Mini-Reviews: Series notes and a classic

Time for another round of mini-reviews! I’ve been a little neglectful of my book reviews lately, mostly because I am trying to move beyond book reviews in this blog. But I do love reviewing books, and reviews – whether I are writing or reading them – are actually an important component of librarianship.

Reading reviews is essential to collection development. When we purchase books for the library, we often don’t get to read a book before it ends up on our shelves. Reading reviews gives us a better idea of whether the books suit our patrons. But writing reviews is equally important. Writing reviews allows a librarian to practice distilling the qualities and values of a book into an easily digestible description, a necessary skill for those reference librarians who still get to offer readers’ advisory services. So while I will continue trying to integrate more librarianship into this blog, I will always be sharing my book reviews with you. And now, to the reviews!

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Authors, Bats, and Space: Library programming lessons for (and from) a beginner

As I mentioned back in early August, I’ve been trying to relaunch my library’s adult programming. Since then I’ve held two programs, set up a third, and sketched out ideas for 15 or so more. I’ll probably learn so much more as time goes on, but I thought I would record some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. Remember, I’m a beginner, so don’t laugh when it comes to my relative ignorance. I will say that I had nightmares about both thanks to all the stress. This has made it really difficult to get excited about planning events, but really I just have to learn to stop putting so much pressure on myself. As Woody Allen says, “80 percent of success is showing up.” Just by having programs, I am calling our programming at least an 80% success, especially since we had roughly zero last year. While it is up to me to get that number as high as I can, it’s nice to rely on at least some measure of success just by having an event for people to show up to. Now I only have 20 more percent to go to reach my lofty goals for myself, so wish me luck!Woody-Allen1 Continue reading

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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Intellectual freedom and the role of the librarian

banendbooksAs Banned Books Week nears, I got to thinking about intellectual freedom and the role of the librarian. This topic is basically a minefield for new librarians, but one I haven’t professionally encountered yet. No one has come to me asking to have a book banned. But it is important to realize the extent to which the idea of intellectual freedom pervades librarianship – for good or ill.

The support for intellectual freedom is codified into our professional ethics by the American Library Association:

“The ALA promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

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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: