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One World, Many Stories: My Internship in Rural Indiana

My passion to be a youth services librarian has been permanently solidified after my internship at the Morgan County Public Library in Martinsville, Indiana. Although it was last summer (2011), I’m still reveling in the activities I undertook and the experiences that fueled my fire.

Last summer, I was given the power to run the programming at the surrounding 5 branches. The theme of the 2011 Collaborative Summer Library Program was “One World, Many Stories,” which emphasized international stories and programs. I developed, publicized, and ran 3 programs: Go Dutch, In to India, and Let’s Eat in Japan. Preparation in itself was an experience. The age recommendation for the programs was 5-12 so I had to consider accommodating a wide age range. For crafts and activities, I used several resources including online blogs, craft books, and suggestions from the Collaborative Summer Library Program. I was particularly proud of incorporating Staphorster Stipwerk (dotwork from Staphorster, see left) for the Dutch program and an exciting, interactive chopstick relay race where the kids grabbed cotton balls with chopsticks in one cup and raced to another cup. While the latter activity could have crumbled into disarray, I made the instructions simple, precise, and poignant. I even made them repeat the the rules after me. It was rewarding to see that a big group of children will listen to you if you talk to them in the right way–and if you have patience.

In addition to the crafts and activities, I also told a story for every program.  I utilized my storytelling instructor’s structure for preparation, allowing me to help remember, envision, and tell the stories.  I was also able to evaluate which stories are rich with tradition and interesting elements instead of full of fluff and forced morals. On top of the storytelling, I also read-aloud picture books which I practiced beforehand to avoid vocal stumbles.

Read-aloud storytime at the Waverly branch

So the programs were a success. Around 110 kids attended, each branch varying from 4 to 30 children. I also assisted and observed several other programs including a heavily attended lego program, a program on Mexico, baby time, and a wrap-up program. At the main branch I worked the reference desk and provided suggestions for reading catered to individual interests. Several questions centered around the early reader section. I decided to promote the Lexile Reading Levels for the collection as a guide for parents and library employees. About half of the books already had the levels–not consistent enough to rely upon. In addition to completing these labels, I created a nifty box to house the beginning reader books, the most commonly sought after early readers at MCPL.

Furthermore, I helped assist with the teen summer reading program kick-off. Interacting with the teens was so much fun.  Honestly, I can tolerate their angst, rowdiness, and confusion; rather, I admire their desire to be an individual, their passion to learn about the world, and their emergence into adulthood.

For the past few weeks, I have been helping the children’s librarian, Alyssa, weed the collection.  From my collection development class, we learned the value of weeding once per year so that MUSTIE books can be replaced (misleading, ugly, superseded, trivial, irrelevant, elsewhere).  However, this was not the case in the children’s department.

There were some pretty sad and ridiculous books I found including the entire technology section from the 1990s.  While some child may have accidentally picked seen Scottie Pippen in The NBA’s Top Ten Forwards in Basketball Today, it was probably time to ditch that book and several other sport’s statistics books from 1993.  While some craft books are hard to dispose of because the crafts are still relevant, I chose to weed craft books that weren’t as engaging as more recent craft books (superseded), or were in disrepair.  While I kept older books that filled specific niches, general craft books that fit my above deselection choices were taken out.  The weeding choices I made went to the librarian to determine if new books needed to be purchased to fill the ones that were leaving.  Fortunately, most of the craft books were already superseded by current books in the collection.

Before I finished my internship, I fulfilled my love of fun decorations and created a nature book display. It’s amazing how much time it takes to make a carefully selected around a theme and with literary valuable books.  For my selection, I used the reference book A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books under the theme “nature” which provided an extensive selection.  However, the reference book was from 2007 so some of the books were older and not quite as attractive as the newer published material.  I also used several professional organizations including the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.  For newer material, I used booklists found on blogs of professionals in the field.

Overall, my internship was incredibly beneficial towards me becoming a librarian. I finally saw my programming come to fruition! I used my knowledge of the literature I’ve been reading for the past few years. I don’t usually get to drip over the newest Mo Willems book to my friends and family (I don’t see why not. Pigeons driving buses is incredibly relevant in our world today).

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Nourish a child’s curiosity with nonfiction!

In public libraries, adult patrons use nonfiction to solve questions, either personal or work-related.  Children and young adults oftentimes use nonfiction for school projects—but this is not the only time nonfiction is used.  Children love to read nonfiction outside of mandatory school work.  Author Jon Sciezska connects boys’ interests with nonfiction subjects. In Katherine Bucher and KaaVonia Hinton’s Young Adult Literature, adolescents’ maturation can be complimented by nonfiction as “they demonstrate a need to know about things and to explore concepts and subjects in more detail” (267).

But, just like fiction, there are certain criteria of which a nonfiction book must align in order to be a meaningful work of literature. I use five main areas of inspection: writer authenticity (do they have a personal interest in the field?); accurate information; applicability to audience; style and organization; and illustrations. This inspection is best for already purchased nonfiction– for providing recommendations, creating displays, and weeding.

So where does a librarian start looking for new children’s nonfiction? Try checking out the following awards and blogs:



  • Nonfiction Book Blast

You can also utilize databases such as the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (accessible at most public libraries). You can narrow down the results to books published in 2011 (or the past year) and award winners. This will include a lot more underground and geographical awards.

Stay tuned for 2011 nonfiction reviews!

*Bucher, Katherine and KaaVonia Hinton. Young Adult Literature: Exploration, Evaluation, and Appreciation. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2010.

Reading: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Listening: 4 by Beyonce
Watching: Forks Over Knives

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Graphic Novel Primer

I’m sure we’re all avidly aware that teens gobble up graphic novels like free pizza. While the patron’s interest is there, is the librarian’s? While it’s easy to see that graphic novels bring in teen AND children readers (especially reluctant readers) it is important to align this new format of literature with collection development policies, curricula, and mission statements. It’s also nice to present the big boss with extra incentive to build your collection. Before I explain the benefits of Graphic Novels (GNs), let’s take a look at the four main categories of GNs: cartoon, comic, manga, and long form.

-Cartoons are comical and bubbly and most can be read on their own in 3-5 panels. Their main audience appeal is juvenile. Examples include Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes.

-Comics include superheroes with a lot of action. The main publishers are DC and Marvel. Watch out for newer editions of popular heroes and heroines because their main focus is to an adult audience.

-Manga is originally from Japan and has created its own subculture of devout fans. Manga involves a single tale over a series of volumes.  Depending on the popularity, some manga, such as Bleach, extend past 400 Chapters and 40 volumes.  Shojo manga is geared towards girls and shonen is geared towards boys.

-Long form GN are usually the most supported GN by librarians and adults. Long form is multifaceted, plot-driven, and as diverse as prose in the genres it offers. Recently, popular prose has been converted to GN format (Shakespeare, Warriors, Twilight).

It’s also important to note that GN can be used with children, too. You can tell the difference between a picture book and a GN by the presence of panels, word balloons, and sound effects. A great example is Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series.

So, why are these important to have in your collection? First, it motivates kids to read more. Nuff said. Second, the actual graphic layout can reveal parallel events within a time period as fully intertwined, much like the effect movies can have. For early literacy, GNs help build valuable decoding skills. As children follow action across the page, their eyes are duplicating left to right movement.  Furthermore, children can visually attach words to emotional expression, movement, and objects. This is also important for autistic children that have difficulty reading the emotions of others and can precisely see the exaggerated emotions in cartoons.  Finally, programming around GN is a great way to inspire creativity, provide a springboard for creative writing, and teach valuable lessons such as drawing.  Manga clubs are a popular patron-led option.

Now that you have a bit of the basics, here are some great suggestions to build or add to your collection:

Bleach – Tite Kubo (2001-current, fantasy/ghosts)
Age Recommendation: YA
Synopsis: “Ichigo Kurosaki has martial arts skills and the ability to see ghosts, and his life is about to change when he meets Rukia Kuchiki, a soul reaper and protector of innocents.”

Bone – Jeff Smith (1994-2004, humor/fantasy)
Age Recommendation: 10-15
Synopsis: “The series chronicles the adventures of the Bone cousins–plucky Fone Bone, scheming Phony Bone, and easygoing Smiley Bone– who leave their home of Boneville and are swept up in a Tolkienesque epic of royalty, dragons, and unspeakable evil forces out to conquer humankind.”

American Born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang (2006, humor/balancing two identities)
Age Recommendation: YA
Synopsis: “This fable stars the mythological Monkey King, realistic youngster Jin Wang of Taiwanese parentage, and TV sitcom teen Danny. All three are dogged by an unwanted identity and humiliated by others’ prejudice.”
Read-alike: The Accidental Genius of Weasel High – Rick Detorie

Anya’s Ghost – Vera Brosgol (2011, mystery/balancing two identities)
Age Recommendation: YA
Synopsis: “Anya, embarrassed by her Russian immigrant family and self-conscious about her body, has given up on fitting in at school but falling down a well and making friends with the ghost there just may be worse.” Simple and beautiful artwork convey the wide range of Anya’s teenage emotions.Read-alike: Mercury – Hope Larson

Shaun TanThe Arrival – Shaun Tan (2006, immigration)
Age Recommendation: 10-18
Synopsis: “Tan captures the displacement and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel. It depicts the journey of one man, threatened by dark shapes that cast shadows on his family’s life, to a new country. The only writing is in an invented alphabet, which creates the sensation immigrants must feel when they encounter a strange new language and way of life.” Excellent for discussions, circle time, and classrooms.
Read-alike: The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick

Rapunzel’s Revenge – Shannon and Dean Hale (2008, action/heroine)
Age Recommendation: 9-12
Synopsis: “Rapunzel is raised in a grand villa surrounded by towering walls. Rapunzel dreams of a different mother than Gothel, the woman she calls Mother. She climbs over the wall and finds out the truth. Her real mother, Kate, is a slave in Gothel’s gold mine. In this Old West retelling, Rapunzel uses her hair as a lasso and to take on outlaws–including Gothel.”
Read-alike: Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

Zita the Spacegirl – Ben Hatke (2010, science fiction/heroine)
Age Recommendation: 9-12
Synopsis: “While exploring a meteoroid crater, young explorers Zita and Joseph discover an unusual device featuring a conspicuous red button. Zita’s curiosity compels her to press it, only to discover that it summons an alien creature that instantly abducts Joseph. Zita is compelled to set out on a strange journey from star to star in order to get back home.”
Read-alike: Jellaby – Kean Soo

Dengeki Daisy – Kyousuke Motomi (2010-current, romance)
Age Recommendation:
Synopsis: “When Teru’s older brother died, she was left with little more than a cell phone containing the text-address of an elusive character named DAISY. DAISY became Teru’s pillar of strength over the next few years as he sent her encouraging words through his phone. One afternoon, Teru accidentally breaks a school window which results in her working for the grouchy school janitor Kurosaki. As Teru begins working for the unlikable janitor, her feelings begin to surpass that of servant and she begins to question DAISY’s true identity. Could Kurosaki be her beloved DAISY?”
Read-Alike: Fruits Basket – Natsuki Takaya

Calvin and Hobbes Bill Watterson (1987-1995, humor)
Age Recommendation: 10-15
Synopsis: “It follows the humorous antics of Calvin, a precocious and adventurous six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his sardonic stuffed tiger. The strip depicts Calvin’s flights of fantasy and his friendship with Hobbes, and also examines Calvin’s relationships with family and classmates.”
Read-alike: Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeff Kinney

The DC Comics Encyclopedia Michael Teitelbaum, et al. (2008, nonfiction/eye-catching)
Age Recommendation: Where interest lies
Synopsis: “This copiously illustrated encyclopedia chronicles more than 1,000 DC Comics characters from the 1930s to the present. Arranged alphabetically, each entry gives the first appearance, status (hero, villain, etc.), real name, occupation, height, weight, and eye and hair color of the superheroes or supervillains. Special abilities and superpowers are also listed along with ample cross-references to other comic characters or superleague affiliations.”

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Censorship: Um, mind if I say some–NO!

The spring semester has rounded off successfully. I’m now into my first summer session and things are moving fast. I’m taking Web Graphics, Advanced Storytelling, and Seminar in Intellectual Freedom. Not only am I kept busy with preparing my knowledge of Children’s/Young Adult librarianship, but the seminar is preparing my analytical outlook on issues in the library.

The greatest gift that my undergraduate liberal arts college gave me was the ability to “foster the discovery of connections among disciplines and of larger patterns of meaning.” With my education, I was given the tools to analyze complex ideas and, through critical thought, connect varying concepts in order to approach the most logical, well-balanced conclusion. Although most of my library and information science classes have provided excellent vocational skills, I haven’t had any class that gives an in-depth, analytic perspective of library issues.

U.S. Flag as First AmendmentOh, hello Seminar in Intellectual Freedom. In this small class of seven people, we have thus far examined the philosophical underpinnings behind intellectual freedom (including John Stewart Mill and his copious amount of commas), international issues, and privacy. We will examine copyright/open access, academic librarianship, research regarding intellectual freedom, national security, and the Freedom of Information Act.

An ever-present issue is censorship. In most mission statements a library will declare its duty to present a wide range of Censorship Reading Chartissues, opinions, and cultural material. But how do librarians go about selecting these materials? Is it a milder form of censorship because some opinions are chosen to be excluded (due to space), or is it part of the selection process? Is it the librarian’s duty to remove/restrict “questionable” or sensitive materials from a collection? At the request of a concerned patron?

Somethings that the class agreed upon was that (1) a librarian can never completely detach himself from bias and (2) that there is never a perfectly balanced collection of opinions. Librarians should not respond to questions of library censorship and bias by assuming that they will never proactively engage in them. Therefore, we should acknowledge our personal bias, but we should utilize our education to evaluate and provide the most wide array of opinions. While I might gag when the new Glenn Beck book comes out, I must examine its appeal to the public and its ability to provide alternate (revolting) opinions.

I think that we can all agree that every opinion holds a purpose–to educate ourselves. If we silence the opposition or the minority then we are claiming infallibility in our opinions. Without dissent, we lose the ability to come to a logical conclusion. If we remain on one side of an issue without any recognition of the other, we lose the ability to compromise and negotiate and then everyone becomes h8ers. Emotions are strong, but our minds are stronger–if we exercise them.

Choose PrivacyWhere do librarians come into play? Well, a library houses information and librarians select that information. Librarians must try their hardest to provide a wide array of opinions. Notice I say a wide array as opposed to all opinions due to space issues (a predominately large problem for many libraries).The public should have the intellectual freedom to research and disseminate information themselves with as few barriers as possible.

If we look at a lot of censorship issues, a considerable amount is meant to “protect children.” In the provision of information, we must be sensitive to the communities we’re in. For the children’s and YA librarians, we are faced with “morally sensitive” issues in literature like sex, drugs, and rock n’–well, maybe not that last one so much anymore. A mother might be offended when her child comes home with a book on an issue that she wasn’t prepared to introduce to her child. This is where a good policy plan comes into place. If the library’s role is to provide information, instead of moral guidance, it makes it easier to avoid censorship requested by the offended parent.

Librarians engage in selection when dividing out material for children, material for young adults, and material for adults. So how do we decide what goes in the children’s section without severely limiting a child’s intellectual freedom? We can probably avoid Sex for Dummies or Ann Coulter’s latest book. So, reading level and age applicability is an appropriate selection choice (not censorship choice). One way to evaluate information is examining a book’s question of intent. If a children’s book’s intent is to promote racial slurs or encourage hate towards a group of people, librarians should probably avoid it, even if it provides an opposing opinion. Alfie’s Home is an excellent example. While this may be good for adults to research (mis)opinions regarding homosexuality, children may take it as absolute fact. I would not approve of a children’s book that belittled Christianity in order to advance its own cause.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the information/views in children’s books should not be at the expense of an opposing opinion. Children should not read Mein Kampf to learn how a wicked, demented person legitimized his beliefs. Their minds and education have not reached this critical analysis stage.

What are your opinions regarding censorship? If you had an issue with a book, would you agree with the library’s policy to leave it out?

Freadom-Celebrate the right to read

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Children’s Literature–Hallelujah!

Children’s literature is rolling itself out nicely into my expectant arms. Hopefully it will lie peacefully and not claw my eyes out. Let’s leave that for my future cat (who’s coming in two weeks!). Our final project is a reading log of 70 books–30 novels and 40 picture books. Let the bonanza begin, indeed.

I was perusing the young adult stacks of Bloomington’s library and lightly throwing up at the two and a half shelves dedicated to Twilight when I came upon 1984 by George Orwell. Because it’s a novel that was on my “to read” list, I was confused by its placement. But then I realized that it’s almost always used in high school English classes. Funny how I thought it may be wrongly placed because I had a personal interest in it. But there is plenty of young adult literature that I may read now, even though the intended audience is teen and the writing style or literary devices (motifs, symbols, theme) aren’t usually as complex as adult literature.

They say the angst ridden teenage years are best forgotten. So can you, as an adult, imagine entering a teen’s erratic (yet delightful) mind to comprehend his or her ideal book collection? Talk about a bull in a china shop. GENTLE. And how do you balance popularity with age appropriateness? I mean, it’s always lovely that children and teens are reading in any form, so I wouldn’t want to ignore their requests for somewhat mindless reads. A classmate of mine said that when teens would ask for drama-laden, pulpy nonsense that she would get it for them but then suggest an accompanying book that was written by, say, someone who understands that there’s more literary devices than hyperbole.

So, I left the library with 1984; Hatchet; A Wrinkle in Time; and Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. The first three are obviously classics but the fourth one is of my own personal interest. I realize the irony behind just talking about pulpy nonsense but hear me out. I read this humorous series about a British teenage girl the last time I had bangs (I’m so glad they came back in style) and I apparently liked it. As I come to read it, I will certainly provide you enlivening details.

To end with, may  I provide you a taste of library ingenuity:

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