Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Digital Shift: Reinventing Libraries online event

The Digital Shift: Reinventing Libraries online event 

A very interesting day; I attended a virtual conference on the future of libraries.  A lot of resources and good ideas.  A couple of really good talks.  The virtual space was really much like an actual conference, with virtual exhibit booths and a virtual lounge, and the chance to see who was there and message your friends.  The live Twitter feed was at #TDS13, so you can review the highlights in that format.

The early morning visitors to the lounge asked for virtual coffee and snacks -- not yet available.   It's just like people posting pictures of their food creations on Facebook -- some things cannot be translated into the virtual world.  On the other hand, the advantage of a virtual conference is you can eat your lunch during a session without trying to eat, take notes, and balance stuff on those stupid hotel ballroom chairs all at once.

I was at home today, but you could attend from anywhere -- even the beach!

The other advantage is the opportunity to see the archived talks that you couldn't attend live -- yes, finally technology I can use to be in two places at once. 

Here are a few more links that were discussed in the presentations:

Maker Bridge   A site about Maker Spaces from the University of Michigan.  One person tweeted that children's librarians have been providing maker programs for a long time, which is true.  That leaves us to ask -- what is the relationship between paper and finger paint arts and crafts and technology-enhanced 3-D printing?
Community Reference  An article about how to take reference into the community, and really engage community members in library resources and services.  A lot of people talked about the guide or coach model for working with people in libraries, and about personalization and individually chosen education options.  We all know that reading a book is also an individually chosen education option, and that libraries have always been learning institutions -- at least in the United States.  I see a direct line between the Boston Public Library allowing workers to take out only two books at a time -- one of which had to be non-fiction -- in the late 19th century, and the provision of maker spaces and other resources in today's libraries.  We've been doing a land office business in job and career information since the beginning of the current economic downturn, as well as providing computer and internet access for over 15 years, now.

The question on the table remains -- how do we encourage, enhance, and fund the needed access to information, technology, and space for creativity -- especially as libraries are perfectly positioned to fill some of the equality gaps in access to learning.

And do all that without neglecting some of our current strengths -- a non-commercial gathering place for community members, alone or in groups, a place to find a good book (print or e-book) to read, a place where parents learn how to help their children be literate adults.

It was a day with a lot of ideas, and a lot to continue to discuss and explore.  I was very happy to hear one of the keynote speakers talking about going to conferences with people who are not librarians -- making our voices heard in a lot of different arenas.  I've been advocating that, and publishing outside the profession, for a long time. 

I'm grateful to SLJ and LJ  and all the sponsors for also taking my mind off the difficulty of doing my job as a reference librarian with my go to web sites from the U.S. government unavailable  --- I didn't think about politics all day, and I did think about new ideas.   I'm excited about exploring some of the recommended resources, including a few new to me, and continuing the discussion.

Is virtual learning the whole future, or only part of it?  What do you wish your library would do to improve your community?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fall is here -- maybe

I am officially back from vacation, which I allowed to stretch beyond the traditional Labor Day.  There are apples on my tree and some of the birch and elm leaves have turned yellow -- but it was 95 degrees here yesterday, so the seasons feel a little bit blurred.

I understand that I don't have the perspective required, in geological time, to say that we have climate change based on my own observations alone.  However, it does seem to me that we are experiencing weather different from that in the last years of  the 20th century.  Perhaps it is time to stop asking who is to blame, and start asking is there anything we can do?  That is, of course, more difficult.  It is very hard to give up asking "Why?"

In Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski, one of the characters says that she thinks "why?" is the most interesting question that can be asked.   In a very different book, How the Light Gets In  by Louise Penny, Chief Inspector Gamache wrestles with the same question:

"How?" Oliver asked.
"She was attacked in her home.  Hit on the head"
Even in the dark, Gamache could see his companion grimace.  "Why would anyone do that?"
And that, of course, was the question, thought Gamache.
Sometimes it was "how," almost always it was "who."  But the question that haunted every investigation was "why."
               --- Louise Penny, How the Light Gets In, page 70

I recommend both books, though I think the Inspector Gamache books deserve to be read in order, since there are several continuing stories beyond the usual continuation of the characters' personal lives.  If you're not ready to commit to all nine, at least begin with A Beautiful Mystery -- but you will go back to the beginning of the series, so you might as well begin with Still Life, knowing that they will get better as they go along -- and that you will be drawn more and more into the lives of the characters.  You do have to like a bit of philosophy and a lot of character with your stories -- these are carefully crafted and unguessable mysteries, but they are not obviously plot driven.

Objects of My Affection is a little slow moving (at least in the audio book) and a little predictable, but you will come to like the characters, and it is entertaining, overall.  Donna Andrews' Owls Well That Ends Well about Meg and Michael's giant garage sale is much funnier, but perhaps my genre prejudice in favor of mysteries is showing.  In any case, if you're planning a fall vacation and need light reading, you might want to pack them both -- or download them to your phone or e-reader, of course.  Why should only summer have beach reading?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I wore my "guess what I'm reading? shirt yesterday (Thank you, Unshelved).  No one ever tries to guess, though.  The lady at the fruit stand asked me if I were a reading teacher or a librarian.  My camping buddy said "are you going to tell us, or do we have to guess?"  I was able to describe a book in every medium -- my book club book, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank (print),  Roger Ebert's memoir, Life Itself (audiobook on CD for the car) and Mr. Churchill's Secretary (ebook from the library's Overdrive collection).  I have a couple of additional print books, but am determined to read my book club book first to be ready for next week's meeting.

And now the blog and I are officially on vacation, so that I can take more pictures for future blogs.  Enjoy the end of the summer!  And take as many books as you can on vacation with you!

Monday, August 19, 2013


In my mixed media life, I've copied some of the comments I got on my Facebook page about children's books into the comment stream here on the blog, posting them all anonymously.  Check out the comments on the post "What is your favorite children's book?"  Is your list the same or different?

Most of the comments focused on the need for additional categories or a longer list. Only two people provided a title and author with no cavats.  A relative:  A Girl Of The Limberlost, by Gene Stratton-Porter;  A friend: Winnie The Pooh.

The use of language is so critical to our understanding and thought processes that the word 'favorite' seems to have created conversation -- but not about books.   The implication of choosing a favorite is that all those not picked are somehow less important to you than the chosen one.    Sometimes you do need to choose a single thing, but often the person asking the question really means not, which thing in this category do you love above all things, but, which thing in this category do you really like a lot.

Feel free to list your top 20 or 100 Children's Books in the comments, or comment on choosing favorites if you prefer. 
One of my favorite cities
I'm rephrasing my question -- or rather, asking more questions:

Was there a book that you read over and over again as a child? 

A book your child asked for again and again?

What memories are attached to books or reading?  What do you hope the children or students in your life will remember about reading?

Allowing the list to be as long as you like, which children's books are among your favorites?

Thanks for continuing the conversation.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Favorite? Who can pick a favorite?

The original question on the ALA Forum was -- is it ok for a child to have a favorite book?  I can't see any downside, so I found the question confusing.  A friend of mine said, in conversation "is it ok for a child to learn to read?"  Memorizing your favorite book and pretending to read it is a key pre-reading skill.  I can only imagine that the question was posed by a parent who was tired of reading the same story again and again, and it made me think about favorite books.
Sorting donated books at: KAN Cool for School  supply give away (photo by Anne S)

My father could recite Green Eggs and Ham from memory, years after my sister had moved on to the Babysitter's Club and beyond to college level texts.   He would sometimes throw a few lines into a conversation, mostly to amuse and distract grandchildren in a restaurant "I do not like them with a fox, I do not like them in a box, I do not like Green Eggs and Ham, I do not like them, Sam I am".  While Green Eggs was not my personal favorite, even of the Seuss/Cerf beginning readers (I liked Go Dogs Go) I treasure the memory of the Rev. Jesse Jackson reading the book aloud on Saturday Night Live when Mr. Giesel passed on.  It was such a fitting tribute to an author who changed a lot of children's lives.  Of all the books, my favorite comes from the longer stories -- I love Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose.  

Many of us are filled with insatiable curiosity

As a child, I was often read to from Just So Stories, The Princess and Curdie, and Grimm's Fairy Tales.  My father often chose "The Elephant's Child" when it was his turn to pick, although his real favorite was the story of how the alphabet was made.  I had less interest in linguistic evolution than either my father or Mr. Kipling, but if he imagined that Elephant's Child would serve as a cautionary tale, he was doomed to disappointment.  I just didn't see getting the coolest nose in the animal kingdom as being a punishment.  I am afraid to this day, I am full of " 'satiable curiosity'."  As a journalist, librarian, writer and researcher, it has defined my life.  Children like a lot of things about reading aloud -- the attention of their parents, the plot of the story, the pictures in the book, and the coziness of the experience.  I am most grateful today for the appreciation I developed for the beauty of language.  My father taught speech and theater and was a great reader.  My mother also had a flair for the dramatic.  Who wouldn't love a story that included lines like this? I can still hear it in my father's voice:

 'It is,' said the Elephant's Child, and before he thought what he was doing he schlooped up a schloop of mud from the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo, and slapped it on his head, where it made a cool schloopy-sloshy mud-cap all trickly behind his ears. 

[The Project Gutenberg EBook of Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling, line 74]   There are other 
versions available on the site, and you'll find it in libraries & bookstores as well. 
Don't you want to find out how the Leopard Got His Spots?  
To be continued....
and it is not too late to add your favorite book(s) to the comment section!   

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What is your favorite children's book?

If you cannot choose just one, what are your favorite books in each category:

Picture book

Beginning Reader

Chapter Book



Parents are allowed to have their own favorite books, and their children's favorite books.  I've been thinking about this ever since someone asked the question on an ALA forum "Is it okay for a child to have a favorite book?"  I can't imagine why not, but I will talk about that more tomorrow. 

Thanks for commenting!

Social Media Platforms -- where is the audience?

This article came across my Linked In news feed today, and obviously a lot of people have read it.  I'm 13 and none of my friends have Facebook  I have been thinking about this for some time, and have asked younger people I know which social media platforms they use.  I know that Facebook is, as this young woman points out, largely used by people her parents' and grandparents' ages.  It is telling that this girl and her friends got Instagram because their parents didn't know about it when it first came out -- clearly obeying the letter, and not the spirit, of their parents' prohibition of Facebook, and Instagram's own terms of service. 

If I had a social media site, I wouldn't post silly people videos

I have college age friends and relatives who use Facebook.  My mentee, who is a senior and applying to library school, says her favorite is Tumblr but she has never seen it used effectively for information or marketing.  She did attend one ALA program that featured Tumblr.  She also uses Facebook and Twitter.  I have a nephew in high school who uses only Twitter;  his younger sister just got Facebook
I know, not a representative sample, but I think a lot of people are using more than one platform. 

The only thing that's really clear is that this market is going to change and evolve just as quickly as everything else in the online / mobile world. What's a library, or other marketing entity, to do?  I actually have an answer for that question, and it's pretty simple -- learn the concepts of social media and social marketing, not the individual platforms. 
There are as many choices as rocks on the beach -- do you have time to find the best one?

As a very young librarian, I went to a seminar on electronic resources.  The speaker gave a great presentation, but the thing I took away from his talk and have used ever since was this.  "There is no way you can learn each resource;  there are too many of them.  What you have to learn is the basic structure, and how to find more specific information if you need it."  He went on to compare some of the features of electronic resources to books, pointing out that, whatever the subject of the book, we would look for the table of contents, the index, and possibly the list of acknowledgements for the information our clients needed.

Since that time, I've used a lot of different library management systems, online course platforms, databases, web sites, electronic books and social media sites.  As I encountered each new system, I figured out how it worked, how to teach other people to use it, and how to best extract the functionality or information needed, either for myself or for my library clients.  I am grateful, often, that I went to that particular class, and so both expected  constant change, and felt prepared to handle it. 

Social media presents the same challenge and is amenable to the same solution.  Do not focus on the platform or the software -- focus on the content, and learn enough about the software or site to know how to use it to your advantage.  Make sure that staff development classes focus on the content and uses more than just on the nuts and bolts, and reward people who use a lot of different platforms and try new ones. 
If you can climb one tree, you can climb any tree (it helps to have claws!)

It would be nice if someone would take on the task of creating a list of this year's hottest social media among whomever we are trying to reach -- a social media Mindset List, if you will.  That would be easier for academic libraries with mostly traditional students, but that type of easy to identify demographic is probably also a thing of the past.  Flexibility and adaptability, and possibly posting the same content in different places, modified to fit the space, is going to be the best approach to social media -- at least for now.

What's your favorite social media site?  Do you use different ones for different groups of people? 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to School

As teachers and paraprofessionals all over the county set up their classrooms, libraries, and learning spaces for  the upcoming  school year, let's take a minute to say,  "Thank You, educators, for doing a difficult job and educating our children.  We understand that our future depends on a well educated electorate and workforce, even if we don't have children in your school." 

Thank you for being there for your students -- supporting them not only in academics but in activities and interests in the arts, sports, and community service.

Thank you for coming in before school starts, often in the summer heat, to make sure that students have a positive learning environment and the beginning of the year is positive for everyone.

Thank you for the reading you did, classes you took, lesson plans you wrote and meetings you attended while you were off for the summer.

Thank you for being creative and compassionate and taking advantage of those teachable moments in every day.


If your community has a program like this one to help kids have the materials they need to be successful in school, consider donating or helping out.         KAN Cool for Back to School

Why do you want to thank a teacher?    Please add to the list in the comments!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Summer Weekend

It's the weekend!  Visit your local farmer's market or local farm if you can!

My farmer's market today also featured flowers as well as Amish ice cream and organic vegetables, coffee, crafts, and live plants. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Who knew we had our own day?

I am wearing my Unshelved "Guess What I'm Reading" tee shirt -- which makes it the second time that I've worn it appropriately but without forethought -- I  got a pin from co-creator of Unshelved Bill Barnes at the American Library Association conference for this shirt. "We're giving them to everyone wearing Unshelved merchandise," he said. I had to look down to see what I was wearing.  I have found the shirt to be a good conversation starter, even away from the ALA Convention floor.  What am I reading?  Right this second,  a lot of online news stories, following links from Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn -- magpie reading, attracted by headlines instead of shiny objects.

I've read a lot of mysteries this summer -- my favorite form of "take me away" reading -- including the White House Chef series by Julie Hyzy.  I also participated in my public library's summer reading program for adults, which required that you read a book a week. Five of the eight books had to be different genres or types of books.  I appreciate being forced to consider life beyond the new mystery shelf, and read:
  •  a surrelistic fiction YA book by David Levithan called Every Day, about a boy who wakes up each day in a different body, which presents serious ethical and practical issues when he falls in love with the girlfriend of a body he's is occupying one day
  • my book club's pick for July, Good Poems by Garrison Keillor, which provided an interesting discussion as everyone read aloud their favorite(s) from the book
  • A Hidden Truth by Judith Miller, about a woman moving to the Amana Colonies that her mother had left.  It was an interesting subject, though the characters were a little underdeveloped, even for romance.[Christian historical romance -- 3 genres in one!]    That took me to a whole collection of Christian fiction about Amish people-- there seem to be a large number of them, just on the new book shelf.  The ones I read varied in quality, but I liked Barbara Cameron's Quilts of Lancaster County series. The first one was the best of the three, but of course I had to find out what happened next.
  • I finally read John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (realistic fiction, YA) which I had put off reading because I thought it would be too sad.  When the characters meet in a cancer support group, it doesn't seem fated to end happily -- and there's the title, if you needed more clues.  It is, however, a brilliant book, and probably Green's best.  Passages and scenes from the book stuck with me for weeks and yes, I both laughed and cried.  There are a lot of YA books about early death, and love, and friendship, but this one is exceptionally both realistic and filled with interesting, quirky characters.  Even the parents are not as throwaway as is usual in the genre.  I recommend that you read it -- on a bright, sunny day, when you have neither had nor anticipate bad news.
  • Of course,  I read a whole bunch of mysteries, including the new one by Donna Andrews, Hen of the Baskervilles.  This was not the strongest of the series, but I recommend the series, beginning with Murder With Peacocks. The characters and the laugh aloud scenes are the strength of the books.
  • What am I reading today?  Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford, which fell off the new book shelf into my hands, the One Year Bible, and my next book club book, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. 
    And I have a stack of new library books on my desk. . . .
If my summer reading is too summery for your tastes, the Internet Public Library linked to  25 web sites that have book reviews of literature and which sound entertaining in their own right.  I also like Shelf Awareness from the Independent Booksellers, which covers mostly new books, and Poem-A-Day, for a quick read each and every day via now old fashioned e-mail.  And for you cutting edge folks, I'm sure you are aware  the New York Times has a list of best selling ebooks.  

What are you reading on Book Lover's Day?

Follow up

Here's the follow up to the social media interview -- and, notice, they've used yet another media outlet and promoted it on Facebook (at least, that's where I found it).

Behind the scenes of Earnhardt's AMA, @TeamHendrick takeover

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Personal? Professional? Professional Social Media Agent?

I struggle with the relationships between the personal and the professional in online life.  I have tried to keep my professional contacts in Linked In, and my personal contacts on Facebook.  I know that some people have set up separate accounts, but that doesn't seem practical to me.  I did that with email, and ended up with nine email accounts, and the compartmentalization was, in the end, not helpful.  My social networks have a lot of overlap, but the categories do hold up, as much as possible in our complex world.  My Twitter feed, however, is a totally random collection of things I'm interested in and things I like and people I think are entertaining.  I think the conflation of the personal and professional is inevitable, in part because it is easier -- and the technology itself encourages consolidation.

Today, I'm turning to the use of social media in an area which is of interest to me, but not a part of my professional purview -- beyond the unimpeachable fact that librarians are interested in everything -- sports marketing.

NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt, Jr., today did two chat activities, one on Reddit, and one on Twitter, to demonstrate the use of his employer's "new Digital Dashboard social media command center".   What interested me, beyond the content, was not only the interactive use of social media, which is not new, but both the high tech center, and the other media forms used by Dale Jr.'s publicity people to publish the content on the web afterwards.

Check out the photos of the command center -- it's pretty impressive. There are photos on the team twitter feed @TeamHendrick #DashChat.   This project used, twitter pics, (the NASCAR subreddit),  a photo site called imgur, and a site called Storyify, used by his publicity person to create a complete list of the answered questions with photos and comments. It might be the type of project a library could do, even without the high tech command center.

I can see possibilities for using the Storyify and Imgur tools to create materials for classes or other educational applications.  I also find the process fascinating -- taking a celebrity who is famously not on Twitter and having him use social media to interact with fans in a controlled environment. For peeks behind the mirror, you can follow his publicity people @MikeDavis88 and @MikeHoag88.  Mr. Earnhardt got into social media early (back in the My Space days),and encouraged NASCAR to use the web more effectively.  He owns a television/film production company, and his staff maintains a set of web sites, two Facebook pages, and a podcast.  You'll notice, however, that it takes a complete team of public relations people to maintain all of these web outlets.  On this week's podcast, Mr. Earnhardt said that he gave up maintaining a social media page himself because it "became like a small child." Mr. Davis, himself a father, pointed out that an actual small child probably is more work.  However, I understand the analogy.

On another social media front, on Linked In today I saw, in my news feed, a question and discussion about how to learn social media platforms.  One person posted a New York Times article from last March with a list of classes -- credit and non-credit, many requiring tuition -- available for people wanting to become certified in social media.  I was happy to see that I already know how to use most of the media listed, though, of course, I'm sure more things have been added to the social media universe in the last five months.  I did find both the question and the answer interesting -- do we all need social media certification if we need to be our own publicity agents?  Has anyone done time/benefit analyses on the use of social media?  At what point does it take too much time?  For an individual?  For an institution?

My personal feeling is that there needs to be a balance between the time spent and the benefits, and one way to maximize benefits is  to pick one or two sites and types of communication to focus on, and do them really well.  Unless and until you are earning $23 million a year...

That's a lot of text without pictures, especially if you didn't follow the links [hint:  follow the links!].  Here are some photographs far from the racetrack or the computer screen:

Basking in the sun on the special turtle raft
Waterway through the wetlands

Prairie flowers

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Beach Cat

Summer time, and living is not necessarily online.  I had the opportunity to be at my friends' beach house while caring for their cat.    A very special cat,  a cat that prefers the outdoors -- on a leash.  (She would probably forgo the leash, but she doesn't keep the same eye out for raptors and other predators that I do).  

Surveying the Lake

Lake Michigan shoreline

Thursday, July 18, 2013


When I first got my iPhone, I thought "I'll never be able to read on that tiny screen,", but that was then, and this is now.  As I spent more time with the phone (yes, perhaps too much time, my friends), I got more used to reading even pieces longer than a tweet or Facebook note on the screen.  I got better and better at the tiny keyboard, too, thanks in part to my totally nerdy subscription to the New York Times Crossword Puzzles. 

The New York Times, the New Yorker and Sports Illustrated provided copies of the electronic versions to their print subscribers, and I downloaded them, for those times when you need something to read and don't have a book with you.  I usually read them in  print, but I've read several articles and even whole special issues of the New Yorker on the phone.[And you get extra cartoons!  Don't tell the marketing people how easily I'm swayed]

McCormick Place Chicago
I downloaded all the library ebook software, so I could practice checking out a book and be able to describe the process to my online clients.  However, I had not read a whole book online until I was headed to Chicago for the ALA conference.  Yes, taking books along to ALA is a coals to Newcastle experience, since you will come home buried in ARCs and free books and sample books. . . but my thought was -- I'll be in Chicago, I'll be commuting on the El, and I won't want to carry a book, so I should download some library books.  I borrowed three and finished one -- when the others returned themselves [Bonus!  No fines]  I realized I should have prioritized my reading by due date, not that I do that with print books, either. [You can't renew them, per se, but you can borrow them again if there's not a waiting list;  I chose to let these two go.]

ALA Exhibit floor
While I didn't read a lot in the city -- too many people to see, things to do, ARCs to collect -- I did find that ebooks are perfect for camping.  The phone is lightweight and provides its own light, and I finished my first complete library ebook.  I was trying to read in different genres for my public library's adult summer reading game, so I read Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn.  I didn't like it as well as Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, but parts of it were very funny.

Point Beach State Park

In addition, I have sent a Kindle book to a friend as a present (not without a lot of discussion with Amazon customer service, enough that I don't plan to try that again) which she did get a few months after the intended occasion.  Today, I gave in to the iTunes advertising and bought two books [for just $3.99!! see note above]  I did follow the rule that says "if you wouldn't buy it at full price, don't buy it on sale."  Maybe now I'll finally read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which has been recommended to me by a surprisingly varied group of people. 

I still prefer print books.  I love the library new book shelf, from which I plucked seven books from two different libraries today. I like being surrounded by books, though I admit I'm in the public library today mostly to take advantage of the air conditioning.  I don't think beach or bathtub reading works as well with a screen.  [Though for your beach and ebook reader fans, try putting your reader in a self closing plastic bag].  I charge my phone at night, and I don't really want it in bed with me, if I'm not in a tent.  And I now know I should check ebooks out one at a time, because I forget they are there (less likely with the stack of print books from the library).  I'm only a partial convert, but I do see the appeal. 

Do you read ebooks?  Do you borrow them from the library?  What makes them more or less appealing than print?  Have you read any truly interactive books, like The 39 Steps

A selection of fascinating ebook innovations

Point Beach Driftwood

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Does our society value children and education?

Teachers and school supplies

This article reports survey results for how much teachers spend on supplies for their classrooms and students, on average, each year.

First Lady Laura Bush did champion a tax deduction for teachers, of $250.00, to help offset this cost;  most teachers have spent that much before the first week of school, but I do appreciate the effort.

Many communities have school supply drives to help with this problem as well, and there are many generous individual and corporate donors to those drives, which also helps.

However, as you will see from the article,  the cost to teachers is still enormous.  And as school district budgets are cut, the cost to teachers will increase -- or they, and their students, will go without supplies like pencils and crayons and facial tissue -- the latter is a real issue in flu and cold season, as I think you can imagine.

I worked with teachers who had to have their classrom supplies -- including furniture and cartons of books -- delivered each school year by friends or relatives with trucks.  Everyone has their own decorations -- bulletin board borders, inspirational posters, and educational sayings.  Elementary teachers have more things -- high school teachers have more books, maps, and sometimes their own technological equipment.  I knew an elementary teacher whose classroom was alive with "reading spaces" including a play house and a claw foot bathtub filled with cushions.  Every August, they unpack all this stuff, create their classroom environment, and, every June pack it up, take it home, and repeat the process the next school year.  

I've been asked what the right amount of money per child is to run an adequate school system.  It's a fair question, but it doesn't have an easy answer.  I tend to think in terms of what children need in their school environment.   The list is long, and expensive.  People and technology, and the costs of special education, drive the budget, but there are also a lot of expenses for infrastructure, facilities, and equipment.

A partial list for the ideal school.  (feel free to add to this, in your mind or the comments)

*  Caring, qualified teachers, paraprofessionals, and support staff.
*  A clean and safe environment with age appropriate furniture and equipment
*  Technology and equipment, including computers and tablets, as well as smart blackboards, projection equipment, lab equipment, athletic equipment, musical instruments. . . . 
*  A school library with up to date physical and electronic collections, and a qualified teacher/librarian teaching information literacy skills
* An outdoor play area, and a gym
* A space large enough for the whole school for performances and visiting lecturers
* A garden, and a commitment to healthy food in a well staffed cafeteria or lunchroom
* Safe transportation to and from school
* Adequate supplies
* A budget for field trips and equipment for experiential learning outside the classroom

Most teachers now have computers on their desks, though I had one that took 45 minutes to boot up at one school where I worked, and most teachers also have telephones in their classrooms -- these seemingly basic bits of technology, which also have safety implications, are fairly recent additions to some classrooms.

Some communities are able to go beyond my basic list -- some are not even meeting those standards.  The more social services the school is asked to provide, and the more needy or at risk the student population, the higher the cost.  Grant writing and fund raising take time and skill -- where there are inadequate physical resources, there are often also inadequate human resources -- no one has the time or the skill to work with the complex application processes for grant funding.  Most grants also require a plan to continue the program beyond the grant period, and that, too, may not be possible in the most needy environments.

The problem is a complex one, and it is influenced by many larger societal problems, so the solution also needs to be multi-faceted and complex.

I think the first step is making children and education a priority in our society -- recognizing that a 19th Century Calendar,  mid-20th Century buildings, and a curriculum that has been tweaked but not fundamentally re-thought is not going to prepare our children for competitive life in the 21st Century.
I would caution against looking only at test scores and rote learning --- that's not playing to our historic strengths of innovation and individualism, which need to be nurtured.

Does our society really value children and education?

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I try to keep this blog focused on professional issues and idea, but sometimes the personal creeps in. .  .  I'm walking on an American Cancer Society Relay team, and I'd like to provide more opportunities for people to support our team.  Thanks for considering this, in a world where there are a lot of needs and opportunities of this sort.

What do you think about the overlap among the personal, political and professional in social media, especially considering the current controversary in the NFL?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

48 Hour Film 2013 Trailer St. Louis

 Check out the latest production from Mole Man Movies -- the trailer is from their entry in the 48 hour film festival in St. Louis -- where teams are given a theme and have 48 hour to write, shoot, edit and produce a film, including original music.  This year's theme as Mistaken Identity

Friday, February 8, 2013

Books to read on snowy days

Thinking of summer on a snowy day. . . 

I love the Unshelved cartoon -- a very funny and true look at library life.  On Fridays, they publish book reviews, one of which is the cartoon for the day.

Today's cartoon caught my eye because I loved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle as a child.  One of the excellent adventures of my summer camp days was searching through the collection of old, donated books in the giant barn we used for rainy day activities.  The original Camp Fire Girls series from the turn of the 20th Century were there, as were the stories of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Rest hours and rainy days were transformed through that collection, which was obviously donated and a very random collection -- I loved the treasure hunt through the dusty books.

Unshelved Friday February 8 2013

 This is the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle I remember, but she's been updated  -- so look for the revised editions.

Powell's Bookstore in Portland, OR, has a great newsletter.  I've found books there I wouldn't have found anywhere else.  This is the list of both the customer's favorites of the year, plus the top fifty staff picks. I hope the snow storm doesn't last long enough for you to read all of them -- and I'm personally looking forward to reading on the beach.

2013 Puddly Awards Powell's Book Store

Random picture of the day -- early summer in Ireland.

Dunluce Castle County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Romance of Snow: A Wisconsin Photo Essay

Is snow romantic?

Watching snow fall is romantic, especially if you can do so in a location like Starved Rock State Park's lodge by the giant fireplace.  Watching the snow fall lazily towards the river, as I did one November day, is lovely.  Starved Rock State Park. Click on Seasons  

The snow falling outside my window right now is very beautiful, since my view is entirely of my giant fir tree and the swirling snow.   And the snow on cedars -- my neighbor's favorite plant -- is picturesque.
Playing in the snow can be lots of fun.  Especially if you are in a beautiful environment, like a  Wisconsin State Park   or in Door County, Wisconsin or in  Crested Butte, Colorado

Shoveling snow, however, while undoubtedly excellent aerobic exercise, is a little different from the romantic vision of snow. 
A long way to go    

Here we see the driveway halfway done, but, turning around. . .still a way to go, including the dreaded end of the driveway "plow snow".  While it is illegal to put your snow in the street, the plow can and will put the plow snow in your driveway -- and it will be compacted and full of ice chunks -- the bane of all those who use shovels or snow blowers.
Plow Snow

Plow snow: the closeup
Half the sidewalk

Remember the part about good exercise?  It is that, and you are well advised to remember what they told you in gym class about lifting with your legs, and not your back.  It is also true that there are many kinds of snow.  Today's snow was not too wet and therefore not too heavy.  The heavy wet snow is called "heart attack snow" for a reason.  
Sidewalk done

 Here are the "after" pictures:

Just as it begins to snow again. . . . 

It is lovely to watch the snow fall, and the second round of snow was the lightweight snow that sparkles as it falls, the star of many a moonlight on snow photograph.  It did not take very long for me to remove those final two inches
 I know that we cannot afford another drought year, and that we need the snow.  It is beautiful, as it falls, and when it is newly on the ground.  It will be good for all those "playing in the snow" businesses in this tourism dependent state, and  I enjoyed spending a lot of the day outside, and enjoyed the exercise.  You have to think about something while you're shoveling, and taking pictures is a good reason for a little rest break, so I worked on this post as I worked in the snow.  

What does winter mean to you?  Here are a few additional thoughts on Winter from

Monday, January 21, 2013

Proud to be a Citizen of these United States

It made me cry, and it made me proud.  Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) quoted George Washington as saying the swearing in of the first President was not the test of the new county -- the swearing in of the second President would be.  We now have our 44th President and have completed our 57th Inauguration -- and we should be proud of our country and its structure as we move ahead, facing challenges and  looking for solutions  in our collective national life.

The ceremony was impressive, far more than the sum of its parts, showing the unity and diversity of our country.   As is appropriate for the occasion, it was the United States at its very best.

If you did not have an opportunity to watch the Inauguration live, watch the video, not the summaries.  If not the whole four hours, at least the speech.  I appreciated the President's speech -- especially its historical references -- and liked it better for its careful, understated nature.  It would be a pleasure to teach, because there are many important historical references that students would have to search for and figure out. 

Here is the Inaugural Poem by Richard Blanco:

And this was my favorite quote, (as illustrated and Tweeted by the White House) it is also picture 17 in the White House photostream here in the section "Your Voices at the Inauguration".

"With passion & dedication, let us answer the call of history & carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom" 

                         - -  Barack H. Obama, 2nd Inaugural Address, January 21, 2013

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Every child ready to read

This video was part of the answer to a question I was asked today, and it gave me the opportunity to watch it again.  It was written and produced by my friend Faith, and it is a must see for all parents and library advocates.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters and big brothers and sisters, too!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

A new year;  a time for resolutions and thinking in images of newness -- like a blank book or an unfilled calendar.  2013.  Remember what a fuss was made about the new century?  And now we're well into its second decade.  A lot of challenges still ahead -- and a lot of ideas to explore.  One of my resolutions is to be a better (or at least, more frequent) blogger.

Happy New Year!

Fortune Cookie

Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is the best.
Frank Zappa