Archive for February, 2010

Ellen Summers on the NCAA library

Today was our second ALISS luncheon of the semester and once again we had a great turnout. This time, Ellen Summers talked to us about her job as the librarian for the NCAA.

Ellen first talked about the NCAA and the library in which she works. The NCAA was originally founded in 1906 in response to the violence in college football. In 1951 the national office was formed, and in the 1970s and 1980s there was talk about forming a library, but nothing came of it. Then in 1990 they moved into a new building, which had space for a library, and they received donations of papers from Walter Byers and Dick Schultz, the first two executive directors of the NCAA. They were also given a complete run of Sports Illustrated and, on microfilm, the papers of Avery Brundage and Walter Camp.

But it wasn’t until 1994 that a young, enterprising SLIS student asked for permission to do a class project on the NCAA’s library. She did a writeup of what they had and what she thought they should do with it, and then was hired as a temporary part-time librarian to organize and catalog their holdings. That position became a permanent part-time position and then a full-time position, and then a few years later a second full-time librarian, Lisa Greer Douglass (another local SLIS grad), was hired.

The library now has 14,000 items in its catalog with more waiting to be added. This includes NCAA publications, periodicals, a small reference collection, and a small general collection with materials on collegiate athletics and higher education and some professional development items for the NCAA staff and researchers. They field about 500 reference requests a year from NCAA staff members and researchers, the general public, students, and other researchers. They also have an off-site archive that mostly house personal papers and manuscripts; championship results, committee documents, and the women’s collection (AIAW documents, materials from the Gender Equality Task Force, and things on Title IX) are located in the main library facility.

The library also provides an online research repository archive where the research staff’s work is centralized and preserved, a library webpage on the NCAA intranet, and a book exchange where staff members can pick up and leave paperbacks without needing to check them out. Ellen and Lisa help the staff and outside researchers, provide a library orientation for new employees, and support a collaborative film archive project with a sports film collector and Eastern Michigan University. The library also has a virtual library with championship records and an infractions database that contains the final reports from the infractions committee for each disciplinary action. The infractions database was originally used internally, but there was enough interest from the general public that it’s now available online; in a question, Andrea likened it to “a Westlaw for college sports” and Ellen enthusiastically agreed.

Ellen introduced us to what the NCAA library has to offer NCAA staff and the general public, but she also talked about what her job is like as a special librarian. She emphasized the importance of relationships and collaboration both internally (always making a case for the library’s continued existence) and with other special librarians. Since her library has such limited resources, she and other special librarians often rely on each other to procure materials or figure out where to find information. Ellen also said that being a member (and an officer) of the Special Libraries Association helped her fight isolation; until Lisa joined her, she was the only librarian at the NCAA.

Audience members had a lot of questions about her job. She told us about some of the challenges of being a special librarian: they work with a limited budget and limited resources which means forming lots of partnerships with other libraries. Since there are only two librarians, they have to do everything from processing and cataloging to answering reference questions and helping with research–whether they like those things or not. They also struggle with more visibility (a good thing) meaning more work (not necessarily a good thing!), especially as the library grows in reputation. Ellen lamented how much internal public relations work and administrative tasks took away from research time, and mentioned that since she’s a staff member, she’s expected to serve on various NCAA committees in addition to doing library work.

She also touched briefly on how her library is just a small part of a much larger organization, but she did say that she’s been lucky in that her non-librarian boss is pretty hands-off and trusts her decisions and her advice on library matters. One of the biggest differences she noted in special librarianship was the prioritization of internal customers over the general public and the singular focus on the needs of the organization which she serves.

Special library work is another topic that doesn’t get covered as much in our program as public, school, and even academic librarianship, so I’m really glad we (well, Erin, really!) were able to bring in someone from a special library. It was really interesting to hear about all of the unique documents she works with, from manuscripts to statistics to internal documents, and to think about how specific special libraries are in their missions and their services and programs and what distinctive challenges and joys special librarians have.

And for all you current SLIS-Indy students, Ellen raved about how great it was to have an intern last summer and was enthusiastic about having more interns to help digitize and catalog documents. Paperwork for summer internships are due at the SLIS office by 15 March!

Advertisements

February 26, 2010 at 9:59 PM 2 comments

Reflections on ALA Annual

One month from today I’ll be headed to Portland for PLA’s 2010 National Conference! I’m really looking forward to more opportunities for professional development and meeting other cool librarians from around the country. In anticipation of PLA 2010, I thought I’d reflect on the highlights of my experience at ALA Annual 2009, which was the first conference I ever attended.

I was really lucky last year; it was my first year in the SLIS program and ALA was in Chicago, so I was able to attend at the student rate, not pay airfare, and not pay for a hotel (I have friends in Northwest Indiana so I stayed with them and took the train into town)–all of which made the conference affordable. And it was such a fantastic experience! By last summer my experience in actual libraries was pretty limited: most of what I knew I knew from class readings, homework, and discussion. Going to ALA showed me how much more libraries could be.

My first day, I attended YALSA’s Genre Galaxy, which covered different genres of YA lit: what makes them appealing, what books are out there, and how to sell them to teens or program around them. But the best part of this preconference were the authors who spoke to us about their work, including James Kennedy (whose appearance was all done in-character and involved local teens re-enacting a scene from his book–Elizabeth Bird of Fuse #8 did writeups and posted videos here, here, and here), Dom Testa, Simone Elkeles, David Lubar (whom I also got to speak with during a break–he’s such a cool dude!), Patrick Jones, Libba Bray, and Holly Black. Honestly, I was a little bit star-struck after a day of hearing these YA lit rockstars talk–and getting to talk to them one-on-one during breaks! The giddiness of being able to meet people whose work I enjoyed so much really impressed on me how great it’d be to be able to bring that experience to teens and children through author visits.

I also attended a bunch of sessions that blew me away with how incredibly awesome and proactive libraries could be. Scott Nicholson talked about gaming in libraries and did a great job explaining why gaming is good aside from just the way it brings kids into the library, and he explained the importance of being able to back up gaming in your library with your mission statement. Different librarians also talked about how they’d implemented gaming in their libraries–and it ranged from something as small as just having a teen-organized gaming collection in a tiny public library to a huge program with classes and guest speakers on how to create games at NYPL.

I also attended the panel discussion on Teen Advisory Boards and again had my mind blown (see my earlier post about my class presentation on TABs). The only Teen Advisory Board I’d seen in action was just a group of kids the librarian could bounce ideas off of. I’d never even considered how TABs could be harnessed to make a library better and give teens leadership opportunities, or how they could very nearly run a teen department with the right development work from the librarian. More than any other session, this panel discussion got me really excited about being able to work in a library and really make an impact with what I did there.

I sat in on a presentation on sex in YA literature that challenged notions we all have about teens and sexuality and the books they read. Laura Ruby‘s talk about writing for children and then writing for teens and having her books challenged gave interesting insight into the author’s side of things, and Marty Klein did a great job of putting things in a historical and psychological context and examining the state of teen sexuality and teen sex education today.

I also went to the panel discussion on graphic novels that included a representative from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Neil Gaiman, Terry Moore, and Craig Thompson. Again, it was interesting to hear from the creators of works that get challenged, works we feel we need to defend. The consensus seemed to be that they don’t set out to be controversial; they just write and draw the story they want to tell and it’s only after it’s been released that the work starts to get categorized and analyzed and challenged and loved. They also did a good job of making the point that just because it’s a graphic novel doesn’t mean it’s for children–and that’s something we need to keep in mind as librarians. I also enjoyed their conversation about how graphic novels differ from other media like film or text.

Beyond the sessions I attended (and there were more–those were just the ones that I found particularly inspiring or interesting), I had time to check out all of the vendors on the convention floor. I got some neat free stuff including books and bags and pins and a Polaroid of me hugging the Cat in the Hat and ARCs (see my earlier post on ARCs)–including one of CATCHING FIRE, which was fantastic and exciting. Especially since this was my first conference, this part really was overwhelming at times. There are just so many people and so many booths and so much stuff everywhere. I was shielded in part by not actually having any sort of purchasing power, and it did give me a good idea of what’s out there for when I am working in a library and go to conferences representing my institution.

Part of visiting vendors was being able to meet authors and illustrators and get signed copies of their books. I got to meet Mo Willems and tell him what a fan I was and have him sign a few books; I met E. Lockhart and briefly discussed Frankie’s mix of psychopath and awesome while she signed my copy of THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS (now out in paperback with a much more boring cover); and I not only met and received signed books from MT Anderson but was able to have a surprisingly long conversation with him. He turned out to be a super-nice guy and I really wish I’d been able to talk with him even longer. I also ran into Lori Ann Grover of readergirlz right before the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet and had a chance to learn more about how she started readergirlz and all of the great things they’ve done so far.

And finally, I got to attend the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet and the Michael L. Printz Award reception. The Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder event was so elegant and the acceptance speeches were moving and inspiring. I especially loved Ashley Bryan‘s story of growing up black and wanting to illustrate and his energetic, expressive group recitations of Langston Hughes’s poetry.

While the Printz reception was a more casual affair, it felt more personal, too. I enjoyed hearing from the honor books’ authors as well as the winner, and I especially liked the chance to mingle with the honorees afterward.

My first conference experience was a little bit overwhelming and exhausting (I really packed in every activity I could while I was there), but more than that it was incredibly inspiring and energizing. Through the sessions I attended and the people I met, I got to see what kinds of rockin’ awesome things librarians are doing. I came away from the experience feeling really excited about my profession and really motivated to learn more and do more.

So with PLA quickly approaching, I’m looking forward to being able to re-energize myself in my work, especially in a more focused framework since PLA will be about public libraries specifically, and I’m looking forward to everything I’ll learn and be inspired by and inspired to do. The one way in which I felt like my ALA experience was lacking was that I didn’t get to meet as many new people as I wanted, and I’m hoping to do that at PLA–in just one month!

February 24, 2010 at 4:19 PM Leave a comment

Gender-exclusive programming

Last night my Youth Services class took a field trip to Greenwood Public Library to observe a preschool storytime and hear from Emily Ellis, the YA librarian; Rachel Korb, a children’s librarian and recent IUPUI SLIS grad; and Anne Guthrie, the assistant head of children’s services and the early literacy specialist. I’d never actually been to a preschool storytime (at least as an adult!) and it was interesting to observe all of the different components of the program–and we got to dance and play with the parachute! Anne is very energetic and is a grant-writing machine and in her introductory talk, she covered a lot of the highlights of connecting with preschoolers and encouraging a love of reading and libraries at an early age.

She also showed us a PowerPoint presentation that I’d seen her give at the Indiana Library Federation‘s Children’s and Young People’s Division Annual Conference last August. In it, she talks about how boys are different from girls: their brain scans look different and different chemicals are present in their brains, and because of this, boys learn best through movement and enjoy competition.

So to draw boys into the library and keep them there, Anne’s created an ongoing program called the Boys’ Adventure Club. There’s also a parallel program for girls, the American Girl Club. In the brochure for upcoming programs I picked up on my way into the library, I noticed that the next American Girl Club will center around Molly and her Victory Garden and will teach girls about gardening. The next Boys’ Adventure Club is called Survival 101 and will “[test] your knowledge on what you could eat, which herbs would help you heal a wound, how you could make your own shelter and other interesting strategies for staying alive if you were ever stranded alone in the wilderness.”

I know that libraries (and educators generally) are worried about a “boy crisis” now, and it’s true that boys don’t read the same way that girls do and that libraries are generally the realm of girls and women and that lots of measures of literacy show boys behind girls. I want to find a way to get boys into the library and to show them that literacy, reading, libraries, and librarians are cool. And I have no problem with planning programs that appeal to a specific subgroup within your service population. But what kills me about this gendered programming at GPL is that it’s gender-exclusive. If you’re a boy, you’re not allowed to go learn about Molly’s Victory Garden and how to have your own garden. If you’re a girl, the library isn’t going to teach you to live off the land.

I’ve been thinking about this since CYPD and there are plenty of other examples of how gender expectations influence our library service to young people, like when we don’t recommend books to boys that have a female protagonist or feel we need to make excuses for that, because everyone knows that although girls will read books about anything, boys won’t read books about girls. Scott Westerfeld wrote a little bit about whether or not the UGLIES series is a “girl book” series, and Amber at Amber’s Xtreme Writing addressed this from a reader and young writer’s perspective earlier this month.

In some cases, gender-specific programming seems to me like a positive thing. Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read initiative works to help boys become motivated readers for life. One of the components of encouraging boys to read is providing male role models who read, and having a father/son book club is a great way to do that. On the other side, having a self-esteem-building after-hours event for teen girls is a great way to help girls like themselves for who they are without worrying about pleasing boys, but there needs to be a similar program for boys. It’s not gender-exclusive programming that bothers me, I guess, so much as the library enforcing gender-specific interests and offering such a limited role–for both girls and boys.

So the Boys’ Adventure Club and American Girl Club bother me on a personal level. I grew up as a tomboy who would have much rather learned about wilderness survival than some stupid garden in the backyard, and this experience, this part of who I am, wants me to stand up for the tomboys of today.

They also bother me as a feminist. Of course there are gender expectations everywhere, in everything we do. The gender of the person to whom we’re talking influences how we talk, what we say, how we behave in the conversation. But do libraries have to overtly support gender norms like this? What does it say to girls who want to join the Adventure Club or boys who want to learn about gardening or even something like knitting?

But they really bother me as a librarian. We sell the library as a place to learn and explore, a place to figure out the world and ourselves. We invoke the 40 Developmental Assets–especially when working with teens–to make a case for how the library helps young people grow into healthy adults. One of the internal asset categories is Positive Identity. Making non-equitable gender-exclusive programming can tell young people that they have no place in the library as who they are.

Can we bring boys into the library without falling back on exploiting gender norms? I’m not sure. How do you target a specific group without using statistics and expectations about that group? But there’s a difference between relying on data about a group and relying on stereotypes about a group or shutting out non-members of that group. So can we bring boys into the library without enforcing gender norms? Absolutely. And it’s better for everyone if we find ways to do so.

(If I get another degree in culture and gender studies or do a PhD in library science, I think I’d like my thesis to be related to how our gender expectations inform our library service to young people.)

February 23, 2010 at 6:09 PM 1 comment

From the listservs: ARCs

About a week and a half ago a member of the YALSA-bk mailing list said that she was new to receiving ARCs and asked what listserv members did with their copies. A discussion erupted that pulled in librarians, authors, and publishers alike and is still going on today.

For the uninitiated, ARCs are Advanced Reading Copies (or Advance Review Copies)–paperback copies of a book that a publisher distributes before a book is published to allow people to review them, to solicit feedback, and to create buzz around the book. Sometimes these books are uncorrected proofs with a plain cover, and the content of the story may change between the distribution of the ARC and the publication of the actual book. Publishers or authors will occasionally post to the listserv offering ARCs of an upcoming book, they’re sometimes sent to librarians, magazines or other reviewers, and booksellers, and they’re available from publishers at conferences.

(Not every book is distributed as an ARC beforehand: I was disappointed to learn from the dean of IUPUI’s SLIS program that Scholastic isn’t planning to give out ARCs of MOCKINGJAY, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy (read my post about the announcement of the cover of the book) at ALA’s Annual Conference this July because the series is so popular and well-known that they don’t think they need to build any buzz–or let the secrets out early.)

So once you’ve received an ARC, what do you do with it? The publisher would like you to read it and either publish or send in a review and, if you like it, spread the word about the upcoming book. But what do you do with the book afterward? Many librarians said that they distributed the ARCs to their teens to read and review and then they sent the reviews into the publisher and used them to decide whether or not to purchase the book when it comes out for the library’s collection. A few said they gave away ARCs as incentives for summer reading programs or other programs with teens. One librarian reported that the library’s Friends group was selling the books in their booksales, though, and a few librarians warned against adding the book to the collection.

While many copies of ARCs are marked on the cover with the instructions “NOT FOR SALE,” completionists and collectors seek them out and will pay not as much as they used to, but still a good price for the copies since they’re not widely available–and despite the printed instructions, selling ARCs isn’t illegal. Books may change between being given out as ARCs and being published based on feedback the publisher receives from ARC readers. If a library added an ARC to the collection, it’s not necessarily the same book that the publisher actually publishes. Giving ARCs to teens–or any patron–without letting them know that it’s a review copy and not the final version of the book is a misrepresentation. Furthermore, ARCs are flimsy paperbacks and in libraries, where books get lots of use and abuse, an ARC just can’t hold up to even a regular paperback, much less a hardback.

I was totally jazzed to receive a copy of CATCHING FIRE (the second Hunger Games book) at ALA this summer and read it the night I got home and emailed a few thoughts to the contact person listed in the front of the book. Since I wasn’t working with teens at the time, that was all I could do–that and continue to rhapsodize about how amazing the series was with friends and colleagues. But once I’m working in a library, I love the idea of distributing any ARCs I can get my hands on to teens to have them review them. Teens get sneak previews at upcoming books and can promote them to their friends and help the librarian (me!) decide what to collect, and writing reviews helps them develop their literacy skills and gives them a chance to feel like they matter to publishers. And as a bonus, you can use those reviews to promote the book within the library once you order it. As for what to do with an ARC once a teen has reviewed it–why not have another teen read it? And another and another until the book just falls apart. After that, recycle it and use all of those reviews for Great Library Justice.

February 17, 2010 at 9:28 PM Leave a comment

Getting to Know Mo Willems

I recently watched Getting to Know Mo Willems, a short video by Scholastic and Weston Woods about Mo Willems and his work. Last spring I wrote a short paper about Mo Willems for my Materials for Youth class and I’ve read all of his books, so it was fun to get more insight into his creative process and to see him drawing and to see the little sketch book out of which the Pigeon grew.

When he was talking about the art for the Knuffle Bunny books, I thought it was interesting that he took photographs of his neighborhood but then edited them to take out the trash cans and the air conditioners and to replace missing letters on signs. He said that he didn’t want the photographs to reflect how places actually look, but how they felt–and I think that’s one of the strengths of those books, how well they capture a sense of place.

I think the thing I love most about Mo Willems’s books are his characters’ facial expressions and body language. In the Pigeon books, so much is conveyed just with a raised eyebrow or a lowered lid. And especially in the Elephant and Piggie books where the vocabulary is so limited, so much of the narrative relies on what the illustrations convey. Piggie and Gerald look excited, exasperated, dubious, frightened, and gleeful all with a few small changes in pencil strokes.

In the video, Mo talks a little bit about how the Elephant and Piggie books are just plain fun to draw, but that he also really enjoys the challenge of writing Easy Reader books with fixed vocabularies of about 50 words. In fact, his first Geisel Award acceptance speech (read a blog post with the speech or just read the speech) is done with a limited vocabulary and simple grammar and hints at the difficulties in writing an Easy Reader book, but also shows how you can still be clever within those constraints.

My first week at the synagogue I was surprised by a group of preschoolers who had arrived for a storytime I didn’t know I was going to be giving. Still pretty unfamiliar with the collection, I grabbed two of the Pigeon books off of the shelf and read them with total abandon, yelling and gesturing and whispering and fake-crying. The kids totally loved it, and I think the teachers were impressed with the new librarian’s enthusiasm. I’ve grown to know the collection better in the months I’ve worked there, but I can always count on Mo to captivate an audience of otherwise wiggly kids.

I was lucky enough to meet Mo at ALA last summer (I was the first in line!) and have him sign a few of my books. Honestly, I was a little giddy finally getting to meet the man behind the best books I’d read in years–and that experience really impressed upon me how connecting with authors (and illustrators) through author visits or even Skype can be so inspiring for kids of all ages and can intensify their love for what they’re reading. It’s really important for me to be able to take that great experience I was lucky enough to have as an up-and-coming professional at a conference and find a way to give it to the young people I’m hoping to serve because man, meeting Mo (and MT Anderson, too) was the highlight of my ALA Annual experience.

For more Mo, check out Mo Willems’s website, his doodles blog, or follow the Pigeon on Twitter.

February 12, 2010 at 4:37 PM Leave a comment

Hunger Games book 3 cover announced (and more on book covers)

The cover and title for the third book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy, MOCKINGJAY, was announced today!

The cover for the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, which will be released in August 2010. The cover depicts a purplish-grey bird with wings spread over a blue background with an abstract design of breaking rings and lines. The title and the author's name, Suzanne Collins, also appear on the cover.

I was a little disappointed with the second book, but I’m really excited to see how the trilogy wraps up. I like that the three covers tell a story themselves of darkness, rebellion, and… hope? victory? but I’m not sure about the color. It seems a little too cheerful, and I wonder if the cover as a whole will look girly to teen boys. In any case, though, I am super-pumped for the end of August to arrive! (There won’t be ARCs at Annual because Scholastic doesn’t need to promote the book or the series–at least, that’s what Dean Irwin reported to us after going to Midwinter.)

I’ve been thinking about book covers a lot recently. There was a lengthy discussion on the listservs recently about the whitewashing of covers at Bloomsbury, there was a recent post over at The YA YA YAs about that mentioned dystopian novels having covers with girls’ hair flying around on them, and last spring I came across a blog post by the person who designed the cover of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND talking about his thought process during the design and showing some of the ideas he didn’t use. And of course, there’s always Jacket Whys for frequent pictures and thoughts on children’s and YA book covers.

Books circ better when they’re displayed face-out (this comes up a lot in class discussions when someone mentions bookstores) because people do judge books by their covers, and seeing the cover lets you get to know the book better than just seeing the spine. But beyond that, I’m interested in what about book covers makes a book more popular, or more likely to get checked out, or just more likely to catch someone’s eye, and how those characteristics have changed over time (remember all those horrible “realistic” covers on historical fiction from the 80s and 90s?).

February 11, 2010 at 6:21 PM Leave a comment

Older Posts