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Taking time

TakingTime

This week is our winter break which is always a staycation for me. It means catching up on the stacks of books that have been piling up (with no end in sight, but I’m not complaining) and also arranging some brief encounters with my colleagues who otherwise are stacked with a to-do list a mile long being their fabulous librarian selves. This post is a reminder to take the time to cultivate these relationships when you can.

We do a disservice to ourselves professionally when we don’t take the time to share what we’re doing with colleagues while simultaneously learning from them (and occasionally stealing their ideas). They can reflect and question why and what you’re doing while also encouraging you to be at your best. And having these conversations over a beer or a walk in nature is even better.

2017-08-27 16.28.54

We rarely stop to take a picture together, so this was a run in with each other this past summer! 

I have several quick meet-ups this week, but it started with my friend Stacey Rattner last night. Getting back home made me think how lucky I am to call her a colleague though she works in an elementary library and I work at a secondary one  in separate districts. We have so much in common, but we operate so differently. We want and believe the same things for our students and that kind of passion rekindles and spreads like an infectious disease. So how do we do it? We schedule it!

So you’re homework this week is to pick a former colleague, work wife or work husband, or current colleague that you just don’t see enough of and contact them for a meet up. It could be a quick drink or a quick walk, but don’t miss out on the opportunity.

 

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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in Librarian Life, Miscellaneous, Style

 

Smells like school spirit

SmellsLikeSchoolSpirit

It’s the little things that end up being the big things and nothing says that more than school spirit weeks with a side of national celebrations recognized at school.

Today marks the end of another spirit week and while I randomly participated in the past, I’m finding myself as a decade-long educator doing so more fervently. I can’t tell you why necessarily, but it’s a silly way to engage with students, laugh and joke, and be an active participant in the school’s culture. This week I

  • Wore a school t-shirt to support “athletes and mathletes” on Monday
  • Cosplayed as Harry Potter for memes, cartoons, and cosplay Tuesday
    • This entailed stealing my elementary-aged son’s Halloween costume
    • I struck a pose with other students from our Anime Club who went all out then also struck a pose with three other staff members who decided Harry Potter was the way to go too
  • Wore an LL Bean robe and slippers for pajama day on Wednesday
  • Slid on a polka dotted skirt for polka dot Thursday
  • And today am donning another school t-shirt to recognize Falcon Friday

Likewise, February 1st (this past Friday) was World Hijab Day and to recognize and stand in support of our female students who wear hijabs, staff were encouraged to participate too. The library took it a step further and asked students to sign an “I support #WorldHijabDay because” poster to hang along our wall in addition to my twenty minutes of Youtube videos and practice on Thursday night to wear a hijab on Friday. As with school spirit week, the conversation was the rewarding part of the experience along with understanding more about the culture of our Muslim students and staff.

SchoolSpirit

It might seem insignificant or a distraction, but as an educator it’s the least I can do to break up the monotony but also connect at that next level. No one is saying you must go out and buy polka dotted outfits if you own nothing with them (you’re not living until you wear polka dots), but making an effort can make you feel more fulfilled. Especially for an educator like me who isn’t always seen as 100% warm and fuzzy all of the time (I like procedures and policies), it makes me vulnerable in a way that helps me remember my role in student development and as a caring adult in their life.

So what the heck?! Throw some caution into the wind and wear your clothes inside out for that next spirit day or plan one if your school doesn’t already have one to pull everyone just a little bit closer.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2019 in Librarian Life, Miscellaneous, Style

 

Getting involved is NOT overrated

gettinginvolvedisnot

On my way back from the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference in Seattle yesterday, I was thinking about what my theme would be for the post-conference post. I wasn’t quite sure which is why it’s about 24 hours later. But on my way home from work today, I realized it had to be about getting involved. Honestly, it was kind of my theme for the conference itself.

Why was it my theme? Here’s what I did differently this time around.

  1. I volunteered at the YALSA booth for the first time. I told myself this year I would do it. Former committee members of mine had done it before and I thought I couldn’t do it because I didn’t know enough, but they set good examples of being involved. So I got involved. And it was delightful to chat up the organization and meet others volunteering as well.
  2. I made sure to connect with colleagues who I knew were attending from across the country because I realized at Annual last year, that if you didn’t make it a point, it wouldn’t happen serendipitously. So I reached out ahead of the conference and got involved in asking my colleagues what they were up to and when we could meet.
  3. I was on an award committee. Yeah, I know! It was a goal and I made it and it felt awesome and I’ll definitely do it again. In the meantime, I’m on selection committees to fill my need to read and share good books with the world.
  4. I book-talked at a publisher breakfast (and at 7:30am used taboo words but it was for the cause) to share my love for an upcoming book. Who better to hear from than colleagues (and kids when we can) about good books to read? Nevermind that yogurt squirt forth from the cup onto my dress a mere half hour before. My tip? Eat after you do your booktalk. So I got involved in sharing my love of books that publishers want us to love.
  5. I talked and smiled more. There were several people I met at activities then saw over and over again the rest of the conference. How nice to get out of our libraries and meet others and hear their opinions and perspectives and ask questions. So I got involved simply by being more open (but I still liked curling up in the hotel bed with cheesy TV at night).

If you haven’t been to a national conference, get to one soon. While none of this is groundbreaking, it does remind us all to use our talents and strengths and then share, share, share them with others.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2019 in Events, Librarian Life, Young Adult

 

Peek behind the curtain: the teenage brain

peekbehindthecurtain

The last several years, I’ve been increasingly interested in expanding my knowledge about the teens I work with. My own children are elementary-aged, so it’s preparation for their own teenage years, but in the meantime, it’s is exactly right for my job working as a high school librarian.

Beside running a professional development course with the book Brain Literacy for Educators and Psychologists by Virginia W. Berninger and being able to apply the science to several books I have read recently (Proust and the Squid: The Story of Science and the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf– which has an update on my TBR list called Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World.) Then, there’s the book that I’m recommending to parents of teens, parents who WILL have teens soon, and those that work with teens in any capacity. As with many of the nonfiction titles I read because I’m curious about the topic, the Post-it count was high. I should really buy stock in the company.

inventingourselvesTitle: Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain

Author: Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

Copyright: 2016, then re-printed in 2018 by PublicAffairs

Relevance: As I said above, if you have teenagers (or will soon) and/or work with teenagers, books like these remind us of our own teenage selves, provide scientific research and snapshots of studies with conclusions we can use to better inform our interactions with teens. And it’s not all negative. We need to continue to learn about the brain as science speeds forth and isn’t what you knew during teacher training programs or even that book from twenty years ago when you just started out.

Ah-ha! Post-it note: Synaptic pruning occurs voraciously during adolescence and embodies the motto “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, which is being investigated as a cause of the education slump that occurs around middle schools years (at different points for everyone in their development process) in which grades and performance dip for a short period of time.

Memorable quote or fact: The brain takes of 1/5 of the energy used by the body.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2019 in Adult, Librarian Life, Nonfiction

 

8 systems for reading more

8systemsforreadingmore

As human beings, we know that if it is important, we’ll make it a priority and find the time in our schedule to do it. For readers that “it” is reading. And like any good resolution to start a good habit whether for its own sake or to replace a bad habit, systems are put in place to make it happen.

As is the case for reading more, the systems might be

  • Making sure that wherever you go you have a book with you. This could mean a book in your bag, a downloaded ebook or audiobook on your phone, keeping one in the car, or at your desk at work.
  • Actively changing the pattern of reaching for your phone and instead reaching for your book if you spent your down time scrolling.
  • Purchasing materials to make a book nook at home to make it a comfortable reading spot. This might mean a comfy slippers, a plush blanket, a new armchair.
  • Changing behavior and reading for 15 minutes when you wake up in the morning rather than turning on the TV or likewise turning off the TV and reading for 15 minutes before bed to gain momentum.
  • Picking materials that you WANT to read. No one should be forcing you to read things you don’t want to so when you’re picking something because you enjoy it whether it’s a steamy romance or self-help book or future science, you’ll find yourself reading more when you’re enjoying the content itself more. Reading classics only works if you WANT to read classics. And the same goes if you aren’t enjoying the book you’re reading– there’s plenty of inspiring quotes that life is too short to be reading a bad book.
  • If you’re increasing your reading, you might want to make sure your public library card is up to date.
    • I’m a book borrower, rarely a book purchaser (except for the purchases I make working in the library) and that’s an economical choice because I read so much.
  • Join a book club or have a book buddy. Someone that enjoys the act and can push, pull, prod, and inspire you to continue on your reading journey. For some, this is the motivation they’d need to build their momentum. Or at the very least, start a relationship with your local public librarian or indie bookseller because they’re just as passionate about books and would happily engage in conversations around what they’re reading and what you’re reading.
  • Practicing the art of reading focus. We can binge watch on Netflix, but it’s hard to binge read? Never! But for those that haven’t done it in a while, you need to get your stamina back and that means the concentrated focus we have at work to accomplish a task can be applied to good ol’ fashioned reading. Plain and simple.

idratherbereadingOne of the systems I put in place years ago was that my lunch at work in a busy school library was to read. First (and this is aimed at every educator) was to take my lunch and the second was to use part or all of that time to read. It was astounding how many more books I read over the week, month, year when I began this practice. And for 2019, I vowed to capture more of my lunchtime reading by bookstagramming them and using the hashtag #literarylunchbox. Feel free to follow my journey on Instagram @readersbeadvised.

What systems will you put in place to make reading a bigger chunk of your life?

 
 

Top 10 of 2018: Adult edition

Copy of Top10of2018

Clearly I read a bit more young adult and middle grade titles than adult titles because my job is working with teens, but as I get older I enjoy taking the time out to read some adult titles. You’ll probably notice a bit of a theme, like the stuff in my Netflix queue, so if you didn’t get to read any of these titles when they were published this past year, put them on your list for 2019.

Top 10 of 2018- Adult Edition

  1. A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong: Detailing a 2008 rape report by Marie after a man broke into her apartment, the writers share the circuitous way in which a man was finally brought to justice after a long hard traumatic road.
  2. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: From it’s superb cover to the dynamic storytelling of Celestial and Roy’s relationship after he’s imprisoned is a slow burn that is full of frustration, love, resentment, and loyalty.
  3. Bingo Love written by Tee Franklin and illustrated by Jenn St. Onge: A queer love story with rich illustrations and a painful yet sentimental relationship about two women, Hazel and Mari who after meeting years ago were apart yet find their way back together decades in the making.
  4. How to be A Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery: Featuring thirteen animals who had an impact on her life and are reflected in the dozens of books she’s published for teens and adults over the years, it allows all of us to pause and reflect on how animals affect our lives from their presence to their absence.
  5. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara: True crime fans will likely have already bought this the day it came out and it was made more superb by the fact that the Golden State Killer was literally identified not too long ago after McNamara’s quest to identify him over years of her life. We’ve all been sucked into a project that won’t loosen it’s grip and this is evidence of one woman’s true obsession.
  6. Impossible Owls: Essays by Brian Phillips: I picked this one up after seeing it on a best list for 2018 since I’ve also been reading more essay collections. Phillips is a dynamic storyteller and makes the most mundane fascinating but also allows readers to peek behind the curtain of activities like the Iditarod and seeing tigers in the jungles of India.
  7. Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay: Gay’s strong voice is a lightning rod of thoughtful observations that go without saying.
  8. Period: Twelve Voices Tell the Bloody Truth edited by Kate Farrell: The compilation of stories about menstruation is a worthy read for everyone because they are honest, emotional, beautiful, and empowering. Let’s change the dialogue.
  9. Saga Volume 9 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Now they’re taking a break after that ending? Gut-wrenching! But this space opera is the most creative and original work featuring star-crossed lovers and their journey filled with imaginative characters including Alana, Marko, and their daughter, Hazel.
  10. Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures by Nick Pyenson: He’s probably biased because he’s a Smithsonian researcher on whales and I’m probably biased because I love whales and marine life in general. From digging up bones and to understanding their immensity, it’s also a message to humans inhabiting this planet that we must take care of all creatures and not hunt them to extinction.

I love animals, can’t you tell? I like true crime but you figured that out too. And a well-drawn and imaginatively well-written graphic novel, check. Let’s celebrate the diversity and creativity of the books that were published in 2018 and tip our hats to the authors continuing to hone their craft and new writers that will bring that much more for 2019.

 

Top 10 of 2018: Young adult and middle grade edition

Top10of2018

I’ve been thinking making a list and checking it twice for my picks for the best YA and MG titles published in 2018 (in addition to my shout out below of the finalists for the 2018 William C. Morris Award Committee of which I was a part).  In alphabetical order- the books that I shouted from the rooftops about:

  1. Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol: This fun romp is a reminder that we were all awkward growing up and nervous about making friends. Special appearance by the local convenience store, Stewart’s, makes this an especially lovely local story!
  2. Chasing King’s Killer by James Swanson: I continue to be blown away by the quality of Swanson’s research and his aptitude to bring history to a younger audience. He truly makes history sexy.
  3. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black: Ironically this published at the beginning of 2018 and I’ve already read the ARC of The Wicked King and give that five stars too. Black knows how to create an intense atmosphere in a faerie land.
  4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland: Sign me up for more alternative history. This mixes zombies, the Civil War, and race relations and allows a kickass heroine to shine with her sassy attitude.
  5. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka: A graphic novel memoir that began from Krosoczka’s TED talk about his childhood and allows our authors to be human and teaching empathy.
  6. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee: I stayed up past my bedtime to finish Lee’s book in one sitting. This companion focuses on Monty’s sister Felicity with a penchant for medicine and no outlet to practice in a man’s world.
  7. Lu by Jason Reynolds: There is nothing sadder than the end of a beloved series. Reynold’s Track series was an instant hit and each story with their vivid covers and realistic characters shone like the North Star guiding young readers about right and wrong, healthy relationships, and the meaning of community.
  8. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang: The coloring of this graphic novel compliments the emotions and story of a prince who loves to wear dresses and his relationship with his dressmaker keeping the secret… until it’s not one anymore.
  9. Seafire by Natalie Parker: Every female empowerment anthem plays when I see the cover and remember my feelings reading this book that mixes the best of Lumberjanes with seafaring and the ultimate fight against evil. These ladies have my heart.
  10. The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown: I immediately finished this sequel and ordered both for my elementary-aged sons. This sentimental story about Roz, a robot now living on a family farm who longs for the freedom she once had on an island caring for a gosling. Heartfelt science fiction adventure at its best.

Top 10 of 2018_ Young Adult and Middle Grade Edition

In addition, January 2019 finishes my term as a member of the William C. Morris Award Committee through YALSA, which means I read a lot of debut novels besides my usual cache of books. With all of that reading, our committee came up with the five finalists announced last week and we will vote on the winner next month that will be announced at the Youth Media Awards in Seattle, Washington. Here were the finalists:

  • Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
  • Check, Please! #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
  • What The Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

2019 Morris Award Finalists Feature Slide

Cheers to the reading you did in 2018 and all of the books to be read in 2019 and beyond!