Monday, May 2, 2016

Make Your Library Sizzle, Not Fizzle

Awhile ago, I was on Twitter and tweeted:

I usually put out about two tweets a day (unless you catch me in a Twitterchat) and that day, my phone was dinging with notifications.  Looks like this resonated not only with librarians but educators and administrators as well.  And so, it got me thinking....what are some other things that we, as librarians, could tweak just a little, to make a HUGE impact?  Here is my top five list of
habit-breakers for librarians.

1. Evaluate your signage.  Our signage is used to direct, help, and inform but most all, it's put up to capture the attention of our library users.  But is the attention they're getting positive or negative? Students see enough negative signs telling them not to do this, or don't do that.  Librarians shouldn't fall into that quagmire of "no"s and "nay"s.  We need to rise above it and create signage that makes people at the most, smile and at the least, pay attention without frowning.  With space being a premium in libraries, use it to make our students and users want to obey the signs, not rally against them.

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2. Share and share...and keep sharing. It's difficult to admit the truth, but I'm going to do it...I'm a hoarder.  If I have one cute notepad, I have a hundred.  And I don't use them because they're too cute and I'll find something to do with it later.  Then five years from now, it'll still be there unused and perfectly archived.  That's okay with paper but it ISN'T okay with technology.  What happens if someone breaks it? What happens if it's never returned? This cost a lot of money.  Librarians can become Gollums with technology and over time, it's hard to keep up with all of my preciouses. And then the unthinkable happens - the precious becomes obsolete! So don't hold back on what we've purchased because innately, we purchased them to be used.  Have parameters, but along with that, have faith in your campus and patrons.

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3.  Look at the role you play.  What does the word librarian mean to you?  What does a librarian say or do?  If you were walking into a library, what would you like to see in a librarian?  Who are you describing?  If you see yourself in the description of a good librarian, that's good.  I believe have traits of a good librarian, but I know I don't possess every single one of them.  Oh,to please the masses!  So tweak what needs to be tweaked and flaunt what you got! And always know you're like (fill in the blank with all SORTS of similes that could work from wine to technology, to a new sweater et al!)...with time it just keeps getting better. 

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4. Focus on those other non-librarian things.  It's the small things they don't teach in library school that could have tremendous impact.  Can anyone say feng shui?  Nothing feels as good as stepping into a library that's pleasant to be in. Be intentional in placement.  Be aware of smells (for real!!). Look at patterns and use them to your advantage. Everyone has a creative side!  Try something new, like convo bubbles in book displays or using tabletops for makerspaces (and sit at these for awhile and see what happens!).  Oh, I know there are those out there shaking their heads, thinking they don't have a creative side.  That's okay.  One word to cure that remedy:  Pinterest!

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5. Do something impactful with everything you do in the library. If you read, do so with a goal in mind of what you're going to do with all of those great reads.  If you're online looking at sites, think about how you'll incorporate that into a lesson or with students.  Start creating curated lists of EVERYTHING to whip out when the time is right!  When you're making purchases consider the impact they will have on the library and the patrons you serve.  Don't just be a librarian, BE a librarian!  There is a difference.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ten YA Novels That Don't Follow The Rules (with a bonus of four more titles!

Of all of the books I've read, there are just some that stand out from the pack.  They're what I call renegades, rebels, and non-conformists. Once I started reading these bad books, I was HOOKED. But don't think they aren't workhorses either.  In today's educational world, students who can interpret and understand a variety of texts are the pros.  It's not so much about the written word, but also how you can "read" different formats.
So here's a list of naughty but very nicely written YA novels that don't follow the rules:

1. Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.  2015
Like the cover says, this is a compendium of files from charts, to layouts of space ships, government documents to personal texts, decoded voice and video files.  Don't let the thickness daunt the reader, it's a FAST read with an excellent plot and conflict!!

2. YOLO Juliet by William Shakespeare and Brett Wright.  2015
When a generation comes up with their own langauge, why not write a novel with it?  Better yet, why not only write a novel, but let is be a translation of one of the greatest works of all time!!  It may help to have background knowledge, but even if you don't, it's definitely a FUN read!

3. TTYL, YOLO (Internet Girls series) by Lauren Myracle  2004-2015
Before emoticons, there were acronyms, and the beginning of some very interesting ones too.  The list keeps growing, just like this series that is all about friendship, text, and three girls from junior high to college.  Keep in mind (always!) - you can't read emotions in text...until emojis were born!

4. Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose by Gillian Cain and Legs McNeil.  2014
First-person perspective of a young girl whose life goes from okay to bad to downright sad.  In non-fiction diary format, you will experience her pain, her joys, and her frustrations all the way until the last day she writes.  But what captures the reader's heart is her self-portraits. Wide-eyed innocence or a look of being overwhelmed?  Wow....powerful

5. Non-fiction Graphic Novels ( My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf) 2012

Graphic novels, a cousin of the comic book, brought  non-fiction to a whole 'nother level.  While teens may say there's nothing as boring as a non-fiction book (they should try narrative non-fiction!) this is THE antidote to boring.  Pictures fill the pages along with the short storyline.  Little do teens know interpreting graphic novels is all about reading waaaaay deeper than a regular novel. Gotcha!!

6. Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony.  2012

This is definitely not your average graphic novel, although it is considered one.  First of all, there are no drawings.  This is more like a scrap book filled with pictures, notes and a storyline all about elicit love and music.  Difficult to read?  No.  Emotionally fulfilling?ABSOLUTELY!

7. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 2012
It doesn't matter how old you are, there will always be something comforting about reading a picture book.  Until you read this one with some really crazy scary pictures in it!  The storyline is impeccable and how the author weaves his story with these eerie images is a thrillfest.  Love at first sight...or read...

8. The Notebook Girls by Julia Baskin.  2006
Who hasn't ever wanted to pick up someone's diary and read all about their lives?  What you get with this novel is called a two-fer.  The first is that first forbidden look into one of three girls' notebooks.  The second is that this isn't a made-up story but a real one.  Talk about living vicariously through characters in a book! 10 years later, visiting NYC, I couldn't HELP but think about this book and the teens who live there!

9. Post Secret by Frank Warren.  2005
Sometimes, all it takes is a small snippet to either suck the air out of the room or make you sigh with happiness.  The premise is brilliant - share a secret with complete anonymity.  There are more books in the series, and you'll want to read them after tasting the first one full of real-life and real people.

10. Monster by Walter Dean Myers  1999
When you're sitting behind bars, waiting to see what happens next, your mind can whirl with all kinds of thoughts.  So why not create an alternate ending to life in the form of a movie?  Myers nailed it in this fiction book and I contend that is  why this is still such a favorite.  Myers actually gets kids to read a movie script of an excellent YA story through a classic format not much widely read by young adults.

Other titles that dare to be different:

Juvenile in Justice by Richard Ross 2012

Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong by Jen Yates  2009

Twice Told: Original Stories Inspired by Original Art Work by Scott Hunt  2006

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky  1999

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee

Touchstone, 2015

If you are looking to add more non-fiction to your collection, then look no further!  Well...look further than this book but definitely add this one to your collection.

Stan Lee, creator and Marvel characters Spiderman, The Hulk and the Fantastic Four has FINALLY created a comic book memoir of his life.  Starting with his very humble beginnings, he narrates his life from there and his journey through the halls of comic bookdom, including some amazingly talented people he was not only able to meet but work with as well.  He tells about his stint in the military during World War II writing beside the likes of Theodor Geisel and other notable cartoonists that would become famous in their own right.  Lee also lovingly shares the story of his romance with his wife of six decades and the reader is able to see how their relationship had an impact on Lee's professional career.  He takes us all the way to present day where people watch for his cameo appearance in any Marvel movie.

What made Stan Lee such an icon is the fact that he changed the face of comic book writing, broke through some huge barriers put up by corporate suits and federal laws (on comics, of all things!) and continued the popularity of comic books from page to screen while continuing to write to audiences ranging from children to adult.

And if you think this is just another memoir, think again.  Lee manages to expertly weave the history of Marvel Comics from page to screen and beyond so the reader not only gets a glimpse of his life, but a timeline of Marvel from its early beginnings to present day.

Another interesting facet of this book is the narrator himself.  Yes, it's Stan Lee (and artist Colleen Doran did a stellar job of creating real life to see it to understand what I mean) but in the audience is a little boy who is fascinated with his tale and inserts himself into Lee's narration.  Lee knows that little boy well's himself.  He weaves narrator and audience into a beautiful story of past and present which any comic book fan will devour.

Highly recommended by JH/HS and beyond.  As only Stan Lee can do so well.

Monday, March 28, 2016

With Malice by Eileen Cook

HMH Books for Young Readers, June 2016

Jill and Simone have been best friends since they were little girls.  As they grew up, their friendship stayed intact even though the girls couldn't be more different.  Now, in their senior year of high school, their paths suddenly diverge in a tragic way...

Jill continued to live with her mother after the divorce.  It's not that she doesn't love her's more that she doesn't belong in the new family with the big house and new wife.  Jill knows her father supports her, financially, if not emotionally, and she's relying on this for her future.  Jill has always been a dedicated student and Ivy League college is waiting for her after graduation. 

Simone's life is much different.  She doesn't have the financial support to be able to leave after college.  And....she hasn't always been the most studious of girls.  What Jill has in academics, Simone more than makes up for in popularity.  People are naturally attracted to her and because of this, Simone knows how to work a crowd. 

One trip changed their lives...

Both girls were excited to go on a study abroad program in Italy sponsored by their school. Now, after the trip, Jill is recovering in a hospital, her memories affected by aphasia.  Simone didn't come home.  An incident involving both girls only left one alive. 

But Jill isn't only plagued by aphasia.  She is being investigated by the Italian police in a murder case, where she is the leading suspect in the murder of her best friend.  One intentionally wrecked car, one knife, two girls.  Jill isn't only surrounded by her family, but also by lawyers and a media team, trying to repair the negative reputation she is getting on social media.  Now the Italian police want to extradite her back to Italy to possibly stand trial.  Her future is slipping away from her. 

Slowly, the investigation begins to open wider and people are coming forward with eyewitness accounts of the girls friendship turning ugly as well the involvement of an Italian with a sketchy background who became involved with both girls.  And slowly, Jill is beginning to recall what really happened.

Suspenseful, intriguing, provocative.  Cook writes a novel filled with all of these components as well as some very interesting characters.  The reader won't know who to trust because of the secrets and lies everyone is telling.  Or are they truly lies?  That's what so amazing about this book- there are such subtle twists and turns the reader won't know the truth until the very end.  And when they get there, they will be stunned.  And THAT'S what makes this a great YA read!  Highly recommended.   

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ten Things About School Librarians :)

1. We aren’t always reading. We do have a social life. How we conduct ourselves professionally isn’t always how we conduct ourselves personally, and don’t EVEN start stereotyping that right now! Nor do we catalog everything in our pantries, chest of drawers, or our mailbox. We go out, have fun, socialize outside of our library circles, and have some of the most amazing hobbies ever!!

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2. We enjoy answering questions. Even if it's the most obscure questions, we’ll find a way to get to the bottom of it. Want to make a librarian giddy? Ask us a hundred questions! But we may not know everything and yes, there will be times when we will Google what we need to know (gasp!)

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3. Silence isn’t our closest friend Believe it or not, libraries have areas where people can actually talk and work together. And no, we don’t mind it. Learning involves conversations, so the shushing has slowed its roll.

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4. Please don’t call us the book Nazi, the video Nazi…in fact, just leave that word out of anything that has to do with libraries! We actually enjoy sharing and bending rules a little

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5. We work in a library, a libratory, a makerspace, a learning commons space, and a safe haven. So that makes us librarians, libraritorians, makerspace-ites, learning commonistas, and a safe haven.

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6. We don’t like to be the lone wolf. In fact, we thrive better when we are working and collaborating with someone rather than winging it alone. We may be the only librarian on campus, but don’t put Baby in the corner!

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7. We want everyone to know the truth! Especially about the internet! Knowing how to distinguish between what’s fact and what’s fiction is important to know! Databases are only part of it…we can show you the bigger picture! I promise, I’m not shouting, I’m just enthusiastic!

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8. We are flexible. Not only can we walk into an English classroom with the confidence of a superhero, but we can do the same in a science, history or math classroom as well. And that doesn’t even include all the other subjects, which we can handle hands down. Now, THAT’S flexible!

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9. Librarians aren’t just about books anymore. We love..nay, we crave technology! We try to stay up with the latest trends, resources and implementation of technology to make sure you have the newest and best information out there. The hum of a computer hard drive accompanied by the tapping of fingers on touch screens are music to our ears!

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10. We are networking fools! Not only do we love to collaborate, we also love to learn and share too! Doesn’t matter…if you get two or more librarians in a room together, it’s the beginning of an audacious networking party!

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Want More Cool Quizzes for the Classroom?

Try this great website - Flipquiz! It's a jeopary-style online game that's quick and easy to use!! Here's an example of one I made about libraries.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

75+ STEM Inspired Young Adult Books in 9 Categories

Recently, there had been a discussion about STEM/STEAM related YA books, which prompted this blog post. I chose the categories first and then searched for books I've read as well as some I haven't and categorized them to what I thought the book best suited. Some of them, of course, could possibly go into more than one category but alas! I had to choose but one. And interestingly enough, I didn't know I had read so many science related books! This was especially surprising as science isn't my forte at all! So here's a link to the Mindomo infographic I created. If you use the arrows at the bottom, it'll zoom into each one better :)

If you know of any others I may have missed (or even categories) please comment and share with everyone because I'm SURE I've missed something STEM-MY

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Borden Murders by Sarah Miller

2016, Random House

On August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden was having a typical morning.  She got out her handkerchiefs to iron, and went out the the barn to find some fishing leads for her pole.  But when she got back, chaos reigned...

Her father and step-mother had been brutally murdered, their faces hacked to pieces.

She was only gone 10-15 minutes.  How could this have happened?  Right away the police were called and the investigation into one of the most famous murders began to proceed.  But what makes this murder and subsequent trial one of the most (in)famous trials in American history is the big whodunit?

At the time, it was HIGHLY irregular for a woman, especially a woman of society and wealth, to be put on trial for something as heinous as murder by an axe, but all evidence pointed to poor Lizzie.  She was under house arrest, then taken to jail for months until the trial began in Fall River, Massachusetts.  Who did it?  Was it truly Lizzie or someone else?  Will the real murdered be captured for the town could rest easy or not?

I absolutely LOVE narrative non-fiction, and Sarah Miller doesn't disappoint with her book.  Not only does the reader feel like they're reading a novel, but she also leaves an air of mystery throughout, nudging the reader to the end to see if anything happened, new evidence was found, and who was ultimately responsible for the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Borden.  Miller provides the reader with historical excerpts from newspapers and trial transcripts as well as eyewitness testimony from not only the day the murder happened, but all the interaction that happened between Lizzie Borden and themselves.  Miller takes one of America's most intriguing events and creates a big picture that at the same time dispels rumors most people think from then until today.  This is an excellent collection to any collection.  Recommended JH/HS.