Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Books… so many books…

Posted by lpearle on 2 January 2018

Thanks to Alex reading, my total last year was 378 Books Read. Of course, I can’t talk about those books until the committee meets in February and decides our Top Ten and Vetted Lists (links are to last year’s, in case you wanted a taste of what I read in adult books in 2016) – and not all of the adult books read in 2017 will appear on those. Still, take my word for it: some very wonderful books were read!

But, those non-adult books, or those adult books published before 2016? Well, those I can talk about! I’ll just point you to my GoodReads reviews, as well as show you the covers of the five star (IMVHO) books read in 2017:

Not too many, admittedly. But if you know me, you know I’m pretty hard to please, book-wise. And there were an additional 42 books that were thisclose to being five stars, which is not bad at all.

On to 2018’s reads!


Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 27 December 2017

A holiday gift of sorts from me to you: linky goodness from the past few months.  Enjoy!

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff


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

Busy November – NELA and YALSA

Posted by lpearle on 7 December 2017

Now that Fall Conference Season has passed, and I’ve had some time to think about what I learned and saw, here’s a wrap up of the NELA Conference (about which I’ve blogged a little) and the YALSA Symposium.  After this, nothing until February’s ALA Midwinter (March brings MSLA, April has NEAISL, May will be ACRL/NE and I’ll end with June’s ALA Annual; I can’t attend AISL because it’s in the middle of Research Season when we have 15+ classes in every day).

NELA is the New England Library Association and thus brings together librarians from throughout New England.  It’s small, relatively targeted, and more like ALA’s mix of public, academic and school librarians than other conferences.  To be honest, fewer school librarians were there than I’d have thought; perhaps it was timing?  lack of publicity?  location?  We’ll see what next year’s looks like.  Many of the sessions didn’t apply, although there were good book buzz opportunities, which is always nice.  The overall conference theme was mindfulness, and contrary to my usual use of Facebook I actually joined a professional group, Mindfulness for Librarians, and we’ll see how that goes.

Some of the resources shared during the keynote – on mindfulness – were:

  • Fully Present by Smally and Wintson
  • Altered Traits by Goldman and Davidson
  • How to Live a Good Life by Fields
  • Self-Compassion by Neff
  • anything by John Cabot Zinn

There was a lot more, and I’ll share that later.  I’m still processing it and trying to work out how to bring more into my life.

The best session was the Project Management session, since we’ve got lots of projects we’re working on in the library.  The big takeaway was that it’s really about influence: how to get your team to work with and for you.  There are several keys to making this work, and the presenter recommended the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott.  Good project managers need to listen, clarify, debate, decide, persuade, execute, learn and evaluate/celebrate.  The critical element is that you get people on board, keeping everyone in the loop by constantly getting and giving feedback.  Recognizing that the experience isn’t the same for everyone is helpful, and being explicit about expectations necessary.  Best practice?  Align people’s skills with the project (especially if you want people to be successful!), making criticism about the outcome not the person.  Also recommended: Mel Robbin’s Five Second Rule as a way to move forward.

The other sessions were a mixed bag, with one that had great ideas but a confusing presentation and others that were less applicable to me and my work life than not.

A few weeks later, for the first time I attended the YALSA Symposium.  Again, small and targeted.  And less applicable to school librarians than would have been nice.  There was a time when YALSA courted us, but once again the pendulum seems to be more on the public YA librarian side than not.  Oh well.  What disappointed me more was the emphasis on starting programs like makerspaces or STEM ideas.  Granted, in my situation, they’re not needed (we have a good makerspace in another building, and stepping on the toes of those teachers isn’t something I particularly feel the need to do). But… the presumption at YALSA was more “so, you need to start” rather than “ok, you’ve started – what’s next?”  I get it: presenters want to draw a large audience and making things applicable to newbies is one way to do that.  But still – and this isn’t just a YALSA issue, it’s also a general complaint about AASL and ALA programs! – what about those people already in the midst of doing whatever the program is about?

The opening author panel was the best part, IMVHO (there were a few more, but those didn’t leave me with much as a takeaway).  The big takeaway?  There was a panel-esque conversation about the idea of books as mirrors and windows, and Kwami Alexander said that giving a black kid a book like The Hate U Give wasn’t necessary,  that blacks (and other readers of color) had for decades gotten more mirrors than windows, and that whites needed to catch up.  Yes.  Exactly.

Posted in Conferences | 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.

Posted in Life Related | Leave a Comment »

The Reader’s Advisory I Hate

Posted by lpearle on 16 November 2017

The other day, a student came in asking for a new book to read.  She’d read a book and enjoyed it, so did we have any other books like it?

Well… yes… probably.  What was it about the book she liked?  There were several things going on in the book, and any of them might have been what appealed.  The last thing you want to do, when recommending a next book, is to assume that the thing that appealed to you about a multi-layered book is what appealed to the reader about the first book.  In this case, I got the infamous preteen shrug coupled with “I dunno…. everything I guess.” Ooookay.  Did you like this aspect?  That theme? The writing style? Which character?  “I dunno…”  Eventually, we found a book that she seemed happy with, although I couldn’t tell you whether there’s anything there that relates at all to the first book.

Now, that’s ok as long as she enjoys the second book.  As long as there’s something for her to connect to, enjoy and keep her reading, it doesn’t matter if there is or is not a connection to the previous book.  I do a lot of genre switching, a lot of reading that doesn’t feel connected except by one thing: is the writing good (a purely objective thing)?  do I buy the world and premise that the writer has created?  And those are totally objective criteria.

But wow, do I hate not being given more direction from readers as to what they liked, so I can recommend books that will continue to appeal to them!  The last thing I – or anyone doing Reader’s Advisory – want is for them to stop asking.

Posted in Books, Student stuff | 1 Comment »

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!

Posted in Life Related | Leave a Comment »


Posted by lpearle on 19 October 2017

One of this year’s projects is an evaluation of our 300s – far too much has been dumped into that section and, oddly enough, a lot really belongs elsewhere. The other big project is to complete our look at books with a copyright pre-1996 that haven’t circulated in the past 10 years. It’s work, but really giving us an idea of what’s on the shelves and where there’s unexpected overlap or gaps because books have been placed in the “wrong” section of the collection.

Yesterday, we looked at this book:

And because it’s in bad physical shape, perhaps a replacement would be a good idea. According our vendor, this is the replacement:

No. Not quite. Someone at the publishing/reprint house made a mistake.

It reminded me of when I was working at PCS and doing the retrospective conversion from a print to online catalog. We didn’t have time to really look at the shelf list before sending it off to be converted, so there were a number of errors. As I worked on the video collection, I looked for two copies of The Grapes of Wrath. Found one. The other? No luck. But there was a copy of The Wrath of Grapes.

Cataloging 101: catalog the item in hand.

Posted in Collection Development, Work Stuff | 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)

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