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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

My origin story

Like Batgirl, I’m a librarian. But how did I get here? Here’s the quick and dirty version:

  • I got my Bachelor’s in English education and was teaching middle school ELA when I needed to decide what Master’s track I would take.
    • Being in New York State, it is a requirement that educators have a Master’s.
  • I knew I didn’t want to go into Special Education or specialize in reading or literacy, I also really didn’t think I wanted to work toward an administrative position.
  • But I remembered a conversation with the librarian at the school I did my student teaching at who encouraged exploring a library program.
  • So after one year teaching and a few courses into my library science program, I knew that the library was likely where I would be spending the rest of my days. Why?

I wanted to know and interact with more than just the students on my roster. When I was teaching, it was only about the kids who were with me each day and I yearned for an eagle-eye view of the school. Being in the library, I can be that eagle. I also wanted a greater impact and the reader’s advisory and programming that we do at our high school library is exactly the kind of work that keeps me getting up for work each day.

And as I’ve mentioned time and time again and the reason for this blog, reading is my expertise. Over the last few years, I have begun presenting at regional and state conferences around books and am on a national committee to decide the best graphic novels for teens. And I couldn’t be happier. This is my calling.

Librarians

 
 

Hop, skip, and jump

I love when books give me a taste of something I didn’t know before and leads me to other things; one thing should always lead to another, just like thinking about chocolate almost always leads to peanut butter or reading one book by a gifted author (hi, Ruta!) always leads to reading everything she publishes.

In fact, I blogged about my discovery of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne after reading A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry. I adore authors like Sarah Cross who revitalize fairy tales. I picked up Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast after delighting in Ericka Robuck’s Hemingway’s Girl. Even though I disliked the new The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle, I read Christina Rossetti’s 1862 poem “Goblin Market” (adored it!) And though I still haven’t read Shakespeare’s play “A Winter’s Tale” which inspired E.K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear, I look forward to it soon.

Switching gears from books that lead to other books, what about books that lead to field trips? I anticipate an on-site tour of the Albany Shaker site after reading Ann Sayers’ book “Their Name Is Wicks…”: One Family’s Journey through Shaker History.

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Living in a state like New York, and upstate no less, provides rich history lessons everywhere we turn, so I took the opportunity to dive into the world of the Shakers. And it didn’t hurt that I know the author and went to the book launch at the Shaker Heritage Site. You can see my post published yesterday after finishing the book that day. But it brought life to these people and this location.

I remember joining a book group that read the beautiful All The Light We Cannot See by Doerr and having the very real conversation about going on a field trip to France as I’m sure most book groups who read it thought about doing too.

So, what books have you read that ultimately led you to another book or embarking on an adventure? Likewise, have there been books that completely transported you to another time and place providing the cheapest vacation money can buy?

 
 

Unforgettable!

Things just came together so nicely for this week’s #edublogsclub prompt about professional learning and conferences because I knew I would be away at one. Now that I’ve returned, I’m ready to impart a few pieces of wisdom, though I know more information will seep into future posts as I had an amazing time at my first American Library Association annual conference (in Chicago!)

Now that I’ve settled back for a day, here are a few suggestions when attending a conference like ALA:

  1. LegsUptheWallDefinitely bring the comfortable shoes, though I know the temptation for those like me, were to also be a bit fashion-forward. So even if you wore the *almost* comfortable shoes to match the dress, do this stretch when you get back to your room each night since you’ll be on your feet all day.
  2. 2017-06-24 10.33.54Dress the part. By nature, I’m a dress-loving, dress-wearing kind of gal. That’s not to say you can’t be comfortable, so wear what works for you, as long as it doesn’t look like you’re going to run three miles when you leave the conference hall. Dressing the part may mean being photo ready when you meet your idol (see picture) or to use as a conversation-starter when swimming in a sea of colleagues from across the country who you don’t know, but want to get to know!
  3. Know your limits. Maybe you don’t want to stand in that line or you desperately need a mental break so you skip a session, it’s okay. Part of enjoying any conference is also enjoying the break it provides from the routine. I spent time walking back and forth between sessions enjoying the weather rather than taking the shuttles. It provided the space to go into the next session ready to learn.
  4. Remember when I said you’d be swimming in a sea of colleagues that you don’t know? Get to know them! Ask questions and listen. Promote yourself and what you do. Trade tips. Some people you’ll want to exchange cards with and others were just a fun way to pass the time and restore that good ol’ fashioned energy you get from face-to-face conversation. It’s invigorating.
  5. 2017-06-26 14.31.19Indulge in local food and try to do at least one touristy thing. I was in Chicago, so that did mean that I would have to stop for some deep dish pizza. I also took at a picture at The Bean and walked along the water in that picturesque city.

Of course, the list can go on of both personal and professional suggestions related to attending conferences, but the listicle above provides a good start. You can tell I enjoyed myself, so be sure to head to any conference with a sense of adventure.

 

Sometimes the HS library world and parents don’t collide

The varied posts topics that #edublogsclub provides are great ways to sit and reflect on topics that we don’t talk much about. And this one, parents, at the high school level, is rarely talked about without the ubiquitous comments that parents are no longer invested or connected at the high school level with their students and their teachers.

Yet, we find ways to keep them connected. In our high school, parent-teacher conference day is held on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break and is for K-12. This was implemented a few years back and has become a positive event at the high school. This day coupled with Open House at the beginning of the year are two times we try to really make the library shine and be welcoming.

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For Open House, usually some activities are held in the library to showcase certain activities that wouldn’t otherwise have a place and my colleague and I stand at the doors (wide open) with information to help, ready to talk, and a smile. I have had more positive interactions with parents looking like a doorman than at many other points in the school year. Whether it starts with how different the library looks since they have attended or the fact that they love that their kids come to the library, we’re always quick to share what programs we have going on and how they as parents can stay connected along with reacquainting them with the library and what we can offer to their students.

It may be difficult to engage parents at the high school level, but we try with

  • newsletters,
  • occasional physical mailings home,
  • fervent activity on our library social media,
  • invitations to be chaperones or volunteers for library-related events
  • posts to the school’s notification system, and
  • visitations to parent-orientated meetings like the school’s Coffee Klatch through our Parent Information Resource Center or PTSA meetings

Yet it all starts with being present. We try to be as visible as possible, whenever possible because we know that “just showing up is half the battle”… for both sides.

 

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2017 in edublogsclub, Miscellaneous

 

Dear Nic Stone

DearMartinOh, how I love thee. Let me count the ways or at least count down the days until you visit our high school library this coming fall. After reading an advanced copy of your book, Dear Martin, which will grace the shelves on October 17, 2017, we are highly anticipating our students reading it en masse. It’s the timeliness of the topic and the historical significance of Justyce writing to Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s the rich character development and the realistic situations. It’s the deceptively simple writing that is anything but simple. In a nutshell, it’s exceptionally accessible.

Memorable character: Readers are endeared to Justyce right from the beginning and his issues are our issues. But it’s when he begins to dig deeper both with his friends, family, and himself that the learning commences. We are living with and through him. What would we do in situations that he’s in? If we would be in them at all because of our skin and age. Stone eloquently posits these injustices as Justyce writes to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Memorable scene: There are several significant scenes, but the ones that stick out to me are the conversations that happen in Doc’s classroom. They read similar to a transcript and further incorporate alternative formats like Justyce’s letters to King and the narrative itself. These telling scenes provide insight into necessary conversations in understanding a variety of viewpoints: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Memorable quote: Though, one of the most memorable quotes doesn’t come from Justyce’s class discussions, instead one that takes place between him and his mom after a class discussion as Justyce is awakened to the thoughts and feelings of others: “‘Yeah. We had this discussion in class today, and… I don’t know, Ma. Everything I’m doing right now feels like a losing battle.’ She nodded. ‘Hard being a black man, ain’t it?'”

In addition to following her on Instagram, I advise teen readers to read and re-read the book, stare at the phenomenal cover, and pressure your librarians to order multiple copies to share with your friends.

 

Routines

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a policies and procedures type girl. There’s a reason that I’m a ISTJ also known as the duty fulfiller. So it won’t surprise anyone that I have routines. Not only to make me sane, but to make our household run smoothly, and work manageable. Here’s a basic outline of a typical day:2017-06-02 07.56.25

Clearly this isn’t everything and it shouldn’t be because life is isn’t always organized, but it sure makes it easier. In a separate post about my love of folders, I share an image with Martha Stewart’s quote that “life is too complicated not to be orderly.” This perhaps was my personality from birth and why I became a librarian. It’s also why I have baskets and bins around my home andboards on Pinterest that I continually re-organize. I’m also lucky enough to have married a man who also believes in organization, tidiness, and schedules. He was also born with it and probably why he joined the military and is self-employed: an intrinsic motivation for order and a get-it-done attitude that comes with it.

Likewise, it’s also why we have policies and procedures for everything in our HS library. Students know what to expect. My favorite line is “Miss, I know X, but…” to which my reply is “Yes, you know X, so…” Because we see between 20-60 kids or more each period, nine periods a day, plus before and after school, routines make it more manageable. Then, we can focus on the students and staff.

Maybe that’s why I find routines comforting and necessary. They allow me to take the thinking off of certain items and be able to really ponder the more important aspects of life. Routines are the opposite of making my life mundane, they enrich it by allowing me to focus on what matters.

 

 

 

In it for the kids

This post originally appeared in the Times Union Books Blog

It was evident from the moment our chartered bus from Albany to Rochester dropped us off on the Nazareth College campus that the Rochester Teen Book Festival is in it for the kids. There are signs around the venue’s various classrooms, opening ceremony in the gym, and in informational booklets that priority is given to teens– this means that if there are one hundred seats in a gym, you bet your butt that all one hundred will be given to teens first. Adults are last to be admitted and last to find a seat. And that is how it should be at a teen book festival- the adults (many of which are fellow middle grade and YA book lovers themselves) play second fiddle. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way because seeing the excited faces of the forty-three teens we brought on the cross-state adventure were all that should be needed.

A Saturday event dedicated to readers.

Bring in twenty authors where you have rolled out the red carpet is exactly what should get your blood pumping. As students scattered with their buddies across the campus to see their rock star authors in the flesh, I found myself listening to a graphic novelist who amazed us with some live illustrating, then a professor leading us in a workshop about graphic lettering, followed by the last two sessions with male YA authors that could captivate anyone with their oratory skills in addition to their amazing literary talent. Plus, I managed to squeeze in a visit to the food truck Macarollin’ for some lobster mac and cheese.  Phew!

So when we got back on the bus after my colleague, Kristen Majkut, counted, recounted, and triple-counted as the captain and all-around Wonder Woman of this trip, I settled in with a smile as we learned one of our students won a raffle drawing, another was given the sketches from her visit with the graphic novelist, and the students lovingly petted their new purchases… books. And you think reading is dead? These events serve as constant reminders about the nature of reading for teens. Plus, we have others to remind us too, since we were joined on the bus by YA author Eric Devine. Hours were spent talking about writing, other books, readers, and the target audience: teens.

So, if you’ve never been, mark it on your calendars for May 19, 2018. If you’re a librarian or teacher, bring your teens. If you’re a parent, bring your teen and their friends. If you’re in neither category, donate to the event which each of the twelve years it has been running is a runaway hit with its intended audience. Teens.