Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Appreciating a teacher today

Posted by lpearle on 9 May 2018

It’s Teacher Appreciation Day, apparently, and while I think it’s great that we’re encouraged to thank the teachers who meant a lot to us when we were in school (even if we didn’t know it then, but on reflection we recognized their kindness, support or influence) I would love to think that any day is a good one to show that appreciation. As research season ended, several students thanked me for my help with their papers; I know that the other librarians have also heard that from students. A few times I’ve seen former students and they’ve told me that I helped or encouraged or influenced them in some way, all without the reminder that it was the Official Day to show/share their feelings.

That’s not to sound ungrateful! It’s just a concern that when there’s an Official Day, it makes it seem as though not saying something then is wrong, and that saying something any other time is also wrong (just as I’d much rather get random flowers and dinners just because, instead of a Valentines Day mandatory gift).

Having said that, here’s a link to my comments from October 2004 about a teacher whose influence on my has stretched over 40 years. And maybe, just because, I’ll write about some of the other teachers whose influence has lasted a lifetime (well, as much of a lifetime as I’ve had until now).


Posted in Life Related, Student stuff | 1 Comment »

My next career

Posted by lpearle on 4 May 2018

No, I’m not planning on retiring or leaving my job in the very near future, but a lunch conversation with some colleagues this week got me thinking.

We’d been doing the “what did you do this past weekend” thing, and I mentioned that last Saturday was Independent Bookstore Day – professionally obligated blah blah blah.  One person mentioned a bookstore in Chicago she particularly liked, and I said that I’d heard about (but hadn’t visited) a book bar in Denver.  Apparently I wasn’t speaking clearly, because another person heard “book barn” and when we corrected that, the conversation turned to what a book bar might be like.

For example, do you sort the books and beverages by country of origin?  Do you pair things, as in “Scotch and Rebus” or “Maigret and Merlot”? Do you give a discount if a person purchases a series and a case?  Would book recommendations come with beverage recommendations? Could you do a book-n-beer flight?  LFPL is doing a few books and brews events that might provide more inspiration.

All of which got me thinking about my next career… I like to read.  I’ve been known to imbibe.  Why not combine the two professionally?



Posted in Books, Life Related | Leave a Comment »

Tis the [research] season

Posted by lpearle on 17 April 2018

One of the things that I truly enjoy about my job is helping students do research.  It’s not just the variety of topics, it’s watching a student learn how to turn something they care about into a research paper.  Of course there’s the boring stuff, like teaching them how to cite in the proper format, but into every job a little boredom must fall, right?  And I know that the students don’t believe me, but in all my years of working with them on research, in all the papers I’ve read, I’ve always learned something.

This year has been no different.  One of our US History papers was done by a student who confessed that history wasn’t his favorite subject.  He was hoping to play D1 sports and was able to do a paper on the history of the NCAA’s rules for students and how colleges were making millions off this unpaid labor.  When I checked in with him after, he’d gotten a great grade and told me that this was one of his two favorite projects in his time at the school.  I don’t need to tell you how happy that made me!  (Because, of course, it’s all my doing, right?)

It’s also fun watching a student really get into the research piece.  One of the reasons I love research is knowing that there is a resource out there and then hunting it down.  A few years ago, a student was quoting a poem written by Baldur von Schirach in honor of Hitler – but who had translated the poem?  Over thirty minutes later, we had an answer and she later said, “that was actually fun!”  I’ve had other students get equally determined to find a source, quote or resource.  My hope is that they continue to have that type of fun as they do other research, either academic or personal.

The unfortunate thing is that Research Season here means nearly three months of non-stop classes; last week we had between 20 and 23 classes in during our 8 period day.  That means we don’t get to spend as much time with each student, that the shelves are amazingly out of order, and that by the end of each day we’re exhausted.   Having lived through this last year and the year before, I know that come early May, when all the papers are finished, we’ll be able to breathe again.  And by next February we’ll have forgotten and actually be looking forward to it starting all over again.


Posted in Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

What I Did on Spring Break

Posted by lpearle on 27 March 2018

In addition to staying snug during the last three of the March nor’easters, I read 32 books:

Spring Break Reading

Spring Break Reading

And that’s not all!  I’ve cleared my DVR, my taxes are almost done (they’re a little complicated for 2017), I went to an exhibit of maps of imaginary places, got enough loose tea to make it through to Summer Vacation, and the past two days I attended MSLA (more on that later).

What I need to do by the end of this week: finish my taxes, work on my AY19 budget, go through a whole lot of saved links to share with you lucky readers, figure out which books in PW and LJ should be bought now (versus after the new fiscal year kicks in), and – most important – dive in to Research Season, Part II, which is when our Intro History (aka “Class IV” or “freshmen”) come in.  That’s around 12 classes a day, about 150 students.  In three weeks, they’ll be joined by the sophomores, giving us around 20 classes each day and around 300 students to work with.  It will get done… it will get done… I will survive…

Posted in Books, Conferences, Life Related | Leave a Comment »

More Election Prep

Posted by lpearle on 1 March 2018

And here are the non-AASL members of YALSA and ALSC running for ALA Council.  Again, no specific endorsements, just the general one that having school and childrens/young adult librarians on Council is important.  Many candidates are members of all three divisions, which is great for our potential voice in Council.

Keturah Cappadonia, Outreach Consultant, Southern Tier Library System

Lucia M. Gonzalez, Library Director, City of North Miami Public Library

Rhonda K. Gould, Executive Director, Walla Walla County Rural Library District

Now, go vote!

Posted in Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

Election Prep

Posted by lpearle on 27 February 2018

As the ALA Elections approach, it’s time to think about candidates.  Historically, AASL’s members don’t vote, which may be a result of the process or of the way the ballot is presented.  I’ll post YALSA and ALSC related candidates later, but here are some tied to AASL.

Sedley Abercrombie, Lead Library Media Coordinator, Davidson County Schools, Denton, North Carolina

Cassandra Barnett, Program Advisor for School Libraries, Arkansas Department of Education, Little Rock

Shannon DeSantis, School Library Media Specialist, Peoples Academy Middle Level and High School, Morrisville, Vermont

Vicki Morris Emery, Retired School Library Administrator, Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools, Burke, Virginia

Ann Dutton Ewbank, Associate Professor, School Library Media, Montana State University, Bozeman

Carl A. Harvey, II, Assistant Professor, School Librarianship, Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia

Laura Hicks, Media Specialist, Frederick (Maryland) High School

Jody K. Howard, Adjunct Professor and Library Consultant, Emporia State University SLIM Program, Denver, Colorado

Melissa Jacobs, Coordinator of Library Services, New York City Dept. of Education/New York City School Library System

Dennis J. LeLoup, School Librarian, Avon Intermediate School East, Avon, Indiana

Steve Matthews, Librarian (EMER), Foxcroft School, Middleburg, Virginia

Robbie Leah Nickel, School Librarian, Sage Elementary School, Spring Creek, Nevada

Toni Negro, Librarian, University of Maryland, Priddy Library, Rockville, Maryland (retired school and university librarian)

Leslie Preddy, School Librarian, Perry Township Schools, Indianapolis, Indiana

Melody Scagnelli-Townley, Library Media Specialist, Joyce Kilmer School, Mahwah, New Jersey

(Note: this is not an endorsement of any of these candidates.  It is an endorsement for the need to have school librarian voices on ALA Council)

Posted in Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

Simply Irreponsible

Posted by lpearle on 22 February 2018

At ALA’s Midwinter Meeting earlier this month I had limited time to visit the exhibits, but when I was there my focus was on seeing what new books were coming out in the next few months – we have some avid readers and being able to share an ARC with them, or knowing that a great new book that might work well in lieu of another text and sharing that with a teacher is both great outreach and great promotion for our collection.

And, as always, there are trends we see.  My favorite tweet recently was this:

Girl Who Girled


Anyway, as I walked through the booths and saw what was available, I also spoke with a few of the marketing people.  Tor, for example, was thrilled about the Alex Award Top Ten’s inclusion of All Systems Red and Down Among the Sticks and Bones.  And then there was one person who was trying to be helpful by talking up some of the realistic fiction the imprint was publishing later this year.  I had to stop the conversation when I was told that “this book is about an apprentice teacher who has a sexual relationship with a student.”


Yes, it’s a tired trope that older male teachers and young female students find love (or at least sex) on high school (and college) campuses.  But… didn’t anyone read the Boston Globe Spotlight article about sexual misconduct in New England private schools? Or the follow-up articles?  Let’s start with the fact that it’s illegal, no matter the age of the older person.  And that many schools – public and private –  now have training for teachers and students, reporting structures and really are aware of the consequences of taking such a stupid step.  And that in many states, this is one of those mandated reporting situations, where Child Services and the police get called in.

And a publisher thinks this is a great “realistic fiction” topic.

I’ve worked in and attended schools where there were inappropriate faculty/student relationships.  It’s not just that couple that is affected – colleagues, classmates and more are all aware of it, and some are still affected years later.  Many schools now go as far as to caution faculty about friending/following students on social media, or do not allow faculty to text or otherwise communicate with students on non-school provided devices.   I’ve seen some of that in recent books and wonder what research the author did, where he or she looked for information on how schools are now treating just social relationships between faculty and students.  This, though?  It’s way beyond that.

How no editor, no marketing person, no beta reader thought to ask if this is really something that should be published?  The blurb mentions the relationship is “possibly illegal” (no – it’s flat out illegal).  It doesn’t matter that the book raises questions about love and boundaries and all that stuff.  It’s irresponsible in this day and age to be publishing a book like this and marketing it to teens.





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A Year’s Hard Work

Posted by lpearle on 14 February 2018

I’ll write more about my Alex Committee experience later (although I’ve already written some here) but for now, here’s a photo of our Top Ten Titles and the committee:


Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Tackling the junk drawer

Posted by lpearle on 24 January 2018

Over the years, as students are doing research and as new books have arrived for the collection, it’s become clearer and clearer that the 300s (“Social Sciences”) are the junk drawer of the library shelves.

Sometimes, it’s the fault of the catalogers at the Library of Congress. Years ago, at a previous school, I purchased the series “The President’s Position: Debating the Issues”  and discovered that half the series was in 973.* (American History) while the other half was in 321.8 (Presidents).  Which meant, of course, that I had to figure out where my students would best find the books.  Sometimes it’s the fault of the publishers for not providing enough information to LoC (the book Islam and democracy in Indonesia : tolerance without liberalism  is really more about Indonesia and Indonesian politics than the religion, yet it was supposed to be shelved in the 200s).  Some things just baffle me, like finding a book on Watergate in our True Crime section, or a book on slavery in among books on Woolworths and LLBean (yes…. but really, no). And that’s only a few of the books ordered over the years.

In going through our collection at Milton, we noticed little things, like Marcus Garvey being in three different places.   And we knew that we had more on China that was in 951, but students weren’t using those books because they were scattered around the collection.  So, in a burst of energy and excitement (or boredom, you decide) we tackled the junk drawer.  It’s difficult to do as a solo librarian, but if you have a team?  It’s really instructive to have the conversations about topics like slavery, LGBTQ issues and history, abortion, etc..  It’s also helpful to go through the shelves and really look at things from a non-librarian’s perspective: where will our students best find the materials?  is it more useful here… or here?  And that’s not even starting to take into account the fact that OCLC occasionally changes DDC (we learned that 329 had been discontinued, but we had several books there.  Whoops!

Our overarching goal is to ensure that the books we have are both useful and findable, which sometimes means adding to the MARC record. Yes, it took a long time to get through the 300s… this time.  And yes, it’ll be an ongoing project.  The overlap between the 300s and other areas of the collection is huge, much like the overlap between the junk drawer in the kitchen and other areas of the house.  We now have a Google Doc that enumerates our cataloging norms so we can, as we get new books or find things on the shelves, put them together.  It’ll also help as we look at which books we need (at one previous school, to support the 11th grade History class, we had many books on the Treaty of Versailles but when that project ended, we didn’t need as many as we’d had, freeing up shelf space for other topics we needed for their new research papers; at another, there were nearly 1,000 books on Nazi Germany, many of which could be weeded or moved back into other areas of the collection when the course on the Nazis ceased to be offered).

To paraphrase a popular commercial tagline, what’s in your junk drawer?


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

Blessing or Curse?

Posted by lpearle on 4 January 2018

Several years ago Doug mentioned that he did most of his reading on his Kindle (he still does whether it’s on an actual Kindle or the app on another device) and that one of the blessings was the ability to quickly search for information while reading.  Back in the “good old days” you had to remember what you were interested in, or confused about, and then look it up rather than quickly go to your browser and – voila! – answers.

My Kindle is rarely connected to wifi, and I use it mostly for longer articles (uploaded via Instapaper) and ARCs, but I take Doug’s point.  The other day I was reading an ARC and wondered about one of the facts mentioned – I’m being a little vague because 1. it was an Alex book and 2. I honestly don’t remember exactly what it was I was wondering – so I picked up my iPhone and looked up… whatever it was. 30 minutes later, I’d found my answer, checked my email and looked at Twitter.  30 minutes later.

Which is, of course, both the blessing and curse of having one of those fancy ereaders that allow you to quickly go online: the rabbit hole and the added distractions.  It’s one of the things that several of my star reading students prefer about print, that lack of distraction and the ability to focus on the book and world it’s creating. But if we’re being honest, the problem isn’t the device (or lack thereof) it’s more about willpower.  Is your phone one of those always on, always notifying ones?  Do you have a tablet right next to you?  In the early days of ereaders, we didn’t have those additional tools and unless your laptop or desktop was always on, going online immediately was difficult.  Today? Those 30 minutes I “lost” could easily become an hour… two hours… and then where was I in the book again?  What exactly was going on?

My resolution for 2018 is to be less easily distracted from my reading.  Who knows how much more I could read?!

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