There is a LION in the LIBRARY: My love affair with picture books continues

extrayarnTuesday was Veterans’ Day, and the library was closed. A librarian friend was in town, so what did we do? Went to bookstores, of course. This friend is a children’s librarian, so naturally we ended up in the picture book section, discovering new titles and sharing our favorites. She read Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s newest, Sam and Dave Dig A Hole, but I decided to wait for the library copy to come in so I could read it with my husband. (He’s hooked now too. We just read Barnett and Klassen’s Extra Yarn and loved it.)

tangomakes3I tried Paul Schmid’s Oliver and His Egg again, but I still didn’t love it as much as Oliver and His Alligator, one of my all-time favorites (“…a lady who was NOT his mom…”). I finally read And Tango Makes Three, the oft-banned nonfiction book about penguins in the Central Park Zoo, and thought it did a beautiful job telling the story in a straightforward way. (The illustrations of the fuzzy-headed baby penguins didn’t hurt, either.) I discovered Marcel the Shell in print (The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been), and Birgitta Sif’s Oliver, about a little boy whose only friends are toys and puppets…until he chases his tennis ball into another little girl’s yard and finds someone who’s different in the same way he is.

meerkatmailAt home, we’ve been on an Emily Gravett (Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear) kick; my favorites so far are The Odd Egg and Meerkat Mail. The latter might be the first epistolary book I’ve seen for the picture book crowd: Sunny the meerkat goes visiting relatives and sends postcards home to his family.

Before Gravett’s books, I brought home a stack of Peter Reynolds’ books, after seeing him speak at this year’s NELA conference. We both loved The Dot and Ish, colorful books with lots of white space that encourage readers to let their creative and artistic sides flourish.

Reading picture books as a grown-up is different from reading them as a kid (or having them read to you), when pattern and rhyme are particularly important. As an adult reader of picture books, I like a blend of cute, funny, and sincere: too much of one quality and not enough of the others makes the book less enticing to me. (However, I remember reading Patricia Polacco’s The Keeping Quilt and Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw’s Love You Forever as a kid and not finding them cloying at all – though Love You Forever did make my parents tear up. And don’t even mention Bob and Jack: A Boy and his Yak by Jeff Moss and Chris Demarest to my father unless you want to see a grown man cry.)

journeyThe best books are those that maintain their appeal, reading after reading. One way to achieve this lasting appeal is by making the reader do the work: books with minimal text, such as David Wiesner’s Mr. Wuffles and Aaron Becker’s Journey,¬†let the reader narrate from the illustrations alone. The story can change from reading to reading, depending on who is reading it. (Mr. Wuffles can get particularly vehement at our house.)

Stories that encourage a lot of expression in the reader, and reaction or participation in the listener, are also sturdy favorites; one of these is Bark, George! by Jules Feiffer, which always seems to be checked out of the library. George is a dog, but instead of barking, he meows, quacks, and moos. George’s mom hauls him to the doctor/vet, who reaches deep down inside George and pulls out the true cause of George’s curious sounds. George’s mom’s mounting frustration and surprise, and George’s own innocent surprise, make this book a favorite, even before the ending – but I won’t ruin it for you. Read it yourself!

librarylionGot any favorite picture books I haven’t mentioned here (or here)? Please share in the comments.

The title of this post comes from Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes’ book Library Lion, which should be the default graduation gift for any library school student.

Nothing to hide: Readers’ rights to privacy and confidentiality

One of the first arguments that comes up in the privacy debate – whether the issue at hand is a police search of your vehicle or Amazon keeping a record of every Kindle book you read – is that only people who have “something to hide” care about privacy.

To say this is disingenuous, and if the people who made this argument thought for even five minutes, I bet they could come up with a few things about their lives that aren’t illegal, or even morally or ethically wrong, but that they’d like to keep private anyway. Let’s consider the issue of library books, and what the books you check out may reveal about you. (Notice The Anarchist Cookbook is not on the following list. I don’t know the statistics about where terrorists get their bomb-making instructions, but I doubt most of it comes from the public library. There’s this thing called the Internet, you see.)

  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting, or other books that might indicate you’re trying to start a family before you’ve told anyone else.
  • Cracking the New GRE, or other test-prep books for grad school or a planned career change you aren’t ready to tell your current boss about.
  • Managing Your Depression, The Lahey Clinic Guide to Cooking Through Cancer, or other books about medical conditions you or someone close to you may be experiencing.
  • Bankruptcy for Small Business Owners might prove worrisome to your clients or your bank.
  • The Guide to Getting It On, or any books on the topics of sexuality, sexual health, safe sex, etc. (In many libraries, kids can get their own library cards at a young age, and parents aren’t allowed to monitor their accounts.) See also: It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, Creating a Life Worth Living, or Transgender Lives, etc.
  • God Is Not Great or other anti-religious texts would likely be poorly received if you’re part of a religious family or community.
  • A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps, or other books about personal struggle and recovery.
  • How to Buy a House; How to Sell A House, or other real estate books when you haven’t told anyone you’re thinking of moving.

These are just a few examples of information that people might justifiably want to keep personal and private, but not because of any wrongdoing. And this is why librarians strive to protect patron privacy.

“We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.” -ALA Code of Ethics

11/1/14 Edited to add: This short graphic novel about privacy and technology from Al Jazeera America expands this idea, looking not just at people’s reading history but about all the information they share, voluntarily or not. Thanks to Library Link of the Day for the link.

"Even if you have nothing bad to hide, giving up privacy can mean giving up power over your life story and competing with others for control."

“Even if you have nothing bad to hide, giving up privacy can mean giving up power over your life story and competing with others for control.”

 

TOS42

“Maybe we’ve been given a false choice between opting in and giving up control over how that information is used–” “–between sharing and being left out.”

11/3/14 Edited to add: Kevin O’Kelly from the Somerville Public Library reminded me of Glenn Greenwald’s excellent TED Talk, “Why Privacy Matters.” In it, Greenwald says, “People who say that…privacy isn’t really important, they don’t actually believe it, and the way you know that they don’t actually believe it is that while they say with their words that privacy doesn’t matter, with their actions, they take all kinds of steps to safeguard their privacy. They put passwords on their email and their social media accounts, they put locks on their bedroom and bathroom doors, all steps designed to prevent other people from entering what they consider their private realm and knowing what it is that they don’t want other people to know.

And also: “We as human beings, even those of us who in words disclaim the importance of our own privacy, instinctively understand the profound importance of it. It is true that as human beings, we’re social animals, which means we have a need for other people to know what we’re doing and saying and thinking, which is why we voluntarily publish information about ourselves online. But equally essential to what it means to be a free and fulfilled human being is to have a place that we can go and be free of the judgmental eyes of other people.”

Greenwald is the author of No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. surveillance state (2014). His TED talk is well worth 20 minutes of your time.

 

E-books in libraries: a snapshot of publishers’ models

The good news: E-books are available to library users in most places for free (well, you know, taxes, but only a very tiny amount of the taxes you pay actually go to supporting the library [PDF]. We do a lot with a little).

The other news: E-books are still mostly only available to one person at a time (the “one copy, one user” model); the physical restrictions of print books are artificially imposed on e-books, despite the fact that the technological capability exists for an unlimited number of people to read an e-book at one time (the “simultaneous use” model). To enforce the 1C1U model, e-books come wrapped in Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology; enter private, third-party vendors in all their clunky, privacy-invading glory.

But at least e-books are cheap, right? Not to libraries, they aren’t. While consumers often see deals on e-books, and prices are generally lower than print books, libraries get gouged. Depending on the publisher’s model (see below), prices for a single 1C1U book may be as high as $90.

A note: I appreciate that publishers are dipping their toes into strange and scary waters with the whole e-book thing, and that no transition is without hiccups. I also believe that books have value, whether they’re printed on paper or in e-ink; what you’re paying for isn’t the dead tree matter, but the work of the author and editor, as well as the other services publishers provide, like publicity, marketing, and distribution.

On the other hand, it would be nice if publishers, in turn, recognized libraries’ role in the book ecosystem: we are both customers (there are more libraries in the U.S. than McDonalds, and we buy a lot of books) and promoters. Readers discover new books and authors at the library, and often go on to purchase those books.

Publishers and libraries share the goal of getting books into readers’ hands, or onto their e-readers. But it can be frustrating for librarians to buy e-books for their libraries, not least because every publisher has a different set of lending rules. In Overdrive, for example – the third-party e-book vendor that the Minuteman Library Network uses – here’s what we’ve got from the “Big Six” publishers (Penguin and Random House have merged, but still retain different models), all of which only offer the 1C1U model:

HarperCollins: 26 checkouts, then the book expires and needs to be “purchased” (licensed) all over again.

Penguin: 1 year of unlimited downloads (“unlimited” in the sense that there isn’t a 26-checkout cap like HC, but it’s still a 1C1U model)

Random House: Books do not expire, but are very expensive.

Macmillan: 2 years or 52 checkouts, whichever comes first. Previously, Macmillan would only sell to individual libraries, but recently they have made their titles available to consortia.

Hachette: Books do not expire, but are only available to individual libraries, not consortia.

Simon & Schuster: 1 year, and requires the added “feature” of a “Buy It Now”* button, so readers who don’t want to wait in line for the e-book from the library can choose to buy it from another service instead.

*The add-BIN-or-no-books-for-you blackmail was not received well at all by librarians. Personally, I am much more concerned about Amazon collecting reading data from Kindle users, and Adobe collecting data from everyone; it’s an invasion of privacy with no choice to opt out, whereas the BIN button does not cause users to purchase a book accidentally if they only mean to borrow. Protecting patrons’ privacy and confidentiality is a core value of librarianship.

Another core value is resource sharing, which makes some publishers’ refusal to sell to consortia particularly aggravating. (The books are the same price regardless.) Being part of a larger network of libraries offers tremendous advantages to the people we serve. It allows libraries to specialize somewhat, by developing a foreign language collection, for example, and eases some of the “a lot with a little” burden. (Academic libraries face the problem of not being able to share digital materials because of publisher and vendor restrictions as well, which is a threat to the InterLibrary Loan (ILL) system on which they rely.)

So that’s a little snapshot of where we are now, at least those of us using Overdrive as a vendor. There are those who are trying to break out of this mold (e.g. the Douglas County Libraries, and now the Massachusetts State E-book Project), and their efforts are admirable, especially considering the significant hurdles they face. It may be a brave new world, but it has librarians in it.

NELA 2014: The Youngish Leader on Changing Direction

Stand Up and Shout: The Youngish Leader on Changing Direction, Zach Newell and Peter Struzziero (Monday, 4:30pm)

Peter and Zach presented a polished talk on some of the challenges of being a young leader in libraries. Peter is the director of the Winthrop Public Library (MA), and Zach is the Humanities Librarian at Salem State University (MA). In addition to their experience in NELLS (the New England Library Leadership Symposium), both have been involved on several committees at the local, state, and regional levels; this is one way to acquire leadership experience as library staffs shrink and the middle management level disappears. With little or no middle management, the route to the top is quicker, but people aren’t always excited to step up; they may fear they’re underqualified, or they may not want a different job than the one they have. However, Zach and Peter pointed out, younger/newer librarians can use other experiences and committee work as leadership training, and they can learn on the job by listening and observing.

Being a library director is “a different job from librarianship” – you’re removed from the “front lines,” and have to deal with things like union negotiations, staff issues, the budget, statistics, old buildings, new websites, and new programs. As Zach said, “We never stop to admire a job well done, because it’s never done.” (While it’s true that we’re always working toward our goals, I do think there’s time to appreciate progress and achievement.)

Advice:

  • Building relationships is essential; communicate with staff and with others in the town and community, even/especially when you don’t need anything from them.
  • Get involved in the community. Be a familiar friendly face. Go to Town Hall meetings.
  • Take risks to make positive change.
  • Recruit good Trustees, and build a Friends group if there isn’t one (or if they all quit on you…)
  • Get involved in your town library board (if you live in a different town than the one you work in)
  • Collect before-and-after stats to illustrate progress; “the proof is in the pudding.”
  • Consider the future of libraries, but also YOUR future.
  • Look at job postings for library director jobs, even if you don’t feel ready yet. See what skills and abilities are required. (“You may be ready now, even if you don’t feel ready. You never feel ready.”)
  • There are lots of places to acquire MBA skills without actually getting an MBA. Try edX, lynda.com, and TED talks; ask for informational interviews. There are also NELA and ALA (ALSC, YALSA, NMRT) mentoring programs.

Tweets from the session:

NELAtweet3NELAtweet4NELAtweets5

Citations and references:

Are you a library leader? What’s your #1 tip? Share in the comments.

NELA 2014: Library Corps of Adventure

Library Corps of Adventure! Looking at Libraries Across the Lewis & Clark Trail, Mary Wilkins Jordan (Monday, 2pm)

This presentation had very little to do with my day-to-day work at my library, but it’s good to go to at least one of those sessions during a conference. Mary Wilkins Jordan is a popular professor at the Simmons School of Library and Information Science (SLIS, formerly GSLIS), and she didn’t disappoint in this session. As we wandered virtually along the Lewis and Clark trail (not really just one trail, it turns out), Mary covered the following:

  • Coming up with the idea: she ended up driving more than 10,000 miles across ten states in three months
  • Obtaining funding: a Kickstarter plan failed, but the word got out to library listservs across the country, and librarians – surprise! – were happy to help
  • Researching libraries, museums, and historical sites along the trail
  • Planning, packing, preparation (including logistical hurdles like “no car”)
  • Her trusty GPS, Jane, and the danger of accidentally turning off the “stay on paved roads” option
  • The cool libraries she found along the way, including at least one with cats available for checkout (Someone on Twitter responded to this news: “Wait…living cats?!” Yes. Living cats. They had barcodes on their collars.)
  • The difference between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams and private dams*
  • A library with plexiglass-esque floors (Actual question from the audience: “Does everyone wear pants at that library?” Answer: Yes, but that may be coincidence – the floors aren’t actually see-through.)
  • The different information needs that people have in different areas, and how that information is communicated
  • Seeing ALA’s summer reading theme (Fizz Boom Read) in action in libraries from Missouri to Oregon
  • Seeing a community get into the “Geek the Library” campaign
  • Encountering new topography (“Everything in Washington is up a very steep hill. I don’t know how they do it but everything is uphill”) and dangers (“An interesting thing about the West is that it catches on fire ALL THE TIME”)
  • Observing that libraries are struggling for funding, but still doing great things in their communities
  • The importance of seeking better information, not just accepting the first information you find. (Seek better information, find cleaner bathrooms!)
  • Interesting facts about Lewis and Clark’s traveling party (“Everyone lived. Everyone but one guy. He died of appendicitis. It was no one’s fault”)
  • Photos of various historical sites along the way
  • The lack of diversity in library staff
  • The different ways libraries are working in and with their communities (“Community involvement is critical”)

*I made a terrible, obvious pun about this on Twitter, to which the US ACE responded:

USACEtweet1USACEtweet2

 

Mary’s talk was entertaining, and she said she’s planning to write a book about her experience, so stay tuned. The data analysis stage, apparently, is less fun than the travel stage, but she’s looking at the size of communities she visited, how many libraries were Carnegie buildings, how many and what kind of programs they offer, and whether or not they have a strategic plan.

“Everything is amazingly beautiful.”

One of the unique things about working in a library is the opportunity to visit other libraries to see what they do differently and what’s the same. If you have a job in a regular office, you probably don’t see a lot of other people’s offices, or at least you have to make an appointment with someone to do so. With libraries, you can just walk in and look around anytime they’re open. (As Gina Sheridan says, “What makes a public library amazing is that we welcome everyone. Everyone!”) I like to visit other local libraries when I can, and I try to visit libraries when I’m traveling as well, but I’ve never made an official project out of it (though I do enjoy stealing cool display ideas). Vermont librarian Jessamyn West, on the other hand, is working on such a project: she’s going to visit all 183 of Vermont’s libraries, and Mary’s project reminded me a little bit of hers.

Are you a library tourist? What are some of the coolest/strangest things you’ve seen in libraries?

NELA 2014: Peter H. Reynolds

thedotPicture book author and Massachusetts local Peter H. Reynolds spoke at the New England Roundtable of Teen and Children’s Librarians (NERTCL) luncheon on Monday at 12:30. He gave a very engaging presentation, including slides and video, and he did an original drawing that was raffled off at the end of his talk (see easel in photo below).

Though I love picture books, I hadn’t encountered The Dot before – or Ish or The North Star – but now I’m a fan. Reynolds’ books are colorful, and they celebrate art and creativity in a way that doesn’t bang the reader over the head with a moral.

He’s also very quotable:

  • “Art is one of the last playgrounds we have left.”
  • “Story is one of the most powerful technologies we have.”
  • “Creativity needs funding.” Tell your policymakers! Turn STEM into STEAM*, and remember that creativity isn’t confined to art class – it should be encouraged in other subjects too.
  • “Vision: to be able to see something before it exists.”
  • Ask kids: “Who are you?” and “Who do you want to be?” Remember those are two different questions. Tell them, “You are not the test score. You are not the data.”

*Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics

peterhreynolds

Peter H. Reynolds at the NERTCL luncheon at NELA, Boxborough, MA, October 20, 2014.

 

NELA 2014: Programming for Millennials

Cross-posted at the NELA conference blog.

Mixing It Up for Millennials: Library Programming for 20- and 30-Somethings  (11am)

In this panel presentation, three librarians shared their experiences creating library programs to attract that elusive 20s-30s age group. Carol Luers Eyman from the Nashua Public Library (NH) presented “A Night Out for 20-Somethings,” an after-hours event at the library where 20-somethings could meet each other and see what the city’s community groups and organizations had to offer. The event was from 6:30-8:30pm on a Friday night (after work, but “before the real parties started”). There was no alcohol, but library staff made the space look less “institutional” with tablecloths, (fake) candles, couches and chairs, a piano player, and refreshments. To promote the event, they went above and beyond the usual press release, contacting new teachers, young journalists, personal acquaintances, young library employees, older library employees’ kids, etc.; they also extracted patron e-mail addresses in the 20-29 age range and sent one e-mail notification. The “Night Out” attracted 62 attendees (not including the 39 who just wanted to get into the library, not there for the event).

“Make programming social.”

getlit_haverhillSarah Moser is in charge of programming for adults at the Haverhill Public Library (MA), and she said, “You never really know what is going to attract this group.” Art and music programs have done well; a Scrabble tournament and a community writers program flopped. The most successful regular program is the monthly book club, Get Lit. The library established a partnership with a local restaurant, the Barking Dog Ale House, where the group meets one Thursday evening each month. Holding the library program outside the library removes preconceptions about the library, and creates a looser social environment. Moser has had success in reaching out to authors on Twitter, where they are happy to re-tweet about book club events, and the group regularly attracts 10-15 people.

Kelley Rae Unger (Peabody Institute Library, MA), a former YA librarian, brought the concept of the Teen Advisory Board (TAB) to the realm of adult programming; she organized a 15-person focus group and created an Adult Programming Advisory Board, which meets 3-4 times a year; there is a mix of ages, interests, and genders. There was less enthusiasm for one-time or one-shot events, and more interest in multi-week or repeating events. Everyone on staff at Peabody runs some programming, in line with their interests (“teach what you know”), which include coffee roasting and beer brewing; volunteers from the community run programs also. They are active grant writers, and have funded many programs through grants. They have offered book clubs, programs about budget travel, a film discussion group, and cooking classes; in their Creativity Lab makerspace, they have offered silk screening, 3D printing, computer programming, Arduino, and woodworking. People register for events online, and events are promoted through a Constant Contact newsletter and the facebook page. Instruction is always free, though attendees may need to provide their own materials.

“If you own this story, you get to write the ending.” -Brene Brown

Not every program intended to attract people in their 20s and 30s will do so, but that doesn’t mean libraries should give up on this demographic. Involve community members in brainstorming, planning, and teaching; reach out and form partnerships with organizations and businesses in the community; and advertise creatively.

What cool library programs have you had? Share ideas in the comments.