Venn Librarian

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Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

Where does the money go?

Posted by lpearle on 6 January 2014

In November I had to prepare my AY15 budget. Yes, you read that correctly: November 2013.  The budget won’t be finalized for several months yet, but it was an instructive exercize to consider what I’d be spending the school’s money on from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.  What was the proper amount for print resources (books and periodicals)?  Which databases were we going to keep?  Could I build in some fudge money so if a great new database came along we’d have the ability to purchase it in AY15, not AY16?

One line item gave me real pause: the professional training/conferences line.  A number of years ago, Doug wrote a great post about his expectations for presenters. Now, in my nearly two decades of doing this school librarian thing, I’ve only had real support for my conference going for eight of those years and even then I was careful to only have the school pay for registration, transportation (if I didn’t drive) and the hotel, plus shipping of books/materials back to school – meals and other stuff were on me.  In part it’s because I didn’t want to take advantage, but in part it’s because I truly believe that having some skin in the game is important.  So as I prepared my budget, I thought about the upcoming year’s conferences and which I might want to attend.  It’s not like I’m starved for choice: ALA Annual and Midwinter, YALSA’s Literature Symposium, AASL’s Fall Forum, SLJ’s Leadership Summit, NECC, NCTE/ALAN, NYSAIS’ NEIT Conference and many more.  The question for me is, “which experience will give my school (and me) the biggest bang for our bucks?”

The Little Professor has a post about attending MLA that I think has great application for ALA (and divisions).  While some may argue that 3000 (AASL13) vs 25000 (ALA Annual, average) is manageable, the question about the types of presentations arises.  I like to stray outside the box, seeing what other divisions are up to and learning from them because there’s often a lot I can apply to my situation.   The Literature Symposium vs NCTE/ALAN is another conundrum, because they’re very different experiences.  As I work more with training teachers and students on technology, would missing ALA Annual in favor of NECC be the better choice (although here, again, there’s a scale issue)?

So many questions to answer, and in November 2013 I have no idea what the answer was going to be come registration time in late 2014.  Where will you be putting your money?

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

Turning off, or the dark side of social media

Posted by lpearle on 23 November 2013

One of the questions Angela Carstensen asked her author’s panel at AASL was about their use (or lack thereof) of social media in their books.  The responses were very thought-provoking and left me with much to ponder as my school shuts down for Thanksgiving Break.

The first response that made me really think was Kimberly McCreight’s (she’s the author of Reconstructing Amelia, which heavily uses social media as Amelia’s mom searches for the reasons behind her fall from the roof of her school).  At the risk of spoiling, I’ll just say that there is some bullying involved in the plot, as well as a tell-all blog.  Ms. McCreight’s response was that bullying has been intensified by social media – in decades past, home may have been a safe space for the bullied but now text messages can arrive at any time, spoiling sleep.

“Just turn if off” may be great advice, but is it realistic? The bullied know that the messages are still coming in and will be there when they wake up and turn it on.  What before used to be perhaps graffiti in the bathroom or painted onto a locker is now posted not just locally but globally.  There is no safe space, thanks to social media.

It also got me thinking about the not-quite-bullying, almost the opposite of the negative attention: no attention.  The socially insecure whose “friend requests” are ignored, the public posting of photos of parties and events that they’re not invited to, the comments on others posts and photos that are met with deafening silence or are deleted.  Yes, it’s easier to find like-minded people further from home but don’t we all really want to be known and accepted in school?  And I also thought about two kids I know, one a junior in high school the other in 8th grade (they’re siblings).  For a variety of reasons, their parents have severely limited their at-home interaction with “screens” to one hour a day (not including educational use).  The two have to make decisions about whether they want to go on Facebook or watch a tv show or play Xbox or post to Pinterest.  I’ve never asked them how they feel about this, or how it may be affecting their interactions with their peers.

One of the things I’m thankful for is that when I was growing up, during that socially awkward, personally awkward stage, broadcasting those moments and that torment was limited to prank “I’ve got a crush on you” phone calls (and laughter in the hallways the next day) and mean girl graffiti.  The parties you didn’t get invited to?  Only your classmates really knew, not their friends across the globe.  As an adult I have the strength and mental equipment to deal with anything like that that might happen, but back then?  Not even close.

As someone who works with girls going through that stage in their lives, it’s something I need to be more aware of and watchful for because it can feel so much worse now, given the reach (and permanence) of social media.

Posted in Conferences, Musings, Techno Geekiness | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

What I didn’t see at #AASL13

Posted by lpearle on 20 November 2013

This is not a “why didn’t the organizers do this??” post, it’s more of a wish list of things that thus far no one’s working on, or if they are they’re not in the school library world.

  1. I’m still not sure what the difference is between federated search and “discovery”, but why can’t all databases not only integrate but use natural language?  Information shouldn’t be that difficult for my students to find.  Plus, controlled language?  Show me a student K-12 who really cares about metadata and controlled language in databases and books and I’ll show you a very strange student.
  2. Something like that time turner device Hermione had in Harry Potter.  Seriously.  There’s no way we can keep up with the pace of technological and policy change and have anything resembling a life without one.
  3. It was great that YALSA was there, but where were ACRL, RUSA and ALSC?  There’s so much that we should be doing cross-divisions!  Having representatives showing why and how to navigate another division would be a great welcoming opportunity.
  4. Vendors who support their “booth babes” in professional development.  I think it was at either Portland or Indianapolis that I met a vendor rep in a pre-conference; they’d been registered for the conference as an attendee so that they could see what was really important and really happening, rather than living in the vendor bubble.
  5. Self-care.  At some conferences there are back massage booths – why not booths or a conference room filled with “self-care” vendors?  Learning relaxation techniques, getting stress-management tips and maybe getting one of those cards that show you how to exercize (discretely) at your desk or the proper technique for shelving/getting a cardio jolt while unjamming the copier (like the cards you see in some airline seatback pockets showing how to exercize inflight).

Perhaps next conference?

Posted in Conferences, Musings | Leave a Comment »

Data driven at #AASL13

Posted by lpearle on 18 November 2013

Most of us are not math people, but even the numerically challenged should question this:

But when such thoughtful and challenging speakers as Debbie Abilock and Kristin Fontichiaro are giving a presentation entitled “Slaying the Data Dragon” it’s difficult to resist going.  Trust me when I tell you they brought the awesome and then some – and at 8am, no less!  Despite my “bed head” (as Deb called it) I manged to take copious notes…

The first thing to remember is that it’s not just about collecting data, it’s about interpreting the information as well as being aware what data is being collected (by whom? for what purposes?).  Scientists and techies are not just being required to submit their interpretation of their data but all their data sets so that others can learn from and expand upon them.  Big Data builds on past experiments – but we need to always question the data we didn’t collect ourselves.

(QUERY: if that’s the case, why do we blindly accept the data and interpretation provided by the Pew Internet & American Life surveys? are any of their data sets statistically significant?)

It’s also important to remember that computers can unearth connections we don’t see (or don’t think of to look for) but that they can’t made a distinction between good data and bad data; humans also need to interpret the correlations but can’t assume they understand the causations.  Privacy concerns may be something that our students don’t share, but when our data is being tracked by the politicians, sports teams, stores, financial institutions and others in addition to the NSA, one has to ask the question, “how will we weigh the trade-off between privacy, consumerism and security?”  What are the implications for the future, both immediate and longer term?  Why do we share our data so freely?  An extreme example of the downside is the ease with which the Nazi’s identified even assimilated Jews, based on data given freely to the government decades earlier.

Private browsing?  Not so much.  Acxiom is one data aggregator tracking your movements around the interwebs.  Try downloading and using ghostery to see how many others are using trackers, monitoring your movements from site to site, feeding the data back to… whom?  Don’t want to use the download but on a PC?  Try right click / view source / ctrl F .gif to see who’s hidden trackers on the site.  You can block and control who sees what you do!

But what about apps and tools like Fitbit and Jawbone?  The data they collect from you isn’t just included in your profile, it’s shared with everyone else using those programs.  Health data is protected, but what about our other data?  Target can predict when you’re pregnant (assuming you use either an affinity card or your credit/debit card).  Is that ok?  It may be helpful to get recommendations on shopping sites, but isn’t it also a little creepy?  Here’s a new term to learn: algorithmic regulation, which is supposed to help solve public problems without having to justify or explain by using personalized “nudges”.  Some seem benign, like your doctor or dentist reminding you to come in for a check up, but what about reminders to floss, or take a walk, or purchase milk?  Not reminders you set, but those that come from “elsewhere” based on data input from you and others?  Or what about glasses that can fool you into thinking that broccoli is really cake?

The problem is that Big Data isn’t neutral, mostly because it influences policy decisions – policies made by people who, like most of us, don’t know how to interpret the data they’re given.  An example of this is InBloom, a Gates-funded organization taking data from students without their permission or knowledge.  Decision makers also need to look at both macro- and micro-levels, as data provided for a neighborhood or town may look very different when compared to larger areas.  Infographics may be fun ways to represent data, but we need to learn how to read them.  A good start are the ACRL visual literacy standards, which can be walked down to K-12.  Working with teachers to create lessons that incorporate data interpretation also helps.  We were left with a number of sites that either have collected data or are still doing so, good places to start with both colleagues and students:

Reading List:

Posted in Conferences, Privacy, Techno Geekiness | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

First thoughts, #AASL13

Posted by lpearle on 15 November 2013

Initial impressions of AASL13?  Smaller than usual in some ways (fewer than 2500 attendees, about 1/3 the size of my first AASL back in Portland) but larger in others (I’ve never seen so many people at an ISS gathering!  Good for us!).  The exhibits were sparser than the last couple of conferences, too, perhaps because of the lower attendee rate and the fact that NCTE is next week, while YALSA’s Lit Symposium was just a couple of weeks ago.

This is my 9th AASL and as much as I may pretend, it’s not all about the swag.  It’s about the opportunities to learn and grow with people in similar situations as well as learn from people in schools very different from mine.  Looking over the conference offerings and seeing new names with new ideas presenting is always such a thrill – not that the old names are bad, but isn’t it wonderful that others are sharing as well?  I know that many of my friends feel the same way as they examine the offerings, sussing out what is a Must Attend session and planning a few Fun to Attends.

So why so many fewer people?  Here’s my guess: it’s not just about the economy, or lower budgets.  It’s about a glut of PDOs (aka Professional Development Opportunities).  When I was a sweet young thing just starting out, the options were ALA and AASL, with the former very large and confusing for newbies.  Then along came the SLJ Leadership Summit, YALSA’s Lit Symposium, AASL’s Fall Forum, Computers in Libraries, ISTE and BEA.  I can reach my PLN and learn via Twitter and Facebok and Nings and Pinterest and… and… and… If I need more formal learning, there are webinars and MOOCs.  Choosing where and how to spend my time and treasure is more difficult than before due to the sheer number of choices.  That’s not a bad thing, but it does mean that we constantly feel as though we’re scrambling to keep up simply because we hear so much more frequently about the things that others are doing.

No real conclusions here, just some Friday morning musings.

Posted in Conferences, Musings | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Real World, Real Tools – #ALA2013

Posted by lpearle on 8 July 2013

Going to ALA’s Annual Conference is always a great time for me to learn, especially from those in situations unlike my own.   I’ll attend sessions provided by other divisions because even though I’m not in an academic or public library, or work that heavily with technology, I can take ideas and think about how they might be used in my professional life – or what the trickle down/trickle sideways effect might be.

A few times I’ve been honored to give back, to share what I’ve learned with others.  This year, it was a preconference with Wendy Stephens and Deb Logan, focusing on how to navigate/negotiate real world situations.  Sadly, all to frequently what our professional organizations and pre-service educators tell us is, well, not based in reality.  Our goal was to share the Wisdom of the Room, because even though we’re in different schools there’s so much we can learn from each other.

Here’s my main presentation, on Administration:

There was going to be a follow-up section that pulled everything together into a wiki, but that didn’t happen.  What did happen was a GoogleDoc – livescribed notes and links from the session.  Please feel free to add your wisdom and real world tools.

Posted in Conferences, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Teens and eBooks – a #YALSA / #ALA2013 discussion

Posted by lpearle on 3 July 2013

pace Freud, what do teens want?

That’s the question that the roundtable I attended considered – and the overall sense was that, as with men vis-a-vis women, we just don’t know what teens want when it comes to e-books/e-readers.  We do have a few ideas, however:

  • it’s population specific – don’t trust national polls, as trends change from town to town and school to school.
  • platform agnosticity is especially important if you’re considering a BYOD program.
  • teens use reference ebooks far more than fiction ebooks – there’s no real evidence that they are using ereaders or apps to read for pleasure.
  • one huge problem: adults borrowing YA ebooks wrecks havoc with stats – we know the book is popular, but don’t know who’s reading it
  • don’t make the book native to the device (avoids age issues, platform issues, etc.)

The process needs to be seemless, even two clicks can be one click too many.  Why can’t whatever system (Follett Shelf, Overdrive,  B&T’s Access 360, etc.) be as easy to use as iTunes?

Teens also don’t understand – or care – about publisher problems.  They want their book NOW and don’t want to hear that this publisher isn’t providing an e-version (or a library e-version).  Holds? They don’t want no stinkin’ holds – it’s an e-version, right?  How can there be a limit to how many are using/reading it at one time?

As an adult, I understand that: earlier this year I had the pleasure of discovering Cara Black’s mysteries thanks to a publisher-provided ARC on Edelweiss.  I had a trip coming up and wanted to read another on my Kindle – only the immediate previous book was available in e-version.  Two of twelve volumes available?  Disappointing!

Of course, it’s not just about publisher problems, it’s about knowing what to buy.  Reading blogs, getting recommendations from friends and family are the usual ways students find out about their next read.  Why not create genre consultants?  As your teens what you should be purchasing (keeping budget and age constraints in mind).  Put them in charge of a part of the budget (e.g., give the fantasy consultant $150 to “buy” books with) – not only do you get great support from the consultant, word-of-mouth will tell others how responsive you are and how wonderful the collection is.  Our new mantra needs to be Patron Driven Acquisition.

What about foreign languages?  Creating a collection of ebooks in French, Spanish, Chinese, etc. can be a good resource for ESL readers and those studying the language.

Current wisdom is that the OPAC is dead – no one uses it.  So how do we promote our collections, e- and print?

  • create displays of Fiction/Nonfiction books that relate to popular movies, tv series
  • use Pinterest
  • promote via GoodReads/LibraryThing/Shelfari (students love the social aspect – just be careful to separate your reading from the library’s collection)
  • Subtext can be a great book group tool, in addition to being used by teachers for curricular-related reading.  Of course, you need to be aware of what books are available in the app and it is only available for Apple products (seriously – why aren’t these people providing multi-platform tools?!)

Courtney Lewis has been doing action research on her students and reading – there’s an article in the fall YALS on her previous study, and she’s re-doing it this year (four years is a lifetime in a school, and several in tech land).  Despite what we “know” about teens not reading, her data shows different.  We need to promote that – it may not be reading canon literature, but it is reading!  She’ll share her new data via GoogleDoc – just ask her!


Posted in Books, Collection Development, Conferences, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 28 June 2013

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

  • This would work in a school OR a public library: Welcome to my Tweendom’s Are You A Reader Q&A
  • As you’re revamping your curriculum and website, consider adding some of the NoodleTools Show Me tutorials.

Tech Stuff

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

Collection Development 2020 – #LJDOD13

Posted by lpearle on 20 June 2013

One of the things that I constantly tell friends and colleagues is that I couldn’t possibly presume to predict what a library or its collection will look like/should look like in 3-5 years, and here we have a panel that is attempting to think seven years ahead!  Brave souls…

Some of the takeaways had nothing to do with “future thinking”.  For example,

  • when selecting a children’s book collection you need to remember that there are really three audiences – the child, the staff and the parents.  Not every book has to appeal to all three, but the overall collection must.
  • demographics are not the be-all and end-all of collection development – observation of what the community reads is as important (if not more so).  You can never have too much information when making decisions (NOTE: between the DOD and now, this kerfluffle in Urbana surfaced.  ’nuff said.)
  • you gotta work the desk – it’s the best/only way to really get a sense of what’s circulating, what the community is looking for and who the community is.  Being aware of trends is important (who was there? who is there?) when buying.  A community that has a sudden immigrant influx, or where the population is aging in place, or where a major employer has folded/expanded will have different needs than the community had even last year.  It’s also a great way to see that even though you may be located in an area that has a large [ethnic group] population, [another ethnic group] is there during the day.  You can’t see that just by looking at demographics.
  • publishers don’t know what your needs are – you need to communicate with them and help them understand and learn (this is why there is usually overkill on genres).

Good collection development tools?  Twitter and GoodReads.  There’s lots of real-time information that can help you stay abreast of trends, fads and frenzies (it’s also a great way to connect with authors and publishers).

So what about the dreaded O word (that’s Outsourcing, in case you were wondering)?  Given budgets, staffing and changes, sometimes “good enough” needs to be ok.  Let go: allow the vendor to do what the vendor does best.  It’ll give you depth and lack of worry on standing orders (I’ve used them in three libraries and it really is a relief to know that books by an author will automatically arrive, no need for me to remember a pub. date!).

And then there’s the “self-published” world – and let’s change the name to “author services” because it’s really not self-published, it’s almost micro-presses where authors pay to publish.  Anyhoo, it’s going to be a huge issue in our world, especially with shelf space at a premium.  Plus, the books aren’t necessarily not great, they’re just not known.

  • it’s a great way to support local authors (bringing the community into the library) – can they come and do a program in the library?
  • think about the numbers: 30,000 publishers, 1,300,000 titles per year at least – who has the time or opportunity to actually go through all them? and, of course, as yet there are no good finding tools. yet.
  • we need exceptional cataloging and readers advisory to help us (and readers) navigate all that’s out there.
  • authors need copy and line editors but… look at 50 Shades of Grey: 75% of its readers just didn’t/don’t care about the writing.

If authors are our rock stars, then bloggers are their pr people.  Find some good bloggers to follow for ideas of what to purchase (esp. with the non-Big 6 titles).   Since many of these books won’t get reviewed in the traditional places, try to find reviews on social media.  Things to watch out for:

  • how many reviews?
  • are they all 5-star or are there negative reviews?
  • are all the reviewers from the same town as the author?  do they all share the same last name? the same writing style? (big red flag!!)
  • if there are many reviews, lots of word-of-mouth from all over – Buy It.  Now.

With any book, is there a video, newsletter or author blog/website that you can use to promote the book from your website/blog/Facebook page?

It’s also critical to remember that “quality” doesn’t always resonate with patrons (remember the 2004 NEA report that said no one reads literary fiction any more?) – get over your feelings about certain genres and authors.  Having said that, sometimes, a huge buzz about a book can elevate it to a “must read”/”must buy” for non-readers.

E-books are an increasing issue.  How do we add them to the collection (both traditional pubbed or self-pubbed on Amazon)?  The reality is, we have no idea what will happen – there’s too much turmoil in the publishing world and delivery systems are often flawed.  The panel’s best guess?  Devices, models and platforms will change and mutate, with luck into something less DRM’d. However, as of now, we don’t own anything digital, we lease it.  This is a huge issue that needs to be resolved.  Additionally, publishers need to release backlists (sometimes that’s difficult, particularly if an author has switched publishers or if the backlist is really, really long; for traditional print, backlists are frequently paperback only).

The other reality is that even with the explosion of e-books and e-print, we’re still buying traditional print at the same rate: why is this?  One idea: reading is format blind.  Often e-reader users are new readers, new parents, and they’re often drawn to books they didn’t know existed.  It’s also important to remember that with e-books, there is no “ghetto shelving” – genres and formats are all in the same place, they’re shelf-blind.  That all leads to the question of PDA.  It’s not just a budget issue, it’s also an issue of availability and can often be heavily weighted by genre, or hijacked by heavy readers: how do you ensure that an infrequent reader asking for you to buy a literary book (or work of non-fiction) has the same opportunity as the person who reads 10+ romance novels a week does?

Finally we came to the futuristic part of the program, and the panel was asked about their dreams and what they thought reality would be.


  • everything would live in the same ILS (Overdrive, ILS, databases)
  • more open source options
  • better discoverability
  • more/better outsourcing
  • authors getting out of the current publishing system (much like early 1900s actors formed United Artists)
  • funding increases
  • device neutrality
  • more RA, and not just by librarians (reading is social – we aren’t the first stop source for their next great read but our community does trust us – build on that)
  • we’ll all know how to read a license


  • digital devices will still exist
  • democratization of sharing and creation of information

Final thought:  there is a book reading community, not just a library community.

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

Poetic Thoughts – #LJDOD13

Posted by lpearle on 17 June 2013

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m not a huge poetry fan.  Inserting poetry into a text makes my eyes glaze over, and those books in verse? Thanks, but… (having said that, I did enjoy Sharp Teeth, so it’s possibly more a question of “finding something I don’t mind”).  So it’s with some trepidation that I settled in to hear the Poetry Panel at the Day of Dialog.  For those of you who feel the way I do, the following might help change your mind.

Robert Pinsky opened by stating that children have a natural instinct toward rhyme: just look at children’s books like Dr. Seuss, and the sing-song way they often speak (not to mention the rhyming games they play).  He also said that the way to appreciate poetry is to say it aloud – it will make you a better writer and reader.

So, how do we go about marketing poetry?  It’s risky, because then we’re treating poetry as “other”, right? has great resources to help you find poetry (including a great Poem-a-Day program).  Several suggestions arose, including casually adding it to your displays (e.g., scarey poems as part of a Hallowe’en display), keeping books of poetry next to the check out (much like candy bars at grocery check outs).  Asking random members of the community to read their favorite poems for a podcast or videocast and posting it on your website.  Tweet great opening lines, or short poems, with a link to information about the poet or the poem.

We were also reminded that there are no rules for poetry.  Yes, teachers say that (and there are, of course, rules about poetic form) but that’s really just wrong; they want to be able to say “smart things” about poems and poetry, when in reality, poetry is what sounds good when you say it – in other words, do not overthink a poem.  Just enjoy it.  As MacLeish said, “A poem should not mean / But be.”

Need resources?  Library Journal is launching a poetry blog that will be gathering news, collection development ideas, tools and more. has a Poem-A-Day program.  Many current poets are on Facebook and Twitter, which is a great way to connect to living poets. Poets House has some great programs and ideas.

In other words, don’t let poetry scare you – treat it as any other part of your collection, promote it within your community, and watch things blossom.

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


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