Friday, November 21, 2014

A List of Dubious Accomplishments

There are definite ebbs and flows in the library schedule.  Last week, I met one-on-one with sophomores getting started on their big US History research papers.  This week's schedule has been sort of quiet. So, following the lead of the most amazing librarian I know, "when you don't know what to do, start cleaning."

It sounds, well, insipid, but holy kittycats!  When you start to clear out clutter, life begins to open up.  I've made major progress in clearing space in the workroom, toward meeting with my advisees every week in 'our' own area.  I've made several students and teachers happy with treasures found on the "free books" cart in the library and teachers lounge.  I've sold several paperbacks that I bought for high school book club borrowing -- once we've met to discuss the book, we don't need 4 copies of every book -- and I've sold some iPad accessories bought for the 1st generation that are no longer used.  All proceeds go back into the budget. Yippee!

Gave 20+ bubblewrap mailing envelopes (from DVD & paperback purchases) to a staff member who can use them to mail holiday gifts.  Passed on 2 bags of old binders to a parent who volunteers at a local elementary school, for whom our "old" binders are in better condition than the ones they have now. Plus a big passel of cardboard magazine file boxes in great shape.  And an old record player (if you're old enough, you'll remember the record player with its own lid, self-contained) that the recipient told me today has already, in one day, made a big bunch of elementary boys, and their mom, very happy.  Asia, 38 Special, Journey, 78 rpms . . . anybody remember???

Lest you begin to worry, never fear -- the week did have professional accomplishments as well.  Yesterday I helped a student who had gotten halfway on his own to checking out an ebook, but got stuck.  We sat down together and worked through the remaining steps to getting set up, and he got the book he wanted. We chatted about the book briefly today.  I also helped one of my most avid 7th grade customers find a couple of books for the weekend -- she's very sincere in looking for one book in her favorite genre (fantasy) and one book that's a stretch.  Since during the summer her parents require she read half her books in Chinese,  perhaps the 'stretch' books are easy as well --  I haven't heard that the Chinese publishers have jumped wholeheartedly into YA as of yet. And I helped a junior find resources on life as a Civil War soldier.  It's great to help a student who embarassedly confesses that he hasn't checked out a book in a while.  It's cool -- just glad to help. 

I created list of print materials in the library relevant to a JH teacher's teaching of The Invention of Wings  by Sue Monk Kidd.  As I wrote to her, I'm most thrilled to discover, in addition to  that we have in our collection a book with a several-page profile of the real-life Grimke sisters, the historical basis of the novel they're reading. Plus books on slavery in Charleston, Quakers, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass and Denmark Vesey.  I'll pull everything onto a cart, and we've scheduled a day after Thanksgiving for her class to come in and check them out.

Next week is going to be even better for cleaning.  I'm sort of looking forward to that, and totally looking forward to what I can do with more room in the back room!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 7, 2014

To Marietta By Way of Macon . . ., or:
Little Things Can Make a Librarian Happy

So yeah, I'm a little proud of myself.  Yesterday was one of those days with nothing big on the calendar, so I'm taking care of desk business and being pretty much "on call" for anybody who needs something in the library -- computer help, copier help, checking out, finding a book, the usual.
Near the end of the day, a fellow came in, sent by JH teacher Tom Painting, to get the novel Bee Season by Myla Goldberg.   We own the book, I've read it and it's supposed to be in and on the shelf.  But -- every librarian's horror story -- it's not there!  We can't find it!  A customer might have to go away empty-handed -- NOOOOOOOO!

As it turns out, the fellow is a visiting teacher and friend of Tom, and he wanted to read the first couple of pages of the novel to Tom's writing students today in class. Knowing that, I start to think. How can we get hold of just the opening passages of the novel?  Google Books? Nah, too recent.  Maybe, just maybe, has a "Look Inside" feature for this one.  So I go to my computer and check.  Yes, they do on the paperback edition -- but for some reason, it wasn't apparent on my screen. I checked to see if the Kindle version offered a downloadable sample.  SCORE!  There it was.  Can I somehow send it to Tom?

Not so easy.  Tom doesn't exactly love technology, and while he has an iPad, he's not fond of it.    Alternate next step, send the sample to my iPad.  Alas, you can't print previews, either from the site or from the Kindle Reader sample file. Think think think.  Screen shot!  From the sample (usually the first chapter or so) displayed in the Kindle Reader app on my iPad, I took screen shots of the first two pages.  Now just to print them, and we're done.

Not so fast . . .  The Handiprint service that's supposed to allow iPads to print to the library laserjet hasn't been working this week, even after some troubleshooting and reboots.   I have to tell the students to email from the iPad to their FirstClass email and print from a iMac workstation.  I had to do the same thing.   Wait wait wait for the email to go from the Photos app through my  Yahoo email account, out into the 'internets,' where a simple file transfer from Atlanta to Atlanta could conceivably be routed through Pittsburg or San Diego, and into my school FirstClass email. 

Finally the emails arrive in my inbox, and I print out the .png photo files on the library printer.  Success!  Two sheets of paper and a mission accomplished.

And that's how I ended up metaphorically travelling from Atlanta to Marietta (normally a straightforward mission, 20 miles straight up I-75) via Macon, Savannah, Columbus, Albany and possibly even Birmingham.

Kind of geeky, maybe, but it sure did feel good to send that customer away with exactly what he needed when he walked in.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

¡Viva la Herencia Hispana!

At Paideia we're winding up our month-long recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month with the Día de los Muertos celebration on Saturday.

Last year at the el día de los muertos celebration, the Literary Greats altar created by Claire, fabulous founding leader of the high school book club, won the $50 3rd prize. Pizza at Book Club!!


In the high school last week, LASSO (the Latino student group) created a 'Flag Garden' in front of the high school building to represent Latino/Hispanic countries of origin in the Paideia community.  Ninety-two flags, representing 78 students and 16 countries populate the garden, with Mexico (25), Cuba (14) and Colombia (10) comprising the majority.  Also in the garden are flags of Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Spain, Uruguay, Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Costa Rica.  Eight Paideia faculty members are represented by 6 country flags.  The flag garden will be on display through this weekend.

Officially, Hispanic Heritage month is September 16 (the real Mexican independence day) to October 15, but since the Latin American Parents' big event is for El Día de los Muertos (and usually held on the Saturday closest to November 1), we get 6 weeks each year.

I get a kick out of fiction that is somehow directly related to real events and situations, so the ¡Herencia! display this year was themed "FACT --> FICTION," and paired non-fiction titles with novels on similar themes.  One of my favorites is the quinceañera pairing :

 ¡Quinceañera! The Essential Guide by Michele Salcedo;  Cuba 15 by Nancy Oso

 Always Running: La Vida Loca  by Luis J. Rodriguez ; 
Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida  by Victor Martinez

October begins with Grandparents Day on a Friday, and the school-wide BBQ & Square Dance on Saturday.  The annual Library Book Sale takes place during both events. What fun!  This year we got a number of strong additions to the Novelas in Español collection.  

I always enjoy the brain-exercise of seeing how titles are translated from English to other languages, and vice versa.  Como Agua para Chocolate/ Like Water for Chocolate  and Juego de Tronos/ Game of Thrones are exact translations.  On the other hand,  Correr o Morir ("to run or to die," or Run or Die) is a pretty accurate description of the plot, but a whole lot more Shakespearean than the English title, The Maze Runner

Happy Halloween today.  Tomorrow, remember and honor all those who have come before us on All Souls Day, the Day of the Dead.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

High School Book Club:
The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern

The high school Book Club met yesterday after school to discuss our first book of the year, The Night Circus  by Erin Morganstern.  Most people enjoyed the book, but nobody raved.  Some of the ideas and questions we discussed were:

- how did you imagine the circus?  for folks who have been to a Cirque du Soleil show, did anything seem similar? (to me, the high concept, lack of lions, and the dreamlike quality of the Night Circus reminded me a lot of the Cirque shows I've seen)

- how did the magicians Alexander and Hector serve as father figures? Did they really care about Marco and Celia?  Were they likeable characters? (Hector was universally disliked, Alexander had slightly higher ratings)

- what does the book have to say about the power of storytelling?

There were a few areas where members thought the book was a bit weak, telling more than showing, especially the supposed passion between Marco and Celia.  The Bailey plotline was a little skimpy and mystifying, as was the existence of Isabel. Several thought that Isabel should have figured out years earlier that Marco didn't love her back.

The meaning of the deaths of Tara Burgess and Friedrich Thiessen wasn't clear.  Did Alexander intentionally cause Tara to die, because she was asking inconvenient questions?  It seemed that way, and was building toward Alexander being a truly sinister character covering up a bad thing about the circus, but that goes absolutely nowhere.  Then, the death of Thiessen comes out of nowhere, doesn't connect with how Tara died, and was equally mystifying. We felt those elements were hanging threads that never connected and weren't tied up.

We also talked about magic, illusion and reality.  We liked the fact that Morganstern's magic was everyday, and that anyone could do it if properly trained.  Marco didn't have innate magic but was clever and persistent.  

We watched the following short clips and talked about them.  Turns out several club members have participated in NaNoWriMo -- Alex has even written two full novels, and is working on a middle-grades novel this November!

~ ~ ~

Interview with author Erin Morganstern

Watch on YouTube 

What is NaNoWriMo???
National Novel Writing Month, shortened as NaNoWriMo is an annual internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel from November 1 until the deadline at 11:59PM on November 30.

Excerpts from Author talk

Watch on YouTube

Pre-publication book trailer

Watch on YouTube

The New York Times book review
The Washington Post book review

Friday, September 19, 2014

Books! 3x

Last Friday was the year's first meeting of the high school book club, and was a great success.  Sixteen high school readers attended, and we ended up choosing The Night Circus as the first book of the year, to read for the October gathering.  We also have plans to choose and read a book together with another student club, and have a joint gathering for discussion.

Before taking recommendations and voting for October's book, though, we went around the room with introductions.  Each student gave name and grade, and the title of one (some had trouble picking just one, but that was the rule) book from summer reading that he or she would recommend to the group.  What a list!

~ ~ 

On Monday we had the first meeting of junior high reading club. We followed pretty much the same path -  snacks (always snacks!!), introductions, recommendations.  The student leaders had a list of  proposals for October (The 5th Wave, Like No Other, Say What You Will, Stupid Fast) and after voting, Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern was declared to be our next read.

Here's the list of recommendations compiled by the junior high club members:

Yes, my misspelling of Delirium is captured for posterity. Sigh.

~ ~

Lastly, my first booktalk (aka, 'travelling road show') in the junior high was yesterday.  I toted my stuff over to Tony's new ground floor digs, and gave (what I hope were) tantalizing descriptions of 17 Young Adult novels from our collection.  I must have done ok, because all of the starred titles were checked out right away; ones with extra stars have waiting lists!

* Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
* * * Divided We Fall  by Trent Reedy
* The Living  by Matt de la Peña
* * The Girl in the Steel Corset  by Cady Cross
* The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
* Eleanor and Park  by Rainbow Rowell
* * Will Grayson Will Grayson  by John Green and David Levithan
* Delirium  by Lauren Olivier
* Deadline  by Chris Crutcher
Wonder  by R. J. Palacio
Black and White by Paul Volponi
The Raven Boys  by Maggie Stiefvater
If You Come Softly  by Jacqueline Woodson
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Creeping with the Enemy  by Kimberly Reid
The Door of No Return  by Sarah Mussi 

 It's good to be back in action.  Reading is FUN!

Are you in a book club?  Is it fun?  Comment!

Friday, September 5, 2014

How A Library Is Like A Mutual Fund

Ok, so maybe not so high school.  But on the other hand, very high school.  We have, from time to time, offered Investing 101 courses during short term, and it's likely to come around again.

Teachers across the country, in independent schools and universities, have their retirement savings invested with TIAA-CREF.  I've worked in two independent schools, for over 25 years (requisite YIKES!! here) and TIAA-CREF has billions of my savings for the "twilight years."  Point being, I'm beginning to pay attention, and trying to understand fully where all that money is and how it's supposed to grow to support me, my adult children, goats, bees, chickens and cats in, say, 20 years from now.  I kind of think that TIAA-CREF is a mutual fund company that works almost exclusively within the world of academia, and exclusively toward long-term retirement goals. Please help me out if I'm woefully off base here.

As I understand it, a mutual fund is a big collection of individual stocks (and other things), managed by a professional understanding-stock-investments person, who buys and sells holdings within the ever-changing collection, in order to meet the financial goals stated in the prospectus.

My grandmother was
a university librarian,
and collected owls.
A library is a big collection of individual sources of information, managed by a professional understanding-information-sources person, who buys and weeds holdings within the ever-changing collection, in order to meet the information needs of the community, as outlined in the library's 'prospectus,' (aka "collection purpose and goals.")

Mutual fund managers spend their days reading the latest information and evaluating the worth of each stock, bond or real estate investment -- not just in abstract money terms, but also in terms of how that investment can meet the stated goals of the fund.  Then they act on that information, buying and selling, to keep the collection relevant to the shareholders' goals.

I spend (part of) my days reading reviews, researching sources of information for a variety of teacher and student needs, and identifying the best in terms of our community. Then I add the best and delete the outdated, books, weblinks and databases to the library collection to keep it relevant and useful to the Paideia community's needs and goals.

If a mutual fund doesn't keep up with, or exceed, the market's index, the fund manager has failed to meet goals.

If the Paideia Library doesn't keep up with, or anticipate, the community's information and reading needs, then I'm not serving my peeps as you should be served.

Everyone in the Paideia community is an investor in the libraries -- as a student working to learn, as a tuition-paying parent, as a teacher of students, as a staff member keeping the place running.   As a fund manager, I encourage you to read the prospectus, come see what your investment has provided, and use it to increase your wealth of knowledge and understanding.

You owe it to yourself to use your investments wisely.  The door is open -- come on in!