Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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.

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Posted in Books, Student stuff | 1 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 »

And it begins

Posted by lpearle on 12 September 2017

After a mere two weeks of meetings and organizing, school started.  Convocation last Friday… all school photo tomorrow… classes and clubs and athletics and recess and all the other moving parts that go into a school year starting to move forward (note: only 46 class days until Thanksgiving Break, but who’s counting?).  And in the library, we’re ready.

Work done over the summer gave us a new classroom, made possible by combining our workroom and office space:

Our Adult Fiction section was moved slightly, adding more space for students to “hide” (it became a popular spot last year) and we’ve got lots of shelves for displaying New Fiction and other highlights.

 

This month: Immigrants Read Here.

We’ve got other displays, too:

Our Charlottesville Resource Guide has been updated, nearly 400 books have been added to the collection, we’re back to our regular opening hours, and – this is the best part – we’ve already started to have classes in!  The entire sixth grade came for a quick tour and book talk (plus checking out books), we’re working with two physics classes on how to use NoodleTools to cite sources and an English class is coming to do work on Hemingway that will inform their work this semester.  All within one week of school’s officially starting.

I’m feeling pretty good about the start of the school year.  Here’s hoping you are, too.

Posted in Books, School Libraries, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 5 September 2017

In December I bought myself a new laptop, and this summer I finally cleared out my old files and programs. Yes, I procrastinate. A lot. Anyway, prior to using Feedbin, I used RSS Owl (which is great, but lives on a machine not in the cloud). Some of these links have been stored there for, well… here they are anyway. Along with some new ones just because.

Books, Reading, etc.

  • Summer’s over Time to start planning next summer’s travel. Perhaps the Lake District? Or any of the trips you can find on BookTrails?

School Life

Tech Stuff

  • So cool: text “Send me [keyword, color or emoji]” to 572-51 and the SFMOMA will send you back a piece of art (I did this early one morning).
  • I’m always in favor of bringing art to everyone, and apparently the Met’s Open Access experiment is working!
  • If only I could use my own pens, I’d grab a Rhodia Bamboo Smart Folio.

Miscellany

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

Some random thoughts on books and reading

Posted by lpearle on 1 August 2017

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been home alone this past week and have had far too much energy for my own good. Which, of course, means that Things Are Getting Done: organizing, mostly, but reading and writing letters and blog posts (lucky readers!) and cleaning. Don’t judge, but when I moved my books from CT to MA two summers ago, they were still in boxes from my previous NY-CT move and while I did get them on to shelves in general categories, they were not properly organized on those shelves. As of today, that’s not the case. As I rearranged the collection, I weeded enough books to empty a 7′ x 30″ bookcase, although I’m going to keep it because Alex and other things.

Also as I arranged and weeded, I thought about a few book related conversations I’ve had and one twitter rant I read in the past couple of years.

The first is actually two conversations, one with my mother and one with a colleague. A couple of years ago, I was having a Very Bad Day and called my mother to complain. As a native of Newton, she was raised with the idea that the Fluffernutter is a cure-all for bad days/bad moods and as a good mother, she’d passed that idea along to me. This was a two Fluffernutter Bad Day, and even then I wasn’t feeling better. Hence the call. I mentioned that it was being a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and after sympathizing, she asked if she’d read that book to me when I was a child. My response? No. Because I was nine when it was published and both parents had stopped reading books to me many years earlier. Flash forward to this past February, when a colleague shared how excited she was that Book of Dust was being published and asked if His Dark Materials had meant as much to me as it had to her. Well… no. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the trilogy. I enjoyed the trilogy. I was upset the movie didn’t do the book justice. But because it was published when I was in my 20s and there were many other books before that were formative and intensely personal and meaningful, this didn’t rise to the level of foundational reading as it did for her.

The second is a twitter comment/rant by the incredible Angie Manfredi. She is an amazing advocate and ally and her commitment to diverse books, libraries and the kids with whom she works is inspirational. So when she speaks, I think.

Manfredi tweet

I see her point… somewhat. My favorite authors do, in fact, happen to be white people. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just fact. It doesn’t mean I don’t read diverse authors, or that I don’t appreciate their work, it does mean that when I’m scanning the Pre-Pub Alerts and I see certain names I get excited and put them on a To Buy list. But – and this is a huge BUT – professionally? It’d be malpractice if the books I put on displays or recommend to my students and colleagues were only by and about white people and their experiences. When scanning those alerts and looking at other collection development tools, I actively look for diverse authors and diversity of experiences and when planning displays I add as many of those as possible (usually sneaking them in, so that it normalizes – and boy do I hate that word! – both because there’s no reason why someone reading speculative fiction or history or romance or whatever wouldn’t enjoy a well-written book no matter who wrote it or what the characters and plot were about). If a librarian can’t separate their personal lives and preferences from their professional, that’s a problem. And one we, as a profession, need to worry about.

As an aside, I did note that many of my favorite authors are not only white, but have last names that begin with B, among them:

Barnes (Julian), Burgess (Thornton W.), Byatt (A.S.), Banks (Ian), Blyton (Enid), Brent-Dyer (Elinor M.), Booth (Stephen), Billingham (Mark), Bradley (Marion Zimmer), Boston (Lucy), Baum (L. Frank)

Weird.

Finally, two nights ago I was chatting with my cousin and mentioned that I was about to start Book 190 for the year. She said that she doesn’t really read books, unlike her husband and son. I’ve blogged about this before, and it still puzzles and amuses me. I’ve never felt the need to apologize to friends who are artists or athletes or knitters or, well, anyone who does something that I think it neat or could be fun but that I don’t actually do. Why people feel the need to apologize for not reading is something I just don’t get. My sister and her son prefer audiobooks to print books. Great! Someone reads newspapers and magazines, not books. Perfect! Someone else watches movies and listens to music for relaxation. Hooray! If no one ever says “I’m sorry, I just don’t read” to me again, I’ll die a happy woman.

Now, back to Book 190. By an author whose name begins with K, not B. So there.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Ethics, Musings | 2 Comments »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 28 July 2017

Summer is a great time to binge watch while digitally organizing/reorganizing/decluttering, isn’t it? So here’s what I’ve bookmarked and saved over the past few months.

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

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

The Very Overdue #AISLNO17 Post (part 3)

Posted by lpearle on 27 June 2017

My goal: to blog all the PD I’ve done this year before the academic year ends. In eight five four days. Get ready!

****

Day Two: E-Books

The best presentation advice: start on time, end early, feed participants.

This is an area we explored gently over the past few years (both at Milton and Porter’s) and haven’t gotten much buy-in for, so I was interested to see what other schools were/are doing.  There’s so much to think about, and as one person said, we need to suck it up: things are evolving (as they did from film to VHS to DVD to streaming).  Here’s my question/problem: my students, based on a survey I did at Porter’s that got a 33% response, prefer print for fiction.  Why?  Because it’s an escape from the screen, providing a more immersive/less interrupted experience.  So… there’s that.  I might do a survey of Milton’s students and faculty, particularly as Overdrive is pushing a consortium for the local independent schools.  The Massachusetts ebook program is difficult, particularly since it only allows for one book/reader!

We agreed that there are So.Many.Platforms. ABC-CLIO, Amazon (might need to circulate Kindles), Destiny Discover (which only works with Destiny, so that’s out), EBSCO, GVRL, OUP and Salem Press for NF; Overdrive, Axis360 are for Fic.  The big question is how do you support all of them, including train people in their use because it’s not “one size fits all” for platforms!  Promoting them is also an issue, because discovery isn’t as obvious as it is for print (you can’t easily browse a shelf) you need to add MARC records to the catalog.  Another way to promote is to put links everywhere, in all Resource Guides, on pamphlets, etc. You could also let students know that Snapchat reads QR codes and include those codes in book displays or on the inside cover of a reference book.

Day Two: Personal Librarian Program (CD McLean and Katie Archambault)

Another “we need to try this at MPOW” idea, which may or may not work given our size population.  But still… They got the idea after reading The Personal Librarian (there’s also this one), which further enhances the idea of library as “third space” (see a theme?  Doug and Claudette both talked about this!).  It’s important to get Admissions, Communications and the Dean of Students on board before starting, particularly since you can start talking about the program on revisit days.

Other ideas?  Create a “what is a personal librarian?” video and “get to know your librarian” videos… Tasty Tuesdays (send a surprise gift of treats to a random class)… send emails to all incoming students, detailing how the program works and connecting it to the work they’ll be doing.  CD sends a letter, a follow-up letter, is a presence during orientation retreats and promotes library tours by “their” librarian.  Make sure the program is seen as two-fold, promoting reading and research.  Asking teachers if you can embed is great – digital embedding means you can drop resources into the class page (be it WhippleHill, GClassroom, Schoology, Moodle, or whatever your school uses), pushing databases, print books and critical websites.  Encourage 1:1 consultations with both faculty and students, adding a link to your sig. file for setting up an appointment.  What about YouTube videos personalizing the experience?  New Book lunches?  Having students sign up for Reading Recommendation and then do video/email outreach.  Constantly promote services and resources.

We were reminded that it’s important to do an annual debrief, to collect statistics and to keep up with alumni.  Equally important is that we don’t have to do it all: the same program doesn’t need to exist for 9, 10, 11 and 12th grade!  You can push heavily into 9th, less in 10th and 11th, and they’ll still remember to come in in 12th.

Another way to be personal?  Get college matriculation information and create a presentation highlighting the college libraries to students (eg, “If you’re going to Bates, you’ll find….”).  Do outreach to those librarians so your students are known.  (kudos to Elizabeth Nelson for this!)

Day Two: Booktalking

This is so easy to do with LS/MS students, but US?  Sigh.  So here are some great ideas we’re going to try in AY18 to try to get our overworked, overscheduled, overstressed students to read more fiction:

Whew!  One conference down… two (NEAISL and ACRLNE) to go…

 

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Conferences, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 20 March 2017

Winter hit.  More accurately, a winter cold hit.  And wouldn’t let go.  But luckily things are back to normal and I’m able to enjoy our Spring Break (two+ weeks in March, unlike public schools nearby that get a week in February and a week in April).  There’s the AISL conference in NOLA later this week and a Faculty Forum when we return – stay tuned for things learned from the amazing people at AISL as well as the library department’s Fake News presentation for my colleagues.  Until then…

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

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

It all comes down to these…

Posted by lpearle on 30 January 2017

After thousands of reading hours, hundreds of books read, and over 24 hours of discussion, the 2017 Alex Award Top Ten was announced last Monday:

2017 Alex Top Ten

And because we couldn’t leave it there, there’s also a vetted list of 50 great titles (not live yet, but will be here).

What’s next?  I, and others on the 2018 committee, have already started reading and thinking about this year’s books.  Who knows what will rise to Top Ten, or vetted, status?  Watch this space…

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »