It’s been a long time since I last posted. I’ve been off earning my PhD in Library Science. Some people might be able to continue blogging while earning a PhD, but I’m not that energetic!

I focused on school libraries and youth services in my research and classwork. This blog will focus on issues of library services to youth and the underserved. I’ll also look at technology and new media in connection with how it shapes library work with and by youth.

This semester, I’m teaching Youth Services and Internet Reference, so it’s likely most of my posts will be related to those two topics.

Reading: The Book Thief

I am a fan of Markus Zusak. He is one of my favorite newer YA authors (along with John Green). I ate I Am the Messenger in just a few hours. The Book Thief was much more difficult to read, and shows another dimension of Zusak’s imagination.

Liesel Meminger lives with a foster family in a small town outside of Munich in the early 1940s. Her accordion-playing foster father teaches her to read, although her career as a book thief begins while she is still illiterate. Her family takes in a Jewish man, the son of a man who saved him in World War I, and Liesel befriends him. The story is narrated by Death, who gives a different perspective on life and war.

The story has the dark humor you would expect from a book narrated by Death.

The Book Thief

Reading: The Burn Journals

Since I don’t have a separate blog for my YA reading, I’m going to post those reviews here. I did not have extra time this Thanksgiving break, but I took time to finish two books that have been hanging over my head since the semester began.

The Burn Journals is Brent Runyon’s account of his recovery from a self-inflicted fire that almost killed him. It is incredibly hard to read, because it reminds me that boys can be in incredible emotional pain, yet not know how to reach out… or even want to reach out for help. After Brent survives the fire, he realizes that he does want to live, and he can’t even remember why he set himself on fire in the first place.

My life revolves around boys. I have two of my own, I have a brother who is just 14 months younger than me, we were raised by a single father. I am a Cub Scout assistant den leader and intend to go on to be involved in Boy Scouts next year. My interests as a librarian are middle schoolers… kids the age Brent was when he hurt himself… and reluctant readers. With all the interest and exposure, it’s still clear from this book that I just can’t know what’s going on in their heads, their hearts, and their souls.

The Burn Journals

LISRadio: Rukhsana Khan

This week’s LISRadio showcase is an interview with Muslim Canadian author Rukhsana Khan. After recording this interview, I bought two of the books she mentioned for my personal library of children’s books. Roses in My Carpets is a wonderful story about a refugee child in Afghanistan in about the mid-1990s. The Beduin’s Gazelle by Frances Temple is cited by Khan as an example of a novel written by a non-Muslim that gets the culture right. It would be a wonderful book for a fifth- or sixth-grade student who loves reading fiction about other cultures and times.
The Roses in My Carpets The Beduins\' Gazelle (Harper Trophy Books (Paperback))

A Teen Comments on the Library

One of the things I want to study more is the interaction between kids and the libraries at their schools. I have some suspicions that this relationship can be flawed, but I need to observe more places. I don’t have enough data yet. But I have suspicions that in some places, teens are inadvertently made to feel unwelcome at their libraries.

Here is the comment of a library user: “Hmmm… I have a stupid geography assignment on Bali dued soon… T_T really – why Bali? I really hate going online – most, if not all, of the information online is bogus! And libraries – i don’t do libraries! I hate how its all quiet.. the atmosphere in most libraries feel weird =/ (maybe i’m just weird haha) I HATE THE LIBRARIANS! rude and obnoxious bitches! Gosh i swear they sit there on their fat asses talking on the DAMN phone!! When you need their bloody service they give you the biggest dirty! Man i’d love punch them in the face x_X they all deserve black eyes!” (Found via The Annoyed Librarian) (I agree with Linnypooh– why Bali, except that it’s a big vacation spot for Australians.) It’s not clear if Linnypooh is including her school library in the dismissal, but it is clear that her information need is not being met. (I’m very glad she’s skeptical of online content, though.)

I’m going to start looking for more comments about libraries and librarians from kids and teens. It seems like Linnypooh’s observations fit in with some of the things I have already observed. One of the things that bothers me is that here is a person with an information need, and she feels excluded in the library.

At the beginning of my library school adventure, I read a great article in VOYA about what kind of library service makes teens comfortable with a library. It’s different than what adults want. (For the life of me, I can’t find it, but I will post the citation as soon as I find it.) The most important thing was that teens want to be ACKNOWLEDGED as humans and treated as if their information needs are important. A slight that an adult might brush off can really hurt a teen. I remember being a teen. I was probably more thin-skinned than most, but even the toughest kids were vulnerable sometimes.

Wasting Time, Revisited

A few months ago, I wrote an entry about an article in the August 2005 “American Libraries.” (On My Mind: Academia’s Two-Culture Dilemma, by Mary K. Chelton. p. 41) I was bothered by the implication that school library students are a waste of time for youth services professor. It turns out the article was heavily edited, and that wasn’t quite what she said in the original article, which I was lucky enough to be able to read. There is a lot of paperwork that comes along with school library students, and a lot of frustration, and I think some schools are starting to realize that initial certification is better carried out in a different way. My own school has switched to a plan to give non-certified school librarian students an MLS and then refer them to another school for the rest of the credentials. I’m still on the old plan, but in the new plan, the extensive paperwork can be handled in a system set up for that.

Wasting Time

While reading the August 2005 “American Libraries,” I ran across a surprising statement by youth services guru Mary K. Chelton. (On My Mind: Academia’s Two-Culture Dilemma, by Mary K. Chelton. p. 41)

I was surprised to read this article by Chelton, who I’m familiar with as an expert on providing good customer service to teenagers in libraries. She first discusses the dearth of youth services people in LIS faculties (I’m fortunate enough to have two at my school.) She discusses the demands that youth services specialists face in academia, and the difficulty of achieving “collegiality.” I can’t pretend that I understand academia. I had never imagined I would get a master’s degree, so I don’t really understand how the system works.

The stunner comes when Chelton says “One particular trap that affects new youth-services faculty in particular is being a site supervisor of school library interns. This is an extensive time-eater that uses up time better spent writing and doing research for tenure.” To paraphrase the rest, the school library students are “head counts” library schools need to have to stay in business and youth services faculty are stuck with the paper processing. I have tried re-reading and re-reading this passage to understand exactly what she meant, exactly what she intended when she wrote this. I can’t help but feel as if she just insulted me and my future colleagues.

I don’t know how it works in other LIS schools, but at mine, the school library students take the same required library courses that any other library student takes. We get the same grounding in reference, cataloguing, collection development, and information technology. In addition, we take extra reference classes, along with school library-specific classes. On top of that, those of us without teaching certificates take more than a dozen hours of education, teaching, and child psychology classes. I have seen public library youth services job ads that look at that kind of background as being a plus in hiring. (All of the students, not just school library students, do practicums, which require extensive paper processing.)

The article made me feel like Chelton views school library students as lesser librarians, if we even merit being considered librarians. On the other hand, I feel that I am becoming a school librarian because I want to do youth services. I deliberately chose the school library because it would give me access to the students who might never set foot in the public library. I will have to teach, and I will be involved in curriculum planning and coordinating, and I see that as a good thing. If I can show these kids that libraries are integral to their daily life and to their success, I will have won. If I can send these kids to the public library with an understanding of how to use the resources, and with the knowledge that it is their right to be there, I will have done my job. Maybe I’m a bit starry-eyed, but I got into this business because I want to connect people, specifically kids, with information. The challenges will be different in a school library, but to me, it’s still essentially providing youth services. And although I’m doing all this extra work and killing myself to get certification, I have not ruled out working youth services in a public library. I certainly hope I am not wasting my advisor’s time.