriculum, whether or not I care about the subject. And it’s to adhere to the collection development policy guidelines already set out.  In 20 years, there have been two challenges – both settled with a degree of sensitivity on all sides.  A friend, semi-seriously, suggested that I was censoring when I refused to purchase Madonna’s Sex for my 4-12 school (I’d previously weeded Total Woman – WTH was that doing on our shelves to begin with???); I responded by saying that a $50.00 book that fell apart after one read was not an effective use of my budget, no matter what the content.

So, why all the lead up?  Because within the past few weeks, two issues have arisen outside work that may affect our curriculum.

Issue One: The book deal that Simon & Schuster made.

Issue Two: The incoming president and any books about his presidency and history. (no link because it was a query on a closed elist)

What to do, at my library, about both?  My school is committed to diversity and inclusion.  As a librarian, I have to support that by providing books that might not agree with my personal political beliefs.  I can’t assume that everyone agrees with me (here, here and here for more).  A number of years ago, I had a colleague who would, on dress down days, wear a t-shirt that read “Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot” – this in a school with students who were conservatives, Republicans and even included some relatives of the then-current president.  Years earlier, another colleague said, in a faculty meeting, that she really liked two students, but they were… you know… Republicans. Which apparently made reading their English papers and fairly grading them difficult.  To be honest, I’m embarrassed that nothing was done about either.

Back to the books.

Over the years, I’ve tried to not purchase quickie books about current events and popular figures.  During the seemingly endless 2016 campaign season, we did purchase as many of the candidates’ books as possible, on the premise that knowing what they believed (in as much as they put that into the book) was important for potential voters.  Only one of those books, The Art of the Deal, is still on our shelves.  Should any of those candidates run in 2020, they’ll either write an entirely new book or update the old, so no need to retain it.  Beyond that one book, however, I doubt we’ll be purchasing anything about President Trump until at least 2020 and even then I’ll be looking for perspective, analysis and a relatively neutral tone (memoirs and autobiographies are a different matter, for obvious reasons).

As for the S&S book, it’s not the type of book that we would purchase no matter the author.  There are many similar books that aren’t on the shelves.  We’re a school library serving grades 6-12 and students might hear about these books from parents, but they can get them from the public library.  Faculty can do the same.  As the wonderful Barbara Fister says,

For librarians, it’s a case study in how to interpret what we value and how we enact those values in practice. It’s not all that difficult a dilemma for academic librarians; we can buy a copy and assume people will accept that it’s okay to spend a few bucks on a book that will serve as a primary source for understanding trolls; even if what the troll says is offensive, it’s documentation of our contemporary culture. Books are rarely challenged in academic libraries, but in public libraries, it’s another story. If there’s a demand for a book, they may buy dozens of copies to avoid having hold lists running into the hundreds, so we’re talking about more than a few bucks. We’re also talking about money that, once spent, can’t be used to make the library shelves more diverse, less dominated by the latest celebrity thing. People have a tendency to think that if a public library buys a book, they endorse what it has to say. And everyone feels they have a say in how their local tax dollars are spent. It’s a real dilemma, if possibly short-lived. Books like this tend to end up in the book sale bin when interest wanes, as it will.

We don’t teach political science.  My history teachers are lucky if they can get the US History class into the 1980s (none, to my knowledge, have managed to get to this century).  We’ve got time before we have to purchase books on the 45th President – we barely have anything on the 44th!

So, my advice?  Remember it’s not about you and your personal preferences.  Support diversity and inclusion for conservative points of view as well as liberal. Adhere to your collection development policy regarding rigor and purpose.  Relax.

Posted in Collection Development, Ethics | 1 Comment »

Not paperless – paperMORE

Posted by lpearle on 8 January 2017

I’ve been hearing about the “paperless” office (and, by extension, paperless school) for nearly 40 years. Doug even talks about it in his recent The Next Big Thing(s) post.

To which I say, HA!

Here’s the reality: we’re using more paper.  Vast quantities of more.

Example?  Teachers are encouraged to create a syllabus and post it online (in addition to adding assignments to the LMS, but that presents problems for those trying to plan forward as those only go assignment by assignment without providing an overview).  So, they post it as a .doc or .pdf, or include it in a class online folder.  So far, so good.  But… many students want to see it in paper, or to add teacher comments about assignments.  So they print it out.  Then they lose that copy.  Solution?  Print another copy.  Etc..

Example? Teachers find an article, essay, short story or something similar and (as with the syllabus) post it online so students can read it for class discussion.  Guess what?  Yep.  Multiple printings.

We have a print management system at Milton.  And it works… sort of.  The problem comes when the student doesn’t see the document in their print queue immediately, assumes it never got there (there’s a delay, sometimes of about five minutes) and sends it again.  Rather than deleting the duplicate, they Print All.  Or it takes forever to actually download and print, so they leave and print elsewhere (we had a 100+ page document print that way).

At my last school, students would send a document to print and when it didn’t, send again.  All too frequently, the printer had run out of paper.

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was in school, we got one copy.  One.  And we took care not to lose it because there was no way to get another one (copiers were scarce, so often it meant hand copying the original).  I suspect that if you looked at school paper budgets over time – even the past decade, as more schools have gone to laptop or tablets for everyone – you’ll see an increase.

The reality is that students don’t want to read on their screen (for longer pieces) or it’s cumbersome to access the document/information.  Teachers, encouraged by their schools, post more and more because, hey, it’s online and they’re not printing.  But that just moves the cost of paper and tone and time onto families and students.

I’m not recommending a return to those Dark Ages.  But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we’ll ever be paperless in the way Doug means – paperLESS would be nice,  PaperSAME perhaps achievable.

Posted in Rants, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 3 January 2017

Wow.  It’s been a year since I did one of these!  I’ve been squirreling away links and things to share, and using Schoology at work to share them with my team.  Now, here’s some sharing with you…

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Etcetera

  • Thought-provoking post about deciding if traveling for PD has a good ROI.  Networking isn’t covered, but should have been.
  • This is the second school I’ve worked at that touts the presence of Harkness tables, yet no one has been trained in the method.  I suspect that many schools are in the same position.  So here is one way “to Harkness” (hint: it’s not about the table!!)
  • Why streaming music (I may be one of the few who refuses to) is going to harm music creation.

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

My year in reading

Posted by lpearle on 31 December 2016

challenge

As you’ve read in previous posts, I’m on the 2017 Alex Award committee.  Any adult book published in 2016 is eligible, and YALSA’s policy is that we (the committee) can’t publicly talk about what we’re reading .  But because I work in a MS/US school library I have to keep up with what’s going on in YA, and because there are genres and topics I’m not thrilled with, I have to have “comfort” reads.  So, being practical, I thought I’d get through about 75 non-Alex books… then perhaps 100 would be ok… and finally, 125 was my challenge goal.  Reader, I surpassed it.  Per Goodreads, here’s what my year looked like:

reading2016

My “Alex eligible” reading reached 214, for a total of 345 books read in 2016.  Not my best (that was 399) but not bad either.  And while I can’t talk about the Alex books, I can tell you that between non-eligible (books published pre-2016, or those for children and young adults) my requests, committee nominations and personal “I really want to read that, whether or not there’s teen appeal” the genre breakdown was:

  • Biography/Memoir – 26
  • Children’s / Young Adult – 124
  • Fiction / Literature – 76
  • Horror – 7
  • Humor – 7
  • Mystery – 29
  • Non-Fiction – 32
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy/Speculative Fiction – 31
  • Suspense – 13

I’m on the 2018 Alex Award committee, so the same rules will apply.  I’m wondering if I’ll read as many next year, either on my own or for the award.  Stay tuned!

 

(oh, and if you’re wondering about what happened to the books, many were donated to my school, my friends and a local charity shop – lucky them)

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Existential Angst, part two

Posted by lpearle on 14 December 2016

Sometimes, life isn’t fair.  Things this year have been going so well: the new library staff has become an amazingly tight team, teachers from math and science(!!) are coming to us for help teaching citations and working on projects, the changes to our physical plant and collection have been well-received.  And we made two great videos:

and

Reason to celebrate, right?

Life’s funny. Because, no celebration. Last Sunday, I woke up with blurred vision in my left eye. It was worse Monday. My usually wonderful 20/15 (with corrective lenses) vision was 20/50 in one eye. Two days later, it wasn’t even measurable. The good news – the only good news – is that I’m not going blind and that this should clear up… sometime. The bad news is that only 50% of the time is optical neuritis idiopathic. The other 50%? Serious. Very serious. And I don’t know which it is.

I can still read. Watch tv. I’m even driving during the day. But to me, reading is my life. It’s my supertalent. And even though I can read, it’s difficult when all you have is one eye to go one (the left is regaining peripheral vision, but s.l.o.w.l.y.). So who am I if I can’t ever regain my eyesight?

I’ve never been one to identify completely with my profession. Come retirement time, buh-bye. Unlike many others I know (and a current problem with the Democratic leadership, where average age is 70+ and the entire group have been leading for 20+ years, completely losing a generation of leaders in the process, much like AASL) I’m not convinced school librarianship will fall apart without me. Others can lead.

But here I am, 10-15 years from that time, wondering what’s going to happen. And dreading it.

Posted in Life Related | 1 Comment »

Existential Angst, part one

Posted by lpearle on 12 December 2016

For years librarians have planned lessons around digital literacy, hoping to teach students how to evaluate resources they find online.  We share sites like Facts About Dioxygen Monoxide, All About Explorers and the Tree Octopus (and my personal fave, The Pomegranate Phone). We caution them that just because it’s online, or in a database, they need to use the CRAP test before using the information for research.  And they get pretty good at that stuff.

But then, this past election.  All that training, all those lessons – gone.  Vanished. Ignored. And not just by our students.

Far too often professional friends passed along articles from organizations that appear on this now-infamous list of fake news organizations.  Why? Because confirmation bias.  Because echo chamber. Because it’s so easy to click and share, not check sources.

Last week they showed Screenagers to our Middle School, and we created a Resource Guide on Digital Citizenship. But how frequently do those parents, so concerned about the digital lives of their children also pass along these types of stories?  The ones where [someone] destroys [rival]? The ones where candidates, past and present, allow surrogates to smear and spread semi-truths? The ones with easy-to-agree-with memes or “share if you agree” links?

Several times I recommended that these professional librarians check their source (ditto personal friends, many of whom read a headline and ignore the actual content – clickbait at its worst). Some did, some argued.  But what gives me angst is how we can consider ourselves “experts” when we are guilty of just the same things we try to impress on students are “don’t dos”?

If you’ve done this sort of sharing over the past few months, how are you planning to change?  or aren’t you?  And if not, why not?

Posted in Ethics, Musings | 1 Comment »

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 »