Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Life Related’ Category

Planning… planning…

Posted by lpearle on 14 November 2017

A few years ago I became enamored with the idea of bullet journaling (great ideas and supplies here). When I worked in the “corporate” world (which, to be honest, included a few years in the non-profit world of Off-Broadway and a few years working on long-term projects as well as in a corporate environment) I was a huge fan of the Day-Timer/Filofax and lugged one all over the place.  So this is, in many ways, a natural extension of that plus my obsession with office supplies.  Seriously: take me to a great stationery/office supply store and it’s a bit frightening.  Here’s one of my goals: this planner space.  Gorgeous, right?

My first attempts at the bullet journal were pretty much a carry-over from my old methods, with a few twists.  Then I refined it to look like this:

And then, only a month or so ago, the incredible Sara Kelley-Mudie was at a local librarians meeting at my school and her planner made my heart leap and my fingers search for something new.  This was born:

I’d been bemoaning the waste of a full page with only To Do items, and I really love the idea of keeping notes (from meeting, conferences, etc.) in the same journal as my daily stuff – all the better to track them, right? – so what I’m doing now feels perfect.  Almost. Then I read about the Burner List.

What I really want is templates so that I’m not continually copying and pasting into my journal, I can just draw right on the page.  Or maybe… I hear I can customize Levenger’s Circa pages, and there’s the add-in feature, but what about a way to permanently bind them a la Moleskein or Clairfontaine?  That would be sweet.

In mid-October I was at the NELA conference and there was a drop-in session on bullet journaling.  Of course I dropped in, but to me, it was really more of a scrapbookers dream rather than a way to organize:

Now, there’s nothing wrong with scrapbooking or having a journal/planner that is filled with color and design.  But, just like Sketchnotes, it’s not me and that’s the most important thing when creating a planning system: it needs to fit your needs, your life.  Because who else will be in charge of it?

Still, I live in hope and dream of finding the perfect system.  In the meantime, I collect links to posts about ways to organize and create those systems:

  • Agendio allows you to create a personalized system.  I love this, but my desire to keep my meeting notes next to my weekly planner doesn’t seem to be possible.
  • PurpleTrail makes pretty, pretty planners for those who are into the creative, multi-color, washi tape journals.

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Posted in Life Related | 2 Comments »

PSA

Posted by lpearle on 2 November 2017

If you’re old (like me) you remember this cartoon:

For quite a few years, far more than I want to think about because it feels like it was just yesterday, I’ve been following online and somewhat friendly with a number of people I first met in “cyberspace”.  And who know how many of them are really dogs?  By that I mean, how many of them are posting only their best lives?  Those fabulous meals, great vacations, incredible outfits, amazing concerts and events, all the happy times?  That’s the human posting.

One such human is Terry Teachout, drama critic for the Wall Street Journal.  His blog has been on my Daily Read list (or RSS feed) for over ten years.  His posts also include great music tips and clips, his love of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, the time he and his wife spend in Florida, interesting think pieces about growing up in “SmallTownUSA” and many other topics that make me think and smile.  Plus, his twitter feed!  All those evenings watching old movies!  I’m so jealous.*

Turns out, Terry is really a dog.  Yesterday, I – and many other readers/friends – learned that there was a darker, sadder, more frightening side to his life.  Read about it here.  I’ll wait.

Did you read all the way down?

In the three states in which I’ve lived as an adult, it’s easy to become an organ donor.  All it takes is checking a box when getting your driver’s license.  And while I’m currently quite attached to my organs, there will come a time when I won’t need them any longer and someone else may find them useful (with luck, not soon… but it’s always best to prepare).  When that day comes, why not?

If you’re not already an organ donor, make plans to become one now.  There’s not one good reason not to.

/publicserviceannouncement

We now return you to your regular blog reading.

 

* ok, in theory I’m jealous: I’m more a Ben Franklin, without the “healthy”, “wealthy” or “wise” parts, and Terry is definitely a night owl… but still!

Posted in Life Related | Leave a Comment »

New motto

Posted by lpearle on 18 October 2017

For some reason, when I was a young child, someone gave me this doll:

I can’t say that I turned it on a regular basis to tell my parents (or anyone) how I was feeling.  To be honest, I think I may have been a teen – or nearly – before I realized that it read “I am” not “Jam”.  And yes, I proudly claim to be a reader.  Anyway…

The idea that you can telegraph, via doll or button or bumpersticker or t-shirt or choose-your-manner-of-expression, your mood or goal is interesting.  Just look around you the next time you are out in public.  And we also love to do this as librarians.  For years I had this sign near my desk, and I’m waiting to redesign our desk at work so that I can redisplay it:

 

So, my point?  Well… not really sure there is one.  It’s just that the tenor of the times, politically, and the wave of news about natural disasters (fires, floods, hurricanes, potential supervolcano eruptions, etc.), and trying to get things organized at work as we begin to prepare for a new library and next semester’s Research Season (4 months of 14+ classes/day coming to do research), and personal travel/conferences has led me to think about what I want to display to others.  What’s my motto, my t-shirt slogan?

Luckily, the incredible Sarah Kelley-Mudie came to my rescue.  Several years ago, at another school, she coined the phrase Relentless Optimism.  And it became a movement.  And the other day I saw that there was this sticker on her cellphone:

Now, I’ve tried, over the years, to display just that type of attitude.  After the fire at Hackley, my go-to response was one of humor, of trying to let others in the community know that it was really ok: no one was hurt, we could rebuild, and honestly, if 35,000 books and any number of computers and metal shelves and office supplies were burned it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  Six years earlier, I’d seen students at PCS wondering when they could go back to having “normal” lives as the adults around them continued to struggle with the events of September 11th and our response to those events.  So the idea of “optimism” isn’t foreign.  My goal is to focus on the relentless part.

Watch out!

Posted in Life Related, Musings | Leave a Comment »

Personal Rights

Posted by lpearle on 10 October 2017

As things get busier, and the world outside a little crazier, it might be good (for me, for you, for everyone) to post this article from the September NYYM Spark about Personal Rights.

You have –

  1. The right to act in ways that promote your dignity and self-respect as long as others’ rights are not violated in the process.
  2. The right to be treated with respect.
  3. The right to say no and not feel guilty.
  4. The right to experience and express your feelings.
  5. The right to take time to slow down and thing.
  6. The right to change your mind.
  7. The right to ask for what you want.
  8. The right to do less than you are humanly capable of doing.
  9. The right to ask for information.
  10. The right to make mistakes.
  11. The right to feel good about yourself.

(from The Assertive Option)

Posted in Life Related | Leave a 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 »

Gearing Up

Posted by lpearle on 28 September 2017

I’ve been diligently trying to update this blog regularly, and I intend to keep trying but wow!  School starts and that seems to take over my life despite my best efforts.  Between now and Thanksgiving, for example, I have two personal trips out of town, then two conferences (NELA and YALSA’s Literature Symposium).  Plus my Alex Award reading.  That’s outside of my work, which this year includes beginning to plan for a new library in addition to continuing to look at updating the collection, revamping our website, improving our Resource Guides, working with classes and all the “normal” stuff that librarians and Library Department Chairs do on a daily, monthly, annual basis.

So posting may be sporadic.  Just sayin’

Posted in Conferences, Life Related, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Existential Angst, part two

Posted by lpearle on 14 December 2016

Sometimes, life isn’t fair. Things this year have been going so well: the new library staff has become an amazingly tight team, teachers from math and science(!!) are coming to us for help teaching citations and working on projects, the changes to our physical plant and collection have been well-received. And we made two great videos:

and

Reason to celebrate, right?

Life’s funny. Because, no celebration. Last Sunday, I woke up with blurred vision in my left eye. It was worse Monday. My usually wonderful 20/15 (with corrective lenses) vision was 20/50 in one eye. Two days later, it wasn’t even measurable. The good news – the only good news – is that I’m not going blind and that this should clear up… sometime. The bad news is that only 50% of the time is optical neuritis idiopathic. The other 50%? Serious. Very serious. And I don’t know which it is.

I can still read. Watch tv. I’m even driving during the day. But to me, reading is my life. It’s my supertalent. And even though I can read, it’s difficult when all you have is one eye to go one (the left is regaining peripheral vision, but s.l.o.w.l.y.). So who am I if I can’t ever regain my eyesight?

I’ve never been one to identify completely with my profession. Come retirement time, buh-bye. Unlike many others I know (and a current problem with the Democratic leadership, where average age is 70+ and the entire group have been leading for 20+ years, completely losing a generation of leaders in the process, much like AASL) I’m not convinced school librarianship will fall apart without me. Others can lead.

But here I am, 10-15 years from that time, wondering what’s going to happen. And dreading it.

Posted in Life Related | 2 Comments »

Is it October already?

Posted by lpearle on 2 October 2016

My acedia has returned, I think.  Or maybe I’m still exhausted from the summer work.  Or my EBV is acting up.  Whatever.  Anyway, saw this on  Quo Vadis’ Writing Wednesday and decided to use some of it as an opportunity get caught up.

1: What are your goals this month? What actions do you need to take to work your goals?  Trying to stay organized (ok, ok,  get organized), being less aggressive with my Never Ending To Do List, catching up with friends, and keeping on top of both Alex reading and other reading.  The actions are pretty self-explanatory.

2:  What are you excited about in the coming month? We have two long weekends this month!  During the first, I’m heading to a friend’s house and hanging with some friends from high school; during the second, I’m reading reading reading.  Both will be very necessary to accomplishing my month’s goals, beyond being necessary to my mental health.

4: Close your eyes and imagine your ideal ending for this year. What have you accomplished? Where are you? What were the best things you did this year?  This summer’s weeding and rethinking the space and program were probably my biggest accomplishments – it’s a little early to say if they were good, bad or need serious tweeking.  Hiring the right people for our two job openings has been a huge help with rethinking how the library approaches research needs and reaches out to the larger school community.  And personally, getting my life somewhat together in terms of clutter, maintaining friendships and reading for Alex all fall into “best” territory.

6: In the northern hemisphere, days are getting shorter and leaves are turning. What do you love about autumn? Crisp apples… snuggly sweaters… hot cups of tea.

19: Write a list of things that bring you joy: your family, your pet, a favorite book or movie, sitting with a hot beverage in a cozy spot, etc. Look at the list often.  See number six, and add discovering a great new author… casual conversations that lead to really great friendships… cuddling with my cats… helping a student or colleague and getting a heartfelt “thank you”… getting a spontaneous, genuine smile from a someone…

25: What is something new you learned this month? A new skill, new information, a new point of view?  Not sure it’s something new, per se, but the resources my staff and I are sharing fill me with hope regarding changing our practice.  Watching Resource Guides change and grow to better fit student needs has been great, and I love having experienced colleagues to bounce ideas off of and build great projects.

28: List 5 things you’ve been procrastinating. What steps can you take to get these things done?  Tweaking our new OPAC, updating our Resource Guides, creating a better Reader’s Advisory program, organizing our storage room, working in our archives creating finding aids.  What can I do?  Figure out a sensible plan for spending a few hours a week on each of them.

30: What good things happened this month?  Getting our new cafe tables and watching the positive reactions to them.  Despite some concern about the weeding and space reorganization, most students seems to like what we’ve done.

Posted in Life Related, Musings, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Difficult year

Posted by lpearle on 21 June 2016

I know, I know: I disappeared.  Because reasons.  One reason, one I’m still struggling with, is that there was a lot of death in my professional circles this year – and when you have to go in every day, not allowing the outside to influence how you are interacting with  students and your colleagues…

Last year I mentioned a former colleague who had passed.  His memorial was the second or third weekend of school.  A couple of weeks later, there was a memorial for  a woman I’d worked with at PCS.  Then I heard about the very unexpected death of a tech guy whom I’d never worked with but who was an integral part of the NYCIST group and a man I greatly admired for his sense of humor, sense of decency and his approach to technology. This gentle man had just retired, was on vacation with is family (including young children).

A few months later, another tech guy died.  Here was someone whose ideas were not mine, but whose passion and commitment I admired greatly (and he was a serious Red Sox/Celtics fan – always a plus for this Boston-born gal!).  Mother’s Day Weekend I read (on Facebook, of course) about the death of a beloved teacher of mine, one who helped make me who I am.  And then, last week, came news of the death of the Head of Hackley School.

As you can imagine, my heart has been very heavy this year.  There’s a lot of good to share, and starting today I’ll be with friends and mentors at the AISL Summer Institute and ALA Annual.  So stay tuned.  But while you’re waiting, tell the people in your life that you admire, that you love, who have changed you in some way how much they mean to you.  Before you can’t.

Posted in Life Related | 2 Comments »

How happy are you?

Posted by lpearle on 23 November 2015

Several years ago, Michelle Obama said that she’s only as happy as her unhappiest daughter… at a recent department chairs meeting, a department chair said that she was only as happy as her unhappiest department member and opened a conversation about what that means.

In every school I’ve worked in, and at most of the schools my friends/peers work in, we have conversations about student stress and what we can do to alleviate it.  Does that mean changing the schedule, building in more “down time” during the day? Does that mean creating customizeable experiences, allowing for them to pursue a passion rather than the cookie-cutter graduation requirements?  Does that mean designing workshops that teach them time-management and stress-reduction techniques?  What about working with parents to help students find a schedule that both “builds the resume” for college and gives them time to relax?  Or convincing students to unplug before bed?

At MFPOW there was talk about teachers finding Flow – those moments when a class is going really, really well, when you know that this is what you were meant to do.  The question of how to increase those moments is a difficult one to resolve, as into every job a little boredom must fall (personally, I hate shelving – I think I’ve mentioned that before).  In some ways it reminds me of my response to a question while on a job search.  I was asked “is this the perfect job for you?” (trying to assess my interest in the school, etc.) and I immediately said, “nope!  The perfect job would pay me about three-four times what you’re going to pay me, ask me to work only 10-20 hours/week helping students do research, and give me the rest of the time to read… but since that’s incredibly unrealistic, this job will be a good substitute.”  As far as I know, no one can be “in flow” all the time, but can you have a life that is more “flow-focused” than it is?

So, let’s get back to that unhappy department member.  What is making them unhappy?  The reality is that we, in schools and particularly in libraries, are not good at saying “no” to add-ons.  In September, everything is cupcakes and unicorns, but by November we’re too busy to pee.  Our “free” prep periods are filled with getting ready for a new class or helping students understand past material or grading.  After school there might be coaching or club advising responsibilities.  In independent schools we often advise students, acting as filters/buffers/facilitators between teachers, parents and students.  Grades are often far more than just computing an average, they’re comments and explication (and if you teach and advise, you’ve got those comments to create after reading all the teacher comments). Committees – check.  Department meetings – double check.  Cover class for a sick colleague? Oversee recess or dismissal?  Teach an extra section?  check check check.

Where are the conversations about teacher stress? Yes, students are important and helping them manage their stress is important.  But isn’t it equally important for us to work on how to be less stressed?  isn’t it critical that we model good habits for our students?  If we don’t know how to say “no” and work ourselves into an exhausted frenzy each year, are we really doing our students any favors?

What pleases me inordinately is that MPOW is willing to talk about this – perhaps we won’t come up with any real solutions, or perhaps solutions will differ per department and grades taught.  But opening the conversation, recognizing that there are stresses on faculty that need to be addressed and examined is a great place to start.  One challenge for all of us is finding time to learn something new in terms of pedagogy or technology, integrating it into our classes and practice, and that contributes to the stress.  Another is all the “outside” stuff (the things we don’t learn in professional training or aren’t explicitly in our job descriptions) and finding ways to do a good job at those and at our “real” jobs.

I’m struggling with this – who isn’t?  And as a department chair/library director, I’m also “unhappy.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if, by the end of this academic year, there was a clear way forward and an end to the cycle?

Posted in Life Related, Student stuff | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »