Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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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.





Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Books… so many books…

Posted by lpearle on 2 January 2018

Thanks to Alex reading, my total last year was 378 Books Read. Of course, I can’t talk about those books until the committee meets in February and decides our Top Ten and Vetted Lists (links are to last year’s, in case you wanted a taste of what I read in adult books in 2016) – and not all of the adult books read in 2017 will appear on those. Still, take my word for it: some very wonderful books were read!

But, those non-adult books, or those adult books published before 2016? Well, those I can talk about! I’ll just point you to my GoodReads reviews, as well as show you the covers of the five star (IMVHO) books read in 2017:

Not too many, admittedly. But if you know me, you know I’m pretty hard to please, book-wise. And there were an additional 42 books that were thisclose to being five stars, which is not bad at all.

On to 2018’s reads!

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 27 December 2017

A holiday gift of sorts from me to you: linky goodness from the past few months.  Enjoy!

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff


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

Busy November – NELA and YALSA

Posted by lpearle on 7 December 2017

Now that Fall Conference Season has passed, and I’ve had some time to think about what I learned and saw, here’s a wrap up of the NELA Conference (about which I’ve blogged a little) and the YALSA Symposium.  After this, nothing until February’s ALA Midwinter (March brings MSLA, April has NEAISL, May will be ACRL/NE and I’ll end with June’s ALA Annual; I can’t attend AISL because it’s in the middle of Research Season when we have 15+ classes in every day).

NELA is the New England Library Association and thus brings together librarians from throughout New England.  It’s small, relatively targeted, and more like ALA’s mix of public, academic and school librarians than other conferences.  To be honest, fewer school librarians were there than I’d have thought; perhaps it was timing?  lack of publicity?  location?  We’ll see what next year’s looks like.  Many of the sessions didn’t apply, although there were good book buzz opportunities, which is always nice.  The overall conference theme was mindfulness, and contrary to my usual use of Facebook I actually joined a professional group, Mindfulness for Librarians, and we’ll see how that goes.

Some of the resources shared during the keynote – on mindfulness – were:

  • Fully Present by Smally and Wintson
  • Altered Traits by Goldman and Davidson
  • How to Live a Good Life by Fields
  • Self-Compassion by Neff
  • anything by John Cabot Zinn

There was a lot more, and I’ll share that later.  I’m still processing it and trying to work out how to bring more into my life.

The best session was the Project Management session, since we’ve got lots of projects we’re working on in the library.  The big takeaway was that it’s really about influence: how to get your team to work with and for you.  There are several keys to making this work, and the presenter recommended the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott.  Good project managers need to listen, clarify, debate, decide, persuade, execute, learn and evaluate/celebrate.  The critical element is that you get people on board, keeping everyone in the loop by constantly getting and giving feedback.  Recognizing that the experience isn’t the same for everyone is helpful, and being explicit about expectations necessary.  Best practice?  Align people’s skills with the project (especially if you want people to be successful!), making criticism about the outcome not the person.  Also recommended: Mel Robbin’s Five Second Rule as a way to move forward.

The other sessions were a mixed bag, with one that had great ideas but a confusing presentation and others that were less applicable to me and my work life than not.

A few weeks later, for the first time I attended the YALSA Symposium.  Again, small and targeted.  And less applicable to school librarians than would have been nice.  There was a time when YALSA courted us, but once again the pendulum seems to be more on the public YA librarian side than not.  Oh well.  What disappointed me more was the emphasis on starting programs like makerspaces or STEM ideas.  Granted, in my situation, they’re not needed (we have a good makerspace in another building, and stepping on the toes of those teachers isn’t something I particularly feel the need to do). But… the presumption at YALSA was more “so, you need to start” rather than “ok, you’ve started – what’s next?”  I get it: presenters want to draw a large audience and making things applicable to newbies is one way to do that.  But still – and this isn’t just a YALSA issue, it’s also a general complaint about AASL and ALA programs! – what about those people already in the midst of doing whatever the program is about?

The opening author panel was the best part, IMVHO (there were a few more, but those didn’t leave me with much as a takeaway).  The big takeaway?  There was a panel-esque conversation about the idea of books as mirrors and windows, and Kwami Alexander said that giving a black kid a book like The Hate U Give wasn’t necessary,  that blacks (and other readers of color) had for decades gotten more mirrors than windows, and that whites needed to catch up.  Yes.  Exactly.

Posted in Conferences | Leave a Comment »

Math Star for me!

Posted by lpearle on 5 December 2017

I am not a “math person” – nope, not I.  And that’s been part of my identity for decades (could be an incredibly longlived case of rebellion against my father, or could be due to the year I spent with New Math:

or perhaps both?  or, as some would argue, bad teachers?)

Now, when I say I’m not a math person, what I really mean is that I don’t do incredibly complicated equations or fully understand calculus or geometry or algebra.  It doesn’t mean I’m innumerate!  I can balance my checkbook, ensure we are getting a good ROI on our database purchases, etc..  I can interpret statistics.  And, increasingly unnecessary, I can do manual double-entry bookkeeping.

The other day I was at my neuro-ophthalmologist’s and we were – yay! – adjusting my dosage of Prednisone.  He was trying to figure out how many pills I would need since I’d be halving the pills for a few weeks.  He started like this:   2.5 x 7 + 2 x 21 + 1.5 x 7  and got  2877.  Not implausible, but not quite accurate.  He tried again.  And then it hit me: he needed parentheses.  (2.5 x 7) + (2 x 21) + (1.5 x 7) = 70.  Much more reasonable.

When I got to work, I told two of my friends, both math teachers.  They gave me a star.  And you know what? Even at my age, a star for math is great.

Posted in Life Related | Leave a Comment »