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It’s November 30th, and I’ll be finishing my last projects for grad school within the next week. My final research project is due on December 8th, and that will be that. I’m conditionally approved for graduation, with the condition being that I pass my two remaining courses for the semester. As I’m currently sitting at a 96% or better in both, I think I’m going to be okay.

This is kind of surreal. Two years ago, I threw myself into this program with a heavier course load than I needed. I did it because I wanted to test myself and see if I could handle the full-time schedule on top of full-time work and a new baby at home. I made it, but it’s not been easy for me or for my family. I’m ready to see the end of that extra stress.

I’ve not written a lot about school this semester. I’ve been struggling a lot on my final research project. While I got approval from the library to poll my teen patrons, I didn’t get approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) until a few weeks ago. As soon as I did, I got my surveys printed out and set out in the teen area at my library, but it was almost a month after I’d hoped to be done collecting data. While I have had access to other data sources, the core idea behind my research was to see how COVID had impacted my teen patrons. Without their input, I felt like I was missing the entire point. I got pretty heavily depressed for a few weeks while I emailed updates back and forth, trying to get everything that the IRB requested. I was starting to feel like this whole thing had been a waste of time.

When I finally got the email containing my official IRB approval, the relief in the house was palpable. It was amazing how much better I felt, and I realized just how wrapped up in it I’d been. I hadn’t been able to focus properly on anything, and suddenly that block was just gone. I feel like I’ve been a different person for most of the last two years, and I’m finally going to get to be me again.

I’m still on parental leave, since Tiniest Child is almost two months old. I’m looking forward to a few weeks of vacation time to just hang out and enjoy the holidays with my family before diving back into work in January. Some day soon, I might start remembering what free time feels like.

Now I haven’t just been doing school work this semester. I’ve been doing guest work on the second season of The Sudden But Inevitable podcast discussing the classic anime series Cowboy Bebop (and I’ll be back soon to talk about Netflix’s live-action adaptation thereof). I’ve been working at my library (up until the beginning of October, when Tiniest Child arrived). I’ve been playing Metroid: Dread (two complete playthroughs at 100%, now learning some of the speedrunning quirks). I’ve not been attempting NaNoWriMo, because I do still have some semblance of sanity. I worked through a bunch of classic slasher movies (Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Children of the Corn, Scream, Candyman, etc.) during October. I got my COVID-19 booster shot. I spent time with my kids, just playing with Duplos. It’s been pretty damn good, but it’ll be better once school’s done. Stay tuned.

It’s July, and I’m most definitely not actually in school right now. While I decided not to take summer courses so that I could work at the Colorado Renaissance Festival again, I am still doing some work toward my degree.

I’m taking LS600 through Clarion this fall, and building on the research project ideas that I started back in January. This will be the actual implementation of the plan I crafted during the Spring 2021 semester. I’d planned to ask local teens about their experience with COVID-19, and the impact it had on their use of virtual library services. However, there was some uncertainty back in April about whether or not I’d be able to distribute the survey to teens through my library.

Last week, I got the best news regarding my research. I’ve been granted approval to have 1.) physical copies of my survey available in our libraries and 2.) a digital version of the survey on our teen website. Additionally, I’m in the process of having the survey translated into Spanish for a wider reach. My utmost thanks to my coworker, M, for assisting there. It’s been a long time since middle school Spanish class, and even at my most fluent, I couldn’t have done this without help.

Now it’s time to submit my application to the Institutional Review Board for official clearance from the university to move forward with my research project. I’m really excited to be able to continue my plans for my degree, and also to be able to conduct some research that might be beneficial to my home library as well.

Classes will be starting again before I know it. I’ve got three left to knock out before graduation. Let’s do this.

The countdown to the end of the semester is on. We’re wrapping up the last few weeks now, and my focus is already shifting to this fall. My big capstone project is underway (sort of). I’m drafting a proposal for a research study that will have to be cleared by the university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) before it can officially move forward. As part of that, I’m pursuing clearance from my library to conduct a survey of a group of our patrons. If I get it, I can carry on as initially planned. If not, I’m going to have to rework pretty much my entire plan for data collection… So, fingers crossed that I get the okay from my library.

There’s still a lot to do this semester, but my cataloging class has me feeling a lot better about my understanding of Dewey and MARC. Even if I never end up in cataloging, I’m happy that I decided to dive a little deeper into it over the last few months. With basically one week left, I’m happy to be going into a review session.

So, what’s next?

This fall, I’ll be taking LS600, Research in Librarianship; LS588, Preservation and Conservation of Library Materials; and LS549, Genre Fiction and Reader’s Advisory. I’m pretty excited about these classes. They’re all with professors I’ve studied with before, so I don’t have to worry about getting to know a new teacher. I’ll also be applying to graduate in December. I plan to continue my work at my current library after graduation (I have to keep working here for a while, since they’re doing some reimbursement for my tuition), though I’ll be able to begin applying to librarian positions that open.

I’ll likely drop one more update here at the end of the semester, but for now, I’ve got to get to finals prep. I’m looking forward to a little more free time over the summer.

In which it begins again. Or middles?

Grad school semester #3 (out of hopefully only 4) is well under way. This semester’s classes include an introduction to cataloging, web technologies in libraries, and research methodologies. The research course is useful because it will build into my capstone class for this fall. The web tech class is building on one that I took on integrated library systems last semester. The cataloging one is honestly the toughest to wrap my head around, because there’s so many little intricacies within the creation of MARC records. It seems like the answer to the same question can always be different. I’ll get there. Web technologies is technically over at this point, actually. Yay for a more positive experience with a half semester course!

In the meantime, we’re coming up on a year since the initial COVID-19 shutdown here at work. Today is the one year anniversary of our last regular day of operation. It’s kind of amazing and kind of terrifying to see what changes have occurred. Since then, we’ve gone to curbside pickup for materials, and opened, closed, and re-opened access to our physical collection for our patrons. It’s chaos, and it’s exhausting, but it’s still good to be helping people.

Anyway, I must go study for my cataloging midterm. Be well. Get the COVID vaccine as soon as you can.

It’s National Library Week! In fact, today is National Library Workers Day.

That’s right, folks. It’s that time of year again. In celebration, I’m working 40 hours!

Well, I’m doing a few other things, too. It’s not just about being here for the community. As part of that, last week I attended my first ever library conference, PLA 2016. It was an absolutely incredible experience. PLA is held every other year, and by sheer luck, I was given permission to attend for the opening of the exhibits last Wednesday.

It’s a short drive to Denver. I got to the conference about an hour ahead of the exhibit hall opening, and wandered the convention center, marvelling at how weird it was to see the place devoid of cosplayers (since the last time I’d been there was Denver Comic Con in 2013). I watched the bustle of downtown Denver from a balcony, read some Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and waited as patiently as possible for the doors to open.

When 3:30 finally arrived, I entered the exhibit hall and was blown away by the sheer number of vendors on site. Book distributors Baker & Taylor and Ingram; publishers Hachette, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Dorling Kindersley; library service providers Overdrive and Mango… I spent three hours wandering the rows, chatting with representatives of companies like Lulzbot. I got to meet people from libraries around the country. I snagged some ARCs from publishers (stay tuned for some reviews!), got a free mango smoothie from the folks at Mango Languages, and chatted with some library school representatives about my desire to pursue my masters degree. I got to demo some software, play a game of Super Mario Bros. using a system of fruits and circuits as a controller, and drive a BB-8 Sphero toy around. I saw floor models of furniture designed for library use and new construction toys for kids. But the best thing that I saw at the entire conference? People like me. Young people who are just as enthusiastic about libraries as any generation before. People who want to challenge the stereotypes of libraries and librarians alike. People who are eager to spread their knowledge of and passion for libraries around the country and the world.

The future of libraries is bright and varied, folks. Please continue to support yours.

“It’s still National Library Week. You should be especially nice to a librarian today, or tomorrow. Sometime this week, anyway. Probably the librarians would like tea. Or chocolates. Or a reliable source of funding.”
Neil Gaiman

It’s almost the end of September, and another favorite time of year is here. This year, Banned Books Week runs from the 22nd to the 28th. For you uninitiated out there, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read. You see, some people in the world are so terrified of knowledge that they actively seek to hide information from other people. In some unfortunate cases, this results in people attempting to remove a book from public access. In response to this behavior, the American Library Association started Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of free and open access to information.

I’m not going to mince words. I fucking hate people who push for the banning of books. It is the one thing that gets me upset more than anything else. It is an act of supreme ignorance to ban a book. No one should be able to tell someone else that they can’t read something. Period. In fact, I’m rather stubborn about it. If you tell me that I shouldn’t read something, I’ll ask you why. If you tell me I CAN’T read something, I’m going to find a way to read it.

So, why do people ban books? Most challenges to books occur in schools. This frequently has to do with a book that a class has been assigned to read having some content in it that a parent or guardian of one of the readers finds offensive. Case in point: Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret is a frequently challenged title. This is usually more because it includes a description of a girl having her first period than because it is about said girl’s questioning of the existence of a deity. Yeah, that’s right, kids. Talking about the changes that EVERY HUMAN BEING goes through are apparently reason enough to stop someone from reading a book. HOW DARE YOU CHILDREN ATTEMPT TO LEARN WHAT YOUR BODY IS DOING!

But yeah, “sexually explicit” and “unsuited to age group” are the two biggest reasons cited when someone challenges a book’s presence in a library. That’s because both of these terms are open to a very loose interpretation. If a parent feels that their precious little snowflake of a child isn’t ready to read about something that everyone else in their class at school has been talking about, then BAN THAT BOOK. Guess what, folks? Mitch Hedberg said it best. “Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read!” Look, if you’re concerned about what your kid might learn from a book, talk to your kid about the topic. It’s called parenting. The librarians aren’t there to do it for you. They’re there to provide information to their patrons, not to keep them from accessing it.

Why should I care? Orwell left us this gem in 1984. The oppressive regime in control of England in the book uses several slogans, including  WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. It’s quite telling, and a bit terrifying, that 1984 has itself been challenged. We’re living in a world where our ability to access information is greater than ever. Thanks to the internet, we have an unbelievable amount of data that we can use every day, WHENEVER WE WANT. However, there are people who want to limit this sort of access to those things that they feel are appropriate for us to see. Sound familiar? People who want to ban books are proponents of ignorance. Fight them. Peacefully.

What can I do to help? Learn your library’s policy on reacting to book challenges. If someone says that they want to complain about a book, ask them if they’ve read it (Yes, this is a legitimate issue—most of the people I’ve met who complained to me about Harry Potter, for example, had NEVER ACTUALLY READ THE BOOK). Many complaints are based purely on hearsay. I like to think of this as the “Cycle of Stupidity.” Some day I’ll draw you a nifty illustration as an example of the cycle. For now, let it be known that only you have the power to stop stupid people. Fight the spread of ignorance. Embrace literacy. Read a banned book. Judy Blume has a great strategy for getting a kid to read. “The best thing to do is leave the books around the house and from time to time say, ‘I really don’t think you’re ready for that book.'”

Other people can stand where they like on the issue of reading freedom, but me? I’m with the banned.

About two weeks ago, I was approached by a coworker to craft the opening lines to a collaborative story that would be taking place in my library’s lobby. The starting words I wrote were posted on a large paper tablet on an easel. Patrons are free to come up and add a sentence to continue the narrative. As of this morning, we’re onto the fifth page It’s been an intriguing community effort, and I will try to post the whole thing once it is done. For now, however, here are the first one hundred words. I was given two themes to weave into this intro, summer and the library. This is what I wrote.

* * * * * *

The summer sun was hanging low in the sky, lazily dropping toward mountains. A light breeze carried a leaf from behind me and whisked it across my path before dropping it to the ground. I could still hear the laughter of the children playing games in the park I’d passed a few minutes before, mixed with yells that the ground was lava. I paused briefly to look toward my destination. The library stood tall amid the growing shadows, as if it were waiting for my arrival. I shivered in anticipation and approached the entryway, placing my hand on the door.

* * * * * *

I can’t wait to see where they go with this one.

June is here, and I’ve been productive. I’m almost (finally) completely unpacked and pretty well set up in my new apartment. I’m sorting through books and paring down to no more than two copies of any given title, though some exception may be made for collectible editions (I’m looking at you, Tolkien).

Why two? I like to share my books with my friends, and it never hurts to have a backup of something you’re going to loan to somebody. Plus, it’s a good chance for me to use this:

Knock Knock's Personal Library Kit

Why, yes! I DID buy this for myself. How did you know?

Besides, I need to free up room in my place for new books. I’m very much looking forward to what I find next. Every day around books is a beautiful adventure.

For this week’s Trifextra challenge, we were prompted to write the origin of a superhero in thirty-three words. I debated doing someone from my favorite comic book series, but then I remembered I had this little thing floating around in my drafts folder, so you get someone original-ish. Enjoy.

The Librarian:

Raised in secret in the catacombs beneath our nation’s capital. Trained from birth in the ways of those who have always walked in silence. He is the peerless warrior of words. The Librarian.

 

 

 

 

This week is National Library Week, and so I would like to share a few of the things that have been going on at my library.

We’ve had a couple of very successful programs for our local teens. We hosted a Blind Date With a Book, where library books were wrapped in paper and labeled only with a small singles-ad-style blurb.

Happy Valentine's Day, book lovers.

Happy Valentine’s Day, book lovers.

Teens were encouraged to take home a book based solely on the paragraph attached. This sense of mystery allowed for them to be surprised by an author that they may not have encountered, or to unwittingly revisit an old favorite.

Up next was our Readbox display. I’m sure most of you are familiar with Redbox, the DVD and video game rental kiosks.

It's like a Redbox, only better.

It’s like a Redbox, only better.

And finally, some days it’s important to just have fun at the library. Nothing helps this like a subtle addition to our self-check station.

"Luke, this is where you scan your library card."

“Luke, this is where you scan your library card.”

If you’ve not visited your local library lately, you should. See what’s new. Libraries are evolving to meet your 21st century needs. Happy National Library Week.