Wednesday, April 23, 2014

#whylib - My journey into librarianship...

Andy Plemmons started a campaign for School Library Month and asked librarians to share their story of why they become a librarian, which is a great idea!  I’ve read so many and all are not only inspiring, but gives a personal glimpse into the lives of some people I only know online.  I wanted to share my story as well.  

There were two factors that made me love books, reading and libraries.  The first  factor was that I lived in the middle of nowhere near the small town of Fredericksburg Texas.  Nowhere was named Morris Ranch and although I had fun playing in the creeks, old buildings and open spaces, there were many times when I stayed at home reading.  The second factor was that I grew up in a large family with strained finances.  Reading was one of those things considered both a recreation and better than that, it was FREE. 

To say I’ve known since I was a child I was going to be a librarian is an understatement.  While my sisters played with Barbies I would beg them to play library with me.  I would set up a table, and grab as many books in the house as I could (to make displays) and my sisters would check out books, “read” them, and bring them back.  And guess who was behind the circulation desk?  Yep….me.  The library was definitely embedded in my life.  During the week when my sisters and I had piano lessons, we would walk from the elementary school to the public library to wait until it was our turn. 

But it was the summers when I sought out the library the most.  I grew up without air conditioning, and the Fredericksburg Public Library was the only place I knew that was cool, quiet and filled with books.  I loved the smell of the building, looking up things in the card catalog, the children’s room, and getting my first library card with a metal embossed number on it. I even pretended it was my house, finding all the secret nooks and crannies and building my dream home in my mind. 

As I grew older, I still sought out the library as a safe haven not only in town but at school too.  Today, I am proud to admit I am a nerd, but back then as a teen, that wasn’t the case.  I was quiet, didn’t have many friends and was picked on.  So when I discovered how to live vicariously through a book, I tore through as many as I could.  In an age (mid 1980’s) when there was very little YA fiction, I read Terry Brooks, Stephen King, Anne Rice, James Michener and anything non-fiction…the bigger the better.  This also helped in my English classes as well as the SAT, where my score was so high, I didn’t have to take freshmen English in college (I consider myself a living statistic of how libraries with certified librarians directly influence academics and test scores).   

After high school, I went on to college where I had the chance to discover my  extroverted side.  I didn’t have time to visit the library anymore, and the passion subsided. I graduated with a double major in English and history and became a certified teacher, never knowing there was such a thing as a masters in library science.  So I felt like I found my niche in teaching English at the high school level, and with that, I found my reading passion again.  I also now had an audience of 14-18 year olds that I had the potential to make readers out of as well.  We read the classics and short stories out of the textbook, and I tried my hardest to make the pages come alive. I knew I hit the mark when most of the freshmen class went to see Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet together and could quote most of the movie. Then research time rolled around, and an epiphany happened….

I was gearing up to go to the library to teach students how to use the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature (if you don’t remember those, you missed out!) when the librarian told me I couldn’t use the library because I wasn’t signed up for it.  This was in a junior high/high school situation located in a small town where I was the only high school English teacher.  Well, I used the library anyway.  Little to none of the students ever used the library because of the negative connotation associated with it, which both angered and saddened me. Then BOOM!!! My passion for libraries came back with a vengeance and I decided I could be a librarian and make a difference!  So off I trotted to Sam Houston State University, where I received a masters in library science in 2000. 

I became the librarian at that school and made some major changes.  When bond money came through, the district built two new libraries (one elementary, the other at the JH/HS) and I cut my librarian’s teeth through many experiences from opening and moving a new library to learning how to work with elementary aged children as their librarian.  I got to work with other districts who didn’t have a librarian on record and continued to create relationships with the students.  Out came the cobwebs and in came couches, technology, YA books, and open doors. 

I chose a great time to become a librarian too.  The year 2000 ushered in a lot of technology, including social media and web tools I had never heard of before.  It was also a time when computers were constantly changing, along with the cell phone (anyone ever own a bag phone?).  Not only did I embrace the changes, but it embraced me back.  And as they say, the rest is history….
I still go back to where it all started – my hometown library – and see that while it has changed throughout time on the inside, it continues to be nostalgic and safe. Now, as part of the profession, I find myself looking into the future and cannot WAIT to see the changes, with the reassurance of a constant – relationships.  Change is scary but having a constant helps ease that fear.  SO glad I grew up the way I did and had those influences!  Now I get to go work at my passion every day and make the library and librarianship just as important as the classrooms on campus. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's 'Appy Hour! Over 40 Educational Apps in Four Different Categories

This is the presentation I did for Texas Library Association's Tech Camp, 2014. The list of apps is found below. I originally presented this without the names as part of audience participation :) 1. Skitch 2. Join Me 3. Aurasma 4. Mindmeister 5. Touch Cast 6. Loopster 7. Video Star 8. Paper 53 9. Mindmapper 10. Videolicious 11. Dropvis (this costs .99 cents, but as I told the audience, that’s a Sonic drink during Happy Hour but lasts a whole lot longer  ) 12. Davinci Note 13. QR Reader 14. PicCollage 15. Muzy 16. I-Books 17. Kindle 18. Titlewave 19. Destiny Question 20. Gale Cengage for Schools 21. Symbaloo 22. Haikudeck 23. Voicethread 24. Mindomo 25. Popplet 26. Prezi 27. Animoto 28. Google Drive 29. Livebinders 30. Pinterest 31. Linkedin 32. Google Hangouts 33. Twitter 34. Scoop It 35. Google + 36. Yelp 37. Facebook 38. Tumblr 39. All Recipes 40. Fast Food 41. Weather Channel 42. Runkeeper 43. Uber 44. Airbnb 45. Flixster 46. Calorie King

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

Alfred A. Knopf, 2013

It started out as a typical summer day in a small town in Kansas but ended in unanswered questions of why innocent lives were gone...

Daniel was in the pharmacy when it happened.  Usually an under the radar guy, he doesn't remember much of anything except the aftermath.

Jule was at home, trying her hardest to be invisible in a family who flaunts their power.  People look at her and see emo rebel, but all she wants is normality.  Then she opened the door to her home.

West was walking back with the person he loves but understands why he has to has to hide their relationship. He will never forget what happened on the road that day.

For Cass, it was just another babysitting gig, trying to make a little pocket money. She's the popular girl everyone adores, but now her name is akin to evil.

Ellie lives by the rules of the church, hoping this will make her life better than it was before.  That day she walks into the church to find the unexpected.

Now, all of the residents in the small town of Oleander can't get out.  Soldiers, guns, tanks and trucks are keeping them confined and the quaint town  is quickly becoming a hellhole of death, insanity and power.  These five teens are up against the most difficult struggle they have ever faced, but will they survive?

When I first picked this book up, I had to stop more than once and ask myself if Robin Wasserman was writing this for adults or teens.  I have long enjoyed her other novels, but this one is more, has more and packs a punch.  A psychological thriller, readers will be drawn into the town first by what happens that day and will want to stay around to see the disintegration of society and culture in a world where the citizens are slowly turning into their own nightmares.  This book isn't for the faint of heart.  Her writing is a blend of Stephen King's The Stand and Michael Grant's Gone but with a signature all its own.  Wasserman leaves the reader wondering what exactly has happened and when the truth is revealed, it isn't even close to what you might have imagined.  Raw and cunning, I couldn't put down this novel that wrings and twists five teens' lives into one final outcome.  Recommended for HS.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Top 10 Social Media Sites to Use in the Library

Today's libraries are relying and more and more on social media to not only promote the building, but also the programs, books, special dates, and future events to patrons on a scale that more easily manageable.  Here is a list of the 10 most popular social media sites libraries can use now:

1. Facebook - this site gives a library not only a voice, but a picture too.  Use this site to friend your patrons, administrators, teachers and other librarians to create a network and to share ideas.  Post ideas, successes, displays, teacher librarian in action to name a few.  Use the chat option if you'd like to help students with homework after hours.  Take into account the option for allowing comments or not.

2. Twitter - this is fast becoming the number one site all teens are using and have accounts for.  Utilize Twitter for quick updates, sharing websites and webtools, and snapping a pic.  Make your Twitter handle unique enough to create a library personality and add a graphic or image (mascot, anyone?)  It's up to you whether you'd like to create a separate account for professonal learning networks.  Business in the front, party in the back, as they say.

3. Instagram - pictures tell a thousand words, and you can pack a lot of words with a snapshot.  Use this site to show off the library and the many areas it contains.  Take pictures of bulletin boards, creative signage, new books that have come in or students in action (check with your local district policy about students images).  Friends colleagues and everyone in your building to grow your followers

4. Vine - a quick video is a sure way to catch action going on in the library.  It can be goofy or serious, the theme is up to you.  Create a vid of yourself doing a quick reminder of library events.  Catch one of teachers using the library for different purposes.

5. Goodreads - link it, embed it, share it anyway you go, but an online bookshelf is a heavy hitter when it comes to books and circulation.  Create any shelf you'd like and post it for your patrons to use to find the best books you recommend.  Or create one of a state list, reading list on campus, teacher favorites, student favorites - the sky's the limit.  Make multiple shelves for multiple book lists!

6. Shelfari - see above. Another wonderful way to share reviews and books with book lovers everywhere.

7. Tumblr - The interface is cool and so easy to use.  What's more, teens are flocking to this site.  So take advantage of it and create a blog by adding links, video, pictures, articles either created by you or found on the web.  Tumblr has many options for backgrounds, but it's the content that makes your Tumblr unique.  Search the site and see what's out there and start building a place you can call your own

8. - Want to share and curate at the same time?  Create a for the library and start curating into 5 different categories.  What I see most are educational sites, apps, and information but there is so much more to curate when it comes to libraries.  Think about book trailers or databases; homework help sites or books by genre.  If you build it, they will come

9. Pinterest - LOVE is the only description I can give about Pinterest.  As a curation site, it allows you to make as many bulletin boards as you want.  Create a library board about the library.  Start one for the book talks you've been doing so students can look back at past titles.  Find ideas to start a book club. Look at ways to decorate the library for the holidays.  It's easy to start running down a rabbit trail, but boy is it fun!

10. Youtube - While this collects videos, it's a perfect site for you to create a channel and upload it with so many things.  Try  putting amazing book trailers on it.  Or how about creating screencasts for students and teachers to use?  Do one on databases or digital literacy.  Create a video on the OPAC or how to access e-books.  This site is not only entertaining but teaches those who use it about so many things (trust me, I've used it for tutorials myself!)

BONUS: Of course use Blogger!!  Easy to use, great layouts and options for make yours personal. 
Create lists to share, books to review, videos to embed, and the list goes on.  It's the alternative to a library website, so tab away!

Not only does social media promote the library, but it's also a great way to show administrators how the library is being used in the millions of ways they may not know about!  So go forth and get social!   If you know of any other social media that is great for libraries, please leave a comment and share.  See you online :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Delacorte Press, 2014

It started with a fishing trip and a ripple in the air….

Prenna was one of the lucky ones.  She was able to escape the blood plague, but not without its consequences on her family.  But now, she lives comfortably, still amazed at how much life has changed.  Although she still has a habit of swatting mosquitoes that spread the virus, it hasn’t happened yet.  She now lives in the time before the destruction of the planet that occurs in the 2070s. 
Although Prenna should be content with life in a virus-free world, she still holds the flame of challenge against the community, wanting questions answered she knows won’t happen.  There are rules the committee enforces on the members ( never reveal to anyone who you are or where you come from; never be intimate with anyone outside of their community to name a few) and seeing Mr. Roberts for sessions when she goes too close to the line of disobedience.  She also knows stories of people who have defied the community’s rules – and have now disappeared.  Soon, Prenna begins experiencing flashbacks and sees objects and places that are familiar to her from her previous life time, which makes her even more curious.  There weren’t supposed to be any….

Ethan remembers the girl at the river.  He saw the ripple in the air around her and knew she was different.  Now, a few years later, they’ve gone from strangers to friends with Ethan remembering every little event and Prenna not remembering any of it.  He decides it’s best to leave well enough alone as he tries hard to not cross the line between friendship and relationship.  Although he’s known her for awhile, she still has a mysteriousness to her he can’t quite figure out. But Ethan holds other secrets from Prenna, which will change their relationship and who they are. 

Then the elusive homeless man appears in their lives, telling Prenna things about the her past and future she can’t ignore as mere coincidence.  All it takes is one providential meeting and both she and Ethan are propelled into a new reality of trying to save the world instead of just living in it.  But it also means sacrifice in so many ways, and those are the things that will hurt both of them the most.

Ann Brashares writes a riveting novel about time travel that will pull readers along with the characters and plot.  The separate timelines of the main character are written seamlessly, making the situation more believable and the future bleaker with every page turned.  Although the beginning took off a little slow for myself, the interactions between characters as well as the unraveling of the plot steadily developed into a novel I had to know the end to.  And Brashares doesn’t disappoint.  If you have fans of science fiction and time travel, recommend this to them. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

10 Different Options to Create Online Posters

Because of the technology that educators and students are using as well as the infrastructure being provided by school districts for devices, libraries and classrooms, more and more, are embracing the paperless society.  Although advertising with paper posters can still bring buzz, more and more people are looking at websites, both personal or professional, and what is posted on them.  With that in mind, here are the top 10 online poster creators you can use (in no particular order) **UPDATE AT BOTTOM FOR NEW SITE!!  Create your own poster to share, save, or print with already provided templates you can custom design.  Incorporates QR codes as the main theme in all templates.  No registration required.

Keep Calm-o-matic –  We all know the familiar Keep Calm posters.  Here’s a place you can create your own.  After creation, it is part of the many other public Keep Calm posters created.  You can post it on social media outlets as well as save it as a pdf.  Login only required if you’d like to keep your posters private.

Poster My Wall – Create a poster by choose a background, and  adding anything from text to photos to clipart.  Also has a flickr search function.  Download it or share it on Facebook.  You can purchase higher quality downloads if you’d like to print.  No registration required

Canva –  This site not only allows you to create a poster, but you can also create many other things including a blog graphic, presentation or a card.  Choose from hundreds of different options but be aware that there are higher quality options that cost (typically $1.00 per graphic).  Share on social media outlets or save and publish online.  Registration required.

Picmonkey –  This isn’t just a photograph editor, it can create beautiful posters as well.  Add text, background, images and frames, then take it to the editor.  You can save to your desktop or share via social media outlets.  There are parts of the site that are premium and require payment but the free parts are more than enough to create beautiful posters.  Registration required.  

Lucid Press -  This is the more sophisticated poster maker that looks a lot like MS Publisher.  It allows for more freedom of creativity with many  different functionalities.  You can share it via social media, share the link or publish it online.  Registration is required.

Flyer Lizard -  Easy to create posters that already have the templates and backgrounds to work with.  All you need to supply is the text and photo if you choose to.  There’s an option to add a QR code or even an audio clip from SoundCloud.  You can share via social media or save it.  Registration required

Motivator -  We’ve all seen the motivational posters with the black frame and a motivational saying at the bottom (usually with a soaring eagle as a picture).  Here’s your chance to create your own motivational poster.  Upload images from your own photos, Facebook, or Flickr Account.  This is a premium account and registration is required

Bannersnack -  With a free account you can create a banner and download or embed it.  With the free account, you get 1GB of storage, gif only download, and no more than 10k views a day.  Registration is required and premium plans are available

Recite This -  Choose from an assortment of poster backgrounds by sliding through your options.  The only thing you need to create is your text.  Share it via social media, a permalink or email.  No registration required. 

Muzy (app) is available for Andoid, Iphone, Ipod, or Google Play.  Create a poster using your own photos from Facebook, photo album, or Google Images (be careful with this doesn't differentiate between Creative Commons and copy written images) and add text to create an online poster.  Share it via Instagram or Facebook.  Registration required.

Tackk -
 I discovered this website through the co-founder on Twitter, and LOVED it instantly!  Easy to use, easy to share, you have your choice of backgrounds, photos and information you supply.  While the format is set, the creativity is all yours! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Laila remembers her father crumpling to the ground, shot to death.  She remembers being rushed from the palace to a waiting airplane...then the blur begins.

Now, she is safe in the United States, but she doesn't feel safe.  Nothing here is familiar.  Laila knows that although they are still alive, things are definitely different.  Gone are the extravagant clothes, parties and food.  In its place are bare cupboards with no income.  Her mother has changed as well.  She meets with a group of men from her own country, and they talk secretively about things.  There is shouting and anger involved in every conversation.  Laila sees a man lurking in the corners and is sure that he works for the American government.  But why is he so interested in her family?

What Laila wants "is an interpreter.  Not for the language, but for life" in this new place where the rules she has always lived by no longer apply. The girls here dress differently, act differently.  She doesn't understand their culture but wants to try.  Then there are the boys, especially Ian.  Everyone is telling her what she already knows but she isn't sure she can give back the affection he shows. Life in school is confusing at best, with her dangling between what she knew and what she needs to know.

Having friends helps tremendously, and it's through small talk with them that she hears, for the first time, about her father and the horrors he committed.  War, murder, embezzlement....this can't be the same father she loved, who protected her from her evil uncle, who indulged her....So she goes to the most dangerous place to find out more information.  

The library shows Laila the truth not only about her father, but about her country.  It's falling into shambles without a government to take over after years of dictatorship.  It's filled with corruption from the legacy her father left into the hands of her uncle, fervent in his religion and will to dominate.  And with this truth comes the knowledge that somehow, her mother is still involved in the politics there, working with the Americans but to what end, she doesn't know.  Laila is kept in the dark but she is making sure she doesn't stay there for long, and when she slowly uncovers the truth, safety is no longer an option for her or those she cares for.

J.C. Carleson writes a beautifully balanced book about love and hate, war and peace, tradition and truth.  Laila represents innocence through oppression as she slowly fights through this to find out that the truth can be an ugly place to live. Carleson's characters are deep and synonymous with the many facets of not only American life, but Middle Eastern life as well and weaves several familiar stories about the turbulent Middle East without designating where Laila and her family is from. It's a story about two sides, but which is the darker side depends on who the character is. One of many things Carleson is best at is the beauty in her writing.  There were several times I had to stop and re-read portions of the story simply because of how lyrical her writing is.  Her other strength is being able to transport the reader into not only a different world through a story, but also to the world of modern day Middle East and how politics, both domestic and foreign are involved.  The reader will also appreciate how Carleson uses her own past experiences to make this novel come alive.  You know you have a good book when you read it in one sitting.  This is a must have book for all collections. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

10 Great YA Reads (and their sequels) for Warmer Weather

Feathered by Laura Kasischke. HarperTeen, 2008.
While on Spring Break in Cancun, Mexico, high-school seniors and best friends Anne and Michelle accept the wrong ride and Michelle is lost--seemingly forever.

The Living by Matt de la Pena.  Delacorte Press, 2013
After an earthquake destroys California and a tsunami wrecks the luxury cruise ship where he is a summer employee, high schooler Shy confronts another deadly surprise.
 Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson.  Simon & Schuster, 2012
After Taylor Edwards' family gets devastating news, they decide to spend one last summer all together at their lake house in the Pocono Mountains, they get to know each other again and bond, and Taylor remembers her past friends and crush.

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen.  Viking, 2013
During her last summer at home before leaving for college, Emaline begins a whirlwind romance with Theo, an assistant documentary filmmaker who is in town to make a movie

Desert Crossing by Elise Broach. Henry Holt, 2006
A summer trip across the New Mexico desert turns nightmarish for fourteen-year-old Lucy, her older brother Jamie, and his best friend Kit, as they become involved in the suspicious death of a young girl.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson.  Arthur Levine, 2013
In a Brazil of the distant future, June Costa falls in love with Enki, a fellow artist and rebel against the strict limits of the legendary pyramid city of Palmares Tres' matriarchal government, knowing that, like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

   Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore.  Delacorte Press, 2011
Seventeen-year-old Amy Goodnight has long been the one who makes her family of witches seem somewhat normal to others, but while spending a summer with her sister caring for their aunt's farm, Amy becomes the center of weirdness when she becomes tied to a powerful ghost.  Sequel: Spirit and Dust

Unbroken by Paula Morris.  Point, 2013
Returning to New Orleans for spring break, sixteen-year-old Rebecca finds herself embroiled in another murder mystery from more than a century, when she meets the ghost of a troubled boy.  Prequel: Ruined

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.  HarperTeen, 2007.  (series)
Seventeen-year-old Aislinn, who has the rare ability to see fairies, is drawn against her will into a centuries-old battle by Keenan, the terrifying but alluring Summer King, who determines that she must become his queen and save summer from perishing.

Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs.  Katherine Tegen Books, 2010. (series)
Seventeen-year-old Lily, half-mermaid and half-human, has been living on land and attending high school, where she develops a crush on a boy but is afraid to tell him of her true destiny as the ruler of the undersea kingdom of Thalassinia.

(picture collages by Fotor Photo Collage)