Logo designed by and stolen from the Indie Librarian
I’m participating in the Library Day in the Life Project (now in its seventh round) this week. To quote the project wiki, “the Library Day in the Life Project is a semi-annual event coordinated by Bobbi Newman of Librarian by Day. Twice a year librarians, library staff and library students from all over the globe share a day (or week) in their life through blog posts, photos, video and Twitter updates.”
Today was a slightly scattered day at work. I also remain baffled by huge swings in turnout for my programs this summer. But I get to hang out with enthusiastic teen readers! (more…)
July 27, 2011
Last weekend my library hosted a Minecraft competition that has been my most successful program to date. I don’t think there are a lot of other public libraries out there who have done much Minecraft-related programming, so I thought I’d write about what we did, how we did it, and how it worked.
For the uninitiated: Minecraft is a “sandbox game,” which means it’s an open-ended environment in which the player comes up with his or her own objectives and then sets out to achieve them. In Minecraft, the world is made up of cubes of different materials and the player can harvest those materials and combine them in different configuration to build tools, other building materials, furniture, food, and different kinds of mechanisms. The focus of the game is exploration and creativity and people have done some really awesome stuff with it. (more…)
June 16, 2011
The New York Public Library is outstanding at a lot of things, and one of them is the use of social media and the Internet. They’re not just on the Internet because they feel like they’re supposed to be; like most other things that NYPL does, they’re innovating and being leaders with their online presence. They post storytimes on YouTube and explain why they matter. They use Foursquare and Twitter, of course, and even have their own Foursquare badge. Their Facebook presence is slick and interesting and informative. And they have an outstanding Tumblr feed that they use to highlight items from the library’s collection, draw attention to the importance of libraries and librarians, promote programs, advocate for library funding, and generally be on the Internet in an interesting way. They even observe Caturday!
So NYPL is cool and that coolness translates to their online presence. And then, as part of the centennial celebration of the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (you know, the one with the lions Patience and Fortitude and the gorgeous reading room), they announced Find the Future: The Game (tagline: “Some people go through life letting history happen to them. Others make history. If you can find the future, you can make history.”), in which 500 people will be locked in the library overnight on May 20th (tomorrow!), divided into teams, and then charged with missions to find specific objects in the library’s collection and then complete a writing quest. If the players succeed, their writing will be collected into a book and added to the library’s collection. (More details on the game here.) And the game is designed by Jane McGonigal, whom I heard speak at PAX East earlier this year about the importance of games and the good games and gamers can do. (More from Jane on Find the Future and gaming and on NYPL and Find the Future specifically.)
Find the Future is so great on so many levels. For library lovers, it’s an awesome way to get to know the library better, to have a unique experience with the library, and to contribute something to the collection. For New Yorkers who are into writing or social media or scavenger hunts or games or going on quirky missions, this is an awesome way to show them that the library can be a cool place for cool things. And for people across the country, this is a stellar way to showcase what libraries are, what they have, and what they can be about. (And non-library people did take notice: Laura Miller wrote a piece for Salon called Why libraries still matter about… well, just that, focusing on NYPL specifically.) We need to talk about what we do and we need to be out in the community and offer unique, relevant things. Find the Future is such a fabulous intersection of libraries and community and games and the more I read, the more excited I was about it.
And then I found out that an acquaintance-whom-I’d-like-to-make-into-a-friend, former IRS employee, crusader for social justice, and trained fire marshall Jen Bokoff, was to be one of those lucky 500 people! She is super excited about it, and I’m really happy that she agreed to let me interview her before and afterward. I’m curious about the game itself, but I’m especially interested in Jen’s perspective on libraries–and whether or not it changes after her epic experience this weekend. (more…)
May 19, 2011
Last weekend I went to PAX East in Boston. I had a great weekend playing games (new and old) with friends (new and old) and enjoying nerding out, but there were definitely moments when I had my librarian hat on. One of those moments was during the keynote address, given by Jane McGonigal (author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World). She talked about how gaming can be social, how gaming can be an avenue for healing, and why gaming matters in general–and I was thinking a lot about gaming in libraries and how it sounds like we can use a lot of what’s in her book to make the case for gaming. (Check out this Reuters article for more about her work.)
Over the course of the weekend, we played a lot of games, and I’m excited about introducing one of them, Zombie Dice, to the kids who come to my weekly drop-in gaming sessions.
But we didn’t just play games at PAX–we also talked about them and listened to people talk about them. One of the panel discussions I attended was on legal concerns in gaming, and I was struck by the overlap in the legal issues we encounter in the library world: gamers and librarians alike come across questions about the doctrine of first sale, copyright, digital distribution, and the rights of minors.
But the one thing I encountered that weekend that really got my librarian jets firing was interactive fiction. A piece of interactive fiction is a text adventure game where the narrative unfolds as you solve puzzles and interact with the world around you. I think it’d be really awesome to organize an IF competition for library teens where they create their own stories or adapt their favorite YA novel into a game–or at least to show them this alternate form of storytelling. I’ve written more on the YALSA blog about interactive fiction and about a great language and development environment, Inform 7, that makes creating IF accessible even if you’re not a programmer. I included a little mini-game and the source code for it if you want to see how easy Inform 7 makes writing IF.
Have any of you brought IF to your library?
March 20, 2011
Some of this is sort of old (in Internet time, at least), but I’ve been trying hard to get all of my work for the next week and a half done before I leave for PLA and neglecting my RSS feeds, so it’s all new to me!
100 Scope Notes had a great post earlier this month with book spine poetry. I love these!
Just Ask Marlene announces that Hilary Duff has signed a book deal with Simon & Schuster beginning with ELIXIR. “Hillary tells her fans that she loves reading great adventure books, especially ones like Elixir that feature a strong, inspiring female character.” Look for ELIXIR this October or preorder at Amazon now.
And finally, Amanda Gardner at BusinessWeek writes that “boys who own a video game system don’t do as well academically as their non-playing peers,” but the study author, Robert Weis, clarifies:
“we can never say with 100 percent certainty that it’s playing video games that causes kids to have delays or deficits in reading and writing performance, but … we can be pretty confident that it’s the game ownership and the amount of time they spend playing that causes these academic delays.”
I feel the need to rise to video games’ defense. Lots of things from chess to rock music has been branded the downfall of our youth and video games are just the latest form of entertainment to add to the list. Any hobby–sports or gaming or even reading–will take away from academic study time. Should kids give up all of their hobbies just because it’d give them more time to spend on school? Hobbies are beneficial for so many reasons (they help us develop socially, they help us develop other skills, and they give us something to do to get a break from our work at the very least) and in fact, the Department of Defense published a news item earlier this year about the benefits of video gaming.
Furthermore, the study population was boys whose families didn’t own video game systems, so it’s possible that the time the boys spent on gaming would level off as they played for a while and having video games in their own homes wasn’t an exciting new thing anymore. The study also found that reading and writing scores dropped, but that math scores remained consistent, so it’s not just a matter of time spent on video games that could be spent on studying.
I’m not saying that playing video games is always good or that there are only benefits and no drawbacks, but knee-jerk “gaming is bad” reactions and headlines to studies with more nuance drive me crazy. The truth, as usual, is probably not in one extreme or the other, but rather somewhere in the middle.
March 23, 2010
One month from today I’ll be headed to Portland for PLA’s 2010 National Conference! I’m really looking forward to more opportunities for professional development and meeting other cool librarians from around the country. In anticipation of PLA 2010, I thought I’d reflect on the highlights of my experience at ALA Annual 2009, which was the first conference I ever attended.
I was really lucky last year; it was my first year in the SLIS program and ALA was in Chicago, so I was able to attend at the student rate, not pay airfare, and not pay for a hotel (I have friends in Northwest Indiana so I stayed with them and took the train into town)–all of which made the conference affordable. And it was such a fantastic experience! By last summer my experience in actual libraries was pretty limited: most of what I knew I knew from class readings, homework, and discussion. Going to ALA showed me how much more libraries could be.
My first day, I attended YALSA’s Genre Galaxy, which covered different genres of YA lit: what makes them appealing, what books are out there, and how to sell them to teens or program around them. But the best part of this preconference were the authors who spoke to us about their work, including James Kennedy (whose appearance was all done in-character and involved local teens re-enacting a scene from his book–Elizabeth Bird of Fuse #8 did writeups and posted videos here, here, and here), Dom Testa, Simone Elkeles, David Lubar (whom I also got to speak with during a break–he’s such a cool dude!), Patrick Jones, Libba Bray, and Holly Black. Honestly, I was a little bit star-struck after a day of hearing these YA lit rockstars talk–and getting to talk to them one-on-one during breaks! The giddiness of being able to meet people whose work I enjoyed so much really impressed on me how great it’d be to be able to bring that experience to teens and children through author visits.
I also attended a bunch of sessions that blew me away with how incredibly awesome and proactive libraries could be. Scott Nicholson talked about gaming in libraries and did a great job explaining why gaming is good aside from just the way it brings kids into the library, and he explained the importance of being able to back up gaming in your library with your mission statement. Different librarians also talked about how they’d implemented gaming in their libraries–and it ranged from something as small as just having a teen-organized gaming collection in a tiny public library to a huge program with classes and guest speakers on how to create games at NYPL.
I also attended the panel discussion on Teen Advisory Boards and again had my mind blown (see my earlier post about my class presentation on TABs). The only Teen Advisory Board I’d seen in action was just a group of kids the librarian could bounce ideas off of. I’d never even considered how TABs could be harnessed to make a library better and give teens leadership opportunities, or how they could very nearly run a teen department with the right development work from the librarian. More than any other session, this panel discussion got me really excited about being able to work in a library and really make an impact with what I did there.
I sat in on a presentation on sex in YA literature that challenged notions we all have about teens and sexuality and the books they read. Laura Ruby‘s talk about writing for children and then writing for teens and having her books challenged gave interesting insight into the author’s side of things, and Marty Klein did a great job of putting things in a historical and psychological context and examining the state of teen sexuality and teen sex education today.
I also went to the panel discussion on graphic novels that included a representative from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Neil Gaiman, Terry Moore, and Craig Thompson. Again, it was interesting to hear from the creators of works that get challenged, works we feel we need to defend. The consensus seemed to be that they don’t set out to be controversial; they just write and draw the story they want to tell and it’s only after it’s been released that the work starts to get categorized and analyzed and challenged and loved. They also did a good job of making the point that just because it’s a graphic novel doesn’t mean it’s for children–and that’s something we need to keep in mind as librarians. I also enjoyed their conversation about how graphic novels differ from other media like film or text.
Beyond the sessions I attended (and there were more–those were just the ones that I found particularly inspiring or interesting), I had time to check out all of the vendors on the convention floor. I got some neat free stuff including books and bags and pins and a Polaroid of me hugging the Cat in the Hat and ARCs (see my earlier post on ARCs)–including one of CATCHING FIRE, which was fantastic and exciting. Especially since this was my first conference, this part really was overwhelming at times. There are just so many people and so many booths and so much stuff everywhere. I was shielded in part by not actually having any sort of purchasing power, and it did give me a good idea of what’s out there for when I am working in a library and go to conferences representing my institution.
Part of visiting vendors was being able to meet authors and illustrators and get signed copies of their books. I got to meet Mo Willems and tell him what a fan I was and have him sign a few books; I met E. Lockhart and briefly discussed Frankie’s mix of psychopath and awesome while she signed my copy of THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS (now out in paperback with a much more boring cover); and I not only met and received signed books from MT Anderson but was able to have a surprisingly long conversation with him. He turned out to be a super-nice guy and I really wish I’d been able to talk with him even longer. I also ran into Lori Ann Grover of readergirlz right before the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet and had a chance to learn more about how she started readergirlz and all of the great things they’ve done so far.
And finally, I got to attend the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet and the Michael L. Printz Award reception. The Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder event was so elegant and the acceptance speeches were moving and inspiring. I especially loved Ashley Bryan‘s story of growing up black and wanting to illustrate and his energetic, expressive group recitations of Langston Hughes’s poetry.
While the Printz reception was a more casual affair, it felt more personal, too. I enjoyed hearing from the honor books’ authors as well as the winner, and I especially liked the chance to mingle with the honorees afterward.
My first conference experience was a little bit overwhelming and exhausting (I really packed in every activity I could while I was there), but more than that it was incredibly inspiring and energizing. Through the sessions I attended and the people I met, I got to see what kinds of rockin’ awesome things librarians are doing. I came away from the experience feeling really excited about my profession and really motivated to learn more and do more.
So with PLA quickly approaching, I’m looking forward to being able to re-energize myself in my work, especially in a more focused framework since PLA will be about public libraries specifically, and I’m looking forward to everything I’ll learn and be inspired by and inspired to do. The one way in which I felt like my ALA experience was lacking was that I didn’t get to meet as many new people as I wanted, and I’m hoping to do that at PLA–in just one month!
February 24, 2010