Library Bonanza

Ready, Set, Program!

Librarian Life Is for Me

Open to downtown Bloomington, IN. Camera centers in on a cheery graduate student.

STUDENT: “Tra-la-la-la. Life’s good. It’s fun to whistle while walking down the street.”

Suddenly, her eyes pop out of her head and her mouth drops to the floor while a record needle somewhere is abused. Frame shot of a nearby newspaper stand displaying today’s date: March 31, 2011. Top headline reads “Graduate school year rolls to an end. Everyone prepared.” (A sub-headline reads “Fat Squirrel Actually Digging into Fat Pouch, Not Ground.”)

STUDENT: H-whaaaaaaa? What are these shenanigans?! I only have FOUR weeks left. But my humble blog readers know NOTHING about my life since January. They don’t even know about my lunch meeting with James Earl Jones and Kiefer Sutherland! Well, time for an update.

Classes have been pretty grand this semester. My Public Library Management class and Youth Services class have been incredibly interesting. Youth Services has been pretty project heavy which is great for job preparation. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Toddler Program: “Spiders and Bugs”
3rd-5th Grade Program: “Inventors and Inventions: Electricity”
Tween Craft: “Impress Your Friends: Balloon Figures”
Teen Program: “Vampires vs. Zombies”
Soon to be: Storytelling–Mayan folktale
Soon to be: Teen Tech Week (collaboration with 3 other students)

I just started my Storytelling class and I will be performing Henny Penny (preschool audience) and a scary ghost tale for young adults. This class is da bomb. Something that has intrigued me is that storytelling is not acting–that you are not a character because you’re the omniscient narrator and you must interact with your audience. But, you still have to be animated. My improvisation skillz should come in handy.

Library Management is chalk-full of library issues. We’ve talked about outside partnerships and community outreach, government relations, managing money, problem patrons, assessment of the library, and strategic planning. Our readings for the week are always accompanied with a blog so here are some highlights:

Government shifting to electronic forms places Librarian as source of guidance:

The sun was shining brightly as Government wrapped its protective arms around Library. “I’d never cause anything bad to happen to you, Library. You know that, right?”
“You are certainly the love of my dreams,” cooed Library.
“Ditto. Oh, there is this little, minute thing. You won’t even notice it. I’m going to be cutting back expenses and employees in several departments and I’m going to need you to do their job. Come to think of it, I’m going to need to shave back a few extra bucks from you, too.” Government got up, unlocked its new Lamborghini and slid in.
Seeing the slightly overwhelmed look on Library’s face, Government rolled down the window before it sped off. “But it’ll give you something to do since all you do is sit around reading books and yelling at kids. See ya round, toots.”

While that is an obvious exaggeration, librarians are picking up more responsibilities without proper recognition and funding. The shift towards more internet usability for government services has already happened and it has had a very positive effect towards cutting back government budgets.  This we cannot deny.  However, librarians are now meant to facilitate and guide confused e-government users in varying government services via the Web…While we love to help others, we also need proper funding.  Other government agencies are dumping these services upon us without truly realizing the implications of their actions.

Problem Patrons

As librarians, we are getting first-hand experience with the people ignored on the street and scoffed at by society.  The maltreatment of the chronically homeless is our problem, too.  Technically, it’s everyone’s problem and that is the information we need to express to the public just as much as the social workers, the police, the emergency room doctors, and the EMS/paramedic workers.

Paraprofessionals in Public Libraries

While I believe that public library paraprofessionals are assuming more responsibilities without higher pay, I don’t think it’s because public librarians are being called elsewhere by the Mayor of Gotham City.  (Don’t take that image too far—I don’t want to see any librarians daily walking the stacks in bat costumes.  And we all know there are those that would do it.)

I’m sure I could bore you with more, but this isn’t a novel. Speaking of novels, I’m reading Zombies vs. Unicorns right now. Can life get any better?

Here’s a classic library image. Viva la passion for knowledge!

Leave a comment »

Oh yeah? Well, I’ll Find your Path.

Classes are moving along nicely. I’ve been quite distracted, as my posts appear as often as those pumpernickel pieces in Chex Mix. The class projects have all been very rewarding. For reference, I discovered the marvels of Novelist Plus. It’s a pretty amazing database of 250,000 fiction and nonfiction that provides summaries, reviews, and classifies each book into categories such as genre, storyline, pace, tone, writing style, subject, and location. You can then select each of these and look for similar titles. It’s pretty fly.

Another project I completed was a Pathfinder (note title of this entry), which is essentially a guide to researching a topic. Not necessarily the most applicable thing to a public children’s/Young Adult (YA) librarian but I decided to do LGBTQ protagonists in YA fiction. Considering it’s probably a topic of a reader’s own interest, I feel like maybe he/she would actually be interested in finding anything they can get their hands on–more than the suggested reads. This excellent website by Lee Wind provided me with a great starting point. But, for your interest, I chose the following: Sprout by Dale Peck, Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, Tough Love by Abby Denson, Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger, Empress of the World by Sara Ryan, Absolutely Positively NOT by David LaRochelle, Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara, Gravity by Leanne Lieberman, and Ash by Melinda Lo.

My reference class has also provided for some interesting conversation including the utilization of a chat box as a reference tool. In the article “Instant messaging reference: how does it compare?” by Christina M. Desai (2003), it brings up some interesting results from a study for newly implemented chat software. For instance 62% of the conversations were from computers within the library. First reaction: get over yourself and move your butt over to the desk.  But from my own experience I kinda understand the logic behind this because if you have a quick question and are far from a desk or have all of your things laid out, then it would be easier to use the chat. Another interesting thing about chat software is the removal of face-to-face interaction and with it, an inability to pick up on vocal ques and body language. I thought maybe Skype could help solve that but then my teacher thought it’d be funny if the patron could actually see the reference desk from their place in the library. It’d be even better if they could hear the librarian’s voice from afar. Overall, I think it’s crucial to have this chat software in academic libraries. However, I don’t think it would be useful in a small- or medium-sized public library because a reference desk is always within close proximity and a telephone call is a much simpler process.

Now comes a subject that I’ll be returning to often: how to bring patrons into the library. Programs are obvious. Hopefully I’ll get more extensive understanding of the perfect program in a later class so I won’t fully address it now. Layout of a library is also essential. Someone told me that all librarians should take an architecture class because it’s incredibly useful to understand the basics of cost and purpose in the architecture of a building. For young adults, I think it’s really important to have an expressive space to gather. At the Grayslake Public Library, it’s right next to the movie section. I don’t know if I agree with that, but I think that was the only place it could be put. For children, I think the best way to entice their cherub physiques is through incredible customer service and programs–preferably with live animals. Kids go ga ga for those hawks and lynxes. At least I did. Periodically, I’ll put something in here about ideas I hear for attracting patrons.

For now, I depart–but not before I present to you my future library’s entrance:

Courtesy of Stanley H. Durwood Film Vault, Central Library.

Leave a comment »