Posts tagged ‘speakers’

PLA Blog: serving pregnant or parenting teens

My first session today was on promoting library service to pregnant and parenting teens. Read about it at the PLA Blog: “Serving pregnant or parenting teens”.

[Full text will appear here in a month.]

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March 26, 2010 at 5:33 PM Leave a comment

PLA Blog: queering the library

I wrote about the best session I attended today, Spanning the Generations: Serving the GLBTIQ Community of ALL Ages. Read about it on the PLA Blog: “Queering the Library”.

[Full text will appear here in a month.]

March 25, 2010 at 10:29 PM Leave a comment

My first synagogue library program!

I work part-time at a synagogue library in town and in the six and a half months I’ve been there, it’s been a really interesting experience. I’m not Jewish, so I’ve learned a lot about Judaism through my work and through long conversations with my boss, George, the education director. And since I’m the only person who works at the library, I’ve learned a lot about library work by doing everything: I select, catalog, and process all of the new books; I create book lists and book displays; I answer reference questions and help people find books; I do storytimes with the preschoolers; and I’ve been working on some other projects of my own, like cleaning up catalog records (there hasn’t been a lot of continuity in library work and not everyone who’s worked at the library has been a librarian so there are all sorts of discrepancies and irregularities in the catalog) and introducing a new shelf labeling system and doing a complete inventory (we still use a card system for checkout and there are no security measures, so books just walk away) and creating a library mission and a proto-collection development policy.

But the project that finally came to fruition today was my first fundraising program. Unlike in a public library, the programs that the synagogue library puts on often have a small admission fee to supplement the library budget. The library’s been nearly dormant for a while, so it’d been a while since we’d done any programming (fundraising or not). I came up with a list for George this winter of potential events we could do. He especially liked my suggestion of bringing Eileen Goltz, a professional chef and caterer and food writer (she does newspaper columns and wrote the excellent PERFECTLY PAREVE), to come do a cooking demonstration and talk about new ideas for Pesach/Passover, so I started planning that.

I have to admit I was nervous leading up to her visit. Since I only work there on Sunday mornings and on Thursdays, Eileen and I had been playing phone tag a lot and the idea for the event had evolved over time. We had to push the event back a week after booking her because of a conflict with other synagogue events. We didn’t have access to the kitchen since the synagogue’s had already been prepared for Passover and were going to have to make do with hot plates. We hadn’t had as many registrations by the end of last week as I’d been hoping to see and since Daylight Saving Time began today I was worried that everyone would show up an hour late. But Eileen was early and we had plenty of time to make handouts and get everything ready and catch up (I was friends in high school with one of her sons). And we had a great turnout!

Professional chef, caterer, and food writer Eileen Goltz speaks before an group at an event for the library at Beth-El Zedeck, a synagogue in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Eileen speaks to the attendees

After I did a little library promotion and then sung a few of Eileen’s many praises, she started off by talking about how intensive cooking and cleaning for Passover can be (but don’t necessarily have to be!), and then gave a great history of the availability of kosher foods in the US. Before the 1960s or so, you had to go to specialty stores to get kosher food and there wasn’t a lot beyond matzah, gefilte fish, and kosher wine that wasn’t very good. But in the 1960s and 1970s, kosher food because more varied, more widely available, and more delicious and now there are all sorts of options. She also talked just a little bit about all of the different organizations that issue hechsherim, those symbols on food that tell you whether or not (and to what extent) it’s kosher (check out this illustrated list of hechsherim). Then she walked us through some recipes that she liked for Passover, suggesting substitutions on the fly for one woman whose child was allergic to dairy products. She showed us some of the dishes that she’d prepared beforehand and we all got tastes of the crustless quiche and the macaroon-and-almond pie crust–and oh man was it delicious.

Everyone at the event seemed to have a great time and they all were comfortable enough to ask questions along the way and Eileen did a great job of handling those questions and organizing the presentation in general. She was a very engaging speaker and she really knows her stuff. George and I both had a number of people come up to us afterward to say what a great time they’d had and how much they’d learned, and the executive director of the synagogue said she wanted to have Eileen back again. By the time we’d cleaned up and met back at the library, George was waiting with a request that Eileen come back for the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which happen in the fall).

So despite some bumps along the way in planning, the program didn’t just go well, it went spectacularly. I was so proud of how well everything turned out and what a great time everyone had and how much fun Eileen had and how everyone wanted her to come back. And I learned so much from planning this whole thing myself about event planning in general and about working with other people in the same organization and the importance of good communication and all sorts of wonderful things that I’m sure will serve me well once I graduate. It was such a confidence builder to have it go so splendidly!

We made some money for the library, but more importantly we got the library back in people’s minds as a resource available to them and as a place that does cool things–I even had one man stop by that morning to say that he’d been a member of the congregation for years but had never stopped by the library and that now he wanted to check out a book he’d seen in the window display. I’m so proud of all the progress the library’s made in the last few months and I’m really excited to tackle my next project there.

March 14, 2010 at 10:28 PM Leave a comment

A visit to Carmel Clay Public Library

On Monday my Youth Services class took a field trip to Carmel Clay Public Library in Carmel, Indiana. We met with the Young Adult Services Department Manager, Hope Baugh, who–in addition to being a stellar librarian at CCPL–has been on the Alex Awards committee for the last three years. She told us about her department; did some storytelling (she told us a story about a man who marries a woman with a golden arm and the story of the little girl and the Gunniwolf and we were all utterly transfixed); gave us a tour of the library; and then answered our questions about her job, her library, and the profession.

CCPL’s YA department is–relative to other libraries I’ve gotten to know–huge. They have a full-time manager and a full-time librarian, both with their MLS degrees, and three part-time library assistants who don’t have MLS degrees. What a far cry from the “lone librarian” position in which most people working in YA find themselves! CCPL’s also noteworthy in that the reference desk handles all homework and research questions, leaving the YA desk to attend exclusively to teen patrons’ readers’ advisory needs. (The library also has an adult readers’ advisory desk that helps patrons with their recreational reading and even provides custom reading lists upon request.)

CCPL’s computing set-up is also unusual: they have computers scattered around the library, but their Internet access is restricted to the library catalog and the databases to which the library has access. It’s at the Tech Center that patrons can sign into a computer using their library card to get access to Microsoft Office and have unrestricted access to the Internet. CCPL has chosen to forego federal E-Rate funding to provide unfiltered Internet access to their patrons. I didn’t get this exactly right; please see Hope’s comment below for a correct (and detailed) description of their computer use policy and set-up. While there are more graduated levels of computer access than I described, the choice to have unfiltered computer access anywhere in the library still means CCPL has to give up federal E-Rate funding for their Internet and computer access.

We go to take a peek at some of the staff work areas and storage areas in the Youth Services department. Every staff member, even part-time library assistants, have their own workstations and work areas. And oh man, the materials they have for programs and storytimes! The back storage areas were full of plastic containers marked “FROGS” or “FEELINGS” or with different books, and inside were finger puppets and toys and craft ideas related to those themes and those books. And the room they use for storytime has wooden doors with little preschool people-sized doors in them for late arrivals!

Since our trip to Greenwood focused mostly on services for younger children, this visit focused on young adult services. Hope told us about her Teen Library Council, which was originally limited to 25 teens but has, under her guidance, expanded to 50 teens divided into two groups who meet separately on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The two different groups mostly work on their own projects, but they do a lock-in once a year as one big group and plan a big program for school-age children together once a year.

One of the other neat things that the TLC does is designate Choice Picks. At each TLC meeting, a notebook is passed around and teens write down a book they’ve read recently that they enjoyed and would recommend to other teens; once a book gets three votes, it’s designated a TLC Choice Pick, gets a special spine label, and is moved to a special shelving area.

Teens also have the chance to get involved with the library by leading a How-To Wednesday. Once a month, a teen volunteers to design a demonstration of a particular skill or craft (like origami, magic tricks, or juggling) and teach other teens to do it. They receive three hours of volunteer credit and get experience with planning an event. CCPL also has a recurring DIY Monday’ and Book Discussion Thursday in the teen lounge (a corner of the YA department with comfortable seating, tables, board games, magnetic poetry, and plenty of electrical outlets for laptops) that are fairly casual programming; the book discussions in particular require no reading ahead of time but provide teens with an opportunity to talk about books they’ve read and enjoyed recently or about certain topics like books that should be made into movies. Of course, food is always provided at these programs!

After our tour, Hope talked to us about some more “behind the scenes” sort of things. She went over the library’s book challenge process and talked about encounters she’s had with patrons who have been unhappy with a book in the library. She also told us about this great in-house database the YA department has been building over time with book summaries and “flags” that denote sexual activity, bad language, death, and other sensitive topics. I think that as librarians we’re always reading with an eye for that kind of thing (and for more general characteristics like appeal or certain kinds of characters or settings), and the database allows CCPL’s YA staff to easily know the content of books beyond what they’ve read.

I was impressed with the work that’s gone into CCPL’s YA department from having a surprisingly large staff that really enjoy working with teens to giving teens opportunities to shape the library for themselves and their peers. And I’m not sure it’s come out in this post, but I was also really impressed with the wisdom and professionalism that Hope has cultured over her years as a YA librarian. In her local work and her work with ALA and YALSA, she’s absolutely an asset to our profession.

March 10, 2010 at 11:01 AM 3 comments

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!

February 26, 2010 at 9:59 PM 2 comments

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

John McDonald on youth prison librarianship

We had our first ALISS (Association of Library and Information Science Students) luncheon lecture today and it was really well-attended! John McDonald spoke to us about his job as the librarian at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility. We invited him to speak since our program and classes focus mainly on public, school, and academic librarianship, but the survey we did last semester indicated that people were interested in non-traditional careers they could pursue with their MLS degree.

John was a really engaging speaker and told a lot of great stories. He walked us through a day at his job, beginning with having to leave his cell phone in his car and the intense security routine he has to go through to get into the building or even to go to the bathroom and continuing through his morning routine, the basic services his library provides, and some of the crazier things that have happened to him.

I guess I hadn’t really thought about it before, but there’s a huge difference in library service to incarcerated kids and incarcerated adults. Adult prison libraries are mostly about providing legal information and resources and might also have a paperback book collection for recreational reading, but the library at PJCF is more like a school library. The kids that John works with have indeterminate sentences, too (their release is contingent on their completion of a program, though you’re also released the day you turn 23), so there’s less of a focus on getting a degree and more on what John can do for them while they’re there. But they go to classes and John provides teachers with materials for those classes and he works on technology instruction and research instruction with the kids, too.

I was really impressed with how motivated, positive, and proactive he was about his job. He’s increased their collection by thousands of volumes by soliciting donations and they have access to computer animation software and video cameras. He’s also introduced a TA program where a few teens will be assigned to work with him in the library during their sentence, and this is where he feels like he’s making the most difference. The recidivism rate among his TAs is much lower than for the general population, and 15 of his 23 TAs have gone on to college–and a few of them are even working as librarians. He talked a lot about how a lot of the boys with whom he works are incredibly bright and motivated and that you just have to find something that will interest them and provide them with a little guidance and they come up with these awesome projects on their own. He also told us that when he started a few years ago, there were five other licensed librarians in the juvenile detention facilities around the state, but that now he’s the only one–and he thinks his continued employment is solely based on the programs he’s introduced and the high profile his library has at the state level. He also said that his facility is the only one in the state in which kids do actual research projects.

He did talk about some of the struggles that he has: he has absolutely no budget and relies entirely on donations; gang affiliations among inmates complicates his schedule and it breaks his heart when he goes out into the “real world” and sees gang signs among kids there; there are some kids he just can’t reach and then they go back out into the world; and some of the kids are incredibly destructive and ruin library materials and there’s not a lot he can do about it. But overall he seems really energetic and really positive about his job, and he talked about how the entire system in the facility is oriented toward rehabilitation and that he feels the library can be a huge part of that. He also serves on committees that determine whether or not kids have completed the requirements to leave the program, so he acts as a mentor to some of the offenders.

I don’t want to go straight into prison librarianship (and I feel like my gender could complicate things in ways I’m not prepared to handle right now), but after hearing John speak, it’s definitely something I’ll continue to consider in the years ahead after I get more experience in the field. It sounds like a job that is sometimes difficult–and maybe even lonely–but that it’s one in which you could make a real difference in the lives of your patrons in a very big way, and that’s exactly what I find so exciting about this profession.

February 5, 2010 at 5:11 PM 3 comments