gypsylibrary

Reading Eating: a pathfinder

Below is a link to my pathfinder created for IST605.  Though there were plenty of exhausted nights, and I got pretty close to smashing my computer earlier when the website wasn’t cooperating, the entire thing really is a labor of love.  I hope that’s evident in the product.  Leave me feedback down in the comments, I’d like this project to keep going long after the class has ended.  Cheers y’all!

http://mlarents.wix.com/readingeating

Work in Groups and be a STAR

As the semester draws to a close, and I’m beginning to feel reflective, I think it’s safe to say we’ve been inundated with group work these last few months.  We’ve written papers together, surveyed unsuspecting students, co-taught lessons, designed posters with one another, made awkward parody videos, and all manner of get-to-know-your-cohort-while-collaborating-sort-of-activities.  And you know what?  I sort of like it (please don’t hurt me).  Now now, hear me out.  Though I’ve largely had positive, successful experiences working in groups this semester, that’s not to say it’s been all cupcakes, hearts, and spoonfuls of nutella.  So here’s my guide to creating the academic dream-team and tips on how to not kill one another while working together.

Here’s the thing.  You’re awesome.  You produce good work, you’re always on time, you have the best ideas, and you look good while doing it.  But you know what?  You can always improve.  I know it’s scary working with new people, but try and think of it like this: Woohoo!  New perspective!  New set of strengths!  I am going to get even awesome-r!    And you will.  I am desperately trying to strengthen my writing skills.  Luckily for me, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some pretty DOPE-ASS writers.  Having them critique our work, me getting to see how they articulate a point, it’s all helped me.  Your group members are there to not only support you, but also challenge you.  Use that.  You remember that part about you being awesome?  Well they probably want to learn from you too!  I enjoy public speaking and I’ve gotten to share some pointers with group members.  They’ve improved, and I’ve basked in our shared glory.  That’s just it.  Group work: it’s all about the attitude, my brothers and sisters.  Be scared, but expect a rewarding experience to come out of the whole mess.  I can not stress this enough: having an enthusiastic outlook going into a group dynamic can really influence the entire project.  Put on those positive-pants.

Time changes when you’re working with a group.  We’re all graduate students here, most of us have jobs, some families, others a weird cat or two, we’re busy, I get it.  While it’s all fine and dandy to submit an individual assignment minutes before its due, that shit won’t fly when you’re part of a team.  Set your deadlines from the get-go and make them early.  Everyone should have a voice in the finished product and that’s difficult to do if everyone is submitting their portion five minutes before the entire thing is due.  Individual contributions should be made with ample time for each group member to critique and edit your work.  We work ourselves crazy enough as it is trying to finish things last minute, don’t do this to your group, it’s just rude.

Separate but Equal didn’t work then, it’s not working now.  While it may seem like a genius idea to split up the work evenly and have everyone paste in a single document, it’ll probably just look like word-vomit.  You’re a group, and while finding a singular voice may be a difficult process, seven people yelling in different ways about different things certainly doesn’t constitute a successful group project.  It should go without saying, but work together.  Bounce ideas off one another, meet (whether physically or virtually) to flesh out ideas, put your pride aside for a bit and realize that while you may think your poster needs glow in the dark stickers, your other group members aren’t too fond of the idea.  This thing you’re working on will not survive if you don’t communicate and collaborate with one another.  Do it, you’ll produce something radical, I just know it.

Sometimes people suck.  But you know what?  You’ll get through this assignment and you probably won’t remember whatever happened a year from now.  While you may have some crazy notion that everyone is out to get you, they want to personally sabotage your project as well as the future of your academic career, it’s probably not the case.  Before jumping on the “YOU SUCK AND I HATE YOU” brigade, open up the group to a good ol’ healthy dose of conversation.  Be honest, ask if something is going on.  Why weren’t they at the meeting?  Why does this paragraph sound like an eight year old wrote it?  You have expectations of one another and if someone isn’t meeting them, you are entitled to ask them why.  I hope someone would call me out if I wasn’t pulling my weight.  You have an investment in this project and your future; don’t pout and complain, be proactive, work with the hand you’ve been dealt, and produce the absolute best work you’re capable of.

These are the things that I think are helpful.  How about you?  What advice do you have for working in groups?  Live it, love it, preach it.

Scary Librarian Skills

Last week, mah gurl Pam wrote a super post about developing professionally and working outside of her comfort zone.  It was refreshing to read; Pam articulated a lot of things I’ve been thinking about and helped me feel not so alone.  She ended her post by stating that she needed to type out some of her fears and some of her goals to hold herself accountable.  I thought it was a pretty genius idea, so I’m going to go ahead and copy her (thanks, Pam!  I’ll send your royalty check later).

I have an irrational fear of failure.  Because of this, I’m generally attracted to things where I think I’ll naturally excel.  When looking at the course catalog, I was initially attracted to classes on social media, storytelling, and instruction- all of which I have some sort of professional experience in.  Would I do well?  Probably.  Would I challenge myself and become more marketable?  Probably not.

The fright of failure is real, but my love for this field is slowly swallowing that anxiety.  So this is me promising to purposefully jump into the unknown.  I’m scared, sure, but I’m also excited about being scared.  I want more skills, I want new knowledge pockets, I want BADASS LIBRARIAN tattooed on my forehead.  Ok, maybe not that last part, but you get what I’m saying.

This past Saturday, I started making an online resume/portfolio.  I don’t really know what I’m doing quite yet, but I want it to be live by spring semester.  I’m taking the Information Visualization course next semester, and will probably scream about big data and graphic design for months.  But I’ll get some cool new skills along the way.  I’m working on getting comfortable talking about myself and articulating my strengths to potential employers.  It’s all new, it’s all terrifying, but it’s all prepping me to become a well-rounded, marketable librarian.  Hopefully.

Pam and I can’t be alone.  How are you stretching yourself?  What are you scared about?  Let’s be scared together; holding hands makes me feel better.

Epic Librarian Time

I hope it’s evident in the video, but Amanda and I had buckets of fun with this. Admittedly, we were a little stressed out in the planning stages. We threw around a lot of ideas, one of which involved Amanda in a fairy costume dropping handfuls of glitter on my head, but nothing felt right.

Our first step in planning was writing down what being a librarian means to us; what we get out of the degree and why we chose this field. Though we came up with some beautiful sentiments, nothing seemed keen for the screen. We knew we wanted to do live action, no slides or photo montages, while keeping it entertaining. Lengthy soliloquies were quickly thrown out. We wanted to look at this lightheartedly, how could we bring non-librarians into the conversation?

And then, the epiphany: Epic Mealtime. The web-series is, how to say, completely and totally ridiculous? We chose some key words we had written during that first planning stage and structured our “recipe” around that. We made lasagna because.. we wanted lasagna.

The next step was watching hours and hours of Epic Mealtime. We noted their vernacular and posture. We librarian-ed it up and found their background music and the noise they use to bleep out expletives. It’s a parody, after-all, and we wanted to be thorough.

Filming was the easy part. Amanda and I (other roommate Jen, too) do a lot of cooking in our house. So most of filming was just recording us doing stuff we do every day anyway (with some “haters” and steely gazes thrown in for good measure).

We hope our little video makes librarians laugh and non-librarians wanting to know more. How would you “make/cook/prepare” a librarian? What are the necessary ingredients? Let me know what you think down in the comments.

Comics, Censorship, and the CBLDF

Somehow, Comic Con actually surpassed my expectations.  I took lots of silly pictures with cosplayers, was in the same room with Nathan Fillion (if you’re reading this, Nathan, I’m single and ready to date you), and went to some fantastic panels.  One of the best moments was at a panel on Privacy and Information Access when the audience members actually applauded and cheered for librarians.  It was my one rockstar moment; take that Stan Lee.

Early on Friday morning, I attended a panel by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund on the History of Comics Censorship.  The CBLDF is a non-profit organization whose main goal is to protect our first amendment rights.  They argue that, as individuals, we should govern our own intellectual development, and government forces should not have a say in what we think or what we make.

The CBLDF is certainly invested in protecting youths’ voices.  The speaker argued that while the job of young people is to horrify the older generation (who’s parents weren’t disgusted by Ren and Stimpy or South Park?), “moral crusaders [have] asserted that comics corrupt youth, hurt literacy rates, and are a strain on young eyes and nervous systems.”  These same authority figures often state that we need better, quieter stories for our children (what does that even mean?).

Batman and Robin are winking homosexuals, they’ll turn your children GAY!  Comics fuel juvenile delinquency!  Comics are only for the affluent and elite, dangerous for the everyman!  Obscene!  Manga is pornography!  OH MY BUDDHA, WHAT EVER WILL WE DO!?

CBLDF is a loud voice arguing against all the crazy-talk.  They support libraries, schools, publishers, and provide legal assistance to artists like Mike Diana.  Growing up in Florida, Mike felt like an outsider.  He started drawing and creating comics, swapping them through the mail.  One fine day, Mike was picked up by a cop who thought he looked like a murder suspect.  When the police realized he wasn’t, they searched his stuff and found “grotesque drawings”.  Mike was arrested for creating obscene material and was prohibited from drawing in his home.  And with that, Mike became the first ever American artist not allowed to make art.  When CBLDF got involved, they were able to move him to New Jersey (where they have real crime) so his home would no longer be randomly searched for having “obscene material”.

Comics, graphic novels, manga, none of it is going away.  As a future librarian, I’m happy to know CBLDF has our communities’ backs.  Check them out, they do cool stuff.

Librarians Invade Comic Con

For those of you who have somehow missed me yelling about this for the past few weeks, my roommate Amanda and I are attending New York Comic Con this weekend.  What initially started as a distraction and getaway, has evolved into a Librarian-Professional weekend.  Last night, Amanda and I huddled around our computers trying to decide how to best plan our adventure.  In addition to hanging out with Tom Felton (stalking), here are some of the events we’re most excited about:

CBLDF: The History of Comics Censorship

“Learn the shocking history of comics censorship and how even today comics and the people who make, sell, and read them are threatened. CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein tells the sordid tale, from the public book burnings and Senate hearings that led to the Comics Code Authority in the 1950s through the attacks on Underground comix in the 1970s and retailer busts in the 1980s up to modern attacks on readers and artists. This program includes the latest research on comics censorship, including new cases developing this year. Come learn about your rights, and how the CBLDF works to protect them!”

Digital Price Showdown

“Everyone is talking about what the “right” price is for digital comics. Should it be full price for same day as print or should every comic be 99 cents ala iTunes? The conversation has been heated online and today it jumps into the physical realm!”

Teens at the End of Time

“Apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories are super-hot in Young Adult/Teen Fiction. From THE HUNGER GAMES to ROT & RUIN, kids are devouring books about the end of civilization…and that’s a GOOD thing. Discover why we can all feel good about the fascination today’s teens have with these books. Join Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestseller, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner and Marvel Comics writer for a lively discussion about why we should encourage kids to explore the literary apocalypse.”

Food and Comics

“Join renowned chef Geoffrey Zakarian, C.B. Cebulski, Alex Maleev and other special guests as they share the stage for an hour talking about the new horizons in foodie culture and comics culture and where they often and appetizingly interconnect. Moderated by Ron Richards of iFanboy.”

Information Doesn’t Want to be Free, but Kids Do.

“Every single kid in America is a presumed copyright criminal. We spy on them in school, we raid their parents’ life savings, we censor their creative works. And oh, how we LIE to them: “It’s not creative if you’re copying something else.” “All great art starts with permission and ends with a lawyer.” “Giving more money to the record industry will make musicians richer.” Kids are in the streets over SOPA, PIPA and ACTA. They know that the locks we put on their information aren’t for their benefit — because we won’t give them the keys.”

I’m looking forward to Comic Con, not only to feed that inner geek living inside of me, but also to view the festivities and panels with a Librarian’s Eye.  Enjoy your week and I’ll be sure to report back with pictures, swag, and silly stories.

Getting Lost in the Internet and Finding Libraries in Unexpected Places

The Internet is a black-hole.  Almost every day, I get lost in it.  Last night, while listening to a lecture for class, I stumbled upon a picture of a teepee on tumblr.  I paused the lecture, and spent the next hour and a half looking up indoor teepees for purchase (finally!  I knew our dining room was missing something!) and then tutorials on how to construct the perfect teepee (painted canvas and twinkly lights!).  As I clicked from etsy, to amazon, to youtube and then to personal blogs, I realized I have a problem.

Or is it?  I suppose in the world of procrastination, getting distracted by the Internet’s bright lights and sparkly pictures, it most certainly is.  But what about those times you get lost because you become so engrossed in a topic you know little about?  The Internet, and it’s virtual tome of knowledge, is infinite.

This summer, I got black-holed when I started looking into Prison Librarianship.  It lasted for several days and, every once in awhile, I relapse and get lost again.  While all libraries could use some extra dough, Prison Libraries could use buckets of the stuff.  Of course, this raises a peculiar question: are prisoners worthy of library resources?  In relation, are prisons houses of punishment or reform?

The Atlas reminds us to have faith in our communities.  Wherever you fall ideologically in the prison debate, prisoners, more often than not, return to our public communities.  Why not invest in their individual, and our collective, future?  Libraries and knowledge creation seem like the perfect place to start.

Want to get lost?  This will get you started.

 http://prisonlibrarian.blogspot.com/

http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2010/12/10-u-s-prisons-with-impressive-libraries/

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9405E5DB113BF935A15755C0A9669D8B63

 

*UPDATE*

It’s as if the black-hole of prison libraries is a siren, screeching my name.  A new blog post was just put up at Exploring Prison Librarianship.  The author talks about a lack of urban fiction at her library and not knowing the best way to supplement it.  What did she do?  Asked the members.  One of them had already written an extensive, alphabetized list of books he wanted to read.  The librarian borrowed the list, and is working on getting his suggested books added to the collection.  The librarian mentions the prisoner gaining a sense of pride, or investment, in the library that took his recommendations to heart.  The post seems completely apropos for this blog as well as our class discussion.  Check it out!

http://exploringprisonlibrarianship.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/sooo-much-urban-fiction-so-close-to-being-added-to-the-jail-libraries/

Innovation, Negativity, and Vampires

This blog is about to get all tangential up in hurr.  The musical [Title of Show] has a fantastic song about the negative voices one hears during the creative process.  The song is lovingly titled “Die, Vampire, Die!”  These negative thoughts, or Vampires, creep into our lives and whisper things in our ears when we’re feeling unsure about what we’re creating.  They say things like, “Your teeth need whitening / You went to state school? / You sound weird” or even worse, “Who do you think you’re kidding? / You look like a fool. / No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be good enough.”

Getting to hear about Makerspaces, the R-Squared conference, and Innovation in libraries last week, though meant to inspire, only left me with about forty-three Vampires.  During the walk home from class, they nastily said, “What could you possibly contribute?” “You’re not brave enough to take a risk.” “You’ll just end up failing.”  The pressure to be innovative was real; the feelings of doubt and insecurity were huge.  I tried arguing with the Vampires, “But I don’t want to be passive!  I want to create!  I want to look at things differently!”  I only grew meeker while they grew louder.  I fell asleep that night with figurative Vampires buzzing around my head.

The following day, I received an email from Gretchen, a YA librarian, with the results of a teen summer reading program I worked on with her this summer.  One of the most common complaints Gretchen received after summer 2011 came from a set of teens who enjoyed reading, but felt they took a longer time to complete than most of their peers.  They were frustrated that they’d spend hours reading, but could never hope to catch their read-speedy counterparts in terms of page count.  Gretchen listened and for summer 2012, did something wild.  Something mind-blowing.  Something out of this world crazy.  She asked teens to count minutes instead of pages.  It’s a little thing, I know, but the results proved that it meant something to those teens.  I read through the results, there was more participation, more competition, and a better sense of accomplishment.  With the completion of the summer reading program, what did they like the most?  Counting minutes instead of pages.

Without even realizing it, my room was quiet.  The Vampires had left.  Innovation doesn’t have to be grand, it doesn’t have to be particularly dignified or note-worthy.  Sometimes all it takes is a little tweak, a different perspective, and successful change can happen.  I still want to be Innovative and the Vampires are probably lurking around somewhere, but some of the pressure has been lifted.

Whether big or small, our voices matter.  And to you, my Librarian Vampires, prepare to be forever squashed.

Bowen, J. (2006). Die, vampire, die! [Recorded by Susan Blackwell, Jeff Bowen, Heidi Blinkenstaff, and Hunter Bell]. On Title of show (original cast recording) [CD]. New York, New York: Ghostlight records.

Fox News, Credibility, and Librarians as Fact-Checkers

A twenty-year old bro just punked Fox News.  Max Rice agreed to be interviewed as a “recent college grad and former Obama supporter.”  Not only is he not a recent grad (current student) he wasn’t even old enough to vote in the 2008 election.

The interview is giggle-inducing, but also highlights a pretty serious issue in regards to research and fact-checking on cable news.  The Atlas states, “credibility, like knowledge and learning, rests in the control of the member not us,” (Lankes, 91).  Something is credible when it has the potential to shift someone’s worldview.  Did Fox News’ interview segment come off as credible?  Did it sway anyone?  Probably not.

As future librarians, it’s pretty darn crucial knowing where our information comes from, and whether it is legitimate or not.  It’s unsettling to me that even a teensy bit of research was not done prior to interviewing Max.  A simple google search brings up this video of a Max Rice, one who sounds incredibly similar to the guy being interviewed, speaking at a high school graduation in 2010: http://tinyurl.com/9ju6q29 In addition, Erik Wemple at the Washington Post has confirmed through the university’s registrar that Max is a currently enrolled student: http://tinyurl.com/8edut7x

So, WAH-BAM, Fox News.  Perhaps you should hire a librarian or two to be super-sleuth-fact-checkers?

 

 

Barry, Doug (2012).  Fake ‘former Obama supporter’ pranks Gretchen Carlson, proves that Fox has no fact-checkers.  Jezebel.  Retrieved from: http://jezebel.com/5944029/fake-former-obama-supporter-pranks-gretchen-carlson-proves-that-fox-has-no-fact+checkers

White Single Librarian seeks Connection

Whatever that story is, no matter how big or small, those stories that librarians tell me have one thing in common: They are about people.  There is always a conversation.  There is always a point when the librarian and member shared a triumph and the world, even if just for a moment, or just in a miniscule way, became a better place.  True and successful facilitation is when a librarian helps a member find his or her own story (Lankes, 81).

Perhaps my world is one where I live on a rainbow, eat nothing but spoonfuls of nutella, and my best friends are singing woodland creatures, but the idealist in me really identifies with this portion of The Atlas.  Let’s face it, none of us got into this profession because we have a burning desire to shelve books or fix printer jams.  It’s those connections we yearn for.

I’ll get the story-sharing started, but I’d like it to keep going in the comments.

A hand-written letter from an inmate in Minnesota.  Responding to it was the first assignment I was given at the public library in Connecticut I worked at.  The writer explained that he didn’t have access to a computer and was looking for the addresses for several relatives, old friends, and pen-pal prayer groups.  Some of the names were misspelled, he apologized.  The request was simple; he asked if I could only try and find some of the people on his list and write him back.

I spent an afternoon pouring over public records seeing if I could help the man in Minnesota.  I found a few and wrote him a simple response.  I hope he found my letter a comfort, knowing someone wanted to help him.  His letter, and the seemingly tedious task of searching for people, was an exceptional comfort to me.  I don’t know this man, and probably never will, but he saw the library as a place that wouldn’t turn him away.  A place that was willing to engage in his conversation.  I will forever be grateful for that short time our stories came together.

So what’s your story?  What’s that memory you keep tucked in a pocket, taken out when you need to feel a little brighter?   Let’s make people puke unicorns and cupcakes when they read this.

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