Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wake up! Networking is not advertising that I DON’T have my act together. Oops.

I went to my very first Rochester Area School Librarians (RASL) meeting last night, and it might even go so far as to call it a disaster. I can hardly stand to think about it, but I really ought to so that I might have a "learning experience" or something along those lines. I had a very busy morning that day and I returned home with my two month old to a sleeping husband and daughter and a very messy kitchen. A messy kitchen is one of my biggest pet peeves. I needed to rest, but of course I cleaned the kitchen mess up first and then began to relax just as I realized that I needed to leave soon… And that I had nothing to wear. In fact, I did not have one single pair of somewhat dressy pants that fit. I mean I have only jeans and sweatpants in my pathetically large post-partum size and so I guess I just wore jeans. That was a mistake. I am a fool and I have been cursing myself since I got home for even going to this event without owning the proper clothes. I wanted to go. I just needed to move myself in the direction of working and using the degree that I worked so very hard to achieve in the face of so many challenges, so I persisted. Time was getting ahead of me, and I arrived 30 minutes late. This was also mortifying. At least I wasn't the girl who blurted out that I had completed an internship at Play Girl Magazine… But maybe I would have been if I had actually completed such an internship. Rather I was the late person who showed up wearing jeans and a t-shirt saying that I don't have a job. I wish I could crawl under a rock and pretend that I never set it in my mind to attend RASL. Alas, I am a type-a person, and I must not give up. That's all there is to it. For next time I must get my hands on some decent professional clothes that fit, plan to leave an hour earlier, and print out some business cards. Wake up! Networking is not advertising that I DON'T have my act together. I can do better than this. I just need to practice?

It reminds me oddly of the third grade, when a teacher started giving me grief for the first time. Prior to that year I was an avid overachiever in school, but around this time my family life began to crumble and school was not all that interesting to me anymore. I never bothered to do my homework and I did not study my multiplication facts. No one at home cared about how I did in school. My teacher kept emphasizing that I needed to get organized. Organization was the sure fire cure to my slipping grades! In retrospect, I agree that organization would have helped, but how can anyone expect a third grader to impose organization on herself in the midst of violent ugly family struggles? What did I do at that time? I stuffed my nose in as many books as I could get my hands on and ignored everything else. At least I had that. Who cares that I never to this day memorized my multiplication tables. I aced calc 1, 2, and 3 in college. Yet I chose to become a librarian. Go figure. But anyway, what I'm trying to say is that it's not skill or talent that I lack. I simply need to get myself better organized.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My nerdy librarian thoughts on book displays

Creating displays are a very librarian-ish activity to encourage reading!  The main idea is to attract attention to specific books so that people will borrow them.  There are a few ways I've noticed librarians approaching displays. 

This is sooo Barnes and Noble type marketing.
Often, displays are created entirely out of books.  These are basically just shelf space with books standing up, greeting library visitors like wide eyed puppy dogs in a pet shop window asking to be brought home.  So when John Q. Patron walks into the library, not sure what he's looking for, just something to stave of bordom he glances over and notices that the Zombie Survival Guide happens to be available he can easily snatch it off the shelf to check out without digging through the stacks and potentially touching a "girl book" or something equally as revolting (in his eyes).  I like how the display I pictured here uses the color of the books to draw the eye around the square of shelf space.  These sort of displays make increasingly more sense to make routinely as shelf space becomes more plentiful with the greater availability of electronic resources such as databases.  This poetry display was created in a bookstore called "The Book Collector" out in Sacramento, California and was posted on this blog:

I've noticed other librarians display color images of attractive book jackets rather than the actual book.  Perhaps this is good for advertising new books that are likely to be very popular and require a waiting list actually check out and borrow.
Myself, I like the idea of having actual books facing out to greet patrons, and I am less keen on the idea of images of books in most cases.  It's easy to grab a book off the shelf if you see it and want it.  Myself, I am much less likely to find a title I am dying to read from looking at images of books in my browsing.  I actually tend to skim my eyes away from those type of displays when I enter a library because I assume the books are already checked out and unavailable for my personal requirement for instant gratification. If I wanted to see images of books, I'd sit home in my jammies in front of the Internet, before calling the library to request a hold. I am sure there are other people out there with a difference of opinion, but this is just me.

Gimme some scary stories!
There's another sort of display that is promoted by this library display blog that I recently came across ( )  These displays aim to use eye catching visual images on a wall or bulletin board to attract patrons to a table or shelf with many books based on a theme such as a holiday a particular author, or genre.  The visual images used for displays in this blog are very interesting and artfully created. If you are a librarian or baby librarian, and you want to improve your display making skills, it's worth that blog in some depth.  It makes my stupid displays that I've made for some of my coursework look totally amateur! In fact, I am very unhappy with my display making experience in general.  I could really stand to gain some experience in this area.  This Halloween display was posted on the above mentioned blog after it was created by Lisa Stofac. 

I am certain that I have the natural ability to create some outstanding displays as I enjoy to create artwork and paintings, it's just that buletin boards offer such a large amount of space and I'm just not used to working on that sort of surface with materials such as paper and including words... With some practice, I'm sure I would do fine.  I just need to get out there and do it! And I can just add that idea to my list of volunteer work that I would like to do someday when free babysitting becomes a reality... (if ever.)  blahs.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On my mind: Communication Skills

As I am mentally preparing myself for my inevitable return to the work force (har), I have been thinking about the essential qualities of a teacher librarian.  One trait that has come to my attention is COMMUNICATION.  Wow is that important.  It's listed on just about every job add I've ever seen, ever.  I'd even go so far as to say that my success in life is hugely dependent upon my ability to communicate with others.  I must be able to communicate complex ideas with my students and children to help them grow and enhance their understanding of the world around them. My husband and I must be able to effectively share ideas with each other to keep our home life running smooth and filled with "sanity."  It's also fun to socialize.

"If you can't put your ideas into words that others can understand, you could say that the ideas don't actually exist," Assis Malaquias once told me.  My jaw dropped and my horribly written term paper nearly fell out of my hand.  He was right.  (He was my professor of International Politics at St. Lawrence in the Fall of 2001...  He also told me that I should be reading every spare second I have in my life if I want to keep up with the world.  He was so right about everything it was frightening.)  Does a concept actually exist if you cannot make another person understand it? I... I can't prove that it does.  So much for living in my head.

In library school, it was totally drilled into my head that I MUST be able to ADVOCATE FOR MY LIBRARY in ways, such as:
  • writing newsletters;
  • sending out weekly mass emails highlighting learning that is occurring in the library;
  • sharing student success stories with administrators, teachers, parents, and the community;
  • advertising ways the library serves the learning community;
  • telling others of our struggles and what conditions would make the library even more successful than it already is;
  • informally discussing the library with a wide variety of people;
  • I'm sure this list could go on and on, but these were the first bullet points that came to mind and I will stop there.  Please feel free to point out anything I have missed!
Plus, I need outstanding communication skills so that I will be able to successfully collaborate with the teachers in the school where I will work.  I need to be able to gather information from them about what they are teaching and what the students need reinforced.  I must be able to share with teachers the successes and shortcomings of individual students.  And this information will likely need to be exchanged quickly, because time always seems to be short for some odd reason.

I seem to have this undercurrent fear that I will FAIL as a teacher librarian because I won't be able to integrate myself with the learning community in which I will teach.  This is silly and unrealistic.  I have never had communication problems in any of the jobs I've ever held in my life.  It's just that this new career is HINGING on my ability to communicate well.  A librarian must be very good at striking a balance between speaking out about something, and knowing when to keep her mouth SHUT.  Maybe it's that balance that worries me because sometimes I go through times when I just talk toooooooo much and other times I withhold my thoughts.....

Communication skills can ALWAYS be improved, I think.  There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to knowing how to exchange ideas well.  Plus, there are always certain individuals out there who have a tendency to challenge one's skills by being difficult...  You know?  So that whole thing leads me to the Question:  How may I improve my communication skills?

In order to find a way to improve, I first must honestly and humbly examine my strengths and weaknesses as a communicator.  That's the hard part.  This is where my mind has been for the past several days.  I've been watching how others communicate including how certain points are emphasized and how to present ideas in such a way that they are well received.  Here are a few nuggets of info that I have gathered:  (These work for me.  Everyone has their own situation.)
  • To communicate well, it usually helps if I'm relaxed. 
  • If I over-prepare, I psych myself out, and if I don't think about what I'm doing, I'm a flop.
  • My biggest challenge when I'm nervous about formally communicating to important people is often knowing and speaking to my audience.
  • Sometimes I don't emphasize the important points enough, and I am working on improving that.
  • I am my own worst critic.
  • I need to just let myself be in the moment and speak my mind.
  • They say to pick your battles, but if I'm worried about that I don't pick anything and that is just pointless.  When I feel empowered, I am a much better communicator! 
Some links to people who's communication styles I admire:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Masochistic blogging? Am I an idiot, or what?!

Ok...  So a friend asked me "What is a professional blog?" And I didn't really have a very good answer considering I just announced in a previous post that I would be writing about the challenges and difficulties I experience on my road to becoming a professional.   I was, like, thinking that I would just write about all my professional troubles on here and then maybe it would be a good way to humiliate myself into avoiding professional blunders?  Does that make this a professional blog, or an anti-professional blog seeing as how I'm not exactly adopting a professional persona in my blogging in discussing my weaknesses...

STOP THE BLOG I WANT TO GET OFF!!! (already?)  I knew this might not be that great of an idea.   

OK, well here you go, my first public professional blunder, ladies and gentlemen:  This blog post explaining my blunder in the actual creation of this blog.  It's like writing poetry about writing poetry, all over again! (I did that, and it sucked.)  Yet I somehow feel compelled to continue onward, especially after I brainstormed a list of topics I wanted to write about. 

I now grant myself official permission to re-frame my concept here.  I am not writing about how I seriously suck as a baby librarian.  I am writing about common professional challenges that my audience may face.  These are important professional matters that merit attention and discussion.  For example:  I have noted that many librarians take the time to keep a blog about matters of significance to their professional work.  That's what this blog is about, so I'm not just exposing myself as being an idiot.  (I hope.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Post ideas

Here are some ideas for posts I'd like to write soon.
  • Increasing my knowledge of literature
  • Creating displays
  • Taking the next step professionally: fear vs confidence
  • My typical visit to the public library (gah)
  • Pretending to be a real librarian when I don't actually have my own real library
  • Cowboy and Octopus
  • Kiki Strike
  • Death Note
  • Random To Do Lists that will probably never actually be completed, but that may magically keep my brain from exploding in between midnight feedings because baby Vin seems to like my company best at 2:30 am.

Start where you are

I am officially the proud owner of a shiny new MLS enhanced with NYS teaching certification.  I have limited library experience, and a small bit of teaching experience.  Give me a chance, and I will give you my all!  My name’s Libby, nice to meet you.   

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my journey into 21st Century librarianship.  (Star Wars theme plays faintly in the background.) 
 Growing up isn’t always easy! 
I’ve been contemplating how to focus this blog and who to gear it towards.  What am I an expert in?  (nothing) Striving to become a school library media specialist and balancing my professional growth with the needs of my young family.  (I am Mommy of a 6 week old and 22 month old.)  I am very dedicated to both my family and my profession, and an online journal of my professional growth may be interesting to others like me.  This blog is geared toward baby teachers and baby librarians like me. 

  • Reflections on prior professional learning opportunities I have been presented with including honest admissions of my weaknesses and knowledge gaps.  I would like to use this opportunity to analyze myself and thus strive for growth.  It's scary to do this online...  as anyone can read my posts.  However I masochistically feel compelled to share my personal opportunities for growth and I don't know why.  Maybe one of my readers can learn from my errors and be better for it?  Maybe I can spark discussion that will encourage me to become the best librarian in the whole entire world!
  • Anecdotes
  • Resources I stumble upon that I find indispensable or that have been highly recommended by my colleagues.
 Please enjoy!