Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day in the Life of the Hedgehog Librarian: Last Thursday

I'm coming to this party a little late but I'm going to try and keep track today. Times are approximate


9 a.m. Desk time for four hours. Log into Horizon, Intranet, Meebo, Email, Google Reader. First patron is in just after doors open, dad looking for Clifford videos.

9:30  C brings down holds from Tech Services.  All of them are "mine" (chapter books): a new Tiara Club book (too insipid for words), Powerless by Matthew Cody (great cover, superhero kids losing their powers), and one of the Mother Daughter Book Club Books (sigh). 

9:45 : Questions about books on shadows and electricity. Patron decides Margaret Brown's book Shadow is too scary for the three year olds she'll be reading to.

10:05 Chinese New Year books.  Chinese New Year is Valentines Day this year.  We have a few picture books and a couple of non fiction books but not enough for a display.  Current displays are Hugs and Kisses and Dental Health.

10:08 Deaf patron looking for coloring books. We don't have those in our collection.

10:23 Plot to become next Ron Roy/Vivian French.  Same story over and over and over....and the kids can't get enough of them.

10:30 Phonics books with short vowel sounds...wade through shelf of phonics.  Lots of different varieties, but only one set that really has separate vowel sounds that will work.  Checking my own holds--I'd set everything to suspended while I was in Egypt.  Now things are back on and coming in droves. With teen books that I'm getting from other places and other things I'm just interested in seeing at "some point" I'm setting suspension dates on for a week or two out so that I'm not totally overwhelmed. So far five things in for me to pick up and four more on their way between work and personal cards. The pile of children's books on my desk that I want to skim and decide if to order or recommend is getting high.

10:45 Adding D's DVD orders to the system. She selects from the journals, I do the data entry. This is, I'm told,  because I type really fast. Only the teen librarian and I do our own data entry on orders. I'm too much of a control freak and shuffle lists around too much not to do it for myself. Check with one of our Ladies of Cataloging regarding when the acquisitions module will stop defaulting to 2009 codes. It takes just an extra second to change it to the 2010 code but those seconds add up and room for error is high when I'm going through a big list. Apparently software won't let us change defaults until old budgets are closed.  But they're just about finished upstairs. Inflexible proprietary software....*sigh*....

11:02 Fraggle Rock the complete animated series is out on DVD. Also, how do you have Season 1.3?

11:21 Started the day with 60 emails in my inbox. Would like to cut that number in half at minimum.

11:30 Sign up for National History Day Judging Training. Not sure if I can actually do the judging sessions, have to consult with day planner and actual dates/times. Teen Librarian and several Ref Libs do this, so desk coverage needs to be determined before I sign up. Still, at least training would be good. 

12:30 Finding books on divorce for Patron Age Tween's mom. Never a favorite.

12:45 Children's lit course from uni streams in.  This professor always pulls all of our versions of Cinderella for one of her sections.  We have about 30 from the various cultures.

1-ish Suck down a Soup-at-Hand.  I really want a 1/4 lb of sliced Boars Head turkey and a few slices of American.  But as I can't find Boars Head in this state, going for straight calories.

1:30-3 ish Go through missing materials withdrawn in November and December. A lot of the Goosebumps books are gone. I weeded a bunch though so wondering if we're overlapping somehow. I've finally replaced the really ratty originals with the new shiny repubs but I think Stine might be waning a little.  Start through a pile of ARCs that Madame Storyteller brought back from Midwinter. Actually got caught in one, which means I've *gasp* read at work and found one I really am looking forward to recommending this fall--not due out til mid-July.  Baffling at the number of books/series Kathryn Lasky has going at the moment (3 series: spiders, wolves, mermaids and 1 historical novel).

4:15 Visit with Knitter Patron Age 11.  Decide on spring project for her.  Discuss challenges of knitting with right hand in a cast.

til 5: Attempt to dig through more of my desk, trade journals, emails, etc.  

Monday, January 18, 2010

Please Leave a Message After the Tone: Hedgehog on Holiday

Thank you for visiting the Hedgehog Librarian. I will be offline until 1/26/10: visiting Egypt with M, riding a camel, and exploring the new layers of airport security.   

Please leave a message after the tone: 


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Questionable Titles....

As I browse through the children's collection, I occasionally wonder what publishers were thinking when they picked titles.

These two caught my eye:

As opposed to, say, crocheting because it bores you to tears, or because that was mom's idea of a punishment, etc etc.  You mean this isn't supposed to be an activity that makes you miserable?  (No comments from the peanut gallery on how badly I crochet.)

And then there's this....

Now, yes, I understand that Mimosa is subgrouping of herbs and shrubbery.  Let's be honest though--show of hands--how many of you thought about the breakfast beverage of OJ and Champagne rather than a member of the legume family? Especially when you pair it with the word "River." 


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Because Of Course You Need More Hedgehog

I'm breaking my personal knitting out of this blog. I have some goals and projects I would like to blog at length about but didn't want to assault all of you with it. Of course, if you read my posts via Friendfeed and Twitter, I'm going to be pulling that blog in so you'll just see more knitting posts.

The new blog is brilliantly named: Hedgehog Knitting.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Holiday in T-6 and Counting.....

I'm leaving for NYC/Egypt in six days!!

M and I have been discussing vague travel plans for two or three years and finally, with the help of Air France Holidays*, we're headed off to Egypt.

I have a long weekend in New York on the way out, which is never a hardship. And then--camels, 70 degree temperatures, a totally different cultural experience and a new continent for me!

So far:
  • I got my visa, which is a full page in my otherwise unstamped passport. Obviously it's been too many years since I traveled out of the country.
  • I have arranged for a cat sitter in residence. O met Gypsy last night and it was a smashing success. Gypsy might want to go home with her at the end of it...
  • The Incredibly-Patient-Mother hemmed a pair of jeans so I can wear them with flats for hiking about pyramids and such. All of my other jeans are hemmed to two inch heels, so this was an important consideration.
  • The Brunette has agreed to keep my winter coat and some heavier clothes at his house so I don't have to worry about hauling a down coat there and back.
  • We've arranged for a tour guide/driver while we're there, working off recommendations of a professor in MN who is a native Egyptian and regularly takes student groups.
  • Wound up five skeins of yarn and bought new 4" knitting needles to take with me. They're TINY, it looks like I'm knitting with colorful toothpicks.
Still to do:
  • Pack some clothes.
  • Load the mp3 player
  • Get a larger memory SD card
  • Figure out what to take to read. I'm thinking about my hard cover of Anathem by Neal Stephenson. Yes, it's heavy but I'll be able to lay it out flat on the tray table and knit while I'm reading. Also I'll pack some paperback romances that can be left behind.
It's unclear how much web time I'll have once we get there. I expect to mostly be off the grid for five or six days. My cell phone won't work and I'm not packing my laptop. So the pictures and trip updates will probably have to wait.

We're not sure if we'll get to go through full body scanners on the trip home. It's the one thing I'm concerned about as we're headed home because we won't have a long layover in Paris.

*The prices are amazing!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Photo Break Friday

Since you suffered through my nearly 1700 word diatribe, I figured you'd bear with me for a couple of completely non-library related images.

Over Christmas, Gypsy got to watch "Cat TV" at the Incredibly-Patient-Mother's house. There were a ton of birds hanging out in the backyard and three very healthy and acrobatic squirrels. I'm told this is the "skinny" one. Squirrel sandwich anyone?

On the way home she met AudioGirl's Dinah. They spent the night hissing at each other.

But Gypsy has settled in nicely since we got home (she was happy to be back here). She found which chair gets the most sunlight for her battery recharging naps.

She's located a wonderful supply of "celery" (that's what it sounds like she's eating).

She's figured out if she gets in between me and the monitor that I HAVE to pay attention to her. (Yes, my desk is a disaster)

And she continues to be stunningly beautiful.

I'm having "Cat Warming" tomorrow night so she can meet some of my LPL coworkers. And I've arranged for the RefQueen's daughter to cat sit for my next long trip.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

15 Things About Me and Books

The venerable Steve Lawson and Warmaiden got me thinking about this...

1. I learned to read at four and was almost instantly a voracious reader. Sending me to my room was rarely an effective punishment because I'd go and read.

2. The only books I ever remember my mother telling me no about were the Fabio-covered bodice rippers when I was thirteen or fourteen. Running into parents who are a lot more restrictive always throws me, though I try not to judge.

3. The Incredibly-Patient-Mother's rule about how many library books was that I had to be able to carry them, by myself, out to the car. I learned a young age how to stack up books quite highly, set my chin on the top to balance, and carefully teeter out to the car. I'm sure it was quite a sight.

4. One high school English teacher told me, at age 15, that I was "too young to appreciate Jane Austen." As a result, I didn't read them until after college. Austen is one of my favorite authors. I've never fully forgiven her for that.

5. Over the past year or two I've finally started getting rid of my college texts. Admitting that perhaps I no longer am interested in the Norton anthologies was incredibly painful. Now if I could just admit to myself some things about the beginning library science books....

6. I started listening to audiobooks in junior high or high school, long before the current trendiness. Primarily I listened to Lilian Jackson Braun's Cat Who series and Clancy's The Hunt for Red October (Recorded Books/Frank Muller version). I listened to these at bedtime, which meant a fair amount of rewinding in the morning to figure out where I'd fallen asleep. George Guidall's voice still makes me sleepy.

7. Out of desperation one semester, I slogged through Jane Eyre over a couple of weeks because it was the only thing I had in my dorm room that wasn't course related. I was surprised how much I enjoyed grabbing a chapter here and there.

8. I read historical and paranormal romance novels. I send regular shipments of Regency Romances (150-200 pages, no sex) to an opera singer in Chicago. It gives her new reading material and justifies me in my buying of them.

9. I really enjoy medieval and renaissance history: Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks, and the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. I just put in an ILL for an audio version of Canterbury Tales that I started in high school but never finished.

10. There are certain books I'd just rather own in paperback, mostly series mystery books: Cat Who (Braun), Meg Lanslow-Birds (Andrews), Mrs. Jeffries (Brightwell).

11. I spent several months and a ridiculous amount of money on ebay collecting a complete set of the M.A.S.H books by Richard Hooker/William Butterworth.

12. Used book stores and library book sales are a little piece of heaven for me.

13. I committed what I'm now told is a library cardinal sin. I went into library science because I like books. Moreso because I like information and organization of information, but also books.

14. I have had no formal training in children's literature.

15. It came as a great shock to me to find out that I apparently read very fast, or perhaps just a lot. Reading over 100 books a year is easily par--and that doesn't include picture books, though I will include longer children's chapter books on the spreadsheet I keep.

Monday, January 04, 2010

There's Got to Be More to Youth Services....

Madame Storyteller and I were recently in a discussion about continuing education, particularly as it related to youth services. This was part of a larger discussion with coworkers and someone from our system about what is needed and can be provided in terms of local continuing ed. It allowed/caused me to raise a point that I see as a major issue in youth services.

Essentially the professional literature, classes, continuing education, and conference presentations we're seeing can be boiled down to three categories:

1) Preschool Storytime and Early Literacy
2) Summer Reading Program (See link for Madame Storyteller's wisdom on this)
3) Teens and Gaming

I'm not trying to devalue any of these. They are all important aspects of what we're doing, service we're providing, youth we're reaching.

But it also means there are huge gaping holes that are going by the wayside. Broad sweeping statement, no? Let me point out some issues I'm seeing--keeping in mind that these are not one-size-fits-all at your public library.

What I'd like to see
addressed by continuing ed, conference sessions, etc.:

1) Our public library "children's" websites are primarily for adults.
  • Adult librarians are writing for adult parents with the assumption that that's who will be visiting the website. They will but parents can navigate through something intended for kids. If we used that logic, we wouldn't decorate our children's spaces in bright colors, with low shelves and seats, child friendly signage, and puzzles.
  • Kids are incredibly perceptive and recognize something intended for them isn't really written for them or is written in that condescending cutesy "look at me writing for kids" tone. They'll see, they'll leave, and won't come back.
2) We aren't programming for emerging readers.
  • I know, they're all in daycare, preschool, K4--but I have had multiple parents ask me for something to keep those early readers going. When I asked one of the professional lists I'm on if anyone else was doing emerging literacy (as opposed to pre or early) storytimes, I was met with a resounding "not here." I felt like the little red hen...
  • We make an enormous push for pre-literacy and early literacy and then we drop off at that pinnacle moment when the child is finally starting to read. *headdesk*
3) There is a gap of about ten years between leaving storytime and becoming a teen--hundreds of educational milestones, thousands of great books--and we're missing out on it.
  • But the elementary students have school media specialists: I hear the cry. I'm not disparaging those working in schools: not the work they do, not the value of their work, not the difficulty of it in this economy and the current test-prep focused educational mindset. I'm disparaging public librarians who are resting on the laurels earned by SMS hard work. And let's be realistic: increasingly children don't have a SMS to turn to at school.
  • How much time are those school media specialists still allowed with the kids and what do they have to get through in that time? One of my regular moms is a middle school English teacher and she was telling me about working with her SMS to get the kids to create indexes to meet a state standard. The year I was at a public elementary school with a library we spent perhaps 20 minutes a week there. In junior high and high school I was allowed in the library on special research visits only. The libraries were closed at lunch and before and after school. The only extended period I spent in a school library was during a six week session my senior year that I was excused from a class for an independent study. In that six weeks, I can count on one hand (possibly on one or two fingers) the number of times the librarian did anything other than ignore me.
  • Private schools may or may not have a school media specialist or even a library. They eliminated the one in an "elite" Massachusetts school last year.
  • There are an increasing number of students, I think, being home-schooled or attending an online school.
  • Kids need exposure to books and resources outside of a classroom/school setting. Forcing their only association with reading and information seeking to be school work makes it a non-fun activity immediately.
  • Public librarians have a lot more programming freedom, depending on budget. I know everyone is strapped for cash, but generally public libraries aren't restricted by curriculum too.
4) Teen librarians are being expected to pick up the slack where youth services are failing in outreach and keeping young readers engaged.
  • There. I said it. I think there is a failure on the part of many working in youth services, presenting at conferences, teaching new librarians, and leading continuing education to focus on actively recruiting, working with, and reaching out to elementary students. Contrastingly there is a strong expectation that teen librarians will "get the teens back in the library." Rather than giving our teen librarians a solid base to start from, we're requiring them to try to appeal to tweens and teens mostly ignored since they left preschool storytime.

What I think we need?

1) Children's library websites written for kids ages 6-12. As much as possible, we should get feedback from those kids as to if the site is helpful and where we can, we should let them be a part of it. We, the adults writing the site, need to remember the different voice and vocabulary we use with kids, certainly not talking down to them but changing the tone from how we might speak to their parents. Let's convene a panel and talk about what kind of language works best on a truly kid-focused website or a have an afternoon writing workshop on blogging for kids.

2) Even if we're not seeing the rate of return that we get for the two year old storytime, it's no reason to slack on helping early readers. If not regular programming, occasional. If not active programming, passive. Would it be that hard to introduce word cards into the room and encourage parents to work with their kids on sight words while they are at the library? Could we gather and figure out how to grow storytimes where the kids talk back in complete sentences?

3) Let's increase the focus on elementary students at our conferences. Let's have sessions on helping parents see how important continued library visits are as their children become increasingly overscheduled. Let us convene panels on the best non-fiction series that are coming out or where to find foreign language materials. Who will lead the forums on how best to explode things in your library without your maintenance crew or director having a coronary (**ahem** Madame Storyteller and Our Lady of Programming, I'm looking at you /**ahem**)? Rather than talk about summer reading, let's have sessions on year round reading; how to overcome the September-back-to-school slump; best books for homeschoolers; and how to pair with your school media specialist and elementary school teachers rather than to be independent of him/her.*

4) Our professional magazine covers can be devoted to something other than teens and gaming in libraries. Really.

5) You already know I think age parameters are not evil. And I know this isn't always an option. I worked at CPL and had to deal with the 9 year old who had to babysit her 6 year old twin cousins and 3 year old brother; I did "storytime" for 75 children between the ages of 1 and 7 and all of the older siblings who tagged along. But let's find, create, and share programs that we can't scale down or force to become "family" programs where the elementary students are relegated to helping the toddlers. Something other than book groups.

6) Adult Services needs to step up too. Families as a whole need to see the value in libraries. If the parents don't see reason/need/value, it's hard to get them to come or to bring their children. They need to see how libraries can help them grow too. But that could be a whole different blog post.

Doing it Right

I was recently pleased to see that ALSC seems somewhat aware of this issue. I got their winter online courses and the majority are focused on elementary age children. So I'm not the only one thinking this. And there are many librarians who are stepping up, reaching out, and scoffing at my list. Are you presenting, teaching, and writing? made it this far. Okay. So prove me wrong, would you? Email me your fabulous children's websites, your amazing articles, and your programming lists that show tons of focus on elementary students and emerging readers. I know Abby has some strong kids reading groups--who else is out there? Let me shine the spotlight (okay, fine, the flashlight) on what you're doing so others see.

And kill the summer library program panels.

*Alright, pipe dream. But hey--wouldn't it be nice if we could get to those elementary teachers BEFORE they assign everyone to read the same two books?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Book Review: Oh. My. Gods.

Oh. My. Gods.
by Tera Lynn Childs

One of my coworkers has this on hold so I had to sit down and plow through it last night lest I wrack up more overdue fines. I'd been meaning to read this for somet ime, it's come home with me at least twice, been consigned to the library basket, and wistfully waited for me.

Short version of the plot: Just before her senior year of high school, Phoebe's widowed mother remarries after a shockingly short courtship and hauls her to her new husbands home on a small Greek island. Stepdad is the headmaster of a small exclusive school where everyone is descended from the Greek Gods. So now instead of just the usual trials and tribulations of high school, she's facing senior year with the major disadvantage of simply being a normal human.

The book is a nice piece of escape fantasy and has the added advantage of turning things that sound like a dream come true on their head. Moving halfway around the world to a beautiful Greek island? NOOOOOOO Being surrounded by incredibly gorgeous descendants of Gods? BAD Having the super hot guy paired with you as your running partner? extra horrible

The plot is light and fluffy and slightly predictable. The evil stepsister was a nice, classic fairytale touch. What I found most believable were Phoebe's interactions with her mother. Still mourning her father, ripped with almost no notice from everything she's grown up with, she's angry, hurt, and frustrated. Lashing out at her mother is a perfectly understandable and normal response. Phoebe's irritation at her therapist mother's attempts to "therapy" her through these major changes is incredibly realistic and is the best dialog in the book. While the other relationships in the text seem a little too convenient or contrived or happy ending--I think most girls could identify the well-scripted mother daughter relationship.

And the final revenge on the stepsister wasn't bad either...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Year of "Up"

Last year was full of challenges, triumphs, sorrows and joys. And, thankfully, it's over. I'm so ready for a new year...

I am bad at making specific resolutions--biting my nails didn't really end until I got braces, giving up caffeine would probably be dangerous to those around me, going on Atkins would mean I didn't exist anymore*. I managed to keep my 2008 resolution--I didn't move in either 2008 or 2009, but the flip side of that is that I came to the end of the year and felt bogged down by my stuff because I hadn't experienced the joy of packing/shifting/loading/hauling/traipsing/unpacking for 26 months.

This year my resolution, my goal, is a word: Up. Last year was cynicism and snark, drama, depression and a lot of down. I'd like to reverse that trend and head towards a year of upward progression. Up is a good word, generally, and I can use it with a lot of verbs.

Shape Up: Yah, I know, I'm on the twiglet side of things. That doesn't mean I'm as in shape as I'd like to be.

Clean Up: Get what I'm not using out of the house. It means less to dust around.

Move Up: There are professional opportunities out there that I need to be working on/towards. Now if I can just guess what the major trend of ALA Annual 2012 will be....

Speak Up: Blogging, Writing, on Committees.

Use Up: Wool Stash anyone? I'm part of a "5K Stashdown" marathon on Ravelry. As I have eleven times that much, it's not a huge commitment**. I might try for the side bet of knitting up an average of a mile of yarn a month (nearly 20K). If I can get to where it all fits in the tubs, that'd be a huge start***. Also--the fabric stash, which is smaller and therefore doesn't get as much blog time. See my actual blog page for my knit meter.

Cheer Up: Enough with the snark, the griping, and the drama. So 2009. I can't say cynicism is fully retiring, this is me after all, but maybe not all sarcasm all the time.

Save Up: Get the debt paid down and the savings account paid up. And more towards retirement (insert chuckle about a public librarian ever being able to retire *here*).

How might you be "up" for 2010?

*I could live on Cheerios and good bread with appropriate jams and peanut butter.
**And apparently I'm on the lower end of the stashdowners...still no reason not to slack though.
***It might keep certain fur people out of the stash.