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.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

A look back at 2014

Well, 2014 came and went. I clearly didn't get a whole lot of blogging done here, but I've certainly spent a lot of time and creative energy on other things. It's been a productive year at the library, I've met and made more connections here in Iowa, and overall I'd say it was a pretty good year. Here are a few specific things I've enjoyed:

Books and Beer Club
When I first arrived in Oskaloosa back in 2012, I received a kind welcome from the co-owner of a local bar, The Cellar Peanut Pub (famous for their craft beer selection and America's best dressed Bloody Mary). Over time, they've made it clear that they welcome everyone - straight, gay, transgender, etc. - as long as you're nice, and it's been great knowing there's at least one welcoming business in Oskaloosa. 

In January I approached the co-owner about hosting a book club at the pub, and we started the Books and Beer Club. We began with Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave as our first pick. We read many great books through the year, and our discussions have always been enjoyable and thought provoking. It's actually the first book club I've been a part of since high school, and I've had lots of fun with it!

Teen Programming: Anti-Valentines Day, Teen Tech Week and Find Your Fandom
I think I've said it before, but if I weren't a library director, I'd probably want to be a teen librarian. I've had a lot of fun this year with programs and events for teens. In February, we held and Anti-Valentine's Day party for teens where we wrote break up songs, decorated angry hearts and made voo-doo dolls (for which I got my first phone call from a concerned patron). In March, I put together a week long series of programs centered on technology for teens, including a tech tear apart, skype interview with an author and robot building.

For their summer reading program, the Teen Advisory Board selected Find Your Fandom over the collaborative suggested theme, and we had tons of fun with it. We hosted a mini-comic convention, continued with our popular Dungeons and Dragons program, and gave a way great prize packages, including Harry Potter books and movies, Doctor Who series on DVD, a Sherlock collection and a stack of book box sets. We've got a great group of teens involved with the Teen Advisory Board, and I can't wait to see what we come up with next year!

Adult Programming: Paranormal Researchers, Coal Mining & More
I think I've figured out what draws adults in Oskaloosa to events at the library: anything weird or historical. My most successful program for adults was a visit from Chad Lewis, co-author of The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations - we had about 80 people! Other programs that drew in crowds was a presentation on a former coal mining town, a portrayal of Ulysses S. Grant, and a lecture on Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.

I've also started the Oskaloosa Social Media Group for anyone involved with social media for businesses and organizations. We meet once a month and have an open round table discussion about tips and trends in social media and share with each other what's happening in Oskaloosa. I'm no expert, but I have enjoyed sharing my own experiences and knowledge with the group. One of the people who've gotten involved said that they have noticed hearing much more about the library recently - a goal which I've been working towards since I started there!

"Raising" a Foreign Teenager
In April, I posted on Facebook, "We've done the paperwork. Nate and I may be expecting in the fall. Wish us luck!" After a few congratulatory comments and well wishes, I had to explain, though, that the paperwork was an application for hosting a foreign exchange student! Needless to say, we were approved and in August we welcomed Giovanni into our home. 
Hailing from Düsseldorf, Germany, Giovanni's been a great guest and addition to our household. Nate and I have enjoyed having him and seeing him get involved with things like marching band, jazz band, robotics, Key Club - and even the library's teen advisory board!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Review: 100 Sideways Miles

Andrew Smith has quickly become one of my top favorite authors this year. His characters are honest and relatable, and their stories are always engaging. 100 Sideways Miles is no exception.

Finn Easton understands time in miles instead of minutes. He can’t remember much from his life before a freak accident in which a dead horse fell from a bridge and left him epileptic and killed his mother. There’s always a possibility that he’s an alien straight from the one hugely successful science fiction novel his father published.

There are two people that matter the most to Finn – his crazy friend Cade Hernandez, and the first girl he’s ever loved, Julia Bishop. When Julia leaves California to move back to Chicago, Finn is devastated. He’s too depressed to even get out of bed, but he and Cade had made plans to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma and he knows it’s his only chance to get a break.

And what would a coming of age story be without a life-changing event? On the trip, the boys become unlikely heroes after another unexpected accident and learn that it’s okay to take a detour from what’s planned.

100 Sideways Miles is a great book about friendship, accepting who you are and finding your own way. Finn and Cade have a unique, unbreakable friendship that, for me, really made the book so great. Cade's always coming up with ways to describe the scar that was left on Finn's back after the accident with the horse. This scar connects Finn to his father's book (along with his name), and though it has come to define him in some ways, Cade helps Finn get past it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

One Community, One Book: Mahaska Reads

This past Wednesday saw the conclusion to Mahaska Reads, the first “one community, one book” program I helped organize. This year’s series of events and discussions were based around Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave. I’m pleased to say that it was very well received by the community, and I’m already looking forward to planning next year’s events.

In the past, Mahaska Reads was typically sponsored solely by the Oskaloosa Public Library. In order to reach a broader audience, I reached out to the manager of our local independent book store, Book Vault; the director of William Penn University’s Wilcox Library, and the teacher librarian at the local high school. We got together in March to decide on a title and met once a month from there to develop the series of events.

We kicked things off on September 15 with “Mahaska Book Night.” Inspired by World Book Night, I knew we could get people in the community excited about participating if they had the chance to receive a free copy of Twelve Years a Slave. The Oskaloosa Public Library Foundation graciously provided the funds to purchase 60 copies of the book. Members of the Mahaska Reads committee planned to hand thirty of those copies out at Smokey Row, a local coffee shop; Penn Central Mall; and The Cellar Peanut Pub.

I honestly was surprised at how quickly those books went – people were waiting at each of the locations! With poor planning on my part, I didn’t get to the pub until after the city council meeting, and there was a group of about ten who waited an hour before leaving disappointed. Fortunately, a few of them returned while I was there, and I still had copies for them.

The next evening we had our first program, Unconditional Surrender: A Visit with Ulysses S. Grant, and handed out the rest of our free copies of Twelve Years a Slave to the first 30 people who attended. We had 55 come! Marshalltown Community Theater actor Pete Grady offered a fantastic portrayal of the Civil War general and President. Mr. Grady's knowledge of Grant's life is extensive, and his presentation captured the attention and adoration of those in the audience. A great program!

Following events in the series included a book chat about titles with themes related to those in Twelve Years a Slave given by the high school librarian, the academic librarian and myself; a Community Discussion at a local assisted living facility; and a screening of Steve McQueen’s film adaptation at the library. Something I also didn't expect was we had four book clubs in the community read and discuss the book!

Our final event took place at the Book Vault, a presentation on Abraham Lincoln and Emancipation given by Dr. Ron Rietveld, Lincoln scholar and professor emeritus of History at University of California-Fullerton. Knowledgeable and enlightening, Dr. Rietveld captured the attention of everyone in attendance and entertained several questions at the close of his presentation.

One of the participants said to me at the last book discussion that, as far as she could recall, this year’s Mahaska Reads was the most talked about in a long while. It wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration with those on the Mahaska Reads committee and the support of the Friends of the Library and the Library Foundation. I’m just happy that we were able to bring the community together and get them excited about reading, learning, and discussing issues with each other.