When my Youth Services class visited the Greenwood (IN) Public Library in February, one of the things assistant children’s services department head Anne Guthrie mentioned in passing was that you could make your own finger puppets by cutting open a small stuffed toy and sewing in the fingertip of a glove. I loved the DIY aspect of this and was struck by how easy and clever it was, so when we had to do an assignment that required us to plan a library program in detail (like, fifteen-page-writeup level detail!), I outlined a preschool storytime with a “tails” theme and created mice finger puppets that could be used as manipulatives during a recitation of “Three Blind Mice” using Anne’s method.
They took me longer to make than I was expecting, but I think that was mostly due to lack of experience not only with making finger puppets like this but with sewing in general. Even for a domestic arts pro, though, it’d be tough to whip up a batch of 30 the night before a program. If your library has a strong volunteer group, especially including people with sewing experience, this could be a good project to farm out to them.
Blind Mice Finger Puppets
Materials: stuffed mice (I used cat toys from a local pet store), an old glove, fabric scraps for tails, a little bit of sew-on velcro, a seam ripper, needle, thread, and scissors
Mouse #1, pre-surgery
1. Using a seam ripper and scissors, cut a finger-sized hole in the bottom of the mouse. Pull out a fingertip-sized chunk of stuffing (and maybe catnip), but make sure to leave in enough stuffing for the toy to keep its shape.
This mouse's seam was reinforced with glue, hence the gross ragged edges around the edge of the fabric
2. Cut a fingertip off of an old glove. It helps to put on the glove, put your finger into the toy, and then mark around the bottom of the toy so you know how much to cut off. More tightly-fitting gloves work better than loose ones, and if you plan to have children use these as manipulatives, be sure to plan for little fingers.
Reminds me of my marching band days
3. Insert the glove fingertip into the toy and sew around the edges. A whipstitch is easy, but if you’re not using a thread color that blends in, it makes the fingerpuppet look a little like Frankenstein’s monster. I also recommend choosing toys made of a forgiving fabric; the knit mouse in my collection really showed off every mistake in cutting and stitching.
4. To create detachable tails, fold a rectangular bit of fabric in half (or in quarters with the raw edges on the inside) and sew the sides together. Then fold over a bit of the end of the tail and sew it down to create an elongated t-shape. Cut a piece of velcro to size, cut off the mouse’s original tail (if it has one), and sew the velcro onto the new tail and the mouse’s behind.
Removable tail--no carving knife necessary!
5. Repeat as many times as necessary to create your own nest/colony/harvest/horde/mischief of finger puppet mice.
My mischief of mice earned me an A!
While the storytime I planned was tail-themed, these could be reused for a more general animal storytime, a pets storytime (although the detachable tails are a little sad in that case!), or a nursery rhyme-themed program. They’re not too hard, especially once you’ve gotten a little practice, and they’re pretty cheap, too.
July 14, 2010
KP Bath (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)
Last week children’s book author KP Bath was sentenced to six years in jail for possessing child pornography. This brings up questions of what librarians should do with his books if they’re held by the library. Should they be removed from the collection? Should they be booktalked and suggested? Should they be featured in displays? In South Carolina where the book won the 2007-2008 Junior Book Award, should the book be stricken from the award list?
Bath was originally arrested in April 2009. At the time I was taking both a seminar on intellectual freedom and Materials for Youth, and I brought up his arrest in both classes to gauge my fellow students’ reactions. While my seminar classmates were all vociferous in their defense of the book (but not the author), I was surprised by how many of my classmates in Materials for Youth would have removed the book from their libraries’ collections, even if they hadn’t read the books themselves. I think that were KP Bath an author for adults, even more cautious librarians would be less likely to pull his works; it’s providing his books to children, the very group he was exploiting, that concerns us.
At the time I hadn’t read any of KP Bath’s books, but by the end of the semester had read both THE SECRET OF CASTLE CANT and ESCAPE FROM CASTLE CANT, the first two books in a trilogy that will now probably never see completion. I thought they were mediocre fantasy novels that started with an interesting world but fell short in their narration style and details. But aside from a few notes about how insufferable adults are (which you’ll find in many books for older children and young adults), there was nothing in the books that seemed unusual or uncomfortable, much less exploitative. So, wearing my librarian hat and separating the author from his work, I concluded that it would violate the Freedom to Read Statement were we to remove the book from our library shelves.
But this also illustrated to me the occasional separation that occurs between my professional ethics and my personal ethics. While I’m not always great at it, it’s important to me to spend my consumer dollars wisely since it’s the only vote I get in the behavior of corporations and the business world in general. And I definitely don’t want to financially support someone who exploits children–especially someone so downright skeezy as Bath. He wrote in one of his chats, “I’m glad there are molesters out there,” and “I wish a 9 yr old was doing that to me. This from a man who’s writing books for 9-year-olds.” While he was enjoying (and trading) videos and images “depicting sadistic conduct, rape, sodomy and bestiality,” he was also volunteering at the Beverly Cleary Children’s Library in Portland. He was volunteering at the local children’s library. It chills my blood to read that sentence. Knowing what I know about Bath, there’s no way I could spend my money on his books, recommend (rather than suggest) his books to any children I know, or in any way not oppose him.
But those are my personal values. My professional values demand that I treat his books as I would have before his arrest and conviction. Normally I feel like my own values and my profession’s values are a good match, but I really struggle with this case. I know that as much as we want it to be or might claim it is, our collection development isn’t objective. I want social justice to be a part of librarianship. But intellectual freedom is at the core of librarianship and is the defense for some controversial things that happen in youth librarianship. If we start making compromises, how can we continue to defend controversial books being on our shelves? If we make exceptions and remove KP Bath’s books from our collections, then how do we retain the works of other felons or of anyone–atheists, gay people–whom someone in our library’s community might think immoral?
But can I really set aside my personal values in favor of my professional ones and be okay with myself? I certainly expect it of any librarians who personally think that (for example) people in the queer community are on the path to hell–I’d still expect them to collect books by LGBTQIA authors. Is the reason I think this is different because the law and a majority of people in our society agree that pedophilia is wrong whereas (in most states at least) homosexuality isn’t a crime?
I struggled with this conflict of values last spring and now that Bath has been sentenced, I’m thinking about it again. Professionally the right thing to do is to treat his books no differently, but personally, I’m torn. Intellectual freedom is important to me, but so is supporting good in the world and opposing evil. I feel okay keeping Bath’s books in a collection and with giving them to patrons who ask for them directly. But can I, with a clean conscience, add Bath’s books to a booklist? Can I booktalk them? I think I’ll probably do so–and feel good about it at work but feel guilty about it at home.
July 12, 2010
Last spring during my Seminar on Intellectual Freedom, Shellie and I were discussing how librarianship doesn’t have a professional organization that controls licenses to practice and that while we have the ALA Code of Ethics (and the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement and lots of other statements from the Office of Intellectual Freedom), there isn’t an oath we have to take to become librarians like (for example) doctors do.
So once we started nearing graduation, I took the general structure of the Hippocratic Oath and filled in that framework with content from the ALA Code of Ethics and did a little tweaking and came up with a Librarian’s Oath:
The Librarian’s Oath
I swear by Seshat the scribe, Athena, Sophia, and Nidaba, and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witness, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and covenant:
I will not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or my employing institution.
But I will provide the highest level of service to all library users and ensure equitable, unbiased access to materials and services, recognizing that a person’s right to use the library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
I will respect intellectual property rights and support balance between the interests of information users and rights holders.
I will uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.
All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.
In all aspects of my work I will strive for excellence and will maintain and enhance my knowledge and skills. I will support the professional development of my colleagues. I will encourage the aspirations of potential members of the profession.
Both at work and in the community, I will be an advocate for the library and I will champion libraries and my fellow librarians.
If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all people and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.
Professor Japzon (Andrea, that is) administered the Oath to a group of us after graduation today; we raised our right hands and recited it in unison (Shellie and I also held a copy of the Intellectual Freedom Manual). It turned out to be a little long for a public recitation, but I really enjoyed being sworn in and made an official librarian by someone in the field. Along with all of the academic regalia and ceremony and tradition of the day, it made for a very official-feeling way to officially join the ranks of the profession.
So now I’m a real, MLS-holding, Oath-swearing librarian!
May 9, 2010
We had our final meeting for my Youth Services class tonight; it’s definitely bittersweet (more bitter than sweet, if I’m going to be honest) to be finishing the program. So since it was our last class, the material we covered was a grab bag of library fun: we started with the recent challenge of Toni Morrison’s SONG OF SOLOMON in one of my classmate’s school districts (the unusual twist here is that rather than the objection coming from a parent, it’s coming instead from a school board member–and the kids were halfway through the book when the challenge arose! The book had been taught for years before anyone challenged it! This has even caught the attention of Anna North at Jezebel.) and then talked about knowing your community and what kinds of programs will and won’t fly (like tarot cart readings, anti-Valentine’s Day programs, or even Banned Book Week events), interviewing and salary negotiation, being advocates for young people, and professional tools and resources.
We also had a discussion about the value of the MLS. Since I started the program almost two years ago I’ve repeatedly found myself called to defend the need for the degree, usually to people incredulously asking, “You need a master’s degree for that?” Initially I didn’t really know what to say because I’d just started the program myself and was a newcomer to the field and didn’t really know what I’d be learning in classes or on the job. But after working in three different kinds of libraries, taking classes, doing projects and internships, discussing this with other librarians and library students, and getting within six days of graduation (!), I feel better equipped to answer that incredulity.
In my earlier post on the need for more rigor in the profession, I mentioned the exclusive body of knowledge that we lay claim to as part of being professionals. While I think we need to work harder to expand and deepen and refine what appears in the library science literature, it’s through a professional degree that we confer that knowledge to the next generation of librarians. You can be taught how to catalog a book on the job, but you’re very unlikely to receive along with that training a lecture on controlled vocabularies or bibliographic access. You may be really good at finding things online or at doing research with print materials, but it’s through a professional degree that you will learn about information-seeking behavior. Librarianship requires specialized skills and knowledge and while some of that can be learned on the job, the theoretical background comes from the studies you do for a degree.
Instilling professional ethics
While you may have considered the ethical implications of library work on your own or be put through ethics training on the job, it is through a master’s degree that you examine library ethics in detail and develop a comprehensive view of what libraries are all about. A day-long ethics seminar at work doesn’t give you the depth of understanding that you get in a semester-long course on intellectual freedom. You not only need to balance access and privacy, intellectual freedom and community responsiveness–you also need to be able to understand and defend why you do what you do.
Connection to our history
Sure, you know who Melvil Dewey was and have probably heard of Nancy Pearl. But do you know Justin Winsor, Charles Cutter, Samuel Swett Green, Jesse Shera, S. R. Ranganathan, Margaret A. Edwards, Augusta Baker, Anne Carroll Moore, Pura Belpré, Helen Thornton Geer, Kathleen de la Peña McCook, Michael Gorman, or Judith Krug? Do you know their contributions to librarianship and how they changed the profession? Do you know how librarianship and libraries have evolved? Do you know how young adult literature emerged from children’s literature and how children’s literature developed in the first place? Do you know how technology has changed the profession? Do you know what the philosophy of libraries used to be and what it is now? Do you know how the field became a “woman’s profession”? You could read books about the history of librarianship, but you’re not going to learn about these things in the day-to-day work you do in a library. And this isn’t just trivia you want to know to impress your friends and neighbors: it is by knowing where we’ve come from and what it is that makes a library a library that we can chart where we are going to go.
Signaling your valuing of your work
Librarians are undervalued. Public librarians are especially undervalued. Youth Services librarians are criminally undervalued. Having a professional degree and defending it to skeptics signals that you value your work, your knowledge, and your profession–and that the profession is a profession and not just a job that anyone off the street can do. An MLS is an investment of your time and your money and you’d better be able to explain why you had to get that piece of paper to be a librarian and how what you learned during the course of your degree makes you a better librarian than someone who just has work experience.
There are undoubtably genius autodidacts who rock the library world without an MLS and who are curious and driven enough to acquire some of this specialized knowledge on their own–after all, a library is a place where you can research and learn and improve yourself and your skills. I’m not trying to claim that one must have an MLS to be a good librarian or that what you learn during the course of your MLS studies will be useful to you every minute of every day you spend at work. But I do think that MLS programs that give us a theoretical foundation, an understanding of ethical issues in the field, and a sense of the profession’s history and future make us much, much better equipped to be excellent librarians than those who rely on work experience alone. And being able to understand the value of that degree and defend it to those who think librarianship is just sitting around reading all day is essential.
May 3, 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
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
I’ve written a little bit about my directed readings course this semester that I’m doing with Andrea Japzon and four other students in the program. On Saturday we took a trip up to the Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, Indiana to see their collections, work out some details of the project, and share our best practices research.
The William H. Willennar Genealogy Center
We started at the William H. Willennar Genealogy Center where we met Gregg Williamson, the Manager of Genealogical Services (and a SLIS-Indy grad!), who gave us a tour of their building. We started off with the print collection, which has the largest collection of genealogy materials dealing with DeKalb County, and includes yearbooks for local schools dating back to 1905, family histories for local families, phone books, and individual files of research people have done on their own families. They also have a large microfilm collection of local newspapers, microfilm readers and scanners, and computer stations where patrons can use online resources to do genealogy research.
The seating space in the main room of the Genealogy Center. Photo by Erin Milanese.
Part of the print collection. Photo by Erin Milanese.
Gregg then took us through the staff workspace and talked about the people who work at the Genealogy Center (they’re mostly part-time employees and volunteers) and showed us the basement archive and the permanent archive upstairs. The basement archive is mostly local newspapers; some date back to the 1800s, but the collection also includes recent issues as well. As Gregg explained it, we’re very fortunate to have those two hundred-year-old papers, and people two hundred years from now are only going to have resources like that if we save current newspapers now.
Archival boxes in the basement archive. Photo by Erin Milanese.
The Genealogy Center has a lot of really cool technology and tools; one of the ones I found the most interesting was the microfilm camera. EPL still sends some of its things out to be microfilmed since it’s such a labor-intensive process and they do depend so heavily on volunteer work, but there are some items that they scan themselves. I can’t remember what the exact claim to fame was, but this may be one of the only microfilm scanners in a public library in Indiana. It was something really impressive like that.
EPL's microfilm camera. Photo by Erin Milanese.
The upstairs archive is the permanent archive and contains records that are available upon request but aren’t immediately available to the public (e.g., old gradebooks from local schools). We had a short but interesting conversation about balancing privacy and access; Gregg said that rather than siding with archivists who’d be more interested in privacy and protection of the physical materials, he tends to err on the side of making things open to people, reasoning that it’s a public library, so their holdings should be open to the public. He did say that there are some things that aren’t available to the public at all because of privacy concerns, like old library card registrations from earlier decades that include people’s names and addresses.
We also got to check out the digitization lab. Alaina Ring is in charge of the metadata for the library’s photo archive and database and she walked us through the creation of a database record. The digitalization lab has some neat technology, too, including a 35mm slide scanner, and what’s really cool about it is that it’s open to the public. They’ve done a lot of grant writing to build their collection and the tools they have available to them. It’s really impressive.
Two of the computer workstations (and the slide scanner) in the digitization lab. Photo by Erin Milanese.
This trip also gave us all a chance to better understand the specifics of and our own roles in this project. The Genealogy Center already has an extensive collection of photographs and documents, but most of it is of historical materials–which makes sense, since the people who use the Genealogy Center are doing research into their family’s history or into local history in general. But in the same way that Gregg is saving local newspapers now for the researchers of the future, Andrea wants to start saving the digital content of today for the researchers of tomorrow.
What we’re hoping to do with this project is to target some people whose stories reflect what’s going on in the community now: the woman who owns a local cafe, a teenager growing up in Auburn, a prominent politician, the factory worker who recently got laid off because of the economic downturn. We’ll solicit from them real and digital objects that represent their lives in the community and then figure out how to ingest that content into the library’s digital collection (or find a home for it at the DeKalb History Center or return it to its owner after scanning or photographing it). We’d also like to collect oral histories (maybe even on video) and find a way to include those in the library’s database. After an initial pilot program this year, we’re hoping to expand the project to include more community members in future years, and to promote the collection during Auburn Pride Week.
Andrea’s big on co-created community resources and on knowledge exchanges, so since we (both we students and the public library) are learning from community members with this project, we’ll also be doing workshops this summer to give some knowledge back to the community. The library’s done programs before on creating scrapbooks and preserving photographs and they’ve brought in outside speakers to talk about preserving digital information, but we’re hoping to build on what they’ve done before to help teach people about collecting, organizing, and preserving their digital content. We’ll also do workshops on privacy and copyright issues when dealing with digital content.
During our discussions, I was thinking about the different people we’re going to recruit for the pilot program and it really struck me how people of different ages understand digital content in completely different ways. Most teenagers are very at home in a digital world and are very nearly swimming in digital content. But maybe there’s also an older person in the community who doesn’t have his own computer and comes to the library to check his email where his granddaughter has sent photos from her latest birthday party. He understands those digital photographs that just live in his inbox in a totally different way than the teen understands the photos he texts to his friends. I think I’d like to learn more about that.
Now that I’ve got a more detailed idea of how the People of Auburn project is going to go and I’ve actually seen the physical facilities and gotten to know the library a little bit, I’m even more excited about this project. I have to admit that normally I find genealogy and archives only mildly interesting, but the more Gregg showed us on Saturday, the more interested I got. They’ve got so many unusual and unique resources and technology. I’m also very excited about the team we have assembled for this project!
Back row: Andrea Japzon, Erin Miller Milanese, Gretchen Kolderup, Alaina Ring, Gregg Williamson. Front row: Katie Nakanishi, Eve Grant. Not pictured: Angela Slocum. Photo by EPL's Gretel.
Eckhart Public Library is unusual in that it actually comprises three separate buildings all on the same street. We conducted most of our business on Saturday at the Genealogy Center, but we also visited the main library building and the teen library. Oh yes, EPL has a completely separate building for its teens–and it’s totally awesome. It’s open after school and on the weekends and it’s got comfortable furnishings, really striking light fixtures, computers, and a space for programming and games. Adults are only allowed in for fifteen minutes at a time if they’re not accompanied by a teen. When we walked into the building, the teens sitting at the computers turned around to stare at us; Darcy, the librarian I talked to, said that’s one of the things the teens like best about having their own space, feeling like they belonged and anyone else was an outsider. She did acknowledge that sometimes the people in adult services were too quick to send teens away from the main library building but said that overall, having their own space was great. I was impressed with how current their fiction collection was and how large their non-fiction collection (homework resources and teen-interest stuff like gaming guides and yoga books and things like that) was. I think it’s really important for teens to have their own space in the library–and it’s even better when they can have a space where they aren’t constantly being told to keep their voices down.
The outside of the Third Place, EPL's teen library. Photo by Erin Milanese.
We also visited the main library building, which was built in 1911 and is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a lot of interesting touches. It was originally going to be a Carnegie building, but Charles Eckhart, a local businessman, said he’d build the library on the condition that the contract with Carnegie be severed. The library has a fountain in the yard outside, stained glass windows, and a fireplace. It’s very comfortable and it really feels like a homey place the community can gather.
The fountain outside the main library. Photo by Erin Milanese.
Stained glass and bookshelves in the main library building. Photo by Erin Milanese.
I also took a trip downstairs to check out the children’s area. They have puppets and toys available for checkout and their storytime room is decorated with a Secret Garden theme and has an adjacent room with kid-sized tables for craft time. I was so impressed with the creative touches throughout the whole library. It seems like a really fun place to be able to go!
A tree in the storytime room in the children's department. Photo by Erin Milanese.
EPL has internship opportunities available for SLIS-Indy students. If you’re interested in working in the Genealogy Center processing materials for the digital collection, in the teen library, for information services, or in technical services, email Gregg Williamson. Don’t forget that internship applications are due to Marilyn Irwin in the SLIS office by 15 March for the summer semester and 15 July for the fall semester.
March 2, 2010
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
One of the classes that I’m taking this semester is an independent study that’s actually a group project with some other students in the program led by Andrea Japzon (whom I had for my Public Library Management class last semester). We’re going to help a public library in northern Indiana create a community digital repository to show their community pride and have a place to collect their community’s history. I’m focusing on privacy and copyright concerns.
At the beginning of the semester, Andrea had us do some reading on digital repositories and the idea of a community repository and how “memories of me” become “memories of us.” The article I found especially fascinating was “Guarding Against Collective Amnesia? Making Significance Problematic: An Exploration of Issues” by Annemaree Lloyd, which appeared in Library Trends in 2007. In it, Lloyd discusses how the very act of determining what is significant enough to go into an archive is a political act and defines how future people will determine significance. She also talked about how the dominant culture can’t understand the significance to minority cultures of artifacts from those minority cultures, and takes librarians and archivists and historians to task for not examining the lack of objectivity–and the fundamental inability to be objective–in choosing what’s significant. It’s not the kind of thing I usually read in library literature (I’d expect it more from a cultural studies program), but I found it really interesting.
Anyway, my friend and classmate, Erin (who’s also the incredibly hard-working president of ALISS), is Andrea’s GA, so she’s working on the project, too. She’s interested in doing more with digital collections once she graduates and she wrote a post on her blog about the project, including a short argument for the importance of metadata in everyone’s lives:
You’re probably on the verge of clicking the X button and not finishing this blog because you think metadata is something that only applies to us nerds digitizing things and working in libraries…. but you’re wrong. Metadata is EVERYthing. Every time you tag a photo in Facebook or on Flickr…that’s metadata. Everytime you put a title on your blog…metadata. Depending on the search engine, every word you write can be a piece of metadata. When you upload photos from your camera onto your computer, and each file is given a name like 00258_img, and you see things like 154x132px or “taken with sony digital” or “jpg”… that’s all metadata.
The problem is, while metadata is everywhere, its not standardized, often neglected, and can be very subjective (think about all those times you’ve tagged pics on facebook with things like “that crazy guy from across the street”, or “my friend’s cute baby”, or even worse, not tagged anyone and neglected to write a caption, leaving librarians and historians 100 years from now no clue as to who or what is depicted).
In the digital age, information is created so much more rapidly than it ever was before. During our meeting near the beginning of the semester, Andrea said that over 90% of all information created today is only created digitally. And from our readings, we learned that in the past, preservation was something that happened after creation, now preservation happens at creation, because as soon as you take a photo, you’re locked into that file format and that resolution for all time with no guarantee that the digital information that makes up that picture will be readable in the future.
With this project we’re not only planning to help establish this community digital repository, but to design workshops for patrons of the public library to explain how data generation and preservation works in the digital world. We need to make Erin’s argument for the importance of metadata to non-librarians and we need to help people decide how to balance social networking and privacy. That’s what libraries are for: to teach information and technology literacy.
This week we’re all finishing up our initial round of research in our different areas and our identification of best practices. Next weekend we’ll drive up to the library to finalize a timeline for this project and check out what they’ve got in place already. I’ll be writing more about the project as we continue to work on it.
February 18, 2010
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