Self-auditing

Last summer, I attended the excellent AISL Summer Institute on diversifying collections (offered by the wonderful people at John Burroughs School).  During the iceberg activity (my quickly-sourced reference, not theirs), I felt a much needed slap to my privileged face to realize that when I walk into a room, people see a white, middle-aged woman. Gender and age may preoccupy my attention a bit, but thinking about my race is something that I, as a white person, am not forced to do on a constant, relentless basis.  If you’ve had any uncertainty about white privilege, THIS IS IT.

I am grateful for all that I learned at this SI and have been applying it to my senior school library. For example, an audit of the past 7 years of our summer reading program revealed a preponderance of white, male authors, so we were very intentional in having better representation in this year’s list in terms of authors and characters – the smallest of baby steps.

I’ve recently realized though that I’ve been slow to turn my eye inward – looking at the books and blogs I read, the podcasts I listen to, the social media accountsI follow. Keeping in mind that this is very much a cursory glance and I have much more work to do, here’s what I found when I dug in:

Books: while my taste runs to narrative nonfiction (heavy on anything involving food – I love reading cookbooks, the older the better), I am a high school librarian and so read quite a bit of YA. While much of it offers racial diversity, it turns out that I read more with plots involving socio-economic diversity and/or featuring LGBTQ+ characters. When it comes to race I’m still leaning heavily towards mirrors, rather than seeking out windows and sliding glass doors.  Noted and on it, with my summer goal being to alternate YA/popular fiction and NF books specifically about racism/antiracism.

Social media: I tend to use Twitter for professional development and Instagram for personal use (I have two accounts – one private, and one public).  My Twitter feed is much more racially diverse than my IG feed, so I am grateful for IG recommendations such as @ava and @cleowade. I am now following authors whose books have made a profound impact on me (@ijeomaoluo, @ibramxk). A shoutout to @monachalabi, a remarkable data journalist and artist whom I had the good fortune to hear from at this past January’s provincial library conference – the work she shares through her IG feed is superb (appalling, heart-wrenching and superb).

Podcasts: Looks like I’m pretty selective, heavily on NPR and CBC content. While their stories are fairly diverse, all of the hosts are white men. So again, I’ve been grateful for suggestions from others; as  I enjoy learning about personal finance, I am currently enjoying Frugal Chic Life and Popcorn Finance. 

The more I learn, the more I feel that what I am doing is inadequate, but the alternative is to let myself become overwhelmed and do nothing. Which I refuse to do as this is too important. I’d love to hear what you’re reading/watching/listening to – more recommendations welcome!

Roadwork Ahead

Let’s keep this one short. It’s summer, and I’m on vacation. While I’m not really going anywhere, I have been thinking about roads, and, in particular, bridges. I can’t get Road To Nowhere by The Talking Heads out of my head. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel can bring a tear to my eye, and Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers seems like an appropriate song for what can be lonely times of late. Normally this is the time of year when my family hits the roads to visit friends and family. Road trips make me think of the thrill of reading and riding along with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, but Cormac McCarthy’s The Road seems too frightening right now. Oftentimes, when one is on a road trip, one has an idea where one is headed, perhaps even with certain stops planned along the way. The road I feel like I’m on now is the sort that is shrouded in dense fog, the kind where the fog lights only illuminate the few feet ahead. Trying to see further with headlights only makes visibility more opaque, which forces a sudden surge of adrenalin and makes one pump the brakes!

The other day, while looking for something to entertain myself, I watched the movie A Bridge Too Far. (Actually, it took me two nights because I fell asleep the first night.) I was hoping, if only for a few hours, to escape the real world. This word, “bridge,” had implanted itself on my subconscious and had clearly led me to this film title. People – myself included – have been talking a lot about just needing to create a bridge from the current public health crises to a future when an effective treatment or vaccine for Covid-19 is found. It is, we all hope, a temporary situation. Of course it is! People stress that furloughs are temporary and that only short term loans and unemployment insurance are necessary to tide us over until the crisis passes. But now there is another important and long overdue challenge resurfacing – the scourge of systemic racism. This has been a bridge to equality all of us have not yet been able to cross. The bridges being discussed now are the broken ones that fail to connect cities and towns, socioeconomic classes, ideologies, and people. Actual bridges are now being occupied by protesters to highlight just the latest social injustices. So many bridges – literal, metaphorical, and cliché. A bridge loan, a Bridge to the Future, A Bridge to Nowhere, A Bridge to the 21st Century. The Edmund Pettus Bridge

I do think we’re on one side of a bridge, and I do think it will stretch to the other side. But it’s too foggy right now for me to see how long this bridge is or what’s actually on the other side. It’s disorienting. I can’t get a sense of how far we’ve come or how far we’ve got to go, and I can’t tell how far it is below. I do know that we can’t stay where we are, and I really don’t want to go back to where I was. The only hope I have – the only hope we have – is to keep progressing. If the arc of the moral universe is long and if it bends towards justice – and I believe it does – then let that arc be the bridge we take and let’s work so that it is NOT a bridge too far.

Many are speculating on what the fall and winter will be like, what our libraries and schools will be like – what will be our “new normal.” We are now asking what our country and world will be like. I have to say, while I listen to a lot of opinions, I am not putting too much stock in any one forecast. Most oddsmakers hedge their bets and I, for one, will simply do the best I can to be prepared and ready for whatever may come, but I will not attach myself to any one view until the fog lifts and I can see where my next step will land. In the meantime, wearing a mask at a Black Lives Matter march seems like a pretty good road to travel.

on library reopening plans…

Happy summer, all!

This is the time of year when I’d typically be off looking for a new restaurant in New York or searching for super cheap airline flights from New York to some exciting sounding country that I’ve never had a chance visit with the hope that I could chuck some clothes into my beat up carryon rolley bag and go on an international adventure for a week or two.

This is 2020 so, yeah, EVERYTHING’S CHANGED this year.

Any travel out of the state of Hawaii means a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon your return so this summer finds me staying put (Hello, #RockFever) doing some virtual summer school librarianship and working with committees of people developing plans for the reopening of school in August.

I am so incredibly grateful to work with a school administration that always gives our library program a seat at the table when there are decisions that need to be made that may impact our physical space, budget, or instructional programming. The thing about being included in decision-making when you are trying to make plans to respond to a pandemic is that, it takes A LOT OF MEETINGS! The reality, though, is that PLANS NEED TO BE MADE. They can be made with my input or they can be made for me. Given the choice, I am enough of a control freak that I’d rather take part in a lot of meetings and be able to help shape my program’s destiny as much as might be possible.

What follows is an in-process-kinda-ugly-doing-the-best-we-can-based-on-what-we-know-so-it-might-look-all-different-in-August snapshot of what our planning looks like for reopening our library in August #CrossesFingersAndToes

Stuff Needs to be Ordered…

My library is on an island 2500 miles away from the West Coast of the United States. We don’t have the luxury of flipping through a Demco catalog, ordering stuff, and having a truck roll up to the Facilities Management loading dock 5-7 business days later. I am incredibly grateful to have committees of really competent folk working on the vast majority of the logistical planning and procurement of supplies needed for reopening.

  • Masks and face shields – Our school will be providing 2 masks and a face shield to every student and faculty member.
  • Pexiglass shielding for our Circulation Desk – Our awesome facilities manager took care of measuring and ordering shielding that will be installed for us.
  • Pexiglass dividers for library tables – We have round tables that are 4-feet wide. We will be trying 4-way dividers that will allow students to be shielded from each other, but still able to see each other.

Some Behavioral, Policy, and Instructional Changes…

  • Entrance and exit – Given our library’s physical layout, one of the more noticeable changes that we are probably going to make is that we have traditionally had a single door for where EVERYONE entered and exited the library. Given the way that entrance is configured, we will be having people enter the library through our traditional front doors, but exit through what has always been a “Fire Exit Only” door in order to minimize shoulder-to-shoulder congestion.
  • Calculating facility capacity – A facilities committee is working to calculate our library’s “Corona capacity” for our space. When we have a number, we will work on signage and we are currently trying to figure out a the best logistical way to keep count of the number of students that enter the library during any single period. I’ve looked into electronic counters. Bi-directional counters are either incredibly expensive or highly inaccurate so we’re still figuring this one out.
  • Limiting co-mingling – It saddens me greatly, but like many of your school libraries, before and after school our library is a central meeting hub for significant numbers of students. One of the great joys of school librarianship for me is to get to know kids as they informally gather to commiserate on how hard the statistics homework was, to recap the great play their softball teammate executed, deliver the bigly romantic promposal, or to be consoled when your girlfriend just broke up with you… That’s not gonna be making a comeback in our library in the fall–at least initially. The current plan as I understand it seems to be that students will be assigned to “home base” spaces around campus to minimize gathering before school, after school, during lunch, and during free periods.
  • Temporarily changing our collection development priorities – We’ve decided to launch Overdrive Sora in the fall. Along with that change, we have decided that eBooks will make up the vast majority of our acquisitions for the next school year.
  • Bu-bye collaboration rooms – I’m thinking that it’ll be pretty unlikely that we will be able to allow students to use our group study rooms. We might be able to allow use as single occupant study rooms, but I’m guessing that getting students to maintain social distance or mask and shield use in our study rooms is just not terribly realistic.
  • Public library cards – We are in the unique position of being, I believe, the only state in the US with a single statewide library system. Our administration is supporting our efforts to better integrate Hawaii State Public Library System resources into our instructional work flows by requiring that all of our families acquire library cards for their students. This policy will give us some needed flexibility should, heaven forbid, we have to unexpectedly close campus and go back to an all virtual instructional model. We will, of course, continue to subscribe to our portfolio of databases but one thing that became clear from the world’s sudden move to emergency virtual instruction is that school libraries should be teaching the value of LIBRARIES–not just OUR SCHOOL’S library. Going forward, we will be teaching our students how to search the public library’s book and ebook collections and, when appropriate, promoting the occasional use of a public library database when it might be appropriate for a student’s specific research need.

To be Determined…

  • Minimizing High Touch Sharing – What do we do about the library desktop computers and our laptop cart? We’re a 1:1 iPad school. Sometimes classes need laptops/desktops to work on. We still haven’t figure this one out.

This is all very “up in the air” and “to be determined” and though I like flying to get when I’m traveling somewhere, neither are states that I typically love being in when it comes my work. I’d love to hear about the state of your reopening plans. Please hit comment below and share what you’re doing!

Be safe, but have wonderful summers, all!

A Tale of Two Librarians in the Roaring Twenties

I always feel recharged when I am in the company of my fellow librarians. I am inspired, humbled, and enlightened by our collective endeavors to seek and share truth, cherish and foster reading, and empower our patrons on their own journeys of knowledge whether it be for an assignment, entertainment and escape, or for a breakthrough in self-development. In these times of multiple crises and layers of turmoil I turn to my instincts as a librarian for both comfort and understanding. I have noticed that many of us in the library and publishing industry have responded to the current events of the continued injustices visited upon the Black community by compiling resources and sharing book lists about antiracism, racism and social justice. I am heartened by the overwhelming response of the public and the social media realm to seek and share these resources as reigniting the conversation about justice, equal rights and human rights. In this profession we have consistently discussed, and disseminated the importance of multiculturalism, representation, and diversity. Librarians often are at the forefront and early adopters of ideas, programs, and language that continue to promote inclusion from all voices as witnessed by concepts like #ownvoice and the “windows” and “mirrors” as a reader perspective framing device. I have learned from many of you that have written posts, compiled book lists, and held workshops how you are reflecting on diversity and conducting diversity audits of your collections. 

And for this I am grateful and enriched by this tradition and like many of you, I am using this summertime to delve into self-education and research related to diversity in libraries.There are so many lists circulating currently by writers representing #ownvoice sharing about anti-racism and injustice; I am reading these to share with my patrons, but for this forum I want revisit the history of libraries and share figures that have inspired and informed me in the field of library studies. I want to highlight two librarians that have come to my attention in the last couple of years.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Portrait of Regina Andrews” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1940. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/8785edb6-c289-51ec-e040-e00a18061a76

I have always had a fascination with the 1920s, and it is not only from this year 2020 as its centennial counterpart. Through my social media algorithms I stumbled on the following article, “The Librarian at the Nexus of the Harlem Renaissance.” My interest was immediately piqued. I had always wondered about the role individual librarians may have played in historical and cultural events. Regina Anderson Andrews was the librarian at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem during the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Her story struck a chord with me because of her avocation for the role of a librarian. She not only managed the daily duties as a 9-to-5 public librarian, she hosted a literary salon with the luminary artists and writers of the day. One of my favorite authors, Zora Neale Hurston, was mentioned as one of the working artists crashing at her place.  She was also part of this creative class as she wrote and produced plays that captured and gave voice to African American stories. The book Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian by Ethelene Whitmire further explains the career, hardships, and impact of Mrs. Andrew’s work. She also reached the stature as the first African American supervising librarian in the New York Public Library system. I admire her life’s focus on, “ the use of books as our strongest means of promoting intercultural understanding.” She was known for her library programming called “Family Night” in which she invited great thinkers and writers from differing backgrounds to share their perspectives and stories to serve her diverse and immigrant population. The book also does a thorough job of showing influential figures in the library world that I found illuminating as a springboard for further study. I consider her a model I try to emulate in my own life and work. (See more primary documents about her from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division-Digital Collections)

Clarence H. White, American, 1871–1925
Belle da Costa Greene, 1911
Platinum print
image: 23.8 x 17.1 cm (9 3/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
mat: 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)
frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.8 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/2 in.)
Princeton University Art Museum. The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

On one of my afternoon commutes from work I was listening to the Annotated podcast produced by Bookriot when the story, The World’s Most Glamorous Librarian mesmerized me. I was introduced to Belle da Costa Greene, “the most glamorous and influential librarian in early 20th Century America, who kept a life-long secret that could have ended her career.” She was the librarian for J. Pierpont Morgan, an American financier during the Gilded Age. She acquired and curated his renown collection of illuminated texts, historical documents as well as notable British and American writers’ first editions and journals for over 40 years. According to recent articles and research she had wit, allure and mystic surrounding her story because she was truly a self-made woman. She tweaked her name and evaded specific questions about her heritage. She eschewed her father’s prominence as the first African American man to graduate from Harvard in order to evade a race label. In the book An Illuminated Life: Belle da Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege historian Heidi Ardizzone Ph.D. fashions a portrait of this enigmatic intellect and her impact on New York’s high society. She is quoted as saying,“Just because I am a librarian doesn’t mean I have to dress like one.” She also defied the societal expectations of women. Her self-contrived story gives us a snapshot of the construct and constraint of race at that time, and we are still grappling with it today.

More information about about Belle

Belle da Costa Greene, the Morgan’s First Librarian and Director

The Mysterious Woman Behind J.P. Morgan’s Library

Long Time Passing

They are more than flapper librarians, but unflappable women that defied the social constructions that surrounded them. I am honored to be in the same field as these two, and I will continue to read and research the many other influential librarians from diverse backgrounds to see the fuller picture of our history. 

The following resources have lists of other Black librarians throughout our history for further study.

13 PIONEERING BLACK AMERICAN LIBRARIANS YOU OUGHTA KNOW

Honoring African American Librarians

Our Responsibility

This blog post was going to be something different. But then everything changed.

This weekend I’ve been thinking about the Library Bill of Rights. It was adopted in 1939 and amended several times. I subscribe to this every day as a librarian, and perhaps more importantly, as the Library Director, to protect the rights of all my patrons. Does this mean that sometimes I add materials that make me uncomfortable? Yes!

Why? Because there are patrons at any given time who need that book. The book that made me uncomfortable, whether due to race, religion, sexuality, or more, has the power to save lives. Perhaps for a student who finally sees themself in a book. Perhaps for a person who needed to read those words at the right time.

I am a straight, white, Jewish woman, and there are some perspectives I can never truly understand. However, I will not let that be the reason to keep a book out of a collection. Here are the Library Bill of Rights articles I keep in front of me at all times:

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

It is now even more important that we have materials in our collections that are not only inclusive, but also informative. I’m sure you’ve seen a plethora of lists lately of books we need to make sure are in our collections. Can we use this opportunity to add suggestions in the comments?

I hope we all pick up that book that makes us think. Let it open our eyes.

To read the Library Bill of Rights in its entirety, you can see it here.

Some things that made me happy…

Well, I don’t know about you, but the past couple of months have been stressful. I have a 14 month old, and my husband is a music teacher. We have spent many days playing “pass the toddler” as we go from one Zoom call to the next, try to catch up on emails, and plan for the next day or week.  As hard as it can be I do love being home with my son, but I miss my library, my students, my colleagues, and most of all, my staff.

I know that I have spent too many moments thinking about the things that I cannot do with the new constraints on my time and the support I have to give my husband throughout the day while he does his job. Therefore, I have decided to spend the time writing this blog post thinking of the things I did do, and what made me happy, during this time of uncertainty.

  • My Advisees

I have been able to meet with each of my advisees individually and as a group on a regular basis. I am thankful that we have Zoom, and that I can see their faces pop up on the screen, usually with a smile. Their positive spirits have uplifted mine throughout this time. I have met their pets, said hi to siblings and parents, and talked through what we are going through together. I am so proud of them all.

  • Planning for Summer Reading

Selecting books for our Summer Reading program has always been one of my favorite tasks. At my school, advisors for 10th, 11th, and 12th grades choose a title to read with their group. I received numerous emails this year asking for suggestions, and it is always fun to review what I have read and provide some options and advice. Talking about books makes me happy. I also worked on selecting the book for the whole 9th grade, which involved some late-night speed reading, as most of my daylight hours are dedicated to reading The Little Blue Truck and First 100 trucks and things that go (if you can’t tell, we are currently nurturing a truck obsession). Now, I am looking forward to the summer, pondering what I will read, instead of focusing on all of the cancelled events.

  • Service Learning and Tutoring Program

In addition to being the librarian, I am also the Service Learning coordinator and club sponsor at our school. When all this began, I wasn’t sure how the students would react to the new Zoom format of club meetings and if we would be able to actually continue on with some of our service projects. I needn’t have feared. At our first zoom meeting, students joined the meeting quickly and immediately began sharing ideas for how to give back and support our community safely during this time. One student came up with the idea to sell t-shirts to raise money for the local food bank. We were able to follow through with this idea by partnering with our spirit store to sell the shirts. We also delivered a meal to the local Ronald McDonald House, supporting a local restaurant in the process, and created a list of virtual service activities to share with our school.

I also help facilitate a tutoring/mentorship program between our students and a local K-5 charter school. After working with my contact there, we were able to organize a group who would be willing to participate in Zoom tutoring. For the past weeks, we met on Saturday mornings. Every time, I was so proud to see my students pop up on Zoom, ready and willing to tutor the elementary students. I put them in breakout rooms, and as I joined each group to check in, they were using the whiteboard feature to explain problems, sharing guides and playing math or reading games. It was so wonderful to see them so eager to continue to help out.

There are many more happy moments, but my time is limited and so is yours. Yet, I hope that you do take some time to reflect on what you have done that has made you happy. We librarians are a strong breed. We can get through this, together.

Recreate the cover

Inspired by the Getty museum’s challenge to recreate a masterpiece, I challenged my students to recreate book covers with things found in their homes while in quarantine. They could use their physical or digital talents to create a favorite cover. These recreations gave us so much joy during this reimagined school year. I love how they came out and I am excited to share each with you.

EDIT to include instructions for students:

Recreate a book cover with things from your home! Choose any book cover of your choice! The Middle School will vote on the top recreation from each grade who will earn an Amazon Gift Card!

I also offered this to 3rd and 4th grade without the gift card prize as an optional assignment. I included a “Making Of” time-lapse video of my own cover recreation and some examples I found online.

5D9CC62B-D320-4EBC-A56A-079B12E0434C_4_5005_c.jpeg

First up are the art pieces by our 3rd and 4th graders.

Be impressed by our 5th and 6th grade makers!

Now take a moment to enjoy our 7th and 8th grade creaters.

While I miss them immensely, being home has sparked a creativity bug in my students that has impressed me. My hope for the future of learning is that play and creativity are part of learning, too. Each student had to problem-solve for this activity. What would make the best recreation? Do I use myself or my sibling as a model? Do I create or reuse other objects to make the cover? Each student took the time to really think through their cover and this is what school needs to include, too.

Who Mentored You into Being?

Over the past few months so much that has defined us as librarians has changed: we’re away from our beloved libraries and schools; we’ve been placed in awkward digital spaces with our students and faculty or we’ve struggled to even find a place in the academic life of our schools; we won’t be able to have all those small conversations with our seniors to wish them well as they graduate and move on. These are just a few of the changes—large and small—in our professional lives. Lately, I’ve been spending time thinking about what makes a librarian a librarian and what exactly is at the heart of librarianship. I’m not sure I would be where I am right now, trying to make the best of my professional life in the midst of a global pandemic, without the support of my fellow librarians. The blog posts, the tweets, the advice and support on the Listserv, the shared documents, shared links, shared resources—they have all made a difference. Each and every day I find something that I’m grateful for as my AISL friends and other librarians think deeply about our profession and so willingly share their thoughts.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m feeling quite emotional and sentimental these days. I find myself thinking about mentors that I’ve had over the years that I want to reach out to and thank—not just for the practical skills I learned from them, but to let them know how important it was to me that they believed in me, and nurtured me, and inspired my own passion for the field of librarianship. In his acceptance speech for the 1997 Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award, Fred Rogers shared “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being.” These days I find myself thinking that we have all had those special people in our professional lives who have mentored us into being as librarians and for them, I am grateful.

In the first year of my MLS program at Southern Connecticut State University, Dr. Mary Brown and Debbie Herman, MLS were those people. In the mostly online program at Southern, Mary showed great compassion toward all of us and was one of the few faculty who took the time to make sure we understood program requirements. She stepped in as our de facto advisor—she just cared about us—and to say it made a difference would be an understatement. Many people in the program were able to walk at graduation because she posted deadlines on the Listserv reminding us to file paperwork and order our regalia. Even though we were all adults nearing graduation, I’m thankful someone more experienced was looking out for us, offering guidance, and making sure we made it to the finish line.

Mary did many small things that had a big impact on me as I juggled classes, a full-time job, and a family that included a college student and two high schoolers. She was an exacting professor who encouraged me to think about the courses in my plan of study, and when a paid internship to work with VOICES of 9/11 opened up, encouraged me to apply. She saw my interest in digital archiving and mentored me into positions that allowed me to grow personally and professionally. Most importantly, when an adjunct faculty position opened up to teach the Cultural Memorials and Digital Archives course, she was right there with a recommendation.    

When I was looking for an independent study placement the first summer I was in the program, Debbie Herman, Head of Electronic Resources and Information Systems (ERIS) at Central Connecticut State University, took me onboard even though her work space was being renovated. The department offices were in various stages of reconstruction, but she made a space for me when she could just as easily have said no. She put me to work on the Veterans History Project, then encouraged me to pick a special project to work on. That project, digitizing CCSU’s earliest yearbooks, was the beginning of their archival yearbook collection and my passion for making archives accessible.

Debbie had the vision to see something in me and mentored me in experiences that nurtured those interests. She trusted me enough that over the course of the next year, I was able to work with Wit Meesangnil (currently Digital Services Manager at Fordham University and one of the architects of LibWizard v2!) redesigning and conducting usability testing on CCSU’s library website. I mention these projects not to draw attention to myself, but to stress how willing Mary and Debbie were to mentor me, to make space for me to work on real-life projects and to grow into the profession. I think back to how insecure I was around people who did their jobs with ease, about my own ability to do any of these jobs well, and how crucial their belief in me was to my development as a librarian: they mentored me into being the librarian I am today and I am thankful to them both. 

So as this wild ride of a school year comes to a close, I hope we all take a few minutes to think of and perhaps reach out to those who have mentored us into being as librarians and to continue the wonderful work we all do as AISL librarians mentoring others.

What’s on Your To-Do List?

I love to-do lists. I love the feeling of organizing my brain while making a list and the satisfaction I feel while crossing items off as I go. On Fridays I usually make a weekend list, and on Monday mornings I make a list for the work week. This school year I have also been using Google Keep to make not only my weekly lists, but also my broader, to-do at some point lists, and narrow lists for particular projects and collaborations. I love Google Keep, and I am trying to use it to keep track of much of my work life, although I also have a spiral bound notebook on my desk during remote learning for new items that come up. Again, I love lists.

My home workspace

But the list I keep finding myself working on now is my summer goals list. I don’t really have to work during the summer, but of course I always do. I plan, order materials, design orientations, and improve access to resources. I make lists. But what to do this unusual summer? I don’t even know what will be happening in the fall. Do I order print books? Invest more in databases?  Here are some broad goals from my Google Keep lists to share with you.

  1. Watch the AISL zoom meetings that I missed in person. I always get a couple items from my lists at those!
  2. Learn to use the library sewing machine. We bought a sewing machine a few years ago and the kids sometimes use it for small projects. Our library assistant knows how to use it but I never learned. Now may be my moment, so I brought it home. This is a goal really for myself, as I really don’t know if kids will be coming in to use our maker tools in the next academic year. But it gives me time to get really good at it!
  3. Learn to make better instructional videos and brand them. Camtasia has a template feature which makes it really easy to add intros and brand elements to all your videos. I want to do that and make the library YouTube channel full of (better) help videos to insert into LibGuides.
  4. Once again, I need to reorganize my LibGuides, maybe even adding something like LibAnswers for chat reference. This time, the reorganization could better highlight my new fabulous videos, but also highlight our online resources and how to use them in remote learning more easily. 
  5. Work with my team to make processes for a potential reopening. This is already happening, but we don’t know when it will be implemented. We have been gathering resources – more lists!

What are your goals for this summer? What is on your list?

Closing the Distance with Fine Arts Week

Art by Lily Stankowski (AOS class of 2020).

In a time of quarantine, people are starving for stimulation and connection. A feeling of ennui can overshadow us, and a sense of isolation can harm bonds within communities. Our school found a way to reach out to our community and close the distance through a virtual celebration of Fine Arts. Why are Fine Arts so vital to a school community? A university art professor once explained to me that to better understand aesthetics, consider the opposite, anaesthetics.  Anaesthetics deaden the senses, while aesthetics awaken the senses. We can use Fine Arts to shake us from our deflated moods, enliven our sensibilities, and strengthen a feeling of connectedness. 

Each year, our Fine Arts week includes music, choral, and drama performances, and the library contributes by hosting a Poetry Slam that showcases creative writing pieces selected for our Literary Magazine. Faced with school closure and Distance Learning, our Fine Arts week was
“Reimagined” through a series of digital portals to sample Fine Arts offerings. Here is an example menu of items for our community to sample:

Several digital tools were used to feature daily events:

  • FlipGrid https://info.flipgrid.com/–a free resource for educators, curated individual student videos for both the Poetry Slam and Pop Up Performances. The individual videos were assembled in interactive grids so that families could sample performances.
  • A digital Flipbook software converted the pdf of our Literary Magazine into an interactive view of the featured writing and art.
  • Vidigami was used to create a virtual art gallery, with folders of artwork sorted by grade level.
  • Spotify playlists provided music for students to enjoy during breaks in their school day.
  • Adobe Premiere Pro was used to set up grid views of multiple video clips, so that choral students were able to be heard singing individual parts in unison. 
  • Recordings of student theater productions became encore performances that families could view to enjoy memorable moments from our school musicals and one-act play.

Range of Ages, Cultures, and Voices

Seeing the range of talent from grades K-8 was heartwarming.  In the Virtual Art Gallery, a Kindergartener’s colorful collage sparked joy while colorful landscapes by 7th and 8th graders evoked moods of calm in a field of flowers or sunsets or celebrated the power of nature in vibrant scenes of mountains and seascapes. Popup performances showcased the enthusiastic talents of young pianists as well as displaying the astounding musical prowess of an 8th graders’ rendition of Hadyn’s Sonata. Families and cultures were also featured as a trio of siblings sang a Broadway tune and an 8th grader, her mother, and grandmother performed the Bharatanatyam in a split-screen view. Choral performances were synced in a grid view so that individual voices sang in unison. In the virtual Poetry Slam, a range of student voices were on display: whether travel writing (sharing the excitement of a trip to New York or cultural connections with families in Greece or India); nature writing (sharing the curious wonders of the Bayou); science writing (celebrating the discoveries made possible by the Hubble Telescope); fantasy (a shrinking curse plagues the royal members of a castle); science fiction (unknown terrors lurking in a trip through the Bermuda Triangle); or through personal essays (do you identify yourself with Gen Z or as a sixty-year-old man?). Musicals lit up computer screens in the evening as families gathered to watch videos of student musicals.

Art by Alexandra Madrid (AOS class of 2020).

Closing the Distance

This time of social distancing provokes a range of concerns. Some thoughts expressed in Zines by 7th graders described the sense of living in a “Backwards World,” the strange sensation of attending school on a computer screen and dreading the long summer, rather than looking forward to it. One student mentioned the mundane repetitiveness of life, that life is without “flare,”  while another student expressed a sense of  longing–she could “see” her friends in GoogleMeet, but had to “mask” her sense of loneliness. Our Fine Arts Week was an opportunity for students and families to experience how art in all its forms can close the distance, stir the emotions, celebrate our creativity, and affirm that we are a community that can connect, even in times of isolation.