Virginia’s HB 516 and a slippery slope

Every year libraries across the country celebrate Banned Books Week, a chance for us to remember the dangers inherent in limiting a person’s ability to consume information due to a single person’s objection. But like all specially named weeks and months that benefit good causes – Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and American Heart Month in February, to name two – it becomes easy to only focus on those issues during that timeframe. But intellectual freedom is threatened all year round, including this year in Virginia. VASeal

In early March, HB 516 passed both the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the bill “would allow parents to opt out of reading assignments deemed ‘sexually explicit’ by the Virginia Board of Education.” Why is this a problem? Continue reading

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Librarianship outside the library

Outreach can take many forms, but the traditional bookmobile - like this one serving patrons near Beguildy - has largely fallen out of favor for more creative solutions. (Image courtesy of National Library of Wales via Wikimedia)

Outreach can take many forms, but the traditional bookmobile – like this one serving patrons near Beguildy in Wales – has largely fallen out of favor for more creative solutions. (Image courtesy of National Library of Wales via Wikimedia)

I wouldn’t be a librarian if I didn’t love being in a library all the time, but what I enjoy most is sharing my love of libraries with others, especially those who are skeptical about their value or just don’t know what we provide. That’s where outreach comes in to the picture. Outreach can take many forms, but at its core it is about sharing the value of libraries – and even providing some library services – outside the library’s walls. More and more, outreach is becoming a vital aspect of librarianship, for many reasons:
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Zen and the Art of Library Programming

Well, as usual, I find that I get so busy at work that I have little time or motivation to keep up this blog. A whole bunch of stuff has kept me busy, but one thing has kept me busy more than others: Library programming.

Programming is the joy and bane of many a librarian, and I am no different. Going above and beyond to offer that next level of service for our patrons is important, but the stress of planning a program can be overwhelming. How will I decide what will draw a crowd? How do I get a speaker to share their knowledge, hopefully for free? Will anyone show up? Will someone complain to the director that my program sucked and they plan to never come to the library again because of it? (I’ve had an actual nightmare about that one!)

And yet, when a program is successful, it feels amazing. And really, as long as one person gets one thing out of a program, it’s a success? Right? There are many ways to rate a program, so many in fact that the topic warrants its own blog post (or many). Thinking about how to define “failure” in terms of programs can be problematic, but worse is refusing to have a program because you are afraid of the many ways a program can be deemed a failure.

According to a chapter in the Library Innovation Toolkit: Ideas, Strategies, and Programs that aims to incorporate Zen teaching into library program planning:

“Nonattachment helps us to try out new ideas even if we may fail, to freely share and collaborate, and to move on when necessary.” p. 9

If you don’t define your identity by your ideas for a program, then it isn’t a huge hit if your program isn’t a success. Why is this important? For me, I find planning programs to be a bit paralyzing. I immediately become a hundred percent committed to and excited about each program idea, often causing me to think of all the possible ways it can (or in my mind, will) fail. I don’t want to see something like that fail, so I sometimes just give up and don’t plan the program at all, choosing instead to stay in the safety net of the tried and true programs that previous colleagues have found successful here.

But this sort of thinking severely limits innovation. Our lives are built around the idea that through failure, we learn. So programming is all about learning to face the fear and being okay with failing. With that in mind, I’ve planned two programs, one in August and one in October. One features local authors and one educates patrons about the importance of bat populations (Get it? Halloween? Bats? Never mind). One or both may fail, but the important thing is to try. Strike that. The important thing is to do:

The end of genre: Readers’ Advisory in the age of genre blending

Readers’ Advisory is an important and sometimes underutilized library service, at least at my library. Skills that make for a good Readers’ Advisor are muscles: They atrophy with disuse. That’s why I always leap at the chance to advise our readers, whether actively or passively.

While a recent Library Journal survey found “more than half of respondents say RA increased in importance in the last three years,” I’m just not seeing that at our library. Don’t get me wrong, I think readers will need RA more than ever now that publishing is exploding. I mean, in the last eight months, my small public library purchased over 8,000 items. That is far too many for readers to explore without completely getting bogged down. And, I have seen a few more people asking for help finding the next fiction series to dive into. That’s why I’ve been spending a great deal of my time getting our RA materials in order.

Readers’ Advisory from Library Advocate

Recently, I’ve updated our science fiction and fantasy advisory materials – some thoughts from which were incorporated into a recent post about science fiction. I plan to offer some thoughts on fantasy, too, but all this discussion of genre has got me thinking about how much genre traps readers.
Let me explain:
The first question in any Readers’ Advisory interview is this: “What sort of books do you read?” Good librarians will follow up by asking for a list of the last few books read and clarify which aspects of these books especially appealed to that reader. This process helps librarians narrow down the vast field of books down to a few key authors/series. But the problem is that readers just don’t know how to describe some of the books they like. Or they do, but they don’t offer enough information to allow librarians to extrapolate likes into potential likes. I think great Readers’ Advisory broadens a reader’s horizons. We can do this by offering one or two books that will definitely appeal and at least one wildcard that shares a similarity with the reader’s likes but isn’t necessarily something they would pick up on their own. Without doing this, readers are trapped into a genre, losing the chance to discover new authors/styles/genres that they might equally love.

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Goodbye 2014: My year in review

I thought it would good to offer up a post that covers the past year, including life updates and my year in books.

Life

This year brought some crazy changes. I began the year being a part-time graduate student pursuing a Masters in Library Science while working two part-time jobs (58 hours a week!) to make ends meet. Since then, I’ve graduated with a 4.0 and gotten my first full-time library job. I’ve gained experience in collection development through purchasing for my nonfiction sections and teaching information literacy to local high school students. From these experiences I’ve refocused some of what I want to do as a librarian, which involves a mix of outreach, reference and teaching library information skills to those who need it. Where I go from here is so up in the air that I mainly want to focus on being the best I can be in this current job. I’ve got some goals laid out, but they are between my employer and me. If I get permission for them, I’ll share more here.

My year in books

This survey was found on A Little Blog Of Books.

Superlatives

1. Best book you read in 2014? (You can break it down by genre if you want)
The best fiction book I read was a tie between The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell and A Sudden Light by Garth Stein. The best nonfiction book I read was As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes.
2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?
I am still so embarrassed to say it was American Gods by Neil Gaiman, followed closely by the nonfiction dud The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley.
3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2014?
A tie between The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zafon Ruiz and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. I picked these booksz up on a whim and I was so surprised that I loved them as much as I did. Continue reading