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Early Literacy iPads–Research, Proposal, & Training

Are you telling me that iPads serve as an information gateway for patrons?

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Librarians–ASSEMBLE!

librarians assemble batgirl

It all started one dark and dreary day when our third boombox broke, leaving us with only one for kids to use. Inevitably, this one device would now be receiving the brunt of the damage. It was only a matter of time until it too would fall prey to impatient, sticky fingers. Retailers were no longer selling boomboxes with audio outputs so we were out of luck. Located next to the “read-to-me” book kits (includes one book, one CD), my department liked the additional service that the boomboxes provided, giving children another activity to do while in the library.

Eventually, these CD kits will be obsolete. Most laptops are now excluding CDR drives to make them lighter. Tablets run solely on downloadable materials. Cars are replacing CD players with USB connections. Information is shifting to downloadable materials. We shouldn’t be afraid because it’s just another format, like cassette tapes, records, and cave walls (except now these materials can be controlled a lot more by the distributors. *cough cough an $80 copy of one e-book cough*).

So what new format should we invest in that still provides the features of the CD kits? Enter tablets. Tablets are portable, hand-held computers that use software called apps, allowing interactive access to information for various needs and wants. This post is gonna be a long one but gal dab it it’s going to be useful for other libraries doing research.

Here’s the basic timeline I followed:

  1. Develop basic idea for how tablets will be used in library–in-house circulating only
  2. Identify and interview other libraries using tablets (about 1 month)
  3. Form committee
  4. Present findings to committee and formulate parameters around use (1 meeting)
  5. Prepare proposal to Director and Assistant Director by dividing responsibilities (about 3 months)
  6. Propose dat shiz & get approved!
  7. Create timeline for release of tablets with list of all necessary materials that need to be created (about 2 months)
  8. Publicity Storm (1 month before release)
  9. Release the iPads!

First and foremost, our library is not a trailblazer. We’re not big enough to take big monetary risks and we don’t have the staff power to drive radical initiatives. But not being a trailblazer does not mean that we ignore coming changes to libraries. So, our library director was hesitant about a tech petting zoo (where a library offers one of each device for patrons to experiment with in the library) or in-house circulation because he heard from other libraries that their use was dwindling. Circulating expensive tablets (such as the iPad) would be a big risk that he was not inclined to take. I had to identify a middle ground. Because we wanted to replace the listening station boomboxes and we had the space to add something new, I (along with an agreement from the department) wanted to have at least one mounted tablet always available for use. We also wanted to take a baby step towards circulating e-devices out of the library, so we decided that in-house circulation provides a nice safety net to test out the waters of our patron’s interest in this technology. Finally, we chose the Early Literacy age limit 2-8 because (1) this gives us a more constrained set of rules (already in place) to apply to users, such as needing to be accompanied with an adult at all times in the library, and (2) we have been pushing Early Literacy initiatives recently and Early Literacy tablets will be a nice complimentary feature.

In order to show my library director that tablets are still valued by patrons, I had to do my research. I wanted to interview libraries in our area, hopefully with our same demographics. I used a local library organization’s listserv to search for posts about library’s best apps, knowing that these libraries obviously had tablets circulating.

I used this set of questions during each interview:

General Questions

  1. What is your library population?
  2. What type and how many tablets are circulating? In-house or out-of-house circulation?
  3. How many circulations in a month

Preliminary steps taken leading up to public access

  1. Why did you choose your brand(s) of tablets?
  2. Are there any cataloging concerns when adding the tablets to the system?
  3. For books, are you only using apps or are you also purchasing books for the tablets?

Current Use

  1. What was the initial public response? How is it now?
  2. If they’re not circulating, what are your next steps?
  3. How do you publicize this service?Stolen devices?
  4. What are your security measures?
  5. What is your weekly or monthly upkeep? Who is responsible?

Policies

  1. Who may use the tablets?
  2. What is your check-out procedure?
  3. Have you needed to revise your policy since it was first instated?

Here are the results of the interviews, if you would like to see them: Libraries-tablets

The questions above helped me to identify how other libraries are approaching tablets and I would soon use their successes as an impetus to start using tablets at my library. With this information, I assembled a committee to tackle all the details and formulate our own plan of action. We then transferred all our research into a proposal to the Director and Assistant Director. This included:

  • Overview with importance of tablets in the library
  • Area library research
  • Tablet Research
  • What, when, where of iPads in YS department
  • How, cost, future plans, budget commitment of library

We used this Prezi and our research (Proposal for Public Use Tablets) to present to our Director. For the skimmers, I’ll sum it up with some more of those bullet point thingers and more condensed language.

too-muchI know but just hang in there.

Why tablets in the library?

The importance of tablets in public libraries is three fold: Why are tablets important in public libraries? Why are they important in your library? Of the many devices out there, why did you choose your device?

Why a public library?

  • Provide patrons with the technology they crave
  • Librarians help filter through enormous wealth of apps and choose the best for kids
  • iPad owners may test apps before they buy them
  • Educational assistance for all children regardless of income or developmental ability
  • Cost effective (apps range from $free.99 to $15)—Playaway Views are $100 each, AWE stations (Early Literacy computers) are infinitely more expensive

Why Fremont?

  • Replaces boom boxes
  • Supports Strategic Plan
  • High School use:
    • Carmel has 1:1 tablet program with an Android-based Samsung tablet
    • Lake Zurich HS has 1:1 program
    • By 2015, Mundelein HS will allocate funds to a 1:1 tablet program. Currently, they are implementing a Google Apps pilot program, using Android-based tablets in the classroom

Why iPads?

  • Patron preference is 3x more than other devices (via area library research)
  • Better quality and abundance of educational apps
  • More “solid” design

Tablet Research

I suppose starting off that we had an affinity towards the iPad. Most of the libraries I interviewed used them and patron preference was much higher for the iPad. However, we wanted a solid reasoning behind Apple because the costs were much higher. This research was given to one team member who looked at the following devices:

  • VTech InnoTab
  • L eap Pad
  • Fuhu Nabi Tablet
  • KD Kurio 7
  • Nook Tablet
  • Kindle Fire
  • Android Based Tablets
  • Apple iPad

After reading professional reviews in PC World and Consumers Reports; as well as consumer reviews, we did not feel the first 6 devices listed were acceptable for the following reasons:

  • All the devices designed for children were subject to substantial software issues.
  • Price:  The Kurio and Nabi priced in at around $200 which is the same as a mini tablets of far-superior quality and adaptability.  The cheaper children’s devices are really just fancy toys.  Some even require you to use a stylus to use the “touch screen” and load games and books via cartridge!
  • Children’s devices are limited to software from the original vendor, which is much less than the software that Apple offers.  Using academic reviews to purchase apps from the lesser known tablets would be impossible.  Furthermore, many of the “educational” Apps and books (especially for the VTECH and LeapPad) were re-hashed representations of overly-commercial characters such as Dora, Disney Princesses and various Pixar characters.  Apps of a non-commercial nature were not very plentiful for any of these devices.
  • Slow processors on Vtech, LeapPad, and KDKurio.
  • Cost of individual books and Apps for the children’s devices is much higher.  Average App price is $5-7, and books were $14-24.
  • Less ability to restrict patron access to app store, internal settings, etc.

At least for the start of this venture, we will use identical products so that staff will not have to learn how to operate multiple devices.  Furthermore, using just one brand will allow us to share apps and books among devices. For Apple, 5 devices is the max number for sharing apps.

iPads in YS department

  • Two iPad 2s for in-house use, checkout at YS desk
  • Three iPad 2s mounted
  • Age restrictions
    • Ages 2-8 years, to be checked out by an adult 18+
    • Hopefully the elementary material will discourage older children from using the mounted iPad in the E Room
  • Time restrictions
    • One hour, if there are patrons waiting

What will be on the devices?

  • The tablets will only have materials selected by the tablet committee.  All Apps and books will be of significant educational value. The list of starting apps was chosen from recommendations by the School Library Journal and various RAILS libraries’ “top patron use.”
  • Each tablet will have pre-loaded books and apps appropriate to the intended use audience.
    • New apps will be added monthly and the device will be checked for updates.
  • Wireless access will be enabled for app use; however, access to the internet will be disabled.
  • Starting Apps & Books
    • Interactive Book Apps
      • Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! – $6
      • The Monster at the End of This Book…Starring Grover – $5
      • Barnyard Dance – $4
      • PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit – $5
      • The Cat in the Hat – $4
      • Miss Spider’s Tea Party – free
    • Books (Nook Read to me)
      • Llama Llama Red Pajama – $11
      • Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery – $4
      • But Not the Hippopotamus – $4
      • Froggy Goes to Camp – $6
    • Apps (supporting color & shape identification, matching, differentiation, patterns, music creation, singing)
      • Spot the Dot – $4 (shapes & colors)
      • Peek a Zoo (by Duck Duck Moose) – $1 (animals)
      • Dr. Panda’s Hospital – $2 (animals, compassion, vocabulary)
      • Shapes and Puzzles by Pirate Trio – $3
      • Bugs and Buttons – $3 (counting, patterns)
      • Bunny Fun (Rosemary Wells) – $2 (singing, offered in different languages)
      • Dr. Seuss Band – $1 (music)
      • Eric Carle: My Very First App – $2 (sorting, identification)

Security Concerns

  • Patrons will not be allowed to download or alter the content of the tablets in any way.  iPads allow a special feature to disable downloading and deleting apps. Access to the internet and iTunes will be disabled.

ADA Compliant

  • Via an article published in American Libraries, “As of right now, pretty much the only general consumer reading devices that meet accessibility standards are the Apple iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch families” (Harris, “Kindle Fire Adds Accessibility Features,” December 2012).
  • The iPad offers VoiceOver (gesture-based screen reader) available in 36 languages, inversion of colors, large text, and zoom for the vision impaired.

Cost

  • 5 iPads (with discount): $1920
  • 3 iPad mounts: $480
  • 2 Otter Box cases (with discount): $115
  • 5 y-splitters: $16
  • 10 headphones: $195 (2 headphones with each iPad to promote parent-child interaction)

Grant Funding

In searching for grant funding sources, we have not found a source that would allow us to implement our own program without having to comply with specifics set about by the granting agency.  Funding parties often thrust their own agendas onto how these materials and services are to be implemented.  Grants also require a lot of documentation that is costly in terms of staff time and wages.  Because the start-up of this undertaking is relatively small in terms of the library’s total budget, we are hopeful that this project can be funded locally through direct budget allocation and/or the Friends of Fremont Library.

Proposal Success?

You betcha! We even got more than we bargained for. By clearly and concisely presenting our research in a professional manner with a lot of passion behind our proposal, our committee showed our director, without a doubt, that funding this project is the right step for our library. Instead of just 3 iPads, we were approved for 5! Awww yeah.

supa-hot-fire

We soon bought the merchandise and started experimenting. The mounts were great because the height was adjustable, the case could tilt up and down, and the case could rotate from portrait to landscape. This was crucial because most apps can only be viewed one way or the other. No for the bad features. The pole for the iPad mounts was secure, but the case was a little on the cheap-o side. Not only was the plastic flimsy but you could easily press a button and the iPad slide right off. Cool! – _ – Our facilities team was able to drill a hole through the arm and attach a cable to the case allowing this really cool button release to serve no purpose.

The iPad security settings are pretty nice. They are in Settings/General/Restrictions and can only be accessed with a password (once a password has been set up). You can turn off several “permanent” apps such as Safari, camera, iTunes, installing apps, and deleting apps. You can also turn off “in-app” purchases and prevent patrons from accessing/editing your Apple account. As an extra security measure, we bought an iTunes gift card so that if someone were to ever exploit our Apple account, they would not have access to our library credit card.

For adding apps, you can set up wireless, automatic downloads for all iPads connected to the same account. Make sure your tablet is connected to wifi, use iTunes to purchase an app on your computer, and the app will download immediately to all your devices. Pretty sweet–especially for the iPads that are secured to a table.

Staff Training

Our next step was staff training. This included three parts: (1) The philosophy behind tablets in libraries, (2) rules, check-out and check-in procedures, and (3) Using the iPad and playing with our apps. The following are our procedures.

Checking Out Tablets

  • Remind patrons of the rules
    • Tablets stay in Youth Services. Do NOT take home. Should they leave the building, they are considered stolen.
    • No food or drinks near tablets, just like patron computers.
    • Damage and replacement costs are very high so please keep an eye on where they are and treat them nicely
    • Please stay within “touching distance” of both your child and the tablet.
    • Check out procedures
      • Tablets will be located _____
      • Check tablet for signs of damage (Damage includes cracked screen, main buttons not working, and screen not displaying properly [potential water damage])
      • Check out with patron’s card
      • Hold patrons Driver’s License on clipboard inside cabinet
      • No waiver needs to be signed

Checking In Tablets

  • Make sure all pieces are returned—1 tablet, 2 headphones, 1 y-splitter
  • Check tablet for any signs of damage
    • If patron reports trouble or you see problems, please check it out to YS repairs and post to the wiki.
    • Discharge
    • Return Driver’s License
    • Check battery level. Charge if battery shows less than 50%
    • Power off
    • Clean screen
    • Return tablet to ______

We did two training sessions so that everyone could have their own iPad to experiment with.

Future Plans

In the future, we anticipate the need to purchase more devices for school-age kids. Apps and books will include:

  • Common Core standards to assist with research and homework
  • Summer reading and awards lists during the high-demand season of high-demand titles
  • Reading for leisure, encouraging a lifelong love of reading
  • Bridging the digital divide and offering patrons opportunities and access to these devices with a variety of apps to explore for both entertainment and educational purposes (educational games, photo editing and drawing, etc.)

We will reassess the types of devices for further purchase (more iPads? eReaders?) based on our hierarchy of needs at that time. We suspect we will want to have both kinds of devices available. We also expect to develop a plan for patron use outside of our building (check-out for home use).

Thus concludes this incredibly long blog post. Is your library circulating tablets? What have been your biggest hurdles or issues that have arisen?

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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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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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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!

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As a children’s librarian, leave your dignity at the door

Today started my second semester of library school and what better way than at the beloved Monroe County Public Library. Children’s Librarian Josh Wolf and Teen Librarian Chris Hosler gave my Youth Library Services class some basic tips and personal stories including a rousing story of Josh’s flyaway booger. Truly, leave your dignity at the door, people. Their suggestions encouraged a lot of specialization: I should focus on core groups of dedicated patrons; focus on a particular area of librarianship in programming; focus on interesting yet simple crafts. Oh, and don’t be fake. Teens can smell ingenuity (but not that moldy bowl of Ramen underneath their bed).

I am still torn between young adult or children’s services. I am interested on varying levels regarding the literature and programs of both age groups. I suppose in the end it will come down to what job is available so I’ll just leave the door open to possibilities. I also heard that young adult librarians oftentimes shift between teen services and another area of the library (adult, children’s) so they’re not overspent. Eeexcellent. Yet some may caution me against pursuing a career where the reason for working sucks the life out of me, but what are the young, energetic cells in my body supposed to do? Besides, it can’t be worse than helping near-deaf, miserable, old bags at Macy’s find some mufflers (aka scarves made in the 40s).

My classes this year should be rather enlightening. As previously mentioned, there is Youth Library Services. I will also be taking Public Library Management–an excellent introduction to appease my interest in being a Library Director in the future. In the technology realm (of which I plan to take at least one tech class each semester), I am taking Information Architecture for the Web which includes creating a website for a client. The second half of the semester I will start Storytelling, which I will rock the hell out of. All in all, an excellent semester.

On top of that, I am still working at Macy’s (mumble grumble grumble), I am the new President of Indiana University’s student chapter of the American Library Association (ALA), I hope to start volunteering a local school library, and I really want to start yoga. I just feel like maybe I should do something other than cross-stitch and watch The Office.

I read a million children’s and young adult books over the past 6 months of which I would highly suggest the City of Ember series, Hugo Cabret, Annie on My Mind, Boy Meets Boy, and any picture books by David Wiesner.

Until a later time (but, I swear, not too late).

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