Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Time to breathe

Posted by lpearle on 13 November 2018

Because second semester is essentially Research Semester, with three months of classes (often 15-20 classes a day), we tend to tackle major projects in first semester.  Perhaps not the smartest idea, given the exhaustion I and the other librarians face by, well, now.  Luckily Thanksgiving Break is just around the corner, and then it’s a short time to Winter Break… and after that, we’re setting up for Exam Week and hurtling into Research Season.

  • For example, last year we tackled the junk drawer, and this year we’re continuing looking at the collection – thus far we’ve done the 500s, 600s and 700s (with luck we’ll get through the 800s before second semester; the 900s will wait until next year).  The past two years have brought up some humorous cataloging oopses.  I’ve already mentioned that at PCS I found “The Wrath of Grapes” miscataloged as “The Grapes of Wrath”.  What we’re finding now are more problems either as the Library of Congress is creating the CIP information or in-house as things were cataloged:
      • The Rape of Nanking was found with other books on sexual assault
      • The section on population control contained a book on the Holocaust
      • Among the books on stores like Wal-Mart was a book on slavery
      • The Bone Woman, about a forensic anthropologist working on mass graves, was in the anthropology section
      • Going Dutch: how England plundered Holland’s glory is about the rise of England as a world power, not about art theft and belongs in history, not art

    Each of these books gets a “yes… but NO!” from us and we move it to where it will be found and useful to our students.  There are, of course, many more that are reasonably in one area of the collection but we feel belong elsewhere.  Still, it’s these gems that keep us going.

  • We’re also moving books around physically.  Thanks to this rethinking project, there are shelves we don’t need in our library and would really be helpful for our Art Department library, so we’re rearranging things to free up a bookcase that will be moved over Thanksgiving Break.  It’s also a great opportunity for us to rearrange some of the second floor tables (oddly enough, neither we nor the administration feel that a group “hiding” in a corner playing Fortnight is a group best using the library’s resources and that a rearrangement might help them see the error of their ways).
  • Our Resource Guides are being revised and added to, including one on Violence in America and one designed to provide resources for the recent visit from the Defamation Project. Thanks to our History Department teachers helping assess the utility of a discovery service, EDS will join our offerings – leading, we hope, to better searching during Research Season.
  • The Greater Boston Cooperative Library Association is hosting this year’s AISL conference and Milton will be hosting one morning (during the start of our Intro History classes doing research); I’ll be reprising The What If… Scenario with my two co-presenters and “hosting” a Dinner with a Local Librarian.
  • I’m still reading for the Excellence in Children’s and Young Adult Science Fiction award… a little behind on that, but I can catch up, right?

While it’s not quite an official honor, I was interviewed by one of our Spanish classes (I’m guessing they translated my English answers into Spanish for a class presentation) and our photography teacher asked if I’d sit for one of his advanced students who was being assigned to take a mere 15 minutes for the photo shoot and to turn it around the next day, mimicking some of the realities of being a professional photographer.  The student and I chatted while he was shooting, and this was the final photo:

Next week I’ll be at the ALAN Workshop then away for Thanksgiving Break.  With all that’s going on, it’s good to have time to breathe!

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

A Summer’s Reading

Posted by lpearle on 7 September 2018

Towards the end of the (academic) year, two of the best sixth grade readers and I challenged each other to see who could read more.  The prize? Bragging rights.  And maybe a baked good.  In joking with their English teacher, I said I could beat them handily if I limited myself to YA books (lower page count, usually) but that would be cheating, right?  So I read as I normally would, and from June 7 – September 7 I read 95 books (combined, the two read 25 and 63 books each; the 63-book-reader said that binge watching “Gossip Girl” derailed the reading plan).

I’ve reviewed them on Goodreads, but here are the covers of some of my favorites:

 

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

I’m not a stalker, I promise!

Posted by lpearle on 28 August 2018

At least one or two of my friends and my staff like to play the game “Six Degrees of Laura Pearle” because I can come up with odd connections to people (example, last February during the TSA check in Denver, the agent asked how long I’d lived in my current home; turns out, he’d grown up around the corner).  There’s one connection that might make me appear to be a bit of a stalker…

A few years ago, I became aware of the author Grace Lin.  Grace grew up in the town my parents moved to in 1969 (and where they still live), and of course that made me wonder exactly where in that town she’d lived.  Here’s the “Six Degrees” part: in 1975, Grace’s parents bought the house my BFF Karen lived in before her father was transferred.  I don’t know for sure, but it’s possible that they even “shared” a bedroom.

Shortly after I learned that, my friend Yapha was hosting Grace at her school and very kindly got a special autographed copy of her book, which she then sent to Karen.  This past Sunday, Grace was at Porter Square Books promoting her new book and I was there.  Not only was I there, I had a photo of her childhood home that I’d taken in early August.  I swear, it was only because I was visiting my parents and I knew I’d see her that I’d even taken the photo – I’m not a stalker.  Really.   Nor am I sharing that photo with anyone except Grace and Karen.  However, I did get this:

Grace Lin autograph

Even though I’m seeing Karen in November, this is going in the mail ASAP.  Because that’s the kind of BFF/stalker I am.

Posted in Books, Life Related | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 20 August 2018

One final round-up before school begins.

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

  • Do you have students who study architecture or the classics or ancient history?  This twitter thread on ruins might give them some interesting resources.  And then there’s Tutte le opere from the Museo della Civilta Romana
  • LGBTQ issues (especially Stonewall) are always popular research topics at my schools.  NYPL has great online resources to help.

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

  • The larger site deals with NYC’s grid but there are maps of other grids – perfect for thinking about city planning, urban life, etc..

 

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

My reading journey

Posted by lpearle on 16 August 2018

Last week I had an upsetting exchange with two friends on Twitter that I have to share because school’s starting and this nonsense will start again.

But first, some background.  Most people know I read quite a few books in a year (I also read magazines and newspapers).  I’ve never understood people who say “I don’t read” because I’m reasonably certain they’re not actually illiterate.  What they mean is they don’t read books (or as many as I do) or they don’t read novels or something.  I also doubt those Pew surveys that say that people don’t read books after they leave college: how are they defining books?  Are they including graphic novels or audiobooks?  Anyway.

My mother has an MEd and for a few years before I entered her life, she taught Kindergarten and first grade.  She’s an incredibly smart person and yet, somehow, the idea that there were developmental differences between a toddler and one of her students didn’t quite sink in, so when I was 2 1/2 years old, she started to teach me to read by placing labels on things all over the house (so the table had a big label that said, you guessed it, table on it, etc.).  By the time I was in Kindergarten I was reading above my age group so my teacher gave me additional reading; when we moved from Ohio to Central New York, it was clear that between that and my father’s teaching me basic math (and my grandfather teaching me cursive!) first grade would be boring, so I moved up to second grade.  Dad used to read to me, really bringing his favorite childhood stories to life with voices and inflections; when I was seven, he started <i>Treasure Island</i> and for some reason never got through the last few chapters – to this day, I don’t know how things end.  He’s still around and I live in hope he’ll finish.

The next year, a babysitter gave me her old Nancy Drews and I read <i>The Clue in the Dancing Puppet</i> one night – it gave me my one and only wake up screaming nightmare.  My parents suggested that perhaps I not read any more of those. At nine, I read <i>The Hobbit</i> and by ten I’d read <i>The Lord of the RIngs</i>.  Then we moved to Geneva and I discovered Enid Blyton and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer… and Victoria Holt’s <i>The Mistress of Mellyn</i>.  My school librarian realized I was a reader, but when I concentrated on the Blytons and rediscovered Nancy Drew, she spoke with my mother about how I could be reading better (or more difficult, or something like that) books.  Mom apparently told her I was fine.

Back in the US, in eighth grade, two things happened.  The first was we spent part of our year in English doing minicourses.  Somehow, I didn’t get my first three choices so they put me in a speed reading class.  At the start of the class we took some test to determine our starting speed and I tested at 1000wpm.  The teacher left me alone after that.  The second was a standardized test that determined your reading level, and for some reason we graded each other’s tests before the teacher asked “how many got xx wrong? you’re reading at y level. how many got xx-1 wrong? you’re reading at y+1 level” etc.  She stopped when they got to those who had 10 wrong, then counted.  After double counting, she asked who was missing… and the person grading my test said, “Laura got none wrong” which apparently meant I was reading at a college or above level.

None of this made a difference to my reading – I read what I wanted, when I wanted.  Rereading things like <i>Mistress of Mellyn</i> as a later teen made me realize how much of that book I’d missed at age 10.  As an adult, I read a wide range of books, from picture books to learned tomes.  I’m not saying this as a humblebrag, just as information.  And over the past few years, I’ve been increasingly grateful that back in the 60s and 70s we didn’t have programs like AR and F&P, and no one cared about lexiles.  I’m astoundingly unatheletic, nor am I interested in crafts like scrapbooking.  If I’d been born in the 90s or later, who knows how my teachers and librarians might have killed my love of reading and how unhappy I’d be with nothing but tv or videos to keep me occupied.

So, with all that as background, here’s part of the conversation last week:

Um, excuse me?  Please tell me this was misheard, or misunderstood.

And here’s Angie, with the perfect response.

We have some amazing readers at my school.  Last year, one high school student borrowed a bunch of classics (including <i>Moby Dick</i>, which was handed back with a DNF comment) as well as the latest in YA.  Imagine if we’d said that something was above or below her AR level or Lexile level?  It’s not just about the incredible waste of money paying for these programs, nor the time spent managing the programs.  It’s about loving reading and encouraging reading at all levels, in all genres.  Who knows where this student’s reading journey started, or where it will end?  My only goal is to make sure it doesn’t end too soon.

And if we’re being honest, isn’t that the goal of all school librarians and English teachers?  If it isn’t, shouldn’t it be?

Posted in Books, Links, Rants, School Libraries, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 6 August 2018

As promised, here are more of those links I’ve collected.  Helpful tip: if you’re saving things as Twitter bookmarks, you can access them on your laptop by changing from twitter.com to m.twitter.com.

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

  • As a lifelong Red Sox fan, it’s fun checking out the Library of Congress’ Baseball Archives.  It’s probably fun for fans of other teams, too.
  • Timesuck, but in a good way: GeoGuesser.
  • When I attend conferences (in person or virtually) I take notes longhand and then transcribe into a blog post (or other document).  NPR on why it helps me learn.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Links, Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a 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?

 

 

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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 »

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.”

Seriously?

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:

 

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