Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I Need a Library Job: The Struggle is Real

Sometimes you have to take a risk and hope for the best. I’ve shared this news with my friends, family and the community already, but I’ve officially turned in my resignation to the Oskaloosa Public Library – my last day will be September 11. My husband was offered and accepted a really great position with KU Libraries in June, and I’ll be moving back to Lawrence, Kansas to join him. Thus, I’ve been in job search mode for the past couple of months. And the struggle is real.

I feel I was pretty fortunate in getting my past two positions. My first library job was the result of a library school project, and with my second, connections and good references really helped. Honestly, I don’t feel like it was as tough as I’m experiencing now. But I haven’t given up hope yet. Here are a few things I’ve had to learn or remind myself in my new job search:

Don’t let one rejection (or five!) discourage you.
There are a lot of fish in the sea, and there are a lot of librarians in the field. Jobless librarians. Experienced librarians. When there are fifty applicants for one position, there’s a good chance that you may not measure up when compared to the others. But that doesn’t mean you’ll never measure up. The list of available library jobs may be small, but take the time and patience to apply, apply, apply!


Apply, apply, apply!
The more applications you put in, the more you can improve your resume, cover letter and interview skills and the better the chance you’ll have at getting a job. You may think there’s a perfect job at the one perfect library, and you won’t be happy anywhere else, but the time you spend waiting for that job to open at that one library is time you could be spending gaining experience elsewhere.

Learn how to sell yourself.
You may think you have a reputation that precedes you. You may have great connections and references. However, just because you have volunteered or worked for a library before and have done a wonderful job doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in. Each interview – even if it’s with the same hiring supervisors over and over again – is a new one. You’ve got a new crowd of applicants to compete against. Learn how to translate your skills and abilities to fit the position, and be confident! You don’t have to embellish, but explain how your years of serving tables or selling retail demonstrate your customer service skills, etc.


Be patient.
Waiting to hear back on an application is the toughest part. I know. Some hiring processes are much slower than others – especially when there are 50 applications to dig through. If you’re concerned that they may not have received your application, it’s okay to check in on it, but you don’t have to call in every three days asking for an update. That’s bugging. If you’ve sold yourself well enough in your cover letter, they’ll contact you.

Be grateful – and show it!
Hiring supervisors are busy, and the hiring process takes a lot of their time. If they give you an interview, close it by expressing your gratitude for their time and consideration. Sending a quick thank you letter or email afterward is also nice too. It shows that you care enough about the position and that you’re professional and considerate of their time. If you don’t get this particular job, they may remember you for the next.


You may not get the job you really, really want. I didn't, and it’s been tough. But like I said, I’m not letting it discourage me. Some of my trouble may be because I’m hyper-localizing, but I know there’s a job out there for me, and I’m working really hard for it. To anyone who’s in the same position – keep at it! We’ll get there! Good luck!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Review - Anything Could Happen

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody's in everybody else's business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained. 


-Summary from Goodreads.com

There’s much to appreciate about Will Walton’s debut novel, but a lot going on too. Anything could happen for Tretch Farm, and a lot certainly does during his winter break.

Tretch is in love with his straight best friend, Matt, who has two dads. His straight best friend is in love with a girl who may or may not like him back. Tretch tries to avoid a pretentious, yet clueless girl who works in book shop. He struggles with coming out. Then there’s the bully who called him out on his crush. And a grandparent dying of cancer. On top of all that, Tretch learns that his best friend is moving away, which causes him to attempt suicide, but not really. Oh, and a cow gives birth to a breached calf.

That’s only some of it. I appreciate that, underneath all that’s going on for Tretch, Walton’s novel is another coming of age coming out story. I like that he presents Matt’s dads as decent parents who raise a well-adjusted child. Tretch’s feelings for his best friend are honest and realistic. I felt, though, that his maturity was inconsistent. Tretch reads classics and has mature, sexual thoughts about his best friend, but then narrates about fearing and avoiding a black cat because of bad luck. 

I would still recommend this book to anyone who may be struggling with coming out. Walton shows that it’s okay to take that risk and that the results may not be as bad as you expect. Overall, I gave Anything Could Happen 3 out of 5 stars.

You can find Anything Could Happen at a local library by clicking here.

This review also posted on http://booksavants.blogspot.com.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Review - The Book of Unknown Americans

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel's recovery--the piece of the American Dream on which they've pinned all their hopes--will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles.

At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamà fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she's sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America.


-Summary from Goodreads.com
The Book of Unknown Americans is a powerful, eye opening portrait of what it's like to be a Latino immigrant in the United States. Henríquez tells the story of the Riveras and the Toros, alternating between Maribel's mother Alma and Mayor. In between their chapters, short vignettes detail the experiences of a number of other Latino immigrants.

What I really liked about the book was how real the characters seemed to me. Alma is fiercely protective of Maribel, especially since she comes to blame herself for Maribel's accident and condition. Her husband, Arturo, devotes himself to keeping a job and staying out of trouble so they can stay in the United States so their daughter can receive the help she needs. Mayor is a freshman in high school who lives under the shadow of an athletically gifted older brother and can't quite live up to his father's expectations.

A neighborhood troublemaker, Garrett, is at the center of the events that lead to the climax of the story. He begins to stalk and pursue Maribel, and it's his interactions with both Mayor and Alma that lead the reader to fear for the girl's safety. What also concerned me, though, was how quickly Mayor's feelings for Maribel developed and how far he takes them. They talk a few times and suddenly he's in love with her and feeling her up.

Overall, though, the story was moving and heartbreaking. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a clearer picture of how hard some immigrants do work to get into this country and how dedicated they are to doing the right thing.



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Passive Program: Coloring Pages for Adults

With the recent popularity of adult coloring books that many libraries are taking advantage of for programs, I decided to cash in at my library as well. I had considered purchasing copies of the books that are available, but then was concerned they would come back...well, colored.

To see if there's actually an interest in my community, I've decided to try out a passive program first. This takes very little staff time, and if the coloring sheets disappear, I know I can take it further. I love the idea of a "coloring and cocktails" program!


I found a list of free adult coloring pages available on the web, printed a few off, copied them and now have them out in the reading room with colored pencils, a pencil sharpener and signage explaining the deal. We already have a number of patrons who frequent the room to work on puzzles we set out, so I'm thinking it may go over pretty well!





Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Book Review - God Help the Child

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child—the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment—weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult.

At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. 
There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally, Bride’s mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that “what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”

-Amazon.com description
Ever since I took a seminar class on Toni Morrison in college, I’ve been a big fan of her work, and I was excited to pick up God Help the Child. Morrison’s characters come to life, and though we may only meet briefly in the pages of her books, you come to feel like you’ve known them for years. Her wisdom and experience exude from her stories, and I always learn a lot.

Even though the description says the novel is set in our current moment, I really felt that the story was timeless. Besides a few mentions of modern technology, I could easily believe if it said 1920’s or 1950’s or the 1960’s. The focal point is on the characters, and technology and modern society doesn’t play too much of a role in the plot.

Anger, pity, jealousy – Morrison develops her characters through their personal experiences and makes you feel something for them. Gold Help the Child is told through multiple perspectives, which is common with a number of Morrison’s novels. Child abuse – psychological, physical, and sexual – is a key theme in the novel and the development of the character’s experiences as adults.

Born with dark, blue-black skin, the central character Bride was raised by Sweetness, a mother who couldn’t bear to event touch her and whose affection stopped short of neglect. However, Bride grows to become a successful career woman in the cosmetics industry, and, with the help of a fashion consultant, learns to love herself through accentuating what her mother found so detestable.

Unexpectedly, Booker, the man she’s been seeing, skips town; his last words, “You not the woman I want.” This leads Bride to a trip through the country to Whiskey, Booker’s hometown. On the way, she wrecks her car and ends up spending six weeks recovering with a rural couple and Rain, the pale skinned girl they’ve taken in. This is where I would have liked to have seen a bit more development. Bride and Rain connect in a way, but their relationship clearly isn’t that important to the main plot.

After Bride recovers, she continues on her path to Whiskey where she plans to confront Booker. Along the way, we learn an important incident in Bride’s childhood that led to a series of events that came between the lovers. The novel closes with Sweetness reflecting on the lasting affect parents have on their children’s lives.

I appreciated this novel like many of Morrison’s, but I put it down wanting more. Perhaps it’s because it’s under 200 pages? I wanted to see more of the relationship between Bride and Rain, as they story only hinted at a connection, but, as in real life, sometimes those connections are fleeting. Overall, I thought God Help the Child was another of Morrison’s inspiring stories.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Prohibition & Free Beer at the Library

This past Monday we had a first for the Oskaloosa Public Library: a free beer tasting! What made it greater, though, was the fact that we paired it with a presentation on prohibition. Local author, Linda Betsinger McCann, shared about her book Prohibition in Eastern Iowa, and afterward the awesome folks from The Cellar Peanut Pub provided samples of four Iowa craft beers.


Linda was a great presenter and storyteller. She shared about her research process and her interactions with the people she interviewed about prohibition in Iowa. It was interesting to learn that Al Capone - who I only ever associated with Chicago - had a presence and influence in Iowa during the 13 year span of prohibition.

I could tell that Linda is passionate about history and about sharing the past with younger generations. What I really appreciated was her effort to research police records from the local paper to share with the audience. She cautioned everyone that they may learn something about someone they know, as she experienced at other presentations!


Following Linda's presentation, I invited the owner of The Cellar Peanut Pub and his pubtender to talk a little bit about the four craft beers they brought for samples. They included beers from Lion Bridge Brewing Company out of Cedar Rapids, Exile Brewing Co. out of Des Moines, and Peace Tree Brewing Co. out of Knoxville.

I'm very grateful that the The Pub was willing to donate the sampling, and hope that they got further business after giving people a taste of what they offer. The owner and pubtender were great, and it seemed like the people sampling the beers really enjoyed them.

Because Oskaloosa tends toward the conservative side, I was prepared to hear some negative feedback about having alcohol in the library; however, I haven't yet. I did, though, do a bit of investigation beforehand to make sure it was all legal. First, I spoke with the state's bureau of alcoholic beverages who said that if the samples were under and ounce and served only to patrons 21 years or older, it wouldn't violate any state ordinances.

Next I checked with the city attorney and the public works director, and they couldn't find anything in zoning ordinances or the city code that prohibited the sampling. Then I checked with the city's insurance to make sure it would be covered under general liability. Finally, I made sure it was cool with the city manager. He even said he spoke to a couple of city council members, and they liked that I was doing new and different things to bring people into the library.


The event brought 40 people to the library, which I felt for a Monday evening was really good. Some of them even revealed on the program survey I handed out that it was the first program they had ever attended at the library. Everyone had positive comments too!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Turning 30 on the Edge of a Cliff

Nervous, thrilled, scared – this is what I’m feeling as I’m leaving my 20’s behind. I’m turning 30 years old tomorrow, and a part of me feels like I’m about the leap from a giant cliff. When I look back at everything I’ve done in the past 10 years, I can only imagine what possibilities await in the next decade. It’s both frightening and exciting.

Final Fling party my senior year at Graceland.
I entered my 20’s a sophomore at Graceland University, having just made the decision to change from education to a triple major in English writing, literature and math. When I told an academic counselor my plans, she laughed and said I would be there for ten years. I finished in four. But I faced challenging 18 to 24 credit hour semesters, long nights reading and writing papers, and advanced topics in mathematics. I proudly left Graceland with a BA honors degree.

I also left with about $20,000 in debt. With that looming over me, I grabbed the first jobs available. I went back to work at the gas station I worked at during high school and continued to work weekends there while doing overnights at a group home and weekdays as a para at a high school. I lived in a small apartment above a liquor store with three cats and spent what little free time I had reading and writing poetry. Romantic, I know. This lasted about a year and a half before I finally applied to grad school for my MLS.

While in library school, I gained my first job in a library and transitioned to Lawrence. I started at the Lawrence Public Library after an assigned reference desk observation which I coincidentally completed just before a part time position opened up. That was my foot in the door.

Pulling a mannequin from my beetle for a display at LPL.
Thanks to the help of my then supervisor, that part time position grew to full time assistant and then officially “librarian” within 2 years. Keeping track of desk statistics, processing inter-library loans and serials, putting together displays, teaching computer classes – I did everything and I really fell in love with being a librarian.

Lawrence is one of the best places to spend your early 20’s. It’s where I really started to come out of my shell, grew professionally and met my husband, Nate. I learned to love myself, and it was possible because of the positive, youthful, progressive attitude the university town generally espouses. But when I was there, I foresaw little chance to move up professionally. So I applied and gained the director position at the Oskaloosa Public Library, and Nate and I moved to Iowa for my next adventure.

Nate and I cutting our wedding cake, 6/9/12.
I was 27 when I started as director. With only three years of library experience behind me, I had to learn how to work with a library board, represent the library at city council meetings, oversee a department budget and manage a staff, a few of which have worked at the library longer than I’ve been alive. Honestly, I briefly experienced a fear of failure – of not being good enough.

Teen Zombie Crawl - one of my favorite OPL programs.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to do all of the “director responsibilities” alongside many of the things I loved doing at Lawrence. I’ve been passionate about my job and library service, and that’s one of many things that have carried me through. Nate and I bought our first home, and we have grown into the Oskaloosa community together. And that’s where I am now.

So here I go. I’m jumping into my thirties. I’m not sure where they’re going to take me, but I’m excited to get there!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Poetry & Arts in April at the Library

If you've read past blog posts, you'll know that I'm a fan of poetry and that April is National Poetry Month. I try to do at least one thing related to poetry at the library, even if it's a simple display featuring titles from our poetry collection.


In the past, I've gone all out and used mannequins for Poetry In Your Pocket Day, featured favorite poets from staff and let a poetry slamming gorilla loose in the library. This year, I kept the display simple, using a word cloud with poetry related words and phrases.

Borrowing an idea from my days at the Lawrence Public Library, I decided to set up a "Poetry Nook" in the entryway of the library. I've provided pens and paper, and am encouraging patrons to write a poem and put it in the box. The poems, then, will end up in random places around town - in a library book, in a booth at the local coffee shop, etc.

My major poetry event will be for teens. Members of our Teen Advisory Board requested we do a Poetry Slam again this year. For some reason, whenever I plan one of these, I have to include a bag of frozen burritos as one of the prizes. That bag of frozen goodness is always the most coveted prize - even over a $50 gift card!

Our Youth Librarian also has gotten into the spirit of National Poetry Month and has put together a fun Poetry "Mad Lib" for the children's area. I'm looking forward to seeing what crazy things the kids come up with!


I was also approached by FACE of Mahaska County, a local arts organization, about planning and cross promoting arts-related programs and events in Oskaloosa for Arts in April. They recently opened an art center in town, and it's very exciting to see what they're bringing to this small-ish community. One of the things they're doing is yarn bombing different locations around the city - including our Reading Garden:


They've coordinated with a number of organizations in the community and have put together a calendar of things happening this month. From graffiti installations to a Gallery Hop to one act plays directed by high school students, there's a lot going on!