Thursday, March 14, 2019

What Kind of Librarian Are You?


In my almost ten years as a librarian, I have had the opportunity to work in different kinds of librarianship.  I was a school library media specialist for six years, seven if you include my field experience.  I was also an academic librarian and professor for two years.  Now I am a public librarian in adult services.  I think many of us stumbled along before we happily landed where we are.  Less of a calling and more of an arriving.  You don't need to KNOW where you are going, but you do need to know who you are.  Here is what I have learned along the way for those of you who are still trying to figure out...

WHAT KIND OF LIBRARIAN ARE YOU?

Elementary School Media Librarianship

I began as a school library media specialist for many reasons, but I mainly got the cert because I wanted to be as marketable as possible.  I entered librarianship later in life.  I was married with a kid and dogs and a mortgage and car payments.  I needed a job after graduation as soon as possible.  Common sense just dictated that if I had both my public and media specialist certs I would find a job faster.  I also wanted to be available for my kid.  I had heard that public librarians have "terrible hours" and so when I was offered a job as an elementary school media specialist I said yes.  

Pros: 
  • The money was amazing.  This is probably because it was an affluent district but in general, I find that media specialists make more entry level than the other types of librarianship I have experienced.  As a ten-month employee, you can also work elsewhere in the summer and make even more.
  • You are the boss as soon as you walk in the door.  You are the director of your library.
  • Did I mention you get to make all of the decisions?
  • You get to expose children to reading!  It can all begin with you.  Some of those kids will look back on their years with you as a reason for their future success.  
  •  You get to teach.  I didn't know I would love teaching when I started but I really grew to love it.
  • The hours are great, as long as you are a morning person.  Roughly 7:30-3:00 with every holiday off and then some.  
  • Benefits are pretty amazing too.
Cons: 
  • You are the boss.  That means if anything goes wrong, it's on you.  It also means that you have to do everything yourself.  In public and academic libraries (for the most part), there are departments that handle different parts of librarianship like shelving, purchasing, circulation, etc.  When you are a media specialist that is all on you.  You might get lucky and have an assistant, but that is happening less and less as libraries and librarians are being cut from schools.  
  • You are a teacher which also means you need to do lesson plans, know the IEP's of every student in your classroom, and have to do assessments and classroom management.  This is definitely tougher when you're a media specialist at the elementary level.  I ran elementary libraries in two different district schools and taught grades 1-5 at both schools. And I couldn't use the same lesson plans for both libraries because they didn't have the same collections! 
  • Collaborating with colleagues is difficult.  When they bring their students to your class it is their period off.  It's doable, but you never seem to get as much information on the class you are teaching as you want or need.
  • Budget.  You're lucky if you have one at all.  To get the supplies, books, and databases you need for your students might take grant writing, fundraising, or working with local parent groups or educational foundations.  
  • Isolation.  You'll most likely be the only person in your building who does what you do.
Who should be an elementary library media specialist?

Someone who loves small children.  Who doesn't mind being interrupted constantly.  Who has the patience of a saint.  Loving arts and crafts is a plus.  Also loving reading aloud stories to children.  Being organized is essential!  Being a classroom management deity helps too.  That one you won't know going in, but you'll need to get there.   Perfectionists should avoid this one.  Young kids disrupt plans.  If you aren't comfortable going with the flow at a moment's notice, this job will really irritate you.  If this sounds like you, then maybe you should consider being an elementary library media specialist.

High School Media Librarianship

Being an elementary library media specialist for one year was more than enough for me.  I didn't like it and so started looking immediately.  I landed a job as a high school library media specialist and stayed there longer than anywhere else thus far.

Pros: 
  • Still the boss.  
  • Classroom management is easier.
  • No grading.
  • You don't teach every day.
  • You may or may not need to do lesson plans.
  • You have more flexible time and can prioritize projects to your needs.
  • Collaboration with faculty and administration is much easier.
  • Budget is probably higher.
Cons:
  • Still the boss.  It's all on you if you still screw it up.
  • Your library will probably be used as a study hall, computer lab, and/or testing center a lot.
  • You will be called upon to do a lot of tech stuff that may or may not have anything to do with librarianship.
  • Isolation.  You'll most likely be the only person in your building who does what you do.
Who should be a high school library media specialist?

Someone who enjoys teaching more complicated material and mentoring students.  You need to enjoy being in charge and taking the initiative on school-wide projects.  At the high school level the media specialist often works closely with administration being an almost go-between for faculty interests.  This position is for those with initiative who won't be intimidated by lack of parameters.  If this sounds like you, then maybe you should consider being a high school library media specialist.

Community College Academic Librarianship

The place where I was a high school librarian was just too far from home so I accepted a position as an academic librarian in the same town where I live.  Most academic librarian positions require at least two masters: one in librarianship and another in a specialty.  Community colleges don't always require that though and I was able to get in without an additional degree.

Pros:
  • You are a specialist now.  You focus on one thing and that's all you have to worry about it.  The larger the college or university, the more this is true.
  • Prestige.  You're a professor now with all of the social perks that entails.  
  • If you have a particular area you would like to research, this kind of position will support those endeavors.
  • Classroom management is barely a thing since most of your students are adults or are about to be adults.
  • You get to teach more than as a high school media specialist but not as much as an elementary media specialist.  It's a sweet spot.
  • The content and research questions are even more complex.
  • You may also serve the public which further diversifies your daily encounters.
  • You will likely be able to take courses at that college or university for free as will your spouse and dependents.
  • Holy budget batman!  You have plenty of money to do what you need to do.
  • Collaboration is a breeze and such a delight.
  • Might get your own office.
  • Flexible schedule.
Cons:
  • The prestige of professorship comes at a price.  There is a lot of ego in academia.  You will need to kowtow.
  • Tenure isn't just about how long you've worked.  It's far more complicated and definitely intimidating.
  • More chauvinistic than other forms of librarianship.  
  • Getting a position can take multiple interviews and a grueling process. 
  • Some positions will follow the "publish or perish" model which means you need to publish in order to stay.
  • Promotion means more money but your duties won't really change.   You'll always be doing the same thing.
Who should be an academic librarian?

If you like your T's crossed and your I's always dotted this might be the place for you.  Academics require precision and lots of rules following.  Drinking the koolaid is key so know and love the culture of the college or university before going in.  If you want to focus on just one kind of librarianship (cataloging, marketing, tech services etc.) this will allow you to do that.  If this sounds like you then you may want to be an academic librarian.

Public Librarianship

I always thought of myself as super-organized and competent...until I became an academic librarian.  It was just too rigid for me.  So I decided to try my hand at public librarianship.  At the writing of this post I've only been here three months, but it has been long enough for me to see the differences.

Pros:
  • Very laid back atmosphere compared to education-associated librarianship.  Rules are based more on common sense and empiric evidence than inspired by ego or liability.
  • You are open to the public so the range of questions you get varies greatly.  
  • Oodles and oodles of every kind of book and DVD and audiobook, not just curriculum-related.
  • Quirky colleagues.  No seriously, public librarians are definitely delightfully weirder than any other kind.
  • Opportunities for advancement abound.
  • Benefits still good.
Cons:
  • You will need to be on the reference desk a lot more than any other librarianship I have experienced.  Having someone there to answer the phone or email or chat will dictate your schedule.
  • You will need to work nights and weekends far more than education-associated librarianship.
  • Off days can sometimes be boringly quiet.  But then again you get a lot of work done those days.
  • No one knows you're a librarian.  Prestige is absent.  I keep getting called a receptionist.
  • Questions can get repetitive because no one reads signs.
  • Pay is comparatively low.
  • You'll probably have to share an office.
Who should be a public librarian?

Someone who can turn on a smile and keep it on.  You will be dealing with the public daily and customer service is number one.  Rules are more like sensible guidelines in public libraries where you need to decide what to enforce when, and you need to choose wisely.  Again, not a place for perfectionists or those with high anxiety.  A better place for diplomat types.  You never know what is going to happen in a public library!  Being kind of quirky is a plus.  If this sounds like you then you should seriously consider public librarianship.

WHAT KIND OF LIBRARIAN AM I?

I follow rules that make sense but I think for myself.  I love creativity and so too much structure confines me.  I prefer prioritizing my day as I see fit because I am a big self-starter.  I never need to be motivated; my work ethic is borderline obsessive and I am very high energy.  I love being in charge and making impactful decisions.  I enjoy leading teams and collaborating with others on projects.  I adore brainstorming and coming up with solutions to problems.  I like prestige, but it's not as important to me as other things.  I don't like being confined by job descriptions.  This may be considered anti-union, but I get bored easily, and so I'm always happy to help someone else do their job.  I don't mind doing more work than everyone else as long as the product is excellent.  I'm a selective perfectionist.  In some things I demand excellence.  In others, I really don't care.  I love people.  Helping people, serving people, talking to people.  Yet I'm still an introvert, so I can't be inundated with people all day every day.  And I love teaching!  Whether 1:1 or on stage in front of thousands, teaching needs to be a part of my life.

I could have been happy in any kind of librarianship because it was never about the content for me.  For me it always comes down to the people and the culture of the place.  I would have been happy staying as a high school media specialist but only to a point.  Like I said, I get bored.  I would eventually want to learn something new and when you're in a school there is no advancement unless you leave teaching and turn to administration outside of librarianship.  Few school districts are large enough to have a supervisor of just libraries.

I could not have been happy as an elementary librarian or an academic librarian.  I didn't like the rigidity of either.  Too many rules and not enough opportunity for innovation.  Neither had advancement opportunities so the boredom issue would have happened eventually anyway.

And so here I am in public librarianship.  I get to deal with people but it's not constant.  Some days more than others.  I have to work nights and weekends and summers but I get so much time off it doesn't feel onerous at all.  The pay is lower than I would like, but I'm only in an entry-level position at the moment so I'm not worried.  There will be many chances to try new things and make more money.  Policies and procedures are sensible and don't require a committee to update them.  Teaching is still a part of my life, often extemporaneous but sometimes formally planned.  And everyone is just as weird as I am.   I think I've found the kind of librarian I am.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hair in All the Wrong Places: A School Library Journal Book Review

Published August 2016 Issue

Gr 5-8
-- Like most 13-year-olds going through puberty, Colin Strauss has to deal with extra hair, body odor, and growth spurts, but turning into a fledgling werewolf makes things a lot more complicated. Forced to live with his bitter grandmother because his high-powered lawyer parents couldn't be bothered with him, Colin slumps through eighth grade, constantly bullied, harassed by figures of authority, and convinced that he is a total loser. A turbulent and hazy night changes all of this when he gets bitten by a werewolf. Fellow middle schoolers will commiserate with Colin's life challenges. Secondary characters are well-developed, as are the supernatural elements of the story. However, the pace of the first half of the novel often makes it difficult to understand what is happening, requiring frequent rereads. Once the plot is established, though, it is a real page-turner right up until the satisfying end. Several unrealistic characters border on hyperbolic, such as a hired principal who has "absolutely no qualifications," a teacher who has "a particular hatred for students and other teachers," and the only doctor in town, "a notorious drunk who [is] just as likely to fall asleep during an appointment, as he [is] to diagnose the common cold as Ebola." There are explanations for some of this behavior revealed later on, but most of the adults encountered in this work are cruel and incompetent.

VERDICT Hand this one to students interested in supernatural creatures of all kinds, light romance, humor, and action.--Carina Gonzalez, Lawrence High School, NJ

BUCKLEY, Andrew. Hair in All the Wrong Places. 237p. ebook available. Month9Books. Jun. 2016. pap. $15. ISBN 9781942664987.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pinned to the Cause

Every night, before I go to sleep, I lay out the jewelry I'm going to wear for the following day on my jewelry box.  I'm organized like that.  Guess that goes with the whole librarian stereotype.

This morning I realized that the only piece of "jewelry" I had selected to add to my ensemble last night was a lone large safety pin.

I dithered.  I've read both sides of the arguments: for and against wearing of the safety pin.  I was at first excited about the concept, but then the potential magnitude of the statement I would be wearing for all to see gave me pause.

Was I ready to step in if I saw someone being mistreated?  I've learned through experience that the theory and practice of such are very different things.  You like to think you'll stand up for your principles and defend other's rights to their own, but it's not that easy for many reasons.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Inspiration Behind Your Procrastination

When I began reading The Big Thing I was expecting organizational charts, schedules, and/or tips on how to be creative like people who do it well.  I was expecting a convert, but was instead amused to learn that the author herself still struggles with her creative process on a daily basis.


The Big Thing by Phyllis Korkki, on How to Complete Your Creative Project Even If You’re a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me, was a fascinating read.  Mostly because I am not lazy, neither am I self-doubting, nor a procrastinator.  I suppose that means that I am also not humble, but the point is that The Big Thing  was not written for people like me.  If I say I’m going to do something, it gets done and it gets done well and it gets done quickly.  That’s just the way I have always operated and I never quite understood why people ever struggled to get things done…


...until I read this book.


My husband, like the author, has been struggling with a “big thing” of his own.  He too is trying to write a book and it’s incomprehensible to me how much of a challenge it is for him for stick to a schedule and just write, especially when it’s something he claims to be so passionate about.  


According to Korkki, the obstacles to creative project completion aren’t really about time management.  At the core, it’s about psychology, as well as a smattering of other surprising suggestions like posture, breathing, and recognition by cognitive authorities in your medium.  In other words, it’s mostly in your head!  Not to demean these challenges, by any means.  The struggle is certainly real, as Korkki clearly demonstrates in this memoir-style account of her trying to complete this very book.  But it’s all about defeating the naysayers of your subconscious.

I found some parts of the book to be a bit too tangential though.  Some of the reasons behind laziness, self-doubting and procrastination that Korkki explores I found to be a stretch; more of a stream of consciousness thought experiment than proven methods to overcome these obstacles.  As long as you keep this in mind, this book is definitely helpful, to those who call themselves procrastinators, as well as the people who attempt to live with them.  Less of a manual on HOW to complete those projects, as why you didn’t complete them in the first place.

About The Big Thing

• Hardcover: 256 pages
• Publisher: Harper (August 9, 2016)

New York Times business journalist explains why it’s important for people to pursue big creative projects, and identifies both the obstacles and the productive habits that emerge on the path to completion—including her own experience writing this book.

Whether it’s the Great American Novel or a groundbreaking new app, many people want to create a Big Thing, but finding the motivation to get started, let alone complete the work, can be daunting. In The Big Thing, New York Times business writer and editor Phyllis Korkki combines real-life stories, science, and insights from her own experience to illuminate the factors that drive people to complete big creative projects—and the obstacles that threaten to derail success.

In the course of creating her own Big Thing—this book—Korkki explores the individual and collaborative projects of others: from memoirs, art installations, and musical works to theater productions, small businesses, and charities. She identifies the main aspects of a Big Thing, including meaningful goals, focus and effort, the difficulties posed by the demands of everyday life, and the high risk of failure and disappointment. Korkki also breaks down components of the creative process and the characteristics that define it, and offers her thoughts on avoiding procrastination, staying motivated, scheduling a routine, and overcoming self-doubt and the restrictions of a day job. Filled with inspiring stories, practical advice, and a refreshing dose of honesty, The Big Thing doesn’t minimize the negative side of such pursuits—including the fact that big projects are hard to complete and raise difficult questions about one’s self-worth.

Inspiring, wise, humorous, and good-natured, The Big Thing is a meditation on the importance of self-expression and purpose.

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HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Phyllis Korkki

Phyllis Korkki is an assignment editor and reporter for the New York Times Sunday Business section.

Follow Phyllis on Twitter.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

You Don't Need Religion to Raise Good Kids!

Grace Without God cover
I wish this book had existed ten years ago when I was starting my family.  Parents are often vilified for choosing to raise their children secularly, but this book provides a wonderful grace-filled guide on how to do it thoughtfully.  Katherine Ozment, a former Christian, and her husband Michael, who was raised Jewish, knew they didn’t want to raise their children in religion.  They knew the negatives of a religious upbringing, but were surprised to discover how much was lost by having made that choice.  They discovered that their children missed biblical references when reading literature in school, had little sense of community, and lacked the family traditions that accompany religious holidays.  

There was something missing.
In this chronicle of Ozment’s search for “meaning, purpose, and belonging in a secular age,” we are exposed to her fears, bravery, failures, and successes.  Ozment also delves deeply into the psychology of why religion is such a popular choice and how to make those connections in other ways.

Grace Without God is brimming with practical suggestions and resources for people of all faiths (or not-faiths) on how to navigate our burgeoning secular worlds without depriving our children of the joys many of us experienced growing up within a religion.  It IS possible to provide children with a moral compass, and answers to their spiritual questions without compromising your beliefs.  This book is a must read for anybody struggling to define themselves religiously, or looking to raise their children secularly.  I already have a list of friends to whom I will be handing this one too!

About Grace Without God

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (June 21, 2016)

Meet “the Nones”—In this thought-provoking exploration of secular America, celebrated journalist Katherine Ozment takes readers on a quest to understand the trends and ramifications of a nation in flight from organized religion.

Studies show that religion makes us happier, healthier and more giving, connecting us to our past and creating tight communal bonds. Most Americans are raised in a religious tradition, but in recent decades many have begun to leave religion, and with it their ancient rituals, mythic narratives, and sense of belonging.

So how do the nonreligious fill the need for ritual, story, community, and, above all, purpose and meaning without the one-stop shop of religion? What do they do with the space left after religion? With Nones swelling to one-fourth of American adults, and more than one-third of those under thirty, these questions have never been more urgent.

Writer, journalist, and secular mother of three Katherine Ozment came face-to-face with the fundamental issue of the Nones when her son asked her the simplest of questions: “what are we?” Unsettled by her reply—“Nothing”—she set out on a journey to find a better answer. She traversed the frontier of American secular life, sought guidance in science and the humanities, talked with noted scholars, and wrestled with her own family’s attempts to find meaning and connection after religion.

Insightful, surprising, and compelling, Grace Without God is both a personal and critical exploration of the many ways nonreligious Americans create their own meaning and purpose in an increasingly secular age.

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Katherine Ozment AP photo by Chris KirzederAbout Katherine Ozment

Katherine Ozment is an award-winning journalist and former senior editor at National Geographic. Her essays and articles have been widely published in such venues as the New York Times, National Geographic, and Salon. She lives in Chicago with her husband and children.

Find out more about Katherine at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

PARCC is NOT a graduation requirement for the Class of 2016!




IMPORTANT: PARCC is NOT a graduation requirement for the Class of 2016

On Friday, May 6 the NJDOE and the Education Law Center reached a settlement on a case that has far reaching implications for graduating high school seniors. The settlement provides important protections for students in the Class of 2016 who have met all other requirements for a diploma, but have not fulfilled the new testing requirements imposed by the NJDOE.

Key points of the settlement are as follows:
  • By this Friday, May 13, Districts should provide information about the portfolio process to parents/guardians of all students who still need the portfolio review to graduate. 
  • The portfolio process is available to all students, regardless of IEP status. 
  • Districts have been granted the power to oversee the portfolio review process. Districts may: 
  • Determine whether or not a student has met the graduation proficiency standards. 
  • Set portfolio requirements OR collect previous classwork to fulfill the portfolio requirements (or a combination of the two). 
  • Administer portfolio assessments in a student’s native language. 
  • Allow students awaiting final review of portfolios to participate in graduation ceremonies. 
  • Districts must provide staff assistance for students completing portfolios. 

Full details of the settlement are available here. The Department of Education’s guidance on the settlement is available here.

If you have additional questions about the implications of the settlement for students in your school, contact Stan Karp of the Education Law Center at skarp@edlawcenter.org.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Dangerous Place: Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

A Dangerous Place is Jacqueline Winspear's 11th book in the Maisie Dobbs series.  It is spring, 1937 in the British garrison town of Gibraltor.  Late 30's Gibraltar is a place of "between," full of transient people, clashing cultures, and dangerous opinions.

Maisie Dobbs, the lead character, is also "between."  A woman of many talents, principal of which is as an investigator.  However, personal tragedy has led her to flee her profession, or at least she tries to.  Trouble seems to have a way of following her.

Murder, lies, and wartime propaganda make this a page-turning read, but without the extreme highs and lows of typical suspense thrillers.  This book, obviously written by a seasoned author, seems to flow effortlessly.  The characters and setting are all so well detailed that the reader is quickly immersed in the history of this tumultuous time; a definite recommendation for anyone studying the underlying emotional motivations behind World War II, and the economic impact that still arrested much of the world after World War I.

The reason I gave this book three stars instead of more is because of the ending.  The entire plot is a slow burn of untangling twists and revealed truths.  However, what would be the climactic reveal felt like it was delivered as an afterthought to the main character's next venture.  This may be a customary  tactic for Maisie Dobbs novels, I don't know.  This is my first.  But rather than hungrily making me want to read the next book, I instead just felt robbed of my "aha" moment that I had been climbing towards.

Either way, if you are a fan of historical fiction, Winspear is definitely an author you should add to your list.  She is a very talented writer.

Author Links:  www.jacquelinewinspear.com and Facebook