Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Life Related’ Category

Learning from the past

Posted by lpearle on 25 February 2019

The other day a friend at work was sitting in our conference room reading about creating an educational biography.  What was that, I wondered?  It’s a summary of the influences your teachers and other educational experiences had on making you “you”. Here’s one way to approach one, and here’s another version.

By coincidence, there was a tweet the next day I responded to:

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that it centered on reading, right?

What I didn’t add in that tweet was that this was a contest where we logged the number of pages we read each week (newspapers counted for a certain number of pages, as did comic books).  The top four readers would get lunch at a restaurant across the street from the school. The first week, the teacher accepted my tally.  The second week, she was a little suspicious.  It was either the third or the fourth week when we had a snow day on a Friday and I read all 1,365 pages of The Count of Monte Cristo (yes, the number of pages stuck with me and that might also be the long weekend I ate a bushel of apples.) That’s in addition to my other reading that week.  My mother got a phone call then, and confirmed that yes, indeed, I had read all those pages.  Because I’d won four weeks in a row, and not just won but read more than several classmates combined, this teacher decided to cancel the contest as she couldn’t prevent me from entering.

What I also didn’t add was how that made me feel – that somehow reading was wrong, or at least reading fast was wrong, or reading that much was wrong.  And somehow, I was wrong.

Clearly, 40+ years later, that memory stuck with me.  It didn’t stop me from reading, or feeling somehow wrong for reading the amount I read (although I’m currently 9 books behind my goal for 2019 so I’m not reading as much as I should).  If I were writing my educational biography, that’s one of the things that would go in.

Over the weekend I’ve been thinking about my effect on students.  I know one parent who feels that her daughter benefited from my being her librarian (she even reached out on Facebook to tell me).  I know that many appreciate help on research projects or finding their next read.  Conversely, I know that there are some who feel that asking them to treat the library and others in it with respect by keeping their voices down (we have a cement building that amplifies noise) and not running or throwing things is a problem.

There are a few I’m pretty sure would include me in their educational biographies, both positively and negatively.  I can only hope that it’s more of the former than the latter.  And going forward, it’ll be in the back of my mind as I work with them.



Posted in Books, Life Related | Leave a Comment »

You’ve got change coming

Posted by lpearle on 4 September 2018

It’s the start of the year… officially.  New students arrive today, tomorrow is the first day for our Middle and Lower School students, Friday is Upper School Convocation.

The past four days were my last official days of Summer Break (if you don’t count the Opening Meetings last week, which I’m not.  Because summer.)

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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 »

Why I can’t completely quit Facebook

Posted by lpearle on 23 August 2018

As the school year slowly starts (New Faculty Orientation yesterday and today, start-of-year training and meetings next week, then students arrive… classes won’t actually start until Sept 11th, though, due to Rosh Hashanah) the time available for reading, watching tv, napping and doing other stuff gets less and less.

Earlier this year, thanks to the revelations about Cambridge Analytica, I’d stopped using Facebook as much.  I read this tweet stream about what you learn when you download your data, and decided to do mine just to see.  Luckily, my privacy settings where pretty high and I don’t have it on my phone, so some of what Dylan found didn’t exist.  Still, it was enough to be disturbing.

Then I read about Social Book Post Manager, and I’ve deleted much of my previous content (years ago, a friend asked why I’d want to, wouldn’t I want to see my memories from the past and I was stumped by the assumption that I was using FB in that way).  Did you know that you can see what other people (friends and the random public person) see on your page?  I deleted and untagged until there was virtually nothing left for anyone, including friends I’ve known since third grade, to see.  I no longer look at my news feed, respond to requests or notifications or anything.

So, why not just quit entirely?  Because far too many groups only post things on FB.  I’m not just talking about the closed group I’m part of for people with my very rare eye disease, which is a huge help in terms of support and information.  I’m talking about groups like this one, which my father sent me:

My parents are not on FB and have no intention of ever joining. They weren’t going to go to this protest, but to learn anything else about the group?  I tried to see if there was any other way for them to get information and, well, nope.

And there’s the synagogue my aunt belongs to, which despite many pleas for emails or some other way to find out what’s going on, has pretty much insisted that the only way to learn about events is to join FB.  She did, but has never posted and luckily hasn’t had to join her synagogue’s page to see things; I think my aunt has about six friends, including her children, her nieces/nephews and sister.

The idea that we could use Facebook the way we did in 2010 might work, but that’s only if we all agree.  If my friends stopped sharing videos and news they didn’t create, stopped creating fundraisers that force me to give financial information to FB, stopped begging for likes or amens, etc. I might starting using it again.  But for now, I’m lurking.  Occasionally.  Maybe once a month.  And spending the time I used to spend there doing other things.


Posted in Life Related, Privacy | 1 Comment »

Appreciating a teacher today

Posted by lpearle on 9 May 2018

It’s Teacher Appreciation Day, apparently, and while I think it’s great that we’re encouraged to thank the teachers who meant a lot to us when we were in school (even if we didn’t know it then, but on reflection we recognized their kindness, support or influence) I would love to think that any day is a good one to show that appreciation. As research season ended, several students thanked me for my help with their papers; I know that the other librarians have also heard that from students. A few times I’ve seen former students and they’ve told me that I helped or encouraged or influenced them in some way, all without the reminder that it was the Official Day to show/share their feelings.

That’s not to sound ungrateful! It’s just a concern that when there’s an Official Day, it makes it seem as though not saying something then is wrong, and that saying something any other time is also wrong (just as I’d much rather get random flowers and dinners just because, instead of a Valentines Day mandatory gift).

Having said that, here’s a link to my comments from October 2004 about a teacher whose influence on my has stretched over 40 years. And maybe, just because, I’ll write about some of the other teachers whose influence has lasted a lifetime (well, as much of a lifetime as I’ve had until now).

Posted in Life Related, Student stuff | 1 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 »

Math Star for me!

Posted by lpearle on 5 December 2017

I am not a “math person” – nope, not I.  And that’s been part of my identity for decades (could be an incredibly longlived case of rebellion against my father, or could be due to the year I spent with New Math:

or perhaps both?  or, as some would argue, bad teachers?)

Now, when I say I’m not a math person, what I really mean is that I don’t do incredibly complicated equations or fully understand calculus or geometry or algebra.  It doesn’t mean I’m innumerate!  I can balance my checkbook, ensure we are getting a good ROI on our database purchases, etc..  I can interpret statistics.  And, increasingly unnecessary, I can do manual double-entry bookkeeping.

The other day I was at my neuro-ophthalmologist’s and we were – yay! – adjusting my dosage of Prednisone.  He was trying to figure out how many pills I would need since I’d be halving the pills for a few weeks.  He started like this:   2.5 x 7 + 2 x 21 + 1.5 x 7  and got  2877.  Not implausible, but not quite accurate.  He tried again.  And then it hit me: he needed parentheses.  (2.5 x 7) + (2 x 21) + (1.5 x 7) = 70.  Much more reasonable.

When I got to work, I told two of my friends, both math teachers.  They gave me a star.  And you know what? Even at my age, a star for math is great.

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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.

Posted in Life Related | 3 Comments »


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.


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!

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