Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 15 January 2016

Some things to think about while I digest ALA Midwinter and hiring new staff…

Books, Reading, etc.

  • While I’d love to teach this exact class, since I’m on the Alex Committee for the next couple of years it might be possible to figure out a way to create something similar with those books.
  • More Shakespeare thinking (this time from JSTOR and the Folger)
  • This year we’ve been working with the 6th grade English class and creating book recommendation materials.  Here’s an idea. And another one for increasing vacation reading from Katie: bring the books to the kids.
  • Don’t you love year end lists for personal and professional collection development?  I do.  Here’s stuff from The Hub, Semicolon

School Life

Tech Stuff

Etcetera

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

Diverse Diversity @ #ALAN16

Posted by lpearle on 5 January 2016

Diversity was a minor theme for the various professional development opportunities I had during the month or so before Winter Break.  I’m always mindful of the fact that “diversity” doesn’t only mean “skin tone”; when I was co-chair of my school’s accreditation self-study, we tried to think about all of NYSAIS’ definition of diversity when discussing the school’s culture:

How does the school officially communicate its policies and practices with respect to differences in ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic level, physical ability, and learning styles?

Sometimes we do better at one, sometimes better at another.  When I hear #weneeddiversebooks I think about the diverse diversities and what books are doing to address them.  How does this relate to ALAN?

Last year there was a lot of discussion about “boy books” vs “girl books” and that carried over to this year.  One panelist asked why no one asks where are the strong boy characters, simply because strong boy characters are the norm.  Why can’t we have a world where that’s assumed equally for boys and girls? When one voice (male, or white, or Christian, or whatever) is always the authority/norm in books, it starts to carry over into real life because that’s what readers internalize.  Protagonists are protagonists, period.  Why don’t we say, “the protagonist” rather than “the girl protagonist”?  Because if it’s a girl (or not white or poor or some other diverse subset) that’s what we notice.  And isn’t that a shame?

The myth of diverse (by ethnicity or race) books not selling was also addressed.  They do sell, but part of the problem is that the publishers are small presses without the big ARC/promotion budgets of the big houses.  Why are so many English books translated into other languages, and not vice versa?  What about diverse authors, and getting their story out?  We were reminded that diversity is not all conflict, it can just “be” and still make for an amazing book.  Just look at science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction: they write around diversity and outside themselves all the time and no one questions those authors about using an authentic voice (and it was repeated: did not being a wizard make JK Rowling’s world less authentic?).  The big takeaway was that maybe we should promote diverse books by not framing them as diverse, but as being about the story, as in “this a coming-of-age story” or “this is about first love”.

We were reminded that there were other diversities (see, it did all tie in!) that aren’t being as discussed, and where are the authors who are writing about these issues? Poverty, the not-college-bound, the disabilities (cancer, something other than OCD/ASD, a physical limitation), teens in prison, etc. are also missing from our shelves.  The reality of these lives is that they’re not easy, not everyone accepts them and sometimes, life hurts.  We need books that also say that while we may have depression, asthma, grief, etc, we aren’t depression, asthma, grief, etc., we’re human.  Let’s remember that, as Laurie Halse Anderson said, adults know how to handle “dark” while teens are turning to fiction to learn how to cope.  And Margi Preus eloquently said that every student reading is doing research into their future lives, books are a door to that life.  So let’s open up the canon, add some new books that maybe weren’t taught (or published) back when we were in high school!

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Conferences | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 22 December 2015

The past couple of months have been filled with work stuff and some interesting (read: thought provoking) professional development.  As I digest all of that and distill into posts, here’s a round-up of other things catching my eye.

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Etcetera

  • Carol Dweck on how her research is misused
  • Is your school talking about equality and diversity? Read this.

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

What’s on your shelves?

Posted by lpearle on 26 October 2015

With one exception, the school libraries I’ve worked in have needed some serious collection pruning; MPOW is no different.  Usually it’s the problem of having a lot of stack space and not enough time/staff to really weed what’s there.  I’m of the firm belief, however, that pruning and judicious deletions are an absolute necessity!

Why?  Well, if you’re researching a topic and go to a shelf that is completely packed with books, many of which are old, possibly out-of-date, and look as though they could fall apart as you’re reading them, you’re less likely (as a high school student) to use that resource.  And finding those “gems” that actually will help you with your project can be a real challenge.  My goal, as a school librarian, is to have students spend some time doing the finding but to be able to spend most of their project time reading, reflecting, synthesizing and then presenting a cogent argument.  Often, because of the state of the collection, the finding takes more time than it should, compressing the reading/reflecting/synthesizing time.

There’s also the problem of old sections that were incredibly useful that are no longer.  One school had a major project that asked students to imagine life as Jew during the Nazi era or as someone hiding the Jews.  So the shelves were filled with memoirs and biographies that met that need.  However, by the time I arrived, the project was long gone (over ten years) and the students were researching other things.  We needed to choose the best of the books from the previous project, get rid of the rest and collect resources that would meet their current research needs.  I’ve worked in schools that have changed the foreign language offerings, dropping German and Italian in favor of Chinese.  Do we really need a lot of dictionaries in those languages, or do we need more Chinese-related materials?  The sea change I’ve seen in how my English departments are approaching their work also affects our collection; none of the departments in my past four schools has asked students to use literary criticism or reviews – yet the shelves were filled with Twayne’s, Bloom’s and those Gale “[genre] Criticism” books.  That’s an easy weed, particularly since they’re now available on-line should we need to add them back into the collection.

Our on-line resources also need to be reviewed.  At each school I create a database spreadsheet, monitoring the ROI on our subscriptions (ROI = $ per search).  The goal, for me, is under $5 per search.  One database, requested by the department chair, was nearly $70/search.  After two years, I was able to convince the department that it wasn’t fiscally prudent for us to continue subscribing.  What that means is that we (the librarians) have to know what else is out there, looking for resources that will enhance our print collection – not, as some fear, replace it! – as well as meet the needs of students outside the library.

I’ve often said that there’s a middle ground between the school library with tens of thousands of books that never circulate and gather dust (so the school can brag about sheer number of volumes) and the school library that is purely digital (which can seriously limit student research using current, non e-available resources).  My hope is that at MPOW we’ll successfully get there.

But that’s just for the non-fiction books, right?  Well… no.  We also need to look at the fiction.  For the first time, I’m working in a school where the adults are just as engaged with the fiction collection as the students, perhaps more so!  That’s great, and gives us a great incentive to ensure we’re buying adult titles (like the NBA and Carnegie longlists for literary fiction, or the Reading List for genre fiction). We also have to ensure we have great YA and MG fiction for our students.  One problem I’m seeing right now is that while we’re a library serving grades 6-12, we’ve mostly collected for grades 9-12.  Whoops!  So this year, the focus will not only be on pruning, but also adding great books for our younger students.

Again, stay tuned for more on how it’s all going.

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

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 11 September 2015

Still digitally decluttering…

Books, Reading, etc.

  • One challenge at MPOW is getting the middle school students into the library (time, distance, lack of discrete space are issues).  So we’re thinking about the pop-up library.

School Life

Tech Stuff

  • This was done with sixth graders, but could easily scale to any middle or upper school class.
  • This is of Allentown, but imagine creating a history or English class project (I know I’ve suggested this before… hoping this year a teacher takes me up on it!).  And how cool it would be to integrate the Newseum into your resources? or a Digital Timeline?
  • MPOW is a GAFE/Schoology school, and Videonot.es looks like it would be a great tool to use!
  • Right now, we’re BYOD (so have computer labs) – Doug has great ideas about 1:1.
  • This list of tools is a great starter toolkit!
  • It’s the start of a new school year.  Why not declutter your laptop before things get crazy?

Etcetera

And, as always, Will Richardson has some great ideas about trends we should be watching.  Something to ponder as the school year starts.

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

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 27 August 2015

Books, Reading, Etc..

  • I’ve done something similar with Google Maps, but this?  The Obsessively Detailed Map is truly obsessively detailed.  Ideas for additional “value added content”? TSU has some great Immersive Experience ideas.
  • This might just be my new favorite book blog: Oh, the Books! (via)
  • The Book Riot Quarterly box might be a good way to get students excited about reading.  BookOpolis looks to be a good way to introduce younger students to online reviewing/reading communities.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Etcetera…

Most important: 120 days until Christmas.  Shop now. Avoid the rush.

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

Watching the Watchman

Posted by lpearle on 6 August 2015

Many years ago, Harper Lee wrote a book she called Go Set A Watchman, submitted it to her publisher and hoped for the best.  The best was that the publisher liked parts of the book and recommended she go back and write another book about those parts, the parts when Jean Louise looked back on her childhood.  And thus was born To Kill A Mockingbird.

Years ago I heard Naomi Shihab Nye talk about her first publishing experience, when a poetry publisher told her that only seven lines of a much longer poem were “worthy”, thus forcing her to revise her poem. She talks the process of revision here in much the same way she did then:

 

See where this is going?

When the news came out that Ms. Lee had not destroyed the book but had kept it, and HarperCollins had the unedited, unpublishable first draft and was, in fact, publishing it, there were two reactions: one, why now? and two, what did Ms. Lee think?  After all, that’s the hope of all readers when a favorite author dies, that there will be more coming because there were manuscripts hidden.  Salinger must have written something amazing all those years he was in Vermont, right?  It’s like Tupac recording from the grave.  So the “why now” gets answered by “because now is when we found it” but the second question goes unanswered because no one can talk with the author unless they go through her lawyer, who swears that she’s happy about it all.

Maybe I was alone in this, but I never expected this to be a Great Read.  If anything, it was a first, very rough look at the story and out of all the dross, the gold of Mockingbird arose.  Many early readers and reviewers were shocked and dismayed to find that Atticus was a racist – it’s like finding out that Superman’s ability to leap tall buildings didn’t include the Empire State Buildings.  This despite some scholars bringing out this aspect of Atticus for years already.  Some refused to read it (my friend Chuck included).  And now a bookstore is offering refunds for those who didn’t quite understand what they were getting when they purchased the book. It could be worse: it could have looked like Finnegan’s Wake!

Mockingbird was not a required read for me (I read it on my own, not for a class), so I don’t hold it in the same reverential light as (perhaps) those who studied the book do.  My personal reading plans do not include reading Watchman. My professional collection development plans might include it, if (after conferring with the other librarians and our English teachers) they think it would add to our student’s understanding of the rewriting process and/or the themes in Mockingbird.  That seems to be the reasonable thing to do.

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 4 August 2015

It’s summer – a major move (personal and professional) is in process, so why not declutter a bit and share links and ideas I’ve been hoarding all school year?  Regular posts to resume by the end of August, I hope!

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Etcetera

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

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 30 July 2015

Books, Reading, Etc.

  • Why Does S Look Like F?” (how to read old-fashioned books – we might need this for handwriting, esp, cursive, soon!)
  • I played with this some, and now I’m wondering how to create a Best Books of the Summer app for school.

School Life

Tech Stuff

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

Book-based thoughts about #alaac15

Posted by lpearle on 2 July 2015

I have so much more to write about, but just don’t have time right now to digest and properly reflect on the sessions.  So instead, here’s the “easy” post, all about the books!

ARCs to savor – look for these books soon! (ok, I haven’t read more than one or two… yet…):

  • Slade House by David Mitchell (huge surprise, given the appearance of The Bone Clocks earlier this year)
  • Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley (historical fiction about the Brontes)
  • The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos (no one does fictional autobiography like Gantos.  No one).
  • Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin (about Daniel Ellsberg, maybe helping students understand why what he did was such a Big Deal Back Then)
  • Untwine by Edwidge Dandicat (need I say more?)
  • The Year of Lear by James Shapiro (maybe understanding the historical setting around the writing of the play will help students appreciate it more?)
  • We Believe the Children by Richard Beck (looking forward to revisiting the hysteria)

For the record, I got nearly 70 books at ALA, all of which I’m hoping I’ll truly enjoy.  These just seemed to be the most universally interesting.  Or not.

A few years ago, Wendy introduced me to the joy that is the Best Fiction for Young Adults teen feedback session.  If at all possible, I try to go and hear what the teens really think (because as a 50+-year-old, sometimes I just don’t think like a teen).  The following is a list of the books that got Much Love, Some Love and Mixed Love from the group that spoke, and one or two that they didn’t seem to like as much as the committee did:

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli) – some love
  • The Tightrope Walkers (David Almond) – some love
  • Infandous (Elana Arnold) – mixed love
  • The Doubt Factory (Paolo Bacigalupi) – no real love
  • Silent Alarm (Jennifer Banash) – some love
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest (Holly Black) – mixed love
  • The Game of Love and Death (Martha Brockenbrough) – mixed love
  • The Bunker Diary (Kevin Brooks) – mixed love
  • Alex as Well (Alyssa Brugman) – mixed love
  • Audacity (Melanie Crowder) – some love
  • Death Coming Up the Hill (Chris Crowe) – some love
  • I’ll Meet You There (Heather Demetrios) – some love
  • Eden West (Peter Hautman) –  some love
  • Poisoned Apples (Christine Heppermann) – much love
  • Little Peach (Peggy Kern) – much love
  • Read Between the Lines (Jo Knowles) – some love
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (Sarah J. Maas) – some love
  • All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven) – much love
  • Vanishing Girls (Lauren Oliver) – some love
  • The Boy in the Black Suit (Jason Reynolds) – mixed love
  • Bone Gap (Laura Ruby) – mixed love
  • The Winner’s Crime (Marie Rutkoski) – mixed love
  • Fig (Sarah Elizabeth Schantz) – some love
  • The Ghosts of Heaven (Marcus Sedgwick) – mixed love
  • X (Ilyasah Shabazz) – much love
  • Challenger Deep (Neal Shusterman) – much love
  • The Walls Around Us (Nova Ren Suma) – mixed love
  • All the Rage (Courtney Summers) – much love
  • In Real Life (Laurence Tabak) – mixed love
  • An Ember in the Ashes (Sabaa Tahir) – mixed love
  • The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B (Teresa Toten) – mixed love
  • Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go (Laura Rose Wagner) – some love
  • We All Looked Up (Tommy Wallach) – mixed love
  • My Heart and Other Black Holes (Jasmine Warga) – mixed love
  • This Side of Home (Renee Watson) – some love

There were 59 books on the list, so that “only” 24 were left off during a whirlwind 90 minute session isn’t bad.  For me, the surprises were that Mosquitoland (David Arnold), Saint Anything (Sarah Dessen), The Girl at Midnight (Melissa Grey), Razorhurst (Justine Larbalesteir), Hold Me Closer (David Levithan) and Black Dove, White Raven (Elizabeth Wein) were not mentioned at all.  That might not mean anything… or it might.  What I do know is that I’m going to use the much loved and some loved books in a Welcome Back display in September, asking our students to weigh in.

Now I’m off on a brief vacation (and some reading of the new books).  More on ALA when I return.

 

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Conferences | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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