Project Energize

 

At the end of the school year, I find that I’ve made lists upon lists upon lists of the projects I want to do during the summer: tweak the scope and sequence; create new videos and games for library instruction; learn new apps and smash them to bits; read my way through lists of the best so far this year; and on and on and on. I love my job. I want to do it to the best of my ability. But I have finally realized that if I don’t take some time to recharge my batteries, I will limp along to the beginning of the next school year, no more refreshed than when I ended. If you will bear with me, I’d like to present several ‘finds’ I use to energize myself over my summer break.

Find Humor

In this current political climate, social media can be especially stressful. Most of us may have two social media accounts: one for personal use and one for professional development. This summer I am looking for images, tweets and pages that feature humor (and animals) to balance out some of the vitriol that also rides along in these accounts.  Some of my favorites (which can be found in most major formats) are “Fake Library statistics” (@fakelibstats), I’ve Pet that Dog (@ivepetthatdog) and anything featuring cats (or hedgehogs or manatees or add your favorite animal here!). I found I lost a lot of time but gained some deep belly laughs this holiday week with Twitter’s #secondcivilwarletters.  For example, chance@pkrandall, wrote:

“Our espresso machine is broken and our supply of Starbucks singles is running thin. Our avocado ration is cut in half and there’s a 10-minute wait for a charging port. Sherman was right: War Is Hell. Sent by my iPhone “

As Abraham Lincoln noted, “…If I did not laugh, I should die.” I have several comedies queued up on Netflix, some great funny reads in my pile, and a few dates with friends stamped in my calendar.  I find a good belly laugh at least once a day during the summer feeds me. What tickles your funny bone?

 

Find Wonder

National Geographic and NASA Instagram feeds showcase some of the most amazing photography available. I also subscribe to several authors that showcase work in progress, making me feel part of their creative process. Spending time outside everyday is important, even if it’s just watching clouds as they go by, or enjoying the lightshow of ladybugs. If you’re lucky enough to have a beach or a creek bank near you, spending time just watching the water burble pass or crash on a shore allows wonder to come to the surface. For me, wonder is awareness with gratitude. It can be found in nature or in the kindness we show to strangers.  Keeping an ever watchful eye out for instances of wonder feeds me for when I feel life flows too fast. These are ways that I find wonder. How do you find it? Can you be more intentional in finding wonder in the midst of this human comedy?

Here we see the spectacular cosmic pairing of the star Hen 2-427 — more commonly known as WR 124 — and the nebula M1-67 which surrounds it. Both objects, captured here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope are found in the constellation of Sagittarius and lie 15 000 light-years away. The star Hen 2-427 shines brightly at the very centre of this explosive image and around the hot clumps of gas are ejected into space at over 150 000 kilometres per hour. Hen 2-427 is a Wolf–Rayet star, named after the astronomers Charles Wolf and Georges Rayet. Wolf–Rayet are super-hot stars characterised by a fierce ejection of mass. The nebula M1-67 is estimated to be no more than 10 000 years old — just a baby in astronomical terms — but what a beautiful and magnificent sight it makes. A version of this image was released in 1998, but has now been re-reduced with the latest software.

 

Find Curiosity

Summer is the time when I let my curiosity freak fly. Pinterest. How many times have you climbed into that platform only to discover an hour has flown by? Now’s the season to indulge yourself with no guilt. You can follow those pins to where ever your curious mind wanders. Bookstores? My phone is out and snapping pictures of books and displays. Bonus points if there’s a bookstore mascot of the animal variety. Public Libraries. Busman’s holiday! I may not be able to take any books out but I can peruse their shelves, check out the signage, grab promotional literature and check out programs. Summer is the time to explore interests that you may subjugate during the school year. A friend of mine decided to try woodworking with no previous experience. A beautiful mixed wood cutting board was her reward. Where will your curiosity lead you?

 

Sometimes the best way to find something is to stop looking for it. I find when I fill myself with humor, curiosity and wonder, important projects get the energy they need to progress and the warm breezes of summer blow away the busy work that filled my in box. Have a wonderful, restful summer full of humor, curiosity and wonder.

Affective Labor is Real: A Librarian’s Guide to Navigating #NeverAgain

Guest Post by Elaine Levia

Emma Gonzalez with mosaic of slogans (art by Serena May Illescas) uploaded by Flickr user Vince Reinhart, shared under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Here we are.

It is hard for me to write that only the most recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have inspired this post. We’ve been inundated with stories of  gun violence in and out of schools far longer than we care to admit.  I was in elementary school when the Columbine massacre took place. Even in relative safety, I grew up learning to regard gun violence in schools not as incidents isolated by time and space, but as looming threats that would eventually happen to me or someone I knew.

Now, as a school librarian, I feel favorably positioned to approach the work of compiling resources for general and practical support in the current unfolding of violent events. We sit in a favorable seat because of our roles, adjacent to students as teachers are, but also as de facto counselors, confidants, advisors, and affective laborers of all stripes. Affective labor is the critical feminist term for work in the service or care of others, either emotionally or physically. It came about as a response to the invisibility of immaterial labor, and has even been explored in the context of academic libraries. You might be wondering, as I have wondered recently, how to broach the interconnected pieces of school shootings with students in a clear-cut way. How might we balance responsible reactions to unthinkable trauma within our training level and expertise? How might we support students in a time of anger, sadness, political fervor, and need?

I am reassured by the old refrain, shared often as comfort with me by my own mother, who also happens to be a librarian. We don’t need to have all the answers. We just need to be the connection. Today I want to share some thoughts and resources that have helped me figure out my personal role in the sea change, and I will ask for your help with one small action: consider this the crystallization, the reification of all the emotional, seemingly invisible duties of a school librarian. We’re already tasked with doing more with less, but I hope that the following few tips and resources provide a wide variety of inclusive practices for the toolkit. Moreover, I hope that a dedicated space for support and discussion within our community proves fruitful and restorative. The care of minds and bodies of others, particularly our students, is a borderless, ever-expanding pursuit. We can only do it so well when we’re able to lean on our community for support.

Additionally, I’m interested in your resources. I’ve started a public document, which you may notice at the time of posting is still in its nascent phase. Please feel free to contribute books, podcasts, training resources, tech tools, or timely articles.

Read on for some ideas about the connections we can make between the prevalence of gun violence, mental health, activism, and diversity & inclusion work.

Continue reading

Shining a light

While southern Ontario can hardly be considered the Great White North, we do have cold, dark winter months, so we have a number of initiatives to try and keep student spirits up.

Our administration is enthusiastically supporting a few ‘sleep-ins’ (where classes begin at 10am), our prefects have launched some great events for Spirit Week and our library has been experimenting with light therapy. It kept coming up on my radar through professional journals and social media, as light therapy lamps have been shown to help with lifting mood (and in more formal settings than ours, combatting seasonal depression).  With our library open 11+ supervised hours on most days, it offers a comfortable and supervised location for use of a light therapy lamp.  Before purchase, we consulted with both our Dean of Academic & Student Support and our Director of Health Services, both of whom are in full support.

Based on recommendations from 2 public libraries who’ve had light therapy lamps in use for over a year (and found a floor model more flexible), we chose this model http://northernlighttechnologies.com/sad-light-store/flamingo-floor-lamp  We’ve had ours in use for 3 months now, located beside some of our soft seating. We laminated the information sheet that came with the lamp and keep it immediately adjacent. If we notice that someone has turned it on but doesn’t have the light shining directly on their face, we will suggest they re-position (as per the information sheet).

As the lamp is located near our staff desk, we don’t monitor use, although we do notice who is using it regularly. Interestingly enough, it has been exclusively female students who are taking advantage of this resource in our co-ed school. Recently, I sat down with a female boarding student in Grade 11 who uses the lamp regularly:

  • She heard our announcement about the lamp in chapel, and so sought it out, using it
    while doing work during her spares
  • While she hadn’t used one before, she was familiar with light therapy as her mom uses a lamp at home
  • Rather than use it to lift her mood (as I know is the case for at least 2 other users), she finds that it helps her focus better when studying

While it’s entirely possible that there is a placebo effect for those who use it at less than a therapeutic level (ideally a minimum of 15 min/day, every day or alternate days), the lamp does seem to be providing benefit to some of our users. We will continue promoting it: writing this article has made me realize that I need to add a tab about the lamp on our LibGuides webpage (similar to TPL). This would provide us with an opportunity to direct users to other resources at our school that can help with keeping healthy (food services, housemasters, peer support, health centre, etc).

Now to figure out the gender issue….

When will I finally…

I don’t know about all of you, but I do not feel I have fully mastered the whole getting-it-all-done-and-with-flair-too thing. With every new school year, I feel that sense of excitement and promise and opportunity, and then, “How is it already Banned Books Week!?!”

As much as I am fascinated by time management strategies and tools (really, in spite of myself, I am), it’s still something I feel that I struggle with. I don’t think I’m alone considering all of the time management webinars, apps, conference presentations, articles, and books I’ve come across geared specifically toward librarians, even school librarians. Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done (Business Plus, 2011) spoke at AASL four years ago. All of this is reassuring and disheartening at the same time. Has anyone figured this out? If they haven’t, how will I? Or, if they haven’t, can I stop worrying and just get on with it?

In searching my tags and folders for the many resources I’ve collected and bookmarked on this topic, I found two things, one of which I remembered writing, the other I did not. About three years ago, I was feeling that I had multiple competing priorities at school and, except for those tasks that called for my immediate attention, I was feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start.  I sketched out a general plan for figuring out what to work on when, and it still helps if I’m feeling a little adrift during the day in between students’ questions. (I would REALLY like to know how all of you out there have handled this.)

Well, here it is:

  • Monday: Curriculum, lesson planning
  • Tuesday: LibGuides/curation
  • Wednesday: Professional development
  • Thursday: Collection management, book reviews
  • Friday: catch-up, yearbook, peer tutoring, Cum Laude Society, etc.

The other thing I found was a draft of a blog post (for a now defunct blog) I wrote on this topic — five years ago! And guess what; the guilt and frustration and specific items that I feel are so important but get brushed aside by daily business – they were all the same. I can’t tick off the little “done!” box on any of them. That didn’t help the old imposter syndrome too much. However, it also served as a real eye-opener, and, in a weird way, reassured me. My professional values and philosophy have not changed a whit, and that makes me feel that re-centering my focus on these is true to my practice.

I returned to this 1.5 year-old blog post from one of our heroes, Joyce Valenza, to help me get over myself: http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2016/03/26/a-belated-confession/, and this one, which you’ll remember from our own David Wee: https://aislnews.org/?p=4219. Both still make me feel grateful as well as empowered to choose a focus, and to see that achieving balance and mastery of the different hats we all wear in terms of a year, or even a whole career, rather than a day, week, or month is the ultimate goal. Really, the ultimate daily and career-wide goal is to serve and teach the students as best we can, and that happens in large and small ways.

So, here it is – this year I will focus on redesigning and improving our LibGuides and further embedding the library in our LMP. Maybe I won’t do more book-talking, or design/choose the perfect research framework for my school, but I can make some progress in those areas while really getting one part of our house in the order our students need it to be in. Luckily, I can do it with a little help from my friends; namely, all of you!

Rough Day? 7 Ideas to Get the Zing Back

Every so often I hit a wall. I look at how much I have to weed, or I think about the reports I need to prepare for the Trustees. Maybe I feel a bit beaten down having gotten the “How clueless can you be?” eye roll from a 7th grader. Maybe the brand new copy of a popular new book has mysteriously disappeared from a display, or a teacher is dissatisfied with all 35 of the Greek mythology books in the collection.DisplayWithBookMissing

Experience tells me this will pass. I believe most school library folks are naturally helpful people, drawn to a job they know includes a lot of human contact. When I give myself a pep talk, here are some things that can coax my usually cheerful and optimistic outlook back to the forefront.

1. Remember: Friday is Coming

Sometimes I am just plain tired. Shorting ourselves on sleep not only saps daily energy, but too little sleep can weaken your immune system, upset the smooth function of your metabolism, and cause moodiness and irritability. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t give all to their job — sometimes stepping back to find balance is important. Continue reading

Old versus New: Or Can a Library Be Both?

TVSReadingRoomDo these questions sound familiar: When do I maintain the gravitas of the traditional library, and when do I follow trends? What’s a trend and what’s the new normal? Does this library space promote the flow of ideas? As ideas flow, the “how quiet?” question continues to come up. Tish Carpinelli, Media Specialist at Lower Cape May Regional High School opened a discussion, on LM_Net, on using shared spaces. Her compiled list of responses can be found at the LM_Net archives under Carpinelli. (It’s the Feb. 9 HIT)

Food for Thought From a Blog Post

I wasn’t keen on the title of  the Feb. 11 Edutopia blog post: Replace “Library” With “Portal of Idea Flow”? But the post made me think. Blogger Grant Lichtman, a self-described “Author, speaker, facilitator, ‘Chief Provocateur’” discusses the role of the library. When ideas were largely contained in printed books, then naturally libraries contained primarily books. For today’s learners, how might libraries facilitate making ideas (and I would add:  knowledge) accessible?

More Food For Thought in Print

In “Sweetheart, Get Me Readers,” New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan talks about the pressure to get (and keep) eyes on company websites.  No longer is it sufficient for  experienced editors and talented professionals to accurately cover news stories. To remain in the game, news organizations must consider amateur videos and tweets from bystanders. She notes the NYT now has an Express Team that covers breaking news, from serious topics to what some might call “fluff” (her word.) The newspaper has found changing with the times is vital to continue to remain relevant.

TVSLibraryDisplay

Can We Be Both?

Most librarians I know try to strike a balance. We like a portal of ideas. We have print books. I try to catch of eyes with vibrant Middle School/Upper School Library displays. Currently we are highlighting the YALSA 2014-2019 Outstanding Books for the College Bound. This display case has QR links to the databases and (look carefully) you’ll see jigsaw puzzles, newspapers and adult coloring books. We can’t be everything to everyone, but we try to be a lot of things to a lot of people (while keeping our sanity at the same time!) If you have ideas, let them flow freely with a comment!

What I Learned from My Sister’s Stroke

Talk about a curveball.  My younger sister  had a stroke about six weeks ago.  She is now “finding the new normal” in a rehabilitation center. She, like many of us, is a high-energy, hard-working, go-the-extra-mile type. In these last six weeks, a few platitudes have been brought sharply into focus, and without sounding too cheesy (as the middle schoolers here would say) here are a few things I will try to incorporate into my library practice.

Don’t be Quick to Judge. Ask Questions. Give the Benefit of the Doubt

When I say “my sister is in rehab” I sometimes get a fleeting “Oh really?!” look.  I usually add “for a stroke” but with or without the qualifier there can be an awkward silence. Do I jump to conclusions with students and colleagues? Do I cut people some slack when I can?

No One is Indispensible (part one)

No matter how important you are (I see the comments from solo librarians and traveling librarians who are wearing a lot of hats these days) life will go on without you. If your heart (or some other organ) is telling you a change needs to be made, start figuring it out before  the decision is somehow made for you.  Ultimately, it is not your problem to make it work for everyone else. Things will go on. You will be missed, but things will go on.

No One is Indispensible (part two): and Shouldn’t Try to Be

Learn how to say no, if you need to. There are lots of books on being more assertive. Be willing to share information with your colleagues and family.  Don’t be the only one who knows how to unjam the copy machine, or where the list of contact phone numbers is kept. You may not have time to leave notes or hand off projects. I will try to remember to share the practical knowledge about this library with my colleagues when I can.

Build up Good Karma When You Can.  You Never Know When You Will Need It!

Ellen’s neighbors, colleagues and friends have been incredible. Truly, jawdroppingly amazing.  One of the reasons for this outpouring is that Ellen and her family made many contributions into the “favor bank” over the years and now they are able to make significant withdrawals without running dry. The give and take is all a part of being collegial, and I will try to look at it as more of a marathon than a sprint.

Best wishes for a summer that rejuvenates you,

Maggie Knapp
MS/US Library
Trinity Valley School
7500 Dutch Branch Rd.
Fort Worth, TX 76132
817-321-0100 x410