All posts by Lauren

About Lauren

Children's librarian by day. Nonfiction addict, wilderness explorer, mutt owner, K-horror fan, and pretty good cook... also by day.

Columbus Day

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Turns out we had a whole section of Columbus Day books hiding in our holiday section… but we also have books on local tribes, tribes from other regions, and the history of what happened to those tribes after colonization. (And other explorers.)

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Banned Books Week

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Decided to do a few things different from your typical BBW display:

1) Focused on adult books instead of poaching from the Teen and Children section. They’re not the ones looking at the displays in the adult section anyway.

2) Explained why they’re banned, and where, and by whom. I think this is supremely important if we’re really going to open a dialog about it, instead of throwing titles up without any sort of context.

3) Chose mainly books banned by governments instead of continuing to slag on conservative parents in the South. Turns out they have nothing on 1930’s Australia.

And meanwhile at Library Numero Dos:

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Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_books_banned_by_governments

8 Reasons to Love Audiobooks (or at Least Give Them a Try)

Ever notice how your list of books to read never seems to get any shorter? For every title I cross off my list, it seems I add three more, and at this rate it’ll take me at least 20 years to completely finish (I know because I’ve calculated it). Most of us don’t have enough time/energy to read as often as we’d like, in between all the other stuff we have to do like commuting or folding laundry – but those are perfect opportunities to whittle down your list by popping in an audiobook.

1) Multitask like a boss. Mopping is a drag (har dee har har), but why not make it fun? Start up an audiobook, and I promise chores will be so much more enjoyable! You can spend an afternoon reorganizing your closets while also tackling titles on your to-read list, like Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair read by Colin Firth. Word of warning: you may find yourself actually making up chores so you can continue listening!

2) Cut your screen time. After a long workday in front of a computer screen, do you really want to veg out in front of a TV/phone/laptop screen? Genre books like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series (A is for Alibi, then B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse…), make for wonderfully brainless background noise, without the sleep-disrupting qualities of blue screens.

3) A good narrator enhances your experience of the book. Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? was very funny to read on the page, but hearing her read the book aloud is hilarious. An adept narrator knows how to enhance humor, drama, and other emotions in ways that you just can’t replicate when your eyes are zooming across the page. Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped tore me apart when I read the book, and I’m terrified that the Audie award-winning audio version will reduce me to a quivering ball of tears for hours on end.

4) Long drives seem shorter. It’s tough to stay alert when you’re driving alone and/or at night and/or the road is super boring (I’m thinking of you, New Jersey interstate). Picking up something long like The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak will keep your brain engaged and will make any long drive more endurable. Similarly, long workouts on the treadmill are less arduous when you have a plot to engage your mind.

5) Audiobooks are interactive. Have you been on the waitlist for the print copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo? You can download it right now through Hoopla and experience the magic by listening to the audio – while simultaneously tidying up!

6) Long, difficult books can be less daunting in audio. Everyone has that “I’d like to read it, but I probably will never get around to it” list of books. I recently converted a friend of mine to audiobooks, who after years of false starts, is finally making her way through Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

7) You will have at least one moment where you realize you’ve been pronouncing a word wrong your entire life. Interminable. Prerogative. Indefatigable. Cache. Aluminum has five syllables?! Wait, nevermind, the narrator is British.

8) You might retain more (at least, you won’t retain less). There’s a theory that you retain more information when listening because your brain doesn’t have to work as hard at creating imagery (looking at images of words supposedly interferes). I used to think I wouldn’t retain audio – then I remembered all the times I’d looked up from a book and realized I didn’t remember any of the last six pages. it just happens, no matter how you’re ingesting a book.

Now, CD or digital audiobooks? We have a bunch of books on CD, but I prefer downloading audiobooks with the OverDrive app on my smartphone. I use a cable to hook up my phone to my car stereo and listen while driving (almost every car nowadays has a way to connect to your media devices), and I can keep listening as I do cook dinner, scrub the bathtub, and walk the dog, all with minimal hassle. Another upside to downloading: no fees. OverDrive items disappear automatically when they expire, and you can’t scratch them or lose them under your car seat.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Dry by Augusten Burroughs

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Do you currently listen to audio books? If not, do you think you’ll give them a try?

What they didn’t teach you in library school

It’s a very long, arduous journey towards full-time professional employment. In the course of your job search, you will have moments where you feel like a rock star, and moments where you feel almost complete self-loathing. This could go on for years.

The curriculum in library schools tends to be regionally-focused, and you will have to work twice as hard at making professional connections if you decide to move halfway across the country to start your working career.

Unless you’re in the minority of libraries with round-the-clock custodians, you are going to have to clean up after other people’s bodies. Unlike your high school job sweeping at an amusement park, you’re not going to receive ample training in properly disposing of biohazards.

You will be a part-time social worker.

Don’t like confrontation? Nobody likes confrontation. But you’re going to have to tell adults to get off the children’s computer, tell patrons they can’t borrow until they pay for the books they lost, ask teenagers to quiet down, and mediate disputes between two patrons who are both having bad days. You’ll have to explain to angry patrons why you have an item in your collection, why you don’t have an item, why you can’t ILL an item, why you don’t recycle, why you don’t have tax booklets, why your internet connection has suddenly gone down in flames, etc. If you climb high enough, you’re going to have to confront decisionmakers who want to cut your funding and your services. You are going to need courage and toughness that is the antithesis of the stereotypical mousy, socially inept librarian.

It’s a nice feeling when you unexpectedly run into a patron outside the library. It’s even more awesome when they identify you as “that nice librarian.”

Wet wipes. Wet wipes everywhere. More often than not, the staff bathroom will be fully stocked with baby wipes, though no infants are in the library’s employ. However, the library does employ lots of women over the age of 50, and I am terrified to think of the state of my body in 25 years.

The perfect reference interview

So I just came across this recent blog post on Agnostic, Maybe, where he lists some informal rules about doing reference. It’s definitely worth a read, whether you’re fairly new to reference or it’s old hat and you could just use a couple reminders. My favorite part? He describes the perfect reference interview:

For me, the perfect reference interview is the one that makes someone’s day. It doesn’t have to be important or big, but just right to make them leave feeling good. It means I have them more than they expected, whether it is materials, information, time, and/or patience. The last two can overshadow all others because it shows a level of care and concern that translates at the human level.

Yes and yes and more yes. People really appreciate when I take extra time to help them. Yeah, it probably interrupted the workflow earlier this week when I spent almost 30 minutes fighting with the 3000th update Yahoo Mail and tried to help a lady print some online gift certificates… but 1) the poor lady was frustrated and starting to snap at her partner, and I hated to see them leave the library empty-handed and angry 2) for all I know, the certificate could have been for necessities like food, diapers, medicine, etc. 3) that’s exactly why I’m there! They were super grateful that I stayed with them until their printouts were in hand, but that’s just what you’re supposed to do as a good librarian. On the surface it may look like libraries are about materials, but the connections we make with people are really why libraries exist.

RA Unconference! #rauncon

I finally boogied on down to Darien Library for my very first unconference on Friday! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but oh man, I would absolutely do it again. Right now. If you’re not familiar with how unconferences work, there’s a general theme but instead of offering pre-scheduled sessions, all the attendees vote on the session topics, and the content is completely decided by whoever shows up to the session. After keynote speaker Emily St. John Mandel read from her upcoming book Station Eleven, we voted and ended up with the following topics (I’ve highlighted the sessions I attended):

  • Rethinking book groups
  • Nonfiction that reads like fiction
  • Marketing librarians as experts
  • Recommending books you haven’t read
  • How to booktalk
  • Social media & RA
  • Passive RA & displays
  • Recommending outside your comfort zone
  • Getting staff excited about RA

What materialized in each session was lively, nonstop conversation to which everyone was able and eager to contribute, and for those of us livetweeting at #rauncon (pronounced ron-con), there was barely any time to send out and check tweets. I, with my still-fairly-new Galaxy, was out there tweeting with everyone else, and it was definitely a new experience (not just because I was actually being encouraged to check my phone while other people were speaking). The list of Twitterbrarians I follow has grown about tenfold since I’ve now seen the pros in action and have been able to interact with them within a meaningful context.

(That bit about context sounded awfully academic. I apologize – hubs is frantically reading for his upcoming comprehensive exams, so 90% of my conversations at home include phrases like cultural constructs, perceptions of identity, narrative as political tools, normative experiences, social and economic contexts, etc.)

The Nonfiction That Reads Like Fiction session ended up being about 45 minutes of throwing out title after title, with some tips for pursuing more NF titles. I was able to decode my hastily scribbled notes and typed them up. I’m thinking this is a good beginning to a public pathfinder down the line.

It occurred to me that I never had formal training in RA. So, it’s super good that I attended and was able to better my skills and see what other sort of conferences are out there. I learned some excellent things like:

  • Coworkers are one of the cheapest and most accessible sources of RA. Keep a mental log of which genres your coworkers read so you can refer patrons to them. Include an RA component in your regular meetings so you can share your latest reads.
  • Printed RA: Darien has bookmarks with three recommended titles on a topic.
  • To open up a conversation with patrons and let them know that you’re available to provide RA without being too aggressive or invasive, hand out your printed RA materials or ask patrons if they’re received a copy already.
  • Come up with a list of 3 or so “sure bets” for popular authors outside your genre. I need to do this for romance and mystery, for sure.
  • At the same time, the patrons who ask me about these genres could talk circles around me, so at the same time, is it worth it to find Nora Roberts’ or James Patterson’s top three? It’s fun, and good RA, to push people out of their comfort zone. E.g., “Relish” is about food and it’s a memoir, and it just so happens to be a graphic novel.
  • You can get adult patrons into graphic novels by suggesting they read one to see if it’s appropriate for their kid.
  • Another note for concerned parents and preventing offended patrons: though the book jacket is usually fluff, scanning Amazon reviews will immediately alert you to objectionable content.
  • There’s a difference between “recommending” titles and “suggesting” titles. If you suggest, there’s less culpability on you if a patron is unhappy/unsatisfied/offended with your selections.
  • “Books I hated that everyone else loved” would be a very popular display. Remember in Early Book class when they talked about how, way back when, the Catholic Church would publish an index of banned books, and how they became wildly popular titles as a result of the controversy?
  • However, it’s not the best idea to publicly announce to a patron if you hated a book. It could alienate the patron you’re helping, as well as any patrons nearby who might overhear your conversation. Patrons could end up avoiding you because they don’t think you’d be able to recommend them titles they’d like, or they could be ashamed that a professional disliked something they loved and they wouldn’t want to approach you. Either way, it negatively affects your accessibility and the service you deliver as a professional. (I’ve been nicely honest up to this point, saying I don’t personally read certain genres or I didn’t think such-and-such a book was as good as another and why, but it’s worth thinking about other ways to further remove my own tastes from the equation and mask my own preferences. Even if it’s a familiar patron who would love to hear my own opinion, there are still other patrons within earshot. Food for thought.)
  • Use neutral language to suggest books. I do say things like “that book has been very popular” if I haven’t read it. You can also do “my coworker couldn’t put it down.)
  • If you dislike a title, you can still suggest it. RA is not about you, it’s about the patron and connecting them with the right title. After all, “the first rule of RA is listening.”
  • Some patrons view circ-desk RA as an invasion of privacy. I happily tell patrons I enjoyed a book or movie in their checkout pile or ask them if they’ve read/watched anything similar (patrons are awesome RA), but I should probably use a little more discretion in choosing which patrons to engage.
  • There are lots of RA-specific roundtables out there, like Readers Advisory Round Table in Western Massachusetts, and the Chicago-area Adult Reading Round Table (they were the inspiration for #rauncon)
  • Pretty much everyone loves the Awesome Box idea from the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. For the visually inclined / lazy, they have a cute little slideshow that explains the concept.
  • In addition to having regular good book reviews, Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life occasionally does reviews tagged “I read it so you don’t have to!” for pop titles. Think Game of Thrones cookbooks and Snooki-penned novels.
  • Almost all of my previous conferences had been through state-level organizations, but when a library goes out on their own, it attracts out-of-state attendees. It seemed like the place was filled with professionals from Massachusetts and New Jersey. Surprisingly few attendees were from local systems. (A more traditional RA conference was happening a few miles away in Westport, so maybe that’s where they all were.)
  • That might be because tech-savvy conferences beget tech-savvy attendees. Almost all Darien communication went through Tumblr and Twitter, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that the out-of-state librarians were also the most active Twitter participants.

So, very much looking forward to my next unconference!

Upgrade!

Every once in a while – usually around the end of winter before spring really kicks in and it’s miserable outside – I have sudden bouts of feeling like I’m in a rut personally and professionally. I mope around for a couple days, convinced that I’m some sort of 21st-century version of the Lithuanian stockyard workers from The Jungle, and I’m perching on the edge of personal disaster. (That book was ridiculous IMO, and so is my train of thought.) Then suddenly I say “screw it, I’m going to be financially irresponsible!” and I end up doing something totally worth it. Like taking a week off to see my family. Or buying a car that enables me to live in a better apartment and get better part-time jobs in other towns and visit state parks on a whim. Or, in the case of last Tuesday, getting a Samsung Galaxy S4.

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At any rate, it’s not like the initial $100 at Best Buy and the extra $30 a month is really going to catapult me into bankruptcy / homelessness / spiraling into alcoholism and then becoming a socialist.

As an information professional, it was about time I take the leap (my mother concurred when she called me on her iPhone). And I’m so glad I just finally did it! I’m still using a paper planner because I love having the “coherent mental map” of my schedule (see this super-interesting article), but I’ve almost eliminated the handful of other little notebooks that used in an attempt at organization. Shopping lists, DVDs to see and books to read, and even my recipes are already in my pocket when I go to the library or the grocery store. With the GPS, I no longer have to print / handwrite directions, attempt to read them while driving, and hope there won’t be construction or traffic or I won’t make a wrong turn. I no longer have to spend an hour recreating my routes in MapMyRun so I can figure out my pace. Instead of half-assing my food diary and wasting time looking up the calories in broccoli, Lose It! does all the calculating and holds me accountable to a firm number each day. I’m still spending time staring at screens, but I’m reading Julie and Julia with my Kindle app instead of mindlessly refreshing my email. I have a good camera with me all the time, and instead of sitting there, uploading, then emailing or posting the photos, I can immediately share them with friends and family. My day-to-day life is honestly better with the smartphone.

I also see now that just about everything on the Internet is optimized for viewing on mobile devices. Buzzfeed’s simple page setup, for example, works well for quick reading on the phone, and Facebook’s notifications and news feed finally make sense. Candy Crush Saga, which seemed cheesy and way too slick on my laptop, is somehow gorgeous on the S4, and it’s much more fun to tap those little pieces into place than to drag and click and hope I don’t have to hit refresh. And it’s a lot easier to keep up with blogs and news feeds when apps are automatically collecting them. Not to mention the popularity of image-focused websites with infinite scrolling, like Pinterest and some Tumblrs.

I’ve downloaded and played with and deleted many apps in the last week, and here are my favorite so far:

  • Google Keep – shopping lists, short-term lists, and memos in one place, and I like the interface better than Wunderlist, Out of Milk, and S Memo
  • Google Calendar – since I still use a paper calendar as my workhorse, but I like the agenda view for my special appointments and little memos. I don’t need the power of BusinessCalendar, and the Google agenda interface is nicer than Jorte or S Calendar.
  • Lose It! – food and fitness tracking, much easier than MyFitnessPal to enter custom foods like homemade dinners, but still does calculating for me unlike Simple Calorie Counter. Plus I love the cute little icons.
  • Evernote – just because I have it already.
  • Amazon Kindle – Overdrive Media Console has nothing on the Kindle app.
  • Feedly – it’s free and unlike Flipboard and Instapaper, lets me do my own thing and doesn’t seem interested in telling me what everyone else is reading.
  • Clock – it’s just so simple to set and alter my alarms, and I like that the timer is built-in. The clouds are cuter than the morose dark colors of Alarm Clock Xtreme Free.

And I typed the entire post on the S4 as well!

(April Fool’s… I made it to about 30 words before switching to the laptop. Typing a 750-word blog post on a smartphone would be maddening.)