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

The Degree

Degree or Not Degree, That Is the Question. Of all of the new crop of posts I’ve seen today about library education, Josh Neff’s has the best comment thread. This is an extremely touchy subject. It’s a sensitive subject for me.

It’s fascinating to me how so many librarians feel their educations were useless and they didn’t learn anything in library school. I’ve only been to one library school, but I am a completely different person than I was two years ago. Maybe my school is extraordinary (well, I’m partial to it), but it has changed me. The program balances theory and practice very well. Students coordinate internships at libraries that interest them. Even though we don’t have a health sciences program, we have a health sciences library where students can get experience. We don’t have an archives program, but we have archives where students can work. In the school library program, students have to have 10-11 semester hours of practical experience, focusing on certain aspects, with reflection and guidance.

I find the comments made by Mr. Neff’s coworkers to be a bit passive-aggressive… “Bet they didn’t teach you this in library school.” They don’t and can’t teach you everything in library school. My view of library school is that it builds a theoretical base of knowledge about libraries and librarianship, gives structured and guided practice at specific aspects of librarianship, and grounds students in the intellectual history of the profession. It doesn’t teach how to clear a printer jam, how to clean up patron vomit, how to handle an 11-year-old asking to learn how to French kiss. It doesn’t teach you how to deal with a library board (or how to craftily stack that board when you get the opportunity.) Perhaps there is an assumption that there are things that are appropriate to learn on the job.

Bloggers often seem frustrated at the lack of classes on things like blogs and wikis. Perhaps my school is unique, but in many of my classes, we had choices of assignments, including electronic formats. In at least one class, starting a blog was a required practice. (This was the genesis of my Tween Lit site.) I would prefer to see technology worked into classes in that way, rather than requiring a specific class on just learning html/blogs/wikis/exciting new social software of the future. A specific class on current software would always be in danger of being behind. There is a danger, though, of being too far on the cutting edge. One of my classmates is working in a library that has no OPAC– just a card catalog. A conference I hope to present at is asking presenters to bring their own presentation gear or go without because of the cost of the equipment. Schools can have such aggressive filters and firewalls that starting a wiki can be an impossible dream. Students need to know how to do things the lo-tech way as well.

I am continuing my education because I believe in the MLS (or, in my school, the MAISLT). I like that people come into the field with a variety of undergraduate degrees (and other graduate degrees) and a variety of backgrounds. That adds a richness to our profession.

I think library school professors/ researchers bring great value to the profession. They have much to teach to those willing to learn.

Last week, we had a visit from Thomas Mann, a Library of Congress reference librarian. It was an excellent visit, about which I will post another incredibly long post (actually, two parts), but a key thought is that library “evolution” is a myth. When librarianship changes, it’s not “evolution,” it’s a result of decisions– conscious or unconscious. At least some of the people making those decisions need to be people with an awareness and understanding of library history, library sociology, library psychology, library culture. You don’t need a degree to be one of those people, but library school is (should be) a safe place to get that kind of knowledge.

One more interesting point from Mann’s lecture: people are defending “library as place” in a way that makes them not libraries any more. We have to think about the implications of what we are doing and the history of what has been done. That’s true in librarianship and it’s true in library education. How is this movement for reform different from the other movements for reform in the last century?

Disclaimer: My words here represent only my own beliefs. No agreement or endorsement by my school or my professors is implied or stated. My interpretation of the words of Thomas Mann are only my interpretation.

MoLib 2006: More about the Library and the Community

As I said yesterday, the Library and the Community presentation was very interesting. It covered two of my current favorite themes: outreach and democracy. OK, maybe Democracy is a bit of a stretch here, but it does show people without means that the library is for them, too. One thing that really upsets me is when public libraries are treated as if they are only for the powerful people, even when it’s not the powerful people who need their services the most (this will probably come up later, when I discuss a friend’s presentation on the Commodification of the Library.)

Ms. Florea talks about collaborations with different community agencies. Some examples:

  • Creating tote bags with books about issues facing families (divorce, death, new babies) and having local aid agencies give parents “prescriptions” for the tote bags
  • Leaving recently de-selected but still decent books at WIC offices for parents to read while they’re there or even take home if necessary
  • Providing traveling storytimes for community centers with childcare, such as the Y or Boys and Girls Club, who can’t always get their children to the library

Various funding options were discussed. Some of the outreach was carried out with the help of grants from Health and Human Services and other organizations.

Attendees also shared examples of outreach from their communities.

MoLib 2006: The Library and the Community

The Library and the Community

Originally uploaded by Jenne1989.

Presented by Vera Florea, Springfield-Greene County Library
10:00-10:45, Thursday October 5, 2006

This session immediately followed a Make it and Take it session for children’s librarians, so we met a few friends who were leaving with their plant-pot bells and their paper plate bean shakers. It looked like their session was great fun.

Vera Florea discussed several of the different projects the Springfield library carried out with other organizations. Some of the collaborations were with Friends of the Library, Parents as Teachers, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army, the school district’s summer school program, house of hope, and their parks and recreation department. She said library outreach is important because children can’t get themselves to the library.

Some of the projects were family reading bags, a wee read program, stories to go, and discovery bags. I will discuss them in another post.

MoLib 2006: Braving Stormy Water

Braving Stormy Water

Originally uploaded by Jenne1989.

Presented by: The Mid-Continent Public Library’s GLBT Group
Thursday, Oct 5, 2006, 9am-9:45am

This was a great session. The presenters covered how to build a core GLBT collection.

They started with describing how to define this core collection. They looked at lists generated by the ALA and by some GLBT writers’ groups. They compared this list to the holdings at the libary and purchased books using rotating budget money.

Advice for forming the group:
-treat it like a real organization
-send minutes up the chain of command
-gather facts
-know how to evaluate a need

Continue reading

MoLib 2006: The Rest of Wednesday

Book Cart Drill Team

Originally uploaded by Jenne1989.

After the sessions, I went to the Expo area, where the Book Cart Drill Team competition was beginning. I couldn’t really get a good view. I took this picture holding my camera over my head.

The local team, from Daniel Boone Regional Library, won with their pirate-themed routine. The team shown here was the second-place winner.

After the drill team competition, we wandered around the Expo center and visited vendors… mostly the professors from our school, since almost everyone I was hanging around with graduated last year and wanted to make contact. Then, some of us went to the Missouri Library Network Corporation 25th anniversary reception (poolside… the pool was covered and it was a bit chilly out there, but still nice), others went to the MACRL dinner, and still others went to the Performer Showcase. I wish I had gone to the Performer Showcase as well. It was a lot of fun last year, and my friends who went this year said it was even better. And Bobby Norfolk was there.