Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

  • Tag This!

  • November 2017
    S M T W T F S
    « Oct    
     1234
    567891011
    12131415161718
    19202122232425
    2627282930  
  • Prior Posts

  • Copyright

The Reader’s Advisory I Hate

Posted by lpearle on 16 November 2017

The other day, a student came in asking for a new book to read.  She’d read a book and enjoyed it, so did we have any other books like it?

Well… yes… probably.  What was it about the book she liked?  There were several things going on in the book, and any of them might have been what appealed.  The last thing you want to do, when recommending a next book, is to assume that the thing that appealed to you about a multi-layered book is what appealed to the reader about the first book.  In this case, I got the infamous preteen shrug coupled with “I dunno…. everything I guess.” Ooookay.  Did you like this aspect?  That theme? The writing style? Which character?  “I dunno…”  Eventually, we found a book that she seemed happy with, although I couldn’t tell you whether there’s anything there that relates at all to the first book.

Now, that’s ok as long as she enjoys the second book.  As long as there’s something for her to connect to, enjoy and keep her reading, it doesn’t matter if there is or is not a connection to the previous book.  I do a lot of genre switching, a lot of reading that doesn’t feel connected except by one thing: is the writing good (a purely objective thing)?  do I buy the world and premise that the writer has created?  And those are totally objective criteria.

But wow, do I hate not being given more direction from readers as to what they liked, so I can recommend books that will continue to appeal to them!  The last thing I – or anyone doing Reader’s Advisory – want is for them to stop asking.

Advertisements

Posted in Books, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Planning… planning…

Posted by lpearle on 14 November 2017

A few years ago I became enamored with the idea of bullet journaling (great ideas and supplies here). When I worked in the “corporate” world (which, to be honest, included a few years in the non-profit world of Off-Broadway and a few years working on long-term projects as well as in a corporate environment) I was a huge fan of the Day-Timer/Filofax and lugged one all over the place.  So this is, in many ways, a natural extension of that plus my obsession with office supplies.  Seriously: take me to a great stationery/office supply store and it’s a bit frightening.  Here’s one of my goals: this planner space.  Gorgeous, right?

My first attempts at the bullet journal were pretty much a carry-over from my old methods, with a few twists.  Then I refined it to look like this:

And then, only a month or so ago, the incredible Sara Kelley-Mudie was at a local librarians meeting at my school and her planner made my heart leap and my fingers search for something new.  This was born:

I’d been bemoaning the waste of a full page with only To Do items, and I really love the idea of keeping notes (from meeting, conferences, etc.) in the same journal as my daily stuff – all the better to track them, right? – so what I’m doing now feels perfect.  Almost. Then I read about the Burner List.

What I really want is templates so that I’m not continually copying and pasting into my journal, I can just draw right on the page.  Or maybe… I hear I can customize Levenger’s Circa pages, and there’s the add-in feature, but what about a way to permanently bind them a la Moleskein or Clairfontaine?  That would be sweet.

In mid-October I was at the NELA conference and there was a drop-in session on bullet journaling.  Of course I dropped in, but to me, it was really more of a scrapbookers dream rather than a way to organize:

Now, there’s nothing wrong with scrapbooking or having a journal/planner that is filled with color and design.  But, just like Sketchnotes, it’s not me and that’s the most important thing when creating a planning system: it needs to fit your needs, your life.  Because who else will be in charge of it?

Still, I live in hope and dream of finding the perfect system.  In the meantime, I collect links to posts about ways to organize and create those systems:

  • Agendio allows you to create a personalized system.  I love this, but my desire to keep my meeting notes next to my weekly planner doesn’t seem to be possible.
  • PurpleTrail makes pretty, pretty planners for those who are into the creative, multi-color, washi tape journals.

Posted in Life Related | 2 Comments »

PSA

Posted by lpearle on 2 November 2017

If you’re old (like me) you remember this cartoon:

For quite a few years, far more than I want to think about because it feels like it was just yesterday, I’ve been following online and somewhat friendly with a number of people I first met in “cyberspace”.  And who know how many of them are really dogs?  By that I mean, how many of them are posting only their best lives?  Those fabulous meals, great vacations, incredible outfits, amazing concerts and events, all the happy times?  That’s the human posting.

One such human is Terry Teachout, drama critic for the Wall Street Journal.  His blog has been on my Daily Read list (or RSS feed) for over ten years.  His posts also include great music tips and clips, his love of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, the time he and his wife spend in Florida, interesting think pieces about growing up in “SmallTownUSA” and many other topics that make me think and smile.  Plus, his twitter feed!  All those evenings watching old movies!  I’m so jealous.*

Turns out, Terry is really a dog.  Yesterday, I – and many other readers/friends – learned that there was a darker, sadder, more frightening side to his life.  Read about it here.  I’ll wait.

Did you read all the way down?

In the three states in which I’ve lived as an adult, it’s easy to become an organ donor.  All it takes is checking a box when getting your driver’s license.  And while I’m currently quite attached to my organs, there will come a time when I won’t need them any longer and someone else may find them useful (with luck, not soon… but it’s always best to prepare).  When that day comes, why not?

If you’re not already an organ donor, make plans to become one now.  There’s not one good reason not to.

/publicserviceannouncement

We now return you to your regular blog reading.

 

* ok, in theory I’m jealous: I’m more a Ben Franklin, without the “healthy”, “wealthy” or “wise” parts, and Terry is definitely a night owl… but still!

Posted in Life Related | Leave a Comment »

Oops!

Posted by lpearle on 19 October 2017

>One of this year’s projects is an evaluation of our 300s – far too much has been dumped into that section and, oddly enough, a lot really belongs elsewhere.  The other big project is to complete our look at books with a copyright pre-1996 that haven’t circulated in the past 10 years.  It’s work, but really giving us an idea of what’s on the shelves and where there’s unexpected overlap or gaps because books have been placed in the “wrong” section of the collection.

Yesterday, we looked at this book:

And because it’s in bad physical shape, perhaps a replacement would be a good idea.  According our vendor, this is the replacement:

No.  Not quite.  Someone at the publishing/reprint house made a mistake.

It reminded me of when I was working at PCS and doing the retrospective conversion from a print to online catalog.  We didn’t have time to really look at the shelf list before sending it off to be converted, so there were a number of errors.  As I worked on the video collection, I looked for two copies of The Grapes of Wrath.  Found one.  The other? No luck.  But there was a copy of The Wrath of Grapes.

Cataloging 101: catalog the item in hand.

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

New motto

Posted by lpearle on 18 October 2017

For some reason, when I was a young child, someone gave me this doll:

I can’t say that I turned it on a regular basis to tell my parents (or anyone) how I was feeling.  To be honest, I think I may have been a teen – or nearly – before I realized that it read “I am” not “Jam”.  And yes, I proudly claim to be a reader.  Anyway…

The idea that you can telegraph, via doll or button or bumpersticker or t-shirt or choose-your-manner-of-expression, your mood or goal is interesting.  Just look around you the next time you are out in public.  And we also love to do this as librarians.  For years I had this sign near my desk, and I’m waiting to redesign our desk at work so that I can redisplay it:

 

So, my point?  Well… not really sure there is one.  It’s just that the tenor of the times, politically, and the wave of news about natural disasters (fires, floods, hurricanes, potential supervolcano eruptions, etc.), and trying to get things organized at work as we begin to prepare for a new library and next semester’s Research Season (4 months of 14+ classes/day coming to do research), and personal travel/conferences has led me to think about what I want to display to others.  What’s my motto, my t-shirt slogan?

Luckily, the incredible Sarah Kelley-Mudie came to my rescue.  Several years ago, at another school, she coined the phrase Relentless Optimism.  And it became a movement.  And the other day I saw that there was this sticker on her cellphone:

Now, I’ve tried, over the years, to display just that type of attitude.  After the fire at Hackley, my go-to response was one of humor, of trying to let others in the community know that it was really ok: no one was hurt, we could rebuild, and honestly, if 35,000 books and any number of computers and metal shelves and office supplies were burned it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  Six years earlier, I’d seen students at PCS wondering when they could go back to having “normal” lives as the adults around them continued to struggle with the events of September 11th and our response to those events.  So the idea of “optimism” isn’t foreign.  My goal is to focus on the relentless part.

Watch out!

Posted in Life Related, Musings | Leave a Comment »

Personal Rights

Posted by lpearle on 10 October 2017

As things get busier, and the world outside a little crazier, it might be good (for me, for you, for everyone) to post this article from the September NYYM Spark about Personal Rights.

You have –

  1. The right to act in ways that promote your dignity and self-respect as long as others’ rights are not violated in the process.
  2. The right to be treated with respect.
  3. The right to say no and not feel guilty.
  4. The right to experience and express your feelings.
  5. The right to take time to slow down and thing.
  6. The right to change your mind.
  7. The right to ask for what you want.
  8. The right to do less than you are humanly capable of doing.
  9. The right to ask for information.
  10. The right to make mistakes.
  11. The right to feel good about yourself.

(from The Assertive Option)

Posted in Life Related | Leave a Comment »

Uncomfortable Reading

Posted by lpearle on 5 October 2017

The other day, mk posted that she’d hit a personal best reading:

I’m on Book 263* for the year, aiming for about 300 for 2017 (which seems to be about my average recently).  I’m on the 2018 Alex Award Committee, so I can’t talk about all the books I’ve read, just the adult books published before 2016 and those that are for children and young adults.  But I can talk a little generally about reading, particularly for a committee.  Or, as my friend Anastasia has been, for a reading challenge.

One of the challenging things about reading for a book award committee is that we all have our reading comfort zones.  It could be cozy mysteries.  It could be inspirational memoirs.  It could be Regency Romances.  And if you’re reading for a Best Cozy Mystery of [year] award, then it’s easy to stay in that comfort zone.  I have my personal comfort zone but often stray outside when reading YA books so I can do Readers Advisory for my students and to help teachers find new books for their classes.  My adult books can stay comfortably in that zone… but they can’t for Alex!  Since January 2016, I’ve been reading a lot of books that are outside that zone, in genres I wouldn’t naturally gravitate to or books I would prefer to ignore based on the blurb/summary.

Here’s the thing: much of the time I’ve been pleasantly surprised and gone on to rave about the new find to my friends, students and colleagues who are avid readers.   Between my Alex and my other reading, I’m almost done with the reading challenge (one that won’t get crossed off: the audiobook – I try, but my brain just doesn’t hold audiobooks in the way it needs to, and going back is such an annoyance I’ve just given up on it; my sister and nephew, on the other hand, “read” audiobooks with glee).  Looking at the advanced challenge list, I probably won’t buy anything at a used book sale in the next three months, so there’s that checkmark left unchecked.  But – again, no details! – the other categories?  Almost all done.

And those books that my esteemed committee members have requested and nominated that aren’t in my comfort zone?  Those books that, given my druthers I wouldn’t be reading?  I’m glad I’m reading them.  Some authors are going on my “to watch out for” list.  Some series are either going to be followed or I’ll be backtracking to earlier tomes.  It’s expanded my comfort zone.

That’s one of the blessings of uncomfortable reading: sometimes, unexpectedly, you find you are comfortable.  And that’s the best reason to do a challenge or serve on a broad-reach book award committee.  I don’t know what 2018’s reading will bring but I’m willing to get a little uncomfortable while doing it.  Are you?

* of that 263, several are YA, Children’s, pre-2016 reads and even a few 2018! That number is not only Alex reading!

Posted in Books, Life Related | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 3 October 2017

Doug has a wonderful post entitled Just another shill for educational companies? that I encourage everyone to read. Here’s my policy: all ideas in any of my posts, from these Minor Musings to other, more detailed commentary, are mine – possibly inspired by others but not paid for or encouraged by a company.  One of these days I’ll go back and do a round-up of what’s worked and what hasn’t (and what sounded good at the time but now… not so much).  The results will probably surprise me, possibly surprise you.  But they won’t be “paid for”, I promise.

Books, Reading, etc.

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

  • As we start to think about building a new space and how to work with the space we have, it’s always timely to remember the Five Laws of Librarianship and working with our faculty and administration to understand what our mission is.

Posted in Books, Ethics, Links, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Gearing Up

Posted by lpearle on 28 September 2017

I’ve been diligently trying to update this blog regularly, and I intend to keep trying but wow!  School starts and that seems to take over my life despite my best efforts.  Between now and Thanksgiving, for example, I have two personal trips out of town, then two conferences (NELA and YALSA’s Literature Symposium).  Plus my Alex Award reading.  That’s outside of my work, which this year includes beginning to plan for a new library in addition to continuing to look at updating the collection, revamping our website, improving our Resource Guides, working with classes and all the “normal” stuff that librarians and Library Department Chairs do on a daily, monthly, annual basis.

So posting may be sporadic.  Just sayin’

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

Taking the initiative

Posted by lpearle on 26 September 2017

At the start of the school year, many Heads (of School, Division or Department) start to talk about the initiatives that will be undertaken in the upcoming year.  Some are mild, some are school changing.  Some are internal, some have a more external focus.  And over the years, I’ve watched, participated and developed a kind of cynicism about the process as a whole.  Whenever I hear words along the lines of “this year, we will…” I begin to wonder, “why? where is this leading? and what’s next?

NOTE: What follows is not about my school (only), it’s about the schools I’ve worked in and those my friends have worked in and schools I’ve been part of in some way.  Perhaps you’ll recognize your school in this, but there’s a good chance what you’re seeing isn’t about your school, it’s more universal!

Internal Initiatives can be anything from we’re restructuring the school (lines of communication, reporting structure, titles) to rethinking grading to changing the program to a technological change to… you name it.

  • I’ve seen schools jump on the technology bandwagon (“we went 1:1 iPad so we’d stand out” is not a good reason to embrace technology) without thinking through the implications: there’s a myth that students, being so-called digital natives, will know how to use the technology without training, and that teachers will somehow figure it out.  Rarely is there time for teachers to properly learn to play with the new tool/LMS/program to become familiar and comfortable with it before students begin to use it, and equally rarely is there a really thorough orientation that ensures that students can use it properly.
  • Changing the calendar or exam structure may seem like an easy thing to do, but there’s a whole educational piece that gets left out.  Moving from a January midterm/June final is a great idea (seriously, who wants to take a final exam, do poorly and be told “have a nice summer” immediately after?) but how do teachers figure out how to restructure their exams to reflect that change?  What assessments are truly necessary at the end of the year to ensure that someone moves up to the next level? And if that can be done in one or two class periods, why disrupt the entire school with an Exam Week?
  • Many schools, post-AP Exam period, give their seniors the opportunity to do some sort of Senior Project.  And why not?  I’ve never worked in a school where a senior in good standing has had to take a June final, and let’s face it, once APs are over they have no need pay attention.  Some schools graduate their seniors before giving a final, another good idea.  The Senior Project idea has, in some schools, morphed into an All School idea, call it January Term (as we did in college) or MayMester or whatever – a few weeks of a deep dive into something that could be a personal interest or an all school exploration or structured by grade level or whatever.  Honestly, I love the idea and can think of several projects I’d love to work with students on.  But… if you’re an English teacher, it’s easy to drop a text.  Not so easy if you’re teaching another subject where you’re expected to cover a certain amount of material (in 20+ years, I’ve never met a history teacher teaching the US History survey class that’s gotten to really teach current history, “current” being Reagan-2000, let alone this century).  Teachers may be given time to think about their projects and the new initiative, but the time to rethink their class? to determine how best to squeeze in or excise a tense, era, experiment or function?  Rarely happens.
  • Changing the grading from A-F to 0-4.0 or including comments, going from twice a year to four times, or something like that also requires training and thought.  I’ve seen teachers who simply cannot write personal comments about their students, preferring to cut-and-paste from a list of phrases.  I’ve seen teachers who do it well, really recognizing each students’ strengths and weaknesses.  More development and time training?  Never happens.  It’s maybe one meeting as a group in the start of the year, then perhaps the first set of comments is shared with a mentor.  Then… nothing.
  • Exploring the pedagogy, diversity and inclusion work, All Faculty Reads?  Again, great ideas.  But what’s next?  Once we’ve gone from Good to Great or learned about A Whole New Mind, what’s next?  Is it a one-year thing, or will we continue to do that work, revisiting what we learned over the previous year and figuring out how to change in the upcoming?

And then there are the External Initiatives:  rebranding the school.  getting rid of AP classes.  creating a symposium.  etc..  One school changed its reunion structure to include a lecture series that was supposed to be about empowerment – it was great, for a few years.  Like any series, though, it became stretched and then thin.  Then it disappeared without a word.  Next?  A Global Imitative that drew a lot of attention and Big Names.  One year and done.  No word about why it was dropped without a word if anything had come of it.  Here’s the problem: when you go that public, you invite attention.  And questions.

This isn’t to denigrate initiatives, internal or external.  It’s just… we’ve got a few going on at work, and friends have shared some that are going on at theirs.  Maybe I’m getting old, but in all my years of doing this, of being involved with schools (remember, I grew up in an academic family, so it’s been a lonnnnng time) it’s rare that I see them carried out to anything more than a bright flashy idea, or that teachers and students are given enough time to truly prepare and do it well.  Sometimes it’s difficult to take them seriously as a result.  And I want to!  I really do.  So please, inspire me.  Give me your tricks to get through the “this is a great idea” phase into the “wow, this really made a difference long term” phase.

Posted in Musings, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »