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!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Put A Bird On It!

My newest display is inspired by my favorite clip from Portlandia, Put A Bird On It! I figured birds would be a nice spring-ish topic, so I pulled pretty much anything that has a bird on the cover.


I thought pulling titles from 598 and 636.6 would be a little too easy, so I also pulled anything from fiction and our movies. Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, of course! I also cut out a few silhouettes to make the display pop a little.


And here's the inspiration:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Getting Shift Done

Yesterday, my staff and I completed a major re-cataloging, labeling and shifting project. A long time ago, the library had a separate biography section, and at some point, one of the directors decided to interfile them into the nonfiction. We've had a number of patrons recently request, though, that we have a separate section again. We certainly don't have a huge nonfiction collection, but this was one of the biggest projects I've done since I started as director.


I began by going through the collection pulling the biographies. One of the previous directors had the cataloging staff start putting biography stickers on new titles, but they didn't go through the collection and put stickers on anything already on the shelf. This made the process a little more complicated than it could have been, because I had to go through each volume on the shelf, especially in the 900's, 800's and 700's.

What also complicated it was staff was directed to put biography labels on anything that had subject headings of biography or memoir. To me, there's a definite difference between the two, and I only wanted biographies in my new section. Many of the titles that I considered memoirs were by obscure or not well known writers that I didn't think people looking for biographies would be interested in. For example, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven had a biography label on it.


The next step was re-cataloging and labeling (or un-labeling) the volumes. We decided to organize the titles by the last name of who the biography is about, and if there were multiple biographies on one individual, they would be organized by the last name of the author. (I borrowed this idea from the Lawrence Public Library, who completed a similar project before I left. I also went with the same labels!)

My cataloger made quick work of changing the classifications in the system, and a library assistant made sure each new label looked nice and neat. We then started placing the biographies in their temporary location - empty wooden shelves along the wall at the end of the stacks. This would have been a nice way to use these shelves, but they're kind of hidden and are too low.

The permanent home for the biographies is between the large print and nonfiction stacks. This meant that we had to shift the entire nonfiction collection back to accommodate them. With the help of my staff and the local high school robotics team who volunteered their time, though, we accomplished this within three days. We now have a biography section!



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Create & Innovate: Post-It Note Pixel Art

For our monthly teen crafting program, we invited teens to decorate the library with Post-It Note pixel art. You basically create giant mosaics with the Post-Its!


A very simple activity, you just need various colors of Post-Its and window or wall space. We did this program a year ago, and we found out the Post-Its don't adhere to our painted walls very well. Large glass surfaces work best. Otherwise, a large roll of butcher paper comes in handy.


It's helpful to have a few examples or guides, or even provide graph paper so the teens can plan out their art before putting it up. We'll be leaving these up through Teen Tech Week - they're perfect decorations!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley
by Shaun David Hutchinson

Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived.

Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him.

Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, burned on half his body by hateful classmates. His agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together through all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But Drew knows that life is never that simple. Death roams the hospital, searching for Drew, and now Rusty. Drew lost his family, but he refuses to lose Rusty, too, so he’s determined to make things right. He’s determined to bargain, and to settle his debts once and for all.

But Death is not easily placated, and Drew’s life will have to get worse before there is any chance for things to get better.
- GoodReads.com description

From reading the description, I really expected to enjoy this book. My initial thoughts were, “Could this be an LGBT The Fault in Our Stars?” And as I read, I kept wanting to compare it to the television dramedy, The Red Band Society. I was really curious how the relationship between Andrew, the boy secretly squatting in the hospital, and Rusty, the burn victim, would develop.

There were a few things, though, that I couldn’t get past. I couldn’t accept the idea that a teen could live unnoticed in the unfinished wing of the hospital in which his family died. Would the local police and the hospital staff be so incompetent? On top of that, Andrew is able to work in the hospital cafeteria and get paid “under the table,” which I found implausible as well.

I’m not sure how I felt about the characters either. Andrew is likeable enough, however, his personality felt a bit confused for me. He comes off both mature for his age and na├»ve. He shoulders the responsibility of his family’s death, but he comes to believe the hospital’s social worker is “Death,” and that she took his family away from him.

Everyone else that Andrew interacted with at the hospital was accepting of and acknowledged his sexual orientation, which was nice to see; however, it came across a bit idealistic. Trevor and Lexi are two cancer patients that Andrew befriends. They’re secretly in love with each other, and Andrew helps them come together. I kind of cared about their story, but I felt they weren’t as developed as I would have liked.

Rusty, too, seems underdeveloped as well. We learn that he was bullied and tortured at school and in the hospital because he was set on fire at a party. The only thing that seems to draw Andrew and Rusty together is Andrew’s empathy and the fact that they’re both gay. Andrew reads a few books to him and promises to protect him from “Death,” and suddenly they’re in love.

However, what I did like about the book was that it addressed bullying and suicide, which could serve as good talking points with young LGBT readers. Many LGBT teens, and even adults, could relate to wanting to hide from what they experience as an abusive, intolerant world. Also, I appreciated how Andrew did not perpetuate a gay stereotype. He’s into sports, writes and illustrates a graphic novel, and isn’t focused on his appearance.

Overall, I did like The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley and would recommend it to anyone looking to read more with LGBT themes. I’d give it three out of five stars.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Teen Tech Week: Libraries are for making...

Last year I had so much fun with Teen Tech Week, I couldn't wait to start planning this year's events at the Oskaloosa Public Library. We're still about a month out, but I've gotten everything finalized and the promo posters are off to the printer! Not wanting to do the exact same thing as last year, my youth librarian and I worked with our Teen Advisory Board to see which programs were worth repeating and what ideas they could come up with. I like to go all out, so we've got something planned for every day of the week:

Tech Tear Apart
This program was so popular last year, we had to do it again. Over the summer, we had to switch out our entire lab of computers which were running on the now outdated Windows XP. I saved a few, so we have plenty of PC's for teens to tear into. We'll pretty much give them the tools, let them tear them apart, and then have a discussion about what each of the parts do. It's a great opportunity for those who may not have a spare computer lying around to see what makes them tic.

The Science of Doctor Who
We have a core group of teens who are big fans of Doctor Who. It was our original intention to have a professor of physics come in an speak to teens about space time continuum and quantum mechanics, but I could never get a response from anyone at the local college. Instead, we'll be watching the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know? and making sonic screwdrivers and TARDIS.

YouTube Request Hour
Sort of a last minute, easy program, we're planning to hook up YouTube to one of our big screens and let the teens request their favorite videos. Music, parodies, silly cat videos - anything PG thirteen. I was hoping to do another Skype chat with an author, but again, no responses to my emails and I was getting pretty close to crunch time.

Classic Video Game Day
Between my youth librarian and myself, we've got a good collection of vintage video game consoles. Another simple program, we'll hook the systems up to a few old tube TV's and let the teens play video games from the 80's, 90's and 00's. And what's a video game day without snacks?!

Robotics Demonstration
Our local high school sponsors a pretty successful robotics team, The Sock MonkeysI've invited them in to give a presentation on what they do and to give a demonstration of their robot. Many of the teens who come to our programs are already involved, but it also gives The Sock Monkeys some needed volunteer time.

Back to the Future Part II
We'll be ending Teen Tech Week with a showing of Back to the Future Part II to give teens an idea of what the folks in 1989 thought technology in 2015 would look like.


I have to give a big shout out and thank you to YALSA from whom I borrowed some graphics and a few ideas. To see some of their ideas visit their site at http://teentechweek.ning.com/. Teen Tech Week is a great way to promote the library's technology resources and get teens excited about using the library. The teens who participated at the Oskaloosa library last year really enjoyed the programs we offered and are looking forward to this year's.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Review - Landline

This review is also posted on my library's blog, The Reader's Window.

Georgie McCool’s husband, Neal, has left her and she’s trying to keep cool. They’ve been together for fifteen years.

He’s actually only taken their two girls to spend the holidays in Omaha, but he wasn’t happy with her when they left. That’s because Georgie elected to skip out on the Midwestern Christmas to work on her sitcom.

Then something strange happens. Using the old yellow, rotary landline at her mother’s house, she contacts Neal. 1998 Neal, not 2013 Neal. The Neal that left her once before when they had temporarily broken up.

Is she going insane? Hallucinating? Or is she actually talking to the Neal of the past? Between working long hours on scriptwriting and reflecting on her marriage and taking care of herself, Georgie tries to make sense of all this.

I've enjoyed everything Rainbow Rowell has written. Both heartbreaking and romantic, Landline also offers moments that will make you laugh. Rainbow’s characters are as real as your best friend, and you’ll find yourself soaring through this read.