Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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 | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 23 January 2017

I’ve been busy planning for ALAMW and the YMAs – while I usually avoid the crowds, this year I need to be there as part of my Alex Award committee work.  So here’s a little something to think about and explore while I finish the 2017 award work (feel free to get ready for the Big Reveal!).

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

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

My year in reading

Posted by lpearle on 31 December 2016

challenge

As you’ve read in previous posts, I’m on the 2017 Alex Award committee.  Any adult book published in 2016 is eligible, and YALSA’s policy is that we (the committee) can’t publicly talk about what we’re reading .  But because I work in a MS/US school library I have to keep up with what’s going on in YA, and because there are genres and topics I’m not thrilled with, I have to have “comfort” reads.  So, being practical, I thought I’d get through about 75 non-Alex books… then perhaps 100 would be ok… and finally, 125 was my challenge goal.  Reader, I surpassed it.  Per Goodreads, here’s what my year looked like:

reading2016

My “Alex eligible” reading reached 214, for a total of 345 books read in 2016.  Not my best (that was 399) but not bad either.  And while I can’t talk about the Alex books, I can tell you that between non-eligible (books published pre-2016, or those for children and young adults) my requests, committee nominations and personal “I really want to read that, whether or not there’s teen appeal” the genre breakdown was:

  • Biography/Memoir – 26
  • Children’s / Young Adult – 124
  • Fiction / Literature – 76
  • Horror – 7
  • Humor – 7
  • Mystery – 29
  • Non-Fiction – 32
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy/Speculative Fiction – 31
  • Suspense – 13

I’m on the 2018 Alex Award committee, so the same rules will apply.  I’m wondering if I’ll read as many next year, either on my own or for the award.  Stay tuned!

 

(oh, and if you’re wondering about what happened to the books, many were donated to my school, my friends and a local charity shop – lucky them)

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

What I did on my summer “vacation”

Posted by lpearle on 29 August 2016

Wow.  I know I promised to post when life calmed a little – guess what, it didn’t.  While my position is on the teachers schedule, this summer we had a major project going on.  In the space of seven weeks, I and two recent graduates worked hard to weed books, reshelve them in a better order, move furniture and really start the process of creating a 21st century library space:

There’s still much to do, but at least the pace will be a lot slower.   I won’t promise to blog more, because that hasn’t worked in the past, instead I will promise to try to blog more.

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

Getting my Alex on

Posted by lpearle on 9 March 2016

In addition to getting to know a new collection and a new school’s way of doing research, I’ve been working on the 2017 Alex Award Committee.  If you’re not looking at adult reads being published in 2016, you’re missing out (trust me on this).

The charge of the Alex Award is to find books with teen appeal, something that is at times difficult for me to suss out.  As someone in her second half-century, putting myself in the mindset of a teen isn’t always easy!  There have been occasional meme-based responses to our Instagram posts and, well… luckily I have staff who are much closer to that age group and get memes.  With Alex, I’m looking for a plot that might interest them – even in non-fiction, as I learned working on the ENFYA Committee and as I’m telling our sixth graders, there can be a narrative arc! – with characters that make sense.  That doesn’t mean I’d expect them to “relate” to Hannibal Lecter, but so many teens love to read Silence of the Lambs thanks to the horror and “creep factor” that it’d probably have gotten the Alex, had it existed when the book was published.

A few weeks ago I booktalked some recently published novels by American authors to an American Lit class.  We came up with twitter “reviews” to pique their interest (eg, “Orange blossoms mean fascination. Chrysanthemums mean you’re a good friend.  More subtle than emojis, flowers speak volumes” for The Language of Flowers, a 2011 nominee)   and they were asked to choose one, read it and then present (to the class and others) on how that book mimicked or expanded on themes in the books they were reading for class.  Talking with them as they chose these books was interesting, with many excited to read something new and not being taught in class.  One or two have even asked for more by that author, or in that genre.

Our fiction collection here was not necessarily bought with teens in mind – Ferrente’s Neopolitan novels, for example – but traditionally we have had a lot of faculty who use our collection for their pleasure reading.  As I continue to read for Alex, I’m wondering about that “teen appeal” part and reflecting on some of the books I’ve read in the past, like Millay’s Sea of Tranquility, which (to my mind) had little adult appeal but was not published at a YA book and thus won the award in 2014.  It will definitely guide my purchasing for our collection in future, as we try to balance “adult appeal” with what will actually appeal to our students.  It will also be interesting to see how we can market these books to both faculty and students without one or the other feeling as though their needs are not being met.

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

My Kanye moment

Posted by lpearle on 29 February 2016

No, I’m not going to interrupt someone – I’m talking about this moment:

Kanye

https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/698926987281371136

Research season (part one) hit us, and once again I thought about how difficult research is for students.  As we’ve been weeding the print collection and bulking up the digital offerings, it’s been interesting to watch how students interact with what we have.  Much of their research has been what I’d call “cherry picking” research: find a fact here… find a fact there… find a quote somewhere else… repeat.  The great narrative nonfiction we have doesn’t get used to their fullest extent, in part because they (the students) don’t really have time to delve into their topics.  Of course, that hasn’t changed since I was in high school!

Over the past few years, I’ve regretted the loss of those Time-Life book sets.  Remember them?  So many of them were great resources for research, perfect for a quick read and cherry pick information, much as they do with Daily Life series.  But, sadly, T-L has ceased publishing (before completing This Fabulous Century!) and what we have is falling apart from use.

Years ago, the Marvelous Marion and I dreamed up a business idea: Sugar Daddy Press (because we’d need a sugar daddy to get things going).  We’d buy the rights to those series and create wonderful reprints, even extending them.  Example?  The Library of Art would move into other arts, giving us The World of Mozart and The World of Bronte in addition to The World of Van Gogh. We’d also take on those Jackdaws, only now they’d be online (Rosen, please get on this ASAP!).  There were so many other books that we found – and I still find – missing from our shelves, if by “missing” you mean “never published” or “out of print”.

Hence my Kanye moment.  Much as I love my job, if someone invested in Sugar Daddy Press I’d leave this one in a second to start getting things moving.  Because Research Season (part two) is about to hit.

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