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.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Books for Dummies

If you dug through my past posts, you'll know that another part of my job I enjoy is putting together displays. Displays are a perfect way to promote items in the library's collection that may not get attention otherwise. This week, I decided to feature our "for Dummies" books!


At my previous library, we had four spaces for displays and they were left up about a month. We had to sticker all the books we pulled for the display and change each item's shelving status so people would know where they were - this was a lot of work. Here, I typically change out displays every two weeks or so. With a display like this, I can just wander through the stacks, pull titles, and have a display up in minutes.

Right now, we have a table at the top of the stairs that's the first thing you see on the second floor. I'm working on getting a shelving unit put there instead, though, because I like the face out display a little better.  However, the "Books for Dummies" display has only been up for a couple of hours, and I've already over heard a couple of comments on it. I'm glad it's catching patrons' attention!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Create & Innovate: Giant 3D Snowflakes

We have a small group of teen regulars at my library who are hardcore crafters. When I took over/started helping out with teen programming, I started a monthly crafting program called Create & Innovate (that's edgy, mature and modern right?). Each month I plan either a specific craft or go very general and open the craft cupboards and let the teens go at it.

This month's craft was giant 3D snowflakes. My Youth Librarian made these with her K-5th grade after school kids, but I thought teens would enjoy making them too. All that's needed is paper (I had an assortment of colors), scissors, glue (or tape) and staples.


This tutorial on Youtube was super helpful:


I only had a few teens, but they enjoyed the craft. We even had the local newspaper come by and take a photo. Eight inches of snow had just fallen the day before, and he was looking for something non-weather related to print...ha!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Why I Do What I Do

As I was leaving the library this morning for my annual budget discussion meeting with the City Manager and Clerk, a patron stopped and greeted me. Out of no where she said, "I'm so glad you're here and the library's here." There was no way she could have known where I was headed, but her comment greatly quelled any nerves I may have had about the meeting.

That comment also reminded me why I'm here and why I do what I do. Whatever her reasons for her passion for the library, it's my job to ensure that she has access to the services and resources she needs. It's my job to justify expenditures and requests for funding for library services to the Board and City Council so that we can continue to provide those services and resources.

Books, CDs, DVDs, magazines - all of these are often times viewed as frivolities to council members who have other ideas for taxpayer dollars. I've discussed before how an investment in these items can actually save the community money. But it's also the story times, research help, computer classes, teen programs, author visits, presentations and many other things beyond the physical items that add value to the library as a public service. None of these would be possible without the library's most valuable asset - staff.

A significant portion of the library's budget goes towards staff salaries and benefits, and any cut to the library's budget would mean a cut to staff. I'd hate to see that. I'm very grateful for the staff that I have, and for all that they do to make the library what it is for the community. The library would not be the same without their years of experience, their knowledge, and their positive customer service.

I came into this position for what I feel was a pretty young age. I only had three years of library experience behind me, but I'm grateful that Board and the City have given me this opportunity to serve in this position and gain even more valuable experience.

I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought or fantasized about moving beyond Oskaloosa. Or what it would have been like if I had never left the Lawrence. However, that patron's comment reminded me how much I am needed and appreciated here, and how happy I am to be here.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Top Five Friday: Favorite Reads from 2014

Between work at the library, spending time with my husband, and hosting a foreign exchange student, I didn't take as much time to read as I wanted to in 2014. I'm a little embarrassed to mention how many books I made it through, but here's five that I really enjoyed:

1. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

I always enjoy a good Murakami novel. The title character tries to come to terms with and understand the sudden and inexplicable estrangement of this group of high school friends. Less fantastical than some of his other works, but the mystery and intrigue remains.

2. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Small town Iowa. Horny teenage male. Giant, man-eating praying mantises. This is the story of the end of the world. Bizarre but hilarious. I loved it!

3.  Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Another scientifically weird, but good one! Travis gets his head cryogenically frozen and reattached to someone else's body. He wakes up five years in the future, but to him it was just waking up from a nap. He has to learn to adjust to a world where his family and friends moved on without him.

4. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

A beautiful coming of age story about forgiveness and accepting one's talents. Jude and Noah, twins, used to be close. Getting into a prestigious art school, vying for their mother's attention, falling for guys - they share similar aspirations which end up getting between them.

5. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
My Books and Beer Club pick for February, The Interestings is a lengthy novel that follows the lives of six friends who met at a summer camp for the arts, exploring how choices affect one's life path. When I read I'll Give You the Sun, I couldn't help but compare the two.