I somehow fell behind on Internet stuff and have been working over the last couple weeks to catch up. I still have email to take care of and my Instapaper queue is a complete disaster, but I’ve finally caught up on all of my Google Reader feeds. Here are some things from the last month or two I found especially interesting.
“Life & Death in YA Lit” at Jacket Whys uses Wordle word clouds to pull out common terms in YA book titles and compare them to the common words in summaries of and subject headings those books. Covers featured “dead,” “dark,” “love,” and “life,” but the summaries and subject headings mostly focused on high school with dashes of friendships, certain ages, interpersonal relations, love, family, and the supernatural.
Alicia the LibrariYAn provides four suggestions for people who want to be librarians to teens and tweens.
I wasn’t able to make it to ALA Annual this year, but the blog coverage of the conference was pretty thorough. I was especially bummed to not be able to attend the Printz Award ceremony since Libba Bray won with GOING BOVINE, which she talked about during the Genre Galaxy preconference at last year’s annual. But Stephanie Kuenn covered the Printz speeches for the YALSA blog, so I was at least able to watch Libba’s speech and oh man was it awesome:
Monica of Educating Alice talked about summer reading as leisure reading while also making the case for quality literature during the school year. It was great to see an acknowledgement that all reading is reading, but that experts can still guide kids to well-written books–and teach them how to tell good literature from not-so-good.
I also really loved Sarah’s GreenBeanTeenQueen post about what characters in YA books read. She was disappointed that in so many books, characters who mention how much they like reading or how important it is always seem to be reading “the classics” and not great YA books. And while she admits that there’s nothing wrong with teens reading grownup books, I totally agree that having literate characters not reading YA novels misses a great internal advertising opportunity. Great YA lit should be recognized as great and not always put in second place after what grownups read.
I think there’s still a lot of room for analysis of young adult literature, but there are a couple of bloggers out there who are doing critical readings and writing about youth lit. Debbie Reese tirelessly writes about American Indians in children’s literature (which includes YA lit) and Trisha of the YA YA YAs recently reflected on Asian American narratives she encountered growing up and why they left her dissatisfied. Lee Wind also reviews tons of teen books with queer content at I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I read? and sometimes writes longer posts about trends or issues he sees in YA lit. And I am so stoked that Angie Manfredi (who presented part of the session I attended at PLA on queering the library) is now writing Fat Girl, Reading, which approaches youth lit from a fat acceptance and feminist perspective. I’m really looking forward to what Angie has to talk about.
August 7, 2010
Over the last few years as I’ve gone through library school and started thinking and writing about the field, it’s become clear to me that most people who aren’t affiliated with libraries or librarians in some way (through employment or marriage or frequent library use) have no idea what librarians do–or even who exactly in a library is a librarian. People who use their libraries at least tend to know some of what their libraries have to offer, but non-users are in the dark about both librarians and the libraries where they work. I mentioned in the post I wrote about the Diane Rehm Show about public libraries that I don’t think librarians are always great at explaining to outsiders exactly why the library is awesome and exactly what it is we do, and I’ve been thinking about some of the ways we can get that message out.
In some ways it’s easy to talk about why libraries are great. We can point to all of the resources and services that we offer and make a case using outcomes-based measures for how we have a positive impact in the community. And we can (and should!) tailor our message to the listener: parents want to know about storytimes and how early literacy skills give kids a developmental leg up. People seeking entertainment will love hearing that the library lends DVDs for free (and that libraries lend more DVDs than Netflix!). Entrepreneurs in the community can make good use of our tax help sessions or business databases. Families on vacation can come to us for audiobooks–and for recommendations on what stories they might like. Politicians need to hear that we help people navigate government websites and access government information and forms online. I really do believe that everyone in the community can find something useful or enjoyable to them at the library, and it’s just a matter of us letting them know that and helping them find that useful or enjoyable thing. (Getting them into the library in the first place is another post altogether, I suppose.)
But it’s trickier telling people what librarians do, especially when we’re trying to fight the impression that all we do is check books out to people and read all day. It doesn’t directly benefit people to talk about ourselves the way it does to talk about our libraries, so finding an audience for this information is hard. It can also be difficult not to sound defensive when we’re trying to explain how librarians are different than the front-line staff at the checkout desk, since they’re often the first point of contact for many people at the library. And as Lino pointed out in a comment on a post I wrote about a corporate librarian’s talk to our student group in library school, people’s perceptions of librarians change as they encounter different libraries and different types of libraries.
If people ask directly what we do, we can point them to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s librarian profile, but that’s pretty dry. It helps when the New York Times does pieces on how librarianship has changed in the digital age since it directly explains some of the things librarians are doing, especially in the age of computers. But librarians need to do their own explaining and tell their own stories, too.
In a response to Lino’s comment, I mentioned two of the things that we can do to educate people about what librarians are and what we do. The first is to mentor people–particularly young people–through things like Teen Advisory Boards and library volunteer programs. Having repeated personal contact with a librarian or being involved in the library yourself shows you first-hand what librarians and libraries are like, and for young people, it can even awaken in them a passion for library work. (And since we can’t get everyone to marry a librarian, more structured programs seem to be the way to go to give people that personal connection.)
But as powerful as that one-on-one contact is, we need other ways to reach people, and I think blogging is one good way to do that. A number of librarians have written blog posts and articles specifically about what librarians do. For example:
Twice a year, the Library Day in the Life project asks librarians to document what they do on a particular day every year. Round 5 happened yesterday and there are already posts available. This project is especially interesting because librarians from lots of different kinds of libraries talk about their days, not just public librarians, who seem to be the most vocal in explaining who they are and what they do, most likely since they’re most often asked to justify their existence.
And while library blogs tend to be written by librarians, for librarians, there are a few that I think would appeal to non-librarians, too. The most illuminating and accessible librarian-blogger I’ve found so far is Brian Herzog, the Swiss Army Librarian. His posts never seem too long and each week he features a reference question (they’re usually the particularly funny or interesting or challenging ones) he was asked that week and the strategies he used for answering it. He also includes posts that are useful to practicing librarians (super-especially his recent “Checklist Manifesto for the Reference Desk”) or musings on current events and controversies in librarianship, but overall I think his blog is a great example of how we can document what we do and what we’re about.
Librarians aren’t always great about explaining to non-librarians why libraries and librarians are important, but there are some good examples of how we can do so. Positive media coverage helps librarians show off our skills and our libraries. Personal contact and repeated positive library experiences are the most powerful way to show people what libraries and librarians are all about. Talking and writing about what we do (and why we do it!) lets us reach a broader audience and tell our own stories. We need to be able to see our institutions and ourselves from an outsider’s perspective and then find ways to reach people with our message of the awesomeness of libraries and librarians.
July 27, 2010
Nancy Bertolotti wrote earlier this month for the YALSA blog about blogging as a professional development tool. She suggests that blogging gives the writer the opportunity to network with authors (a review she wrote of one author’s book led to an interview with that author) and colleagues, as a way to practice writing, as a demonstration of knowledge or skill, and as a way of gaining experience with social networking tools. I agree with all of this and on a personal level, I’ve enjoyed blogging because it’s gotten me thinking about library stuff more often and in a more structured sort of way. Bertolotti also mentioned that she’s a recent grad and that she feels like her blog addresses a lot of different sorts of topics but that once she finds a job, her focus will narrow–another feeling I share with her.
She also asserted that blogging was a form of peer-reviewed writing:
Blogging on a professional site like the YALSA Blog might even be considered a peer reviewed form of writing. You know you will be corrected or asked for clarification if you post something that is not clearly articulated and accurate. You will also receive comments if you post something controversial like, blogging as a peer reviewed publication!
I’m afraid I can’t agree with her here, though. While it’s true that writing in a public forum allows people to critique your ideas and presentation (if anyone’s listening to what you’re saying in the first place), people read blogs differently than editors read papers. And part of why peer-reviewed papers are given such authority is because the review and vetting has happened before publication. Furthermore, reviewers and editors for peer-reviewed journals are (usually) considered experts in their fields, whereas any sort of review that happens in a blog is more crowdsourcing than expert opinion.
Bertolotti also doesn’t explicitly mention the more internal benefits of blogging. She does say that blogging allows you to demonstrate expertise in a particular area and to practice your writing, but even in the short time I’ve been working on this blog, I’ve found myself thinking about library issues I want to talk about in a much more organized fashion, deciding what relates to the topic, what examples and counter-examples I might use, and what isn’t related enough to be included in one post but might be the start of a new one. I’ve also been reading a lot more to find connections between ideas and am doing a better job of pulling in examples from sources that aren’t necessarily library-specific. Blogging has external benefits like the ones Bertolotti identifies, but it’s also something that has more internal benefits as well.
And just for fun, some tips from other library bloggers: last month, Creative Literacy offered five tips for better blogging. And earlier this week, GreenBeanTeenQueen celebrated its second anniversary; Sarah has five lessons on blogging and reviewing. She’s also running a contest with ARCs as prizes, so make sure you enter by the end of April.
March 19, 2010
One week from today I’ll be on a plane to Portland, Oregon for PLA2010! I’ve spent the last few days in a flurry of preparation: I’ve chosen my programs and sessions, I’ve made a list of what I need to pack, I’ve read the Walking Paper Guide to Portland, I’ve watched the Visiting Librarian’s Guide to Portland, and I’ve started to peruse the list of vendors.
I’m also very excited to announce that I’ll be guest blogging for the PLA Blog during the conference! I’ll be writing here, too, of course, but I’ll also post links here to what I write over there. About a month after the conference ends, I’ll mirror what I wrote for them here.
Finally, I’ll be tweeting throughout the conference; you can follow @librarified if you’re interested.
March 17, 2010
In a delightful bit of crossover, Gwen over at Sociological Images rounds up a bunch of covers of books about larger girls, most of whom don’t look that big on the cover. There’s also been some discussion about how the women on these covers are mostly disembodied parts–common in advertising (see here, here, and here for examples)–but there’s also been counter-discussion positing that it’s because publishers think that women want to be able to identify with characters and that’s harder when you can see their face. I’m not sure I buy that; I’d like to see a study sampling books with covers depicting men and covers depicting women that determines if there is a gender difference in whether or not faces are shown. And what about YA book covers?
Susan Carpenter writes for the LA Times about the rising popularity of YA lit among adults. She addresses the increasing sales of youth lit in general (“Where adult hardcover sales were down 17.8% for the first half of 2009 versus the same period in 2008, children’s/young adult hardcovers were up 30.7%.”), acknowledges the rise in critical acclaim for youth lit, and points to the growing number of movies based off of books for teens and children (my husband and I are finally going to go see the Percy Jackson movie this weekend!). She also makes the great point that current YA writers grew up when YA books were finally starting to mature:
Many of today’s young adult authors were born and raised in the 1960s and 1970s, when YA began to move beyond the staid, emotionless tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in favor of more adventurous work from Judy Blume, Madeleine L’Engle and Robert Cormier. Now, they’re turning out their own modern masterpieces.
And finally, Lee Wind of I’m Here. I’m Queer. Now what the Hell do I read? has a post about reading with his daughter and what other dads need to know about reading with their own daughters. He paints a beautiful picture of a household full of readers and also touches on dialogic reading, which we’ve been talking about in my Youth Services class recently. I also love how he gets to the heart of why, beyond developmental and literacy-related reasons, reading with kids is so great: “Reading is the doorway to a Shared experience with your kid. Don’t just read it TO her. Experience it WITH her.”
March 11, 2010
Erin–whom you may know as the champion of metadata from her earlier blog post–has a new post over on her own blog about our trip to Eckhart Public Library if you’re interested in another perspective on the project.
She tackles in more detail than I did the difficulty of digitizing certain things and the way best practices can’t always be implemented within the context of real-world constraints.
How many of you have a digital camera? How many of you make sure your photos are TIFF files instead of JPG? TIFF is the current standand for archival quality photos. Which is great and fine and dandy if you’re scanning old documents into your computer, but a bit more problematic when you have digital camera pics that are already saved in jpg format.
Erin also touches on why this project is so cool. Not only are we getting a chance to advance a public library’s project, but we’re also finally getting to apply what we’ve learned in class in the real world and see why things work the way they do and how, as librarians, we can use the tools we’ve learned about to do cool things.
This project is great — not only is it fantastic experience, but its a lot of fun, and I feel like we’re contributing to a pretty cool project. After completing my digital libraries class last fall, I kind of hated metadata — its a lot like cataloging, with lots of rules and details and UGH. But the cool thing, that I’m realizing now, is that with metadata, the rules are always changing. So while it is a bit like cataloging, its much more fun, since we get to create the schema and the fields, and while there are standards to adhere to, the rules we get to make ourselves.
I must confess that I’m not as excited about metadata as Erin, so my current piece of the project, figuring out what metadata we need for items we’re expecting teens in particular to want to include, isn’t firing my jets quite as much as the project in general. But it does hint at the notion that teens understand digital content–and as a result the world–differently than people of other ages might, which I do find interesting.
So go read Erin’s post. She does a good job of discussing something I probably won’t talk about in much detail.
March 10, 2010
Our trip to Auburn went really well on Saturday! I’ll be writing a post about it tomorrow. For now, just a few news items from the library blogosphere.
Reading Rants, written by Jennifer Hubert and designed by Andrew Mutch, is a collection of booklists and book reviews that’s been around since 1998 (first as a website and then in 2007 as a blog. They also published a book). Jennifer posted to YALSA-bk yesterday announcing that with the help of her 7th graders and Andrew, Reading Rants had gotten a template redesign.
There’s been some controversy in central Indiana recently: the Monroe County Community Schools Corporation announced budget cuts earlier this month that would eliminate school librarian positions districtwide. There’s been a trend recently toward having one licensed librarian provide library service to multiple schools in a district with assistants overseeing the individual libraries on the librarian’s days elsewhere, but these budget cuts would eliminate all librarian positions within the district. Mary D’Eliso–IU-Bloomington SLIS grad, former assistant manager of children’s services at Monroe County Public Library, current library media specialist at University Elementary School, and (former?) instructor of Children’s Literature at IU-Bloomington SLIS–started Let Me Think: Adventures in a School Library at the end of January and wrote in an email, “I was thinking that the main crux of our elimination was that people have no idea what actually happens in the modern school library, particularly in areas of teaching and curriculum.” She’s intending for Let Me Think to include lessons, displays, and events.
I mostly think of blogs as tools for aspiring and practicing librarians to find book reviews and get new programming ideas and as an online community for people in the profession, but they can also be public relations tools, showing non-librarians what we’re all about.
March 1, 2010