Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Disability Allies in the Library: An Unsolicited Rant

Tweet from Storytime Underground that says
"Librarians are not neutral and libraries are not neutral spaces"
in all capital letters.
We need to talk.

What I am about to say is a long time coming. I am far from an activist and am speaking from the heart.

So here’s the thing; we all been dealing with a lot of tragedy recently. And it really sucks. And I get that we’re all tired.




But this week a bunch of stuff happened related to the largest minority in the world, disabled people/persons with disabilities/PWD* like me.

First, a minor with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2 has decided to end her life. One thousand people attended a party hosted by her mother  to celebrate before she dies. In other words, a suicidal teen has announced her decision to commit suicide, and the adults in her life are celebrating it. Let me be clear that I am not against the right to die, but I am critical of the adults in her life, including her doctors and counselor. ThisTwitter thread by Kayla Whaley gets at my feelings about it. This is not an isolated incident.

Second, nineteen people were murdered in Japan explicitly because they are disabled.  I didn’t see this shared on my Facebook feed until 24 hours after the fact, even though I searched Facebook for it so its algorithm would know it was important to me. Conversely, I saw many people who shared the new ALS gene findings, the sharing of which reads like an in-your-face to critics of the Ice Bucket Challenge drive which just so happens to include a huge portion of the disability community (I was going to find you some links to that, but please Google it if you have questions. It is multifaceted and not the point of this post**). I’ve seen it shared on library groups and on library Facebook pages.

To me, the narratives behind these two stories and its responses are the same: disabled lives are actively seen as less than able-bodied lives, unless our lives serve to make able-bodied people feel better about themselves.

I need to ask you, library staff and librarians on the Internet, to be disability allies.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Top 5 Places to Hide and Cry at Your Library During Summer Reading (plus bonus links)

You didn't think I could make it through the entire summer just letting other people motivate everyone at WCCLS, did you? Well, I still kinda am. Back before the promised flurry of SRP was punched in the gut by mass shootings and overt injustices, I made a little *attempting to be funny* video about crying in the library.

It's first-take and there's no title cards or props or anything. I always intended to redo it, but I'm unsure I could bring the same levity to this video now:


Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Importance of Deliberate Play Opportunities for School-age Kids and Teens

In the spirit of Summer Reading, this post will be filled with completely unrelated galaxy cats.

I’ve talked about the power of play in relation to early literacy and the Babies Need Words Every Day campaign. Today, I want to talk about the importance of the deliberate use of play with school-age children and adolescents.

When we talk about play and creativity in the library, we often talk about young children. And why not? Play is one of Every Child Ready to Read’s five practices. Once children hit kindergarten, though, we talk about makerspaces. We talk about STEM. Even though these are steeped in self-discovery in the library, the overt goal is to educate. Or, at least, add to our evidence that the library helps children “learn” by the academic definition. And for good reason:  It’s clear that libraries have resonated with stake holders about their role in early literacy education. The next obvious step is to show that we make an academic difference with school-age children. Some libraries do pre- and post-tests to prove Summer Reading helps prevent the Summer Slide. I’ve created outreach with measurable alignment to State Standards.



But it’s important not to lose the very real fact that play has non-academic benefits. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may notice that even saying this signals a huge shift in my thinking over the past year or so. Down to the deepest parts of my heart and soul, I am an educator who was born out of the public school system and for all its faults I will defend what is considered a public school classroom until at least the end of this sentence, and probably after that. I will give you that it’s not for every single individual; but public education has never been about The Single Individual, anyway.

That’s why I think it may feel so critical to me that I separate the library from its possible academic benefits here.  Play has so many additional benefits, especially for school-age children and adolescents who come from backgrounds in trauma: those who live with food insecurity or transiency, those who live with toxic stress, those who live in volatile or neglectful environments. Those who may not have a space to play. Basically, a lot of the kids and teens who come into our libraries whether we’re aware of it or not.

If we wanted more deliberately center our school-age and teen programming around play in a non-academic way, what could we say to justify it?


Friday, June 10, 2016

Attention Parent Friends:The Case for Summer Reading

Google image search: "Summer". Checks out.
A lot of times, my main audience is library staff, specifically in Youth Services. Sometimes, though, I like to talk to the public in general. This post is inspired by my non-librarian friends all over the country who love to tell me when they’ve connected to their local libraries—and right now I'm getting at least weekly messages that people are signing up for Summer Reading!



PARENTS: Sign yourself and your (possibly still in utero) children up for your local library’s Summer Reading Program!

What is Summer Reading?
Summer Reading is an ongoing drop-in program happening throughout the summer across the United States (and across the northern hemisphere currently, if you want to get technical). Public libraries everywhere encourage children and families to read and engage in enriching literacy- and learning-based activities throughout the summer.  Many programs involve a reading log or game card with which your child or family can track their reading and other activities throughout the summer. At intervals throughout the summer (minutes or books read, or sheets turned in), small prizes may be awarded, sometimes with the possibility of raffles for larger prizes. Many libraries choose to giveaway a book as a final prize or even as a sign up incentive.

Throughout the summer there also fun events to attend. Think parties, carnivals, concerts, programming series with a weekly “summer camp” feel… all at your public library!

Many libraries offer Summer Reading for ages 0-adult; meaning that it starts at age zero (obviously a read-to-me program). Adults can read for prizes and/or glory too!

As with the vast majority of public library programming, funding for Summer Reading comes from general programming funds or fundraising from the Friends of the Library group, so you pay nothing to join!

Why should my family join Summer Reading?

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Summer Reading Hype Videos

Okay everyone, this is one of the most ridiculous ideas I've ever had.

I've been knocking around in my head about what to do for the awesome library staff at our member libraries for Summer Reading this year. This being my first SRP kickoff here at WCCLS, I wanted to provide them with some comfort when the going gets tough. I needed something cheap or free that could reach/impact anyone who needed it.

I started thinking about what has really helped me through tough weeks (and okay, I thought about the week of ALA specifically).

I started thinking about what really helped, and Ingrid's Summer Reading posts (try "I Got 99 Problems and They're All Related to Summer Reading") immediately came to mind: commiserative, humorous... they just felt like a big hug. My hope is to keep morale high throughout the summer. And I think that being reminded each week that youth services librarians aren't alone, and there's whole world out there of librarians also dealing with SRP, and that some of them actually took a few minutes to talk about it, it might just help a little. I was trying to think of what's gotten me through SLP and it really comes back to bookmarked posts written by other librarians about how they, too, are feeling the drag of summer reading.
And it came to me:

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Shoutout to My Negative Voice

On May 16th I presented the pre-conference “It’s Always Been Done that Way: The Conundrum of Us versus Them (and what we can do about it, maybe)” at the New Jersey Library Association Conference in Atlantic City, NJ. People ask, ‘how did it go?” I definitely do mention that I had a lot of fun, but mostly I just say “it sure did happen!”

I don’t say this to humblebrag or intentionally sell myself short. I say this because to me the best outcome was “it happened.”

Because it almost didn’t happen. Twice.

Twice I found myself with a fully written email to my wonderful NJLA contact, Sophie: the person who reached out so many months ago about crafting a proposal, the person who negotiated with me and the Conference Committee from a single session to a pre-conference + panel, the person I sent my entire presentation to in a nervous burst a few days before the conference, the person who absolutely believed in me throughout this entire process. Twice I found myself hovering over the “send” button on an email that was basically forfeiture: I cannot do this. I am sorry.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Crafting a Parent Presentation

Today you can find me at the ALSC blog talking about potential partnership opportunities with schools.Since it's written, I figured I'd share here an alternative post on something I do a lot in my job: talking to parents about the library.

Your local PTO or parent group meeting is a great place to reach local families who may not be regular library patrons.  It’s important that we librarians are able to break down the jargon and make the library an accessible community asset, as parent meetings are a great place to make connections with residents who may never have set foot in a library—or had a bad experience, and have since been scared to return.

Here are my four main components to every parent meeting presentation: