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As some of you know, I've recently been teaching as an adjunct and occasional instructor for continuing ed courses. I pretty much fell into it - never pictured myself teaching. With encouragement, I applied to teach a basic youth services in public library grad course online a few years ago. What's to lose?
Holy academia! I got hired! That first time, I had six weeks to develop a syllabus and content for the fifteen week grad course, find my textbooks and set-up the online course on a platform that was like learning a language from another dimension. It was without question the hardest professional challenge I ever experienced.
I was able to do it because I wasn't alone. The support from SLIS staff and many, many colleagues who mentored me, suggested pathways through this new dimension and from the students themselves taught me a ton and shaped me as a teacher.
Because of that experience, I found I love teaching and kept it up (it's gotten easier and far less other-dimensional since that first "polar plunge" semester).
And alot of that love is because of alot of you!
Teaching allows me to share the wisdom and experience of many of you out in the field blazing paths to great services for your communities. I have been able to link my students to many bloggers and blog posts and the seminal thinking that is going on in the field. I thank you and hope you keep writing and sharing!
And I want to especially thank the kind colleagues who took the time to go the extra mile this semester for my students by creating videos talking about their passions and areas of expertise for my students. Huge hugs go out to Christine Jenkins, Mel Depper, Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Karen Jensen, Abby Johnson, Terrie Howe, Megan Schliesmann, Shelly Collins-Fuerbringer, Lisa Shaia, Amy Koester, Cen Campbell and Starr LaTronica. I know how busy everyone is and it was a privilege to share your thinking with the students.
While the course evaluations aren't in, I would say that these videos touched the students deeply (if the discussion boards and papers written are any indication) and were eye-opening glimpses into the thinking behind what we do as youth services professionals. Your expertise, so kindly shared, will make the students more mighty.
Thanks for joining me in this teaching adventure. I simply could not do it without you!
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I love technology even when I'm less than facile with it. Having come from the horse and buggy days when overdue notices were handwritten, check-out cards (by the thousands) were hand alphabetized for each due date and slowly searched to unite card with returned item, and phone notices ate up a morning each week, how can I not love?
Back in the day, to reach out to your colleagues meant a drive or a long-distance phone call. It wasn't unusual for a director, sweating the bottom line, to ask you to use snail mail. Not exactly conducive to a conversation.
Technology has been powering our work and connectivity since the '80s. Each year it gets better, faster and more interwoven. Social media gets us brainstorming, learning, commiserating and celebrating with pals, new and old, near and far. Travis Jonker just wrote this article on power-using. Combine that with chats, google doc collaboration and we can be right there with each other all the time. I'm with you, buddy!
Bringing technology into our work with kids has also been great. Watching parents using iPads with their kids, kids gaming and solving in Minecraft, kids learning animation, coding, filmmaking, using iPads for trivia/scavenger hunts on tours and more in libraries (check out Jbrary's recent post on iPad programs) has been way exciting. I will never be the Luddite that screams "Books! Books! Nothin' but books!" There is room for all the ways to interact with print and discover and learn information.
So where is all this going? Well with new iPhone I bought last night in hand, for the first time I am free to blog wherever and whenever. So I did, just to see if I could!
Sigh! Technology I heart you!
[Although I couldn't *quite* figure out how to get the links and photo in...more study ahead!)
One of my favorite young adult books (and films) is Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. These authors have written two other novels together, and Levithan also teamed up with John Green for another of my favorite books, Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I’m fascinated when writers work together to tell a story, and I’m curious about how these things come about, what their process is, and how the story develops along the way. After all, writing is supposed to be a lonely business, isn’t it?
I think most working writers will agree that all published stories are ultimately collaborations. There’s the critiques you get from your beta readers, feedback from your agent, changes from your editor. There’s also the input of copy editors and proofreaders, who can sometimes save a story at the last possible moment and catch all your mistakes. Your friends and family help you brainstorm, or happen to say something at just the right moment. Your read another story or watch a movie that inspires a brilliant idea for yours. Along the way, many of these suggestions are entirely optional — it’s still your book — but it’s good to listen and be open to anything that will make your book stronger. Your crit partners, agent, and editor all want it to be the best story it can be, and you know what? Even if you agree with them and make some changes, it’s still your book.
So far, I have only collaborated with another author once, on a novelette titled “Lost in Natalie,” which was recently published in the summer issue of Space and Time magazine. I wrote it with my friend Mercurio D. Rivera, a critically acclaimed science fiction writer; he critiqued an early draft in our writing group and thought it was a great premise but the light, almost campy tone was jarring against the darker themes. He wanted to take a crack at working on it together, and I agreed. (There was also some sort-of-incest in the story, which I think is what really got him interested…)
The basic plot was about a guy who attends a sex party called a “swap meat” at which everyone switches bodies throughout the night. But there’s a police raid — because of course that kind of thing is totally illegal! — and he has to escape in someone else’s body. Hijinks ensue.
As this was our first collaboration with anyone, let alone each other, we approached it as sensibly as we could. Mercurio had my original draft, which he reworked into a new outline, and we decided to simply use that as a guide and alternate chapters, sending them to each other to pick up the thread like a round-robin game. As we reviewed the other’s section, we were free to make any changes we wanted — without tracked changes — no questions asked.
Mercurio kicked it off:
Attached is my stab at an opening scene for “Lost at the Swap Meat” (working title). I’m afraid that my outline has sort of fallen apart. Nonetheless, I’ll also send you the outline in its current state in a separate email.My skin is very thick; feel free to re-work any or all of this if it’s not working for you.
I worked on it. A few days later I sent him this:
Here’s my first pass on the second scene, along with some changes and additions to the first section, which was quite good. Wow, it really is porny though–where are we going to market this thing? Anyway. Feel free to change whatever you need to. I’ll choke down my pride I basically stuck to your outline here, and threw in some other threads we might explore or lose along the way.
I got it back a week later:
Tag! You’re it!P.S. Outline is broken. Luckily you don’t normally write with one, right?
PPS. I ramped down the sexual flirting in the cab–I figured they’d be too shaken up from their near arrest, but I kept it in the apartment
PPPS My latest scene sucks. Please make brilliant
PPPPS “Conner” is now “Gustavo”– to make the characters slightly less white-bread
Gustavo? Okay. We changed that to Enrique at some point.
Look! It’s a whole day early! This latest scene is still a little rough, but I think we have some direction. I updated the outline with some ideas for the rest of the story, but feel free to ignore it if you can come up with something better. I am really excited about this and I like how it’s coming along–we’ll obviously have a lot of editing to do when we’re done, but nothing we can’t fix.
It’s coming in a little long as well, so I think we may have to trim a lot if we can’t sell it at that length and with its mature content. We’ll see after we finish.
Carry on! I expect something soon
And so it went. Back and forth. It was awesome.
The collaborators (Photo by Matt Kressel)
Reading through our old e-mails, I was also working on my first draft of Fair Coin at the time, and at least one other short story. But I always looked forward to getting the next section from Mercurio, and my faster turnaround times kept him working and motivated. And the end result (many, many critiques and revisions later) was something better than either of us probably could have managed on our own.
Mercurio writes wonderful dark, thinky stories with beautiful prose, while I think my strengths are in dialogue and character, and our different approaches to plotting meshed very well. The story ended up having a really interesting, provocative theme and the ending is one of the best things “I’ve” written. I learned a lot from him in the process, and because we were constantly revising each other’s sections, and then our own sections and lines, the whole story smoothed out so even our friends couldn’t tell which scenes we wrote. (Actually, we barely remember anymore either. We’re each happy to take credit for the bits we like though.)
Moreover, our friendship survived the experience, and we eventually sold the story to a great market, so I count that a win. So why did this go so well? Being friends helped, but that also could have gotten in the way. First and foremost, we kept our egos out of the equation. We admire each other’s talents and instincts, and we respect each other. We’re both used to receiving constructive criticism and revising our work. It was also a lot of fun! We both loved the story and wanted it to reach its potential, and I am so energized by that creative process with other people.
You would think two writers would make the story go twice as quickly, but that isn’t always the case because you also have two people with schedules and responsibilities and lives to work around. Sharing the workload did help though, and I am often still amazed — and a little shocked — at what we created together. (A small caveat if you’re interested in checking out the story in Space and Time and are familiar with most of my other work: It is really not young adult.)
The experience of writing with Mercurio also prepared me for other projects down the line, including my new novel, The Silence of Six, which took a more collaborative process with my publisher than I was accustomed to. And I would definitely love to collaborate on another story or even a YA novel, with the right project and the right person. (E-mail me!)
Writers, have you collaborated on any stories? What was that like? What are some of your favorite collaborations?
E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and the public library in Yonkers, New York. He is the author of the Andre Norton Award–winning young adult novel Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, as well as numerous short stories. His new novel, The Silence of Six, a thriller about teenage hackers and government conspiracies, will be out on November 5, 2014 from Adaptive Books. You can find traces of him all over the internet, but especially at http://ecmyers.net and on Twitter: @ecmyers.
I've blogged about this before - especially in relation to the our penchant to be good sharing - and taking - people. You can't ever forget where something comes from and it is a beautiful thing when you can do that acknowledgement - most especially in a professional atmosphere (blogging, presentations, workshops, Twitter and Tumblr and etc). We all stand on the shoulders of those before us. We may tweak and we may tinker but somebody got that ball rolling.
I want to add another thought to the conversation - or throwdown from a management perspective: thinking about taking the "I" to "we."
I have always worked in a strong team environment. From the smallest library to larger libraries, many people - not just youth services staff - from director to Circ clerks to custodial staff have had a hand in contributing to conversation and idea-building. They have put in an oar, a thought, a suggestion, a brilliant solution that has made each and every project and program far better than it began.
I can count on one hand, ONE HAND, the actual stuff that I, me, myself, *I*, created, invented or totally birthed ON MY OWN in my 38 year career.
Uh-uh. Didn't happen. Dozens of things I am known for were the result of collaboration - free, wild, plunge-into-"what-if, what-if, what-if", brainstorming, tornadic, mosh pit, scrum-filled collaboration. When I've changed something, I am still building on something that went before that provided the ignition spark to push my own practice. Same goes for all of you, my friends and colleagues, out on the internet - you have shared and changed so many ideas that have helped me grow an idea and make it better. It's ours!
When you look at my blog posts as I am sharing a program, idea or innovation, you seldom see it written in the first person. Far more often, it is written as "we" and "our" because the progress or change or light bulb moment was built by many hands in the department and the library and out in my ULN/PLN land..
While it is vital to credit your colleagues when you are sharing ideas that are clearly theirs and give them "mad props", it is also important to move away from the "I" and acknowledge the true "we-ness" of what is created through every-day and every-way collaboration.
I believe we are stronger together in everything we create. What do you think?
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Then Amy extended the conversation with this. Again, I agree with her wholeheartedly.
My post was chewing around the edges of something else that isn't quite as linear but is a huge piece of crediting people who create and citing them.
When I wrote about management perspective I was not referring to "management privilege". I detest anyone who poaches and claims credit or by omission leaves out the people who do the true heavy lifting. It's not how I try to run my shop or thankfully been managed by others - or most importantly -been treated by all my many colleagues around the state and country.
And I think that there is a great deal of professional pain that youth librarians feel from work they have not been credited for, celebrated for and appreciated for. I am definitely not arguing the great teamwork-kumbaya (we're all in this together, la-la).
I am coming at the discussion from one place as a long-time manager, a long-time active association member and a long-time consultant/presenter. And from the other place, I am coming as a newly energized researcher and teacher who demands citations and digging down to the original roots of work - most especially from myself! It is this perspective that I want to pursue.
As I have been studying the history of children's programming in public libraries, it is increasingly clear that youth librarians have been pushing the envelope of service since the beginning of the profession. Over the last century, children's librarians were at the forefront of developing SLPs, outreach, use of technology (radio, TV, films, filmstrips, record players), programming to parents (my mom was in the parent group while I was in storytime!), and many many of the practices that some in the profession are currently "inventing." Everything old IS new again.
There is a huge scaffold of practice upon which each and every one of us builds our own scaffold of service and innovative ideas. My concern is for some in the profession that don't want to recognize that foundation. Our foremothers and current colleagues have done work that we all build on - whether its oppositional building or complementary. When we don't acknowledge that debt - and appreciate where our own work is coming from, we do a huge disservice.
My point in my original post about how collaborative we are comes from that place. It is the "we" I am trying to get at.
So how do we acknowledge the "I" while being true to the "we" - and visa versa?
As Amy writes: cite! Seek permission from those whose work your work is based on to share. Communicate and don't steal. Never false claim. Know that your support of someone else's work enhances your own. Acknowledge that the brainstorming power of coworkers, tweeps, Facebookers, a conference hallway conversation informed that idea that you brought to full fruition.
You cannot be harmed by acknowledging and citing. Rather you can be the power that raises up those around you. And that is a powerful "I" and a powerful "we".
An interactive Taiko performance–forming new connections brings fresh knowledge to the library.
Rural librarianship can mean a small staff, but it can also mean a tight-knit community full of residents and organizations happy to share their knowledge. Working with other organizations and local experts helps maximize impact and expand services to new audiences without overburdening librarians. How do you find new partners? Leave the library!
Earlier this week, April Witteveen wrote an installment in the YALSA Blog’s Back to School series about making new connections within the school system. She recommends “stepping outside your comfort zone” which also applies to forming community partnerships. If you want to form a partnership to deliver new programming opportunities, step outside the building and strike up a conversation. Take a trip down to the farmers market, visit with business owners, or attend a meeting with a local organization. You might meet a person or group with special experience or knowledge that they are eager to share with local teens. For example, a relationship established with the Montana Taiko Drum Community recently resulted in an interactive performance at the library. It was a new experience for all, but we achieved several mutual objectives including enhancing a sense of community and developing cultural competence.
AM radio made with snap circuits during a program facilitated by a local maker
Hobbyists can also help you develop programming in topics as diverse as your community. The maker movement is an excellent opportunity to call upon local knowledge. This summer my library borrowed a makers kit from the Montana State Library that included a Raspberry Pi and other fun technology that was largely unfamiliar to our staff of six. I reached out to a local makers group on MeetUp and found community members interested in facilitating programs on circuitry, Arduino, and MaKey MaKey. During our latest program, teens used snap circuits to build an AM radio–a result that may not have happened if I had designed the program on my own. Better yet, the maker group gained exposure, and we worked together to promote STEM education.
Forming new partnerships can bring programs and fresh knowledge to the library, but like all relationships, it’s a two way street. As you go out into the community, remember to listen. There are many ways the library can work with other groups to fulfill common goals.The Future of Library Service for and with Teens: A Call to Action report has a section on forming and sustaining partnerships. The report asks librarians to consider “how the mission and goals of the library complement and extend the mission of the other community organizations” (p. 32). By sharing ideas and working toward a common goal, we can bring more to the teens we serve. No single librarian can know or do all things, but we are pretty awesome at connecting the community with resources. Our “portfolio” should include connections with other people, organizations, and mentors.
Over 1.5 million children from more than 75 countries have signed up to celebrate International Dot Day in their classrooms and individually. It is a day of COLLABORATION and CREATIVITY across the globe. Peter Reynolds says, “the theme for this year’s … Continue reading →
I discovered Rebecca’s work through participating in her crowd-funding for her ITSY BITSY SPIDER book. By the way, as of two weeks ago, in addition to its print format, this story is is now an interactive book app for the iPad … Continue reading →
I confess that after my trip to Portland, Maine, this summer and falling in love with the area, when I noticed on FB that Lisa spends part of her year there, I thought I should invite her onto … Continue reading →
For me, one of the most challenging aspects of being a manager is working to reach beyond what is in front of us and visioning out towards the future. It is so deuced easy to start slipping into the quicksand of desk work, deadlines, tough patron interactions, cranky colleagues, and the day-to-day grind. As we slip further in, energy is expended in just trying to get through the hour, the day, the week, the month.
Vision? I got no time for that!
Yet, it is this big picture thinking that really informs and advances our services. Staff at all levels at libraries of all sizes that practice big picture thinking and visioning create innovative, reflective, responsive and deep library services.
I have been thinking alot about this over the past month since attending the School Library Journal Think Tank. The speakers, the library leaders I chatted with and worked with that day and the think tank itself were all helping us focus on that larger picture. Inspirational? Oh yes. Transformative? Uh-huh? Usable? Absolutely.
Our keynote speech was by Pan Sandian Smith of Colorado's Anythink Libraries. Her words lit a fire for me. Joanna wrote a blog post at So-Cal Library Connections on the day summarizing speakers and including reports from the Think Tank unconference as well. Other reports came from Amy at Show Me Librarian (here, here and here) and Michelle at Lit Chat for Kids. Those big picture thoughts surrounded us and enlivened us. They gave me more than food for thought. Linda Braun's recent post at YALSA also underscored the importance of thinking big and deep and far beyond the day-to-day and into the future.
All these resources helped me focus and re-commit to the big picture at our library. We have now formed three "mini-teams" in our department. Each two person team focuses on an age group - preschool; school-age; teen/tween. We meet weekly and are discussing all aspects of service to each age group from programs, collections, outreach, reader's advisory, and stealth programs to PR, special initiatives, focus and dreams. We share the notes from the mini-meetings among us and have already begun the delightful work of visioning and big picture thinking. We'll plunge into summer with a much clearer picture of where we want to go and how we might do it.
In fall, we'll bring all the team together off-site for a half-day to reflect, brainstorm and bring these big picture views together and see where we want to go as a department. I am excited to help bring this focus further out.
While I am fond of my nose, it seldom brings me to a larger view of the youth librarianship world. Thank goodness my colleagues help inspire me so that I can help all of us look farther, longer, deeper and fresher!
Today, I’m participating in the blog series, “Show Me the Awesome!” that was started by Kelly, Liz, and Sophie. It's a chance to step up and talk about something special that you've done or want to promote, for instance. For more AWESOME, please check over at their sites for the official link-up. Also, don’t forget the tag #30awesome on Twitter, Tumblr, Vine and/or Instagram if you’re liking what you’re reading and want to talk about it!
One of the things I'm proudest of in my career is my success building partnerships and working with public schools in my communities. I didn't think too much about it until I started to tune into the fact that colleagues seemed to have far fewer happy collaboration stories than I did.
Not only far fewer happy stories but also far more horror stories. Did I just always luck out and get jobs in great communities with uber-responsive schools? Hmmm. I don't think so.
My secret has been confidence, dogged persistence and patience. Each time I move into a community, I make appointments to meet individually with all the principals for a chat. I also meet with school media colleagues. If I have a question about the reading curriculum, I meet with the reading teachers. If I am wondering about a policy or subject being taught with third graders I reach out to those teachers. I drive wherever in the school district I need to go to be there rather than asking the staff to come find me.
What is the subject of most of these meetings? I introduce myself. I ask, "What can I do for you?" and we chat about the library and their dreams, concerns, pressures and how we might work together. I don't bring ideas as much as let my colleagues know I am there to support them and make magic happen when they are ready.
Everybody is my potential partner and colleague - not just LMC colleagues - but everybody.
I work with and will put together or join in meetings with reading coordinators, LMC folks, curriculum folks, principals, grade level teachers to talk about mutual concerns and mull ideas. If I can't get my foot in the door, I enlist my director or a board member with strong school ties to help me open the door.
One director set up a meeting with the principals, curriculum director, LMC folks, superintendent that resulted in decades of positive collaborative work (mutual programs, schools presenting programs at the library, school vans delivering library materials to the schools, shared collections and more). The tenor was so positive that staffers took it for granted that we would be there for them and the partnerships were dynamic - kids won far more than we did in this situation.
I also chat with classroom teachers who come into the public library - listen to what they need and ask for suggestions for what we might do to help them in their work. I make sure that I have at least one school staff advocate for the public library in every school and we build from there. I make sure that I am there for them as much as they are there for me. Ideas have to be created equally and honored equally. Listening and creating together is key.
If the relationship works, I also meet with our school superintendent as a colleague - not as a lesser asking to speak with someone far above me - but as an equal. I make the case for our mutual work in literacy and how the public library is the school's best friend. And on we go from there.
Is it easy? No, it takes time, the ability to listen and understand needs far different than our public library needs. It takes commitment and the ability to keep knocking on doors until the first one opens. Once that starts, more doors open and then more. Partnership ideas sprout up and success builds on success.
Another key ingredient: I don't make demands or work on a proposal before I meet with school folks. First we just chat and look for mutual areas of benefit. From that point we start to explore ideas for action . It's a delicate dance to honor both of our needs and perspectives but once started, it just keeps rolling. I often hear people say "Well, I created this and brought it to the schools, and nobody liked it or wanted it." Creating on your own in a partnership isn't a collaboration- it's looking in the mirror. It may please you, but will it really answer a need that schools have?
When I moved to my present job almost five years ago, I had alot of trepidation. I left a hugely strong collaborative partnership of decades at my last job. There was a little collaboration happening at this new job with the schools. Could I start all over to strengthen the ties and encourage my team? The answer is a resounding yes. First with one principal who opened the door to others. Then with a couple of the LMC people who met and planned with us. Now with classroom teachers. Once more the partnerships and collaboration are growing and strengthening. My team is stepping up and out as partners and developing even stronger ties and initiatives.
I think my mantra on this is from the Galaxy Quest movie: "Never give up; never surrender". It's what has made the collaboration with schools an ever-present awesome in my work. To see more tips, stop by my recent series on real-world, real-life suggestions for collaborative work. It can be done and we all can be awesome at it!
Some of my favorite programs over the years have involved collaboration with community partners or everyday experts who come in (or we go out to) to create fun experiences for the kids. When we saw the CLSP theme of Dig into Reading for the year we knew that we were going to have plenty of opportunities to partner up.
Our city is absolutely blessed with wild, natural places: towering bluffs, the Mississippi River, marshland, forested areas and prairie (I know!!!). Combined with a significant number of residents who place high value on sustainability, preserving recreational opportunities and in "getting back to nature" (eating and growing locally and organically), we get a perfect storm of partnerships.
One such partnership was with our city Eco-Park which includes significant acreage with trails in one of our marshes. Beautiful at any time of the year, the marsh is filled with wildlife and wild places that are brought up close and personal with the trails laid through it. Bikers, hikers, strollers, skaters, birders and scientists flock to the area. It's a perfect place to "dig into".
Checking for fish
I contacted the park's naturalist Steph and asked if she would be willing to go on a marsh walk with us. I would episodically share the First Nations story of how the earth was formed on turtle's back (how handy - the tale features creatures found throughout the marsh and that we might see on our meander) at stops along the walk and she would share marsh facts. She agreed. And that was the extent of our communication. She knew I knew story and I knew she knew marsh.
We held the walk a few days ago and it was like a dream come true. Our gathering of kids and parents strolled, learned tips and facts about flora and fauna from Steph and pretty much thrilled to the tale of Skywoman's precipitous fall and the brave animals who helped save her and create the earth. The kids soon used their new nature-detective eyes to spot dragonflies (and red-winged blackbirds eating the dragonflies and leaving iridescent wings lying everywhere to be collected), ducklings, flowers, herons duckweed and more. Steph's shoulder bag held bug jars, turtle shell, a duck wing and skull, a beaver skull and other goodies to teach the kids more about what the were seeing.
We also share a library collection with the Eco-Park (identification guides and books about the flora and fauna found there) so it was a perfect place to promote books and reading as well. Kids and parents appreciated the opportunity to discover and learn about the ecology of a treasured natural resource right in their backyard. And a chance for their nature-nut children's librarian to get out of the shop and meander down the trail talking story, listening and learning marsh facts and chatting library on a perfect June day? Well, priceless!
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I've been conferencing a loooonnnng time at ALA. I agree with colleagues posting and tweeting, this conference was a win in every way for youth librarians.
Maybe because this is the first newly compressed conferences - fewer days and fewer sessions sponsored by units and almost all programs held at the conference center itself. This seems to make it possible to attend more events than ever before.
Maybe the addition and continued support for member-driven content (ignite sessions, uncommons, conversation starters) that resulted in great youth presentations. The unit-supported content was pretty amazing as well.
Maybe because groups of librarians connected through blogs, the twitterverse and groups like EL, ALATT and Flannel Friday reached the perfect storm of connectivity creating kismet meet-up moments and IRL chat.
So, despite substantial time spent fulfilling my responsibilities as ALA chapter councilor for my state, I have to say that this conference was an amazing, robust and energetic one for youth librarians.
This doesn't even begin to address the ALSC and YALSA supported programs, the exhibits, committee work, the auditorium speaker series...and just everything.
There was energy and innovation and excitement - not just to see each other but to strategize what else we can do to be uber superhero librarians back in our communities and looking at the future. I talked about this kind of collaborative energy here and here.
And while I celebrate attending conferences, I also think we do so much outside of conferences to stay fabulous and tuned in and inventive. So whether you were at ALA or not, the doors are open for you to walk through!
Mel from Mel's Desk gets at the core of what I LOVE about this at-conference-and-not-at-conference paradigm in what I believe will be THE blog post on personal learning, connecting with those who share your passion and empowerment for the next decade. Conferences like ALA are one way to connect and learn - but there are so many other ways too that happen everyday when we reach outside our workplace and connect. Let's go and let's do it.
I’m excited to share Franki Sibberson’s latest project with you. SOLVE IT YOUR WAY! is an innovative project to encourage creative problem solving and collaborate with others around the globe. I shared this… Read More →
Daniel and I started developing picture books as a team back in 2004. Our earliest picture books were practice vehicles, helping us learn how to create a picture book as well as how best to work together. Our third collaboration landed us an agent and our fourth got us a book deal. Along the way, Daniel and I have discovered a few best practices for successful creative partnerships.
1. Give each other space.
When we started out, we thought we had to muddle through every detail of the development process together—from idea to execution. Soon enough, we felt suffocated by the project, and frustrated with each other. So we changed it up. We’d ruminate on our current task independently and then come to each discussion meeting with solid recommendations on hand.
2. Check your ego at the door.
Even giving each other ample space, our discussions can become quite heated. Naturally, each of us is convinced our approach is the right one. We’ve learned that we can’t hash things out immediately. It’s most harmonious if we present our recommendations with minimal commentary, and then each go back in our respective caves to consider all angles. After some reflection, I often realize that Daniel’s proposed solutions for the story are better than mine, or something he brought up leads me to rethink and rewrite for the better.
3. Try to have fun!
Sometimes we make the mistake of approaching our sessions with too much seriousness. Yes, publishing is a business, but the ideas flow best when we relax and let our creative sides go off on tangents. One of those tangents could be exactly what we need.
Lenore and Daniel Jennewein live and work together in Frankfurt, Germany. CHICK-O-SAURUS REX is their debut picture book as a team. Daniel is also the illustrator of IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? and TEACH YOUR BUFFALO TO PLAY TO DRUMS, both by Audrey Vernick. Lenore also writes novels for teens under the name Lenore Appelhans, including THE MEMORY OF AFTER and CHASING BEFORE.
“Organized” and “innovation” are words rarely heard together. But an organized approach to innovation is precisely what America needs today, argue Steve Currall, Ed Frauenheim, Sara Jansen Perry, and Emily Hunter. We sat down with the authors of Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity to discuss why American ought to organize its innovation efforts.
Why does America need a more organized innovation system today?
An “innovation gap” has emerged in recent decades — where US universities focus on basic research, and industry concentrates on incremental product development. At the same time, the stakes have risen around technology invention and commercialization. Innovation has become more central to the economic health of nations, but the rate of US innovation is slowing while that if other nations is accelerating. Since 2008, the number of foreign-origin patents that the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted annually has surpassed the number of domestic-origin patents. Between 1999 and 2009, the US share of global research and development spending dropped, while the share of Asia as a whole rose and exceeded the US share in 2009.
What’s behind this innovation gap?
In a nutshell, history and a set of myths held by many in the United States. The gap dates to the 1970s and 1980s, as big US companies retreated from basic research and focused on incremental product development. The shift had to do with a greater focus on short-term financial results, as well as increased competitive pressures. Research fell to the universities, but academic research often remains within particular disciplines, conducted in a vacuum that minimizes societal needs. Too often academic research does not make the leap beyond the lab to the real world. For years, observers have noticed the widening gap, but it has not been addressed. We think that has much to do with three myths—that innovation is about lone geniuses, the free market, and serendipity. These myths blind us from seeing that we tolerate an unorganized, less-than-optimal system of innovation.
What do you propose as a solution?
We call it Organized Innovation. It is a blueprint for better coordinating the key players in the US innovation ecosystem: universities, businesses, and government. The solution taps the power of both the private and public sectors to generate groundbreaking innovations—the kinds of new technologies that create good jobs and improve life for everyone.
The solution has three main pillars:
Channeled Curiosity: steering researchers’ fundamental inquiries toward real-world problems.
Boundary-Breaking Collaboration: tearing down walls between academic disciplines, and between universities and the private sector to better generate novel, high-impact technologies.
Orchestrated Commercialization: coordinating the various players involved in technology commercialization—including scholars, university administrators, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and corporations—to translate research insights into real-world benefits.
The Organized Innovation framework already has proven effective in closing the innovation gap. It is inspired by our nearly decade-long study of a highly successful but little-known federal initiative, the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Centers. These university-based centers require researchers to link basic science to social and market demand, require interdisciplinary and industry-academic collaboration and encourage the creation of proofs-of-concept to demonstrate that a lab-based technology has commercial potential. From 1985 to 2009, about $1 billion in federal funding was invested in the centers. They have returned more than 10 times that amount in a wide variety of technology innovations.
What is your favorite example about new technology generated from the Engineering Research Center program?
Our favorite case is about Mark Humayun and his artificial retina. Humayun is a fascinating individual, and his team developed a device that captures video from a camera embedded in eyeglasses and wirelessly relays digital signals to an implant placed directly on the retina. The artificial retina, called Argus II, is approved for use in the European Union and won US FDA approval in early 2013. Humayun’s device is changing lives — restoring useful vision to people blinded by retinal diseases.
You propose that the US government changes its approach to funding research and development. What is your message to policy makers?
We propose that federal and state funding agencies devote funds to research programs that embody Organized Innovation principles, which may translate into more funding for research with practical significance or innovation outcomes. The key advantages of our model are that we can maximize the public’s return on research and development investments. Both political parties can support this approach; it is fundamentally bipartisan.
Organized Innovation goes against the grain of widespread doubts about the ability of universities, business, and government to work together to solve problems, especially amid growing public deficits. But we’re convinced Americans will have the courage to see the value of such investments in our future.
Steve Currall, Ed Frauenheim, Sara Jansen Perry, and Emily Hunter are the authors of Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity. Steven C. Currall is Dean and Professor of Management in the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis. Ed Frauenheim is an author, speaker, and associate editorial director of Workforce magazine, where he writes about the intersection of people management, technology and business strategy. Sara Jansen Perry, Assistant Professor of Management in the College of Business at the University of Houston-Downtown, earned her Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at the University of Houston. Emily M. Hunter is Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University after earning her Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at the University of Houston.
Today I join colleagues at the Arkansas State Library Children's Services Workshop in Little Rock. I'm sharing presentations on Unprogramming, Stealth Programming and Dynamic Partnerships (including Schools!) and many of the programs I refer to can be found on these Pinterest boards. My Arkansas friends are also sharing ideas on science, makerspaces, and 1000 Books Before Kindergarten and sharing weather that is far more spring-like than anything I expect to see for some weeks home in Wisconsin. What could be better? If you don't do Pinterest, below are links to some of the resources that are described in today's workshop.
And while I'm on presentations and workshops, I want to encourage everyone to read this vital post at Storytime Underground by Amy Koester about your own power to share your good work with each other. I am a working librarian like you who does just that. So keep on standing up, sharing ideas and feeling your power!
I've always consdered myself one lucky duck to work in the same state as the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) in Madison. This book examination center headed by K.T. Horning and womaned by an amazing staff that includes Megan Schliesman, Merri Lindgren and Emily Townsend (as well as a stellar universe of former librarians who continue to shine out wherever they are employed - and hats off to Ginny Moore Kruse for her work in developing the CCBC into a national as well as state force) has been a touchstone throughout my career.
There have been a number of celebrations this year around their 50th anniversary, including a recent one at the Friends of the CCBC annual meeting. I was thrilled to be asked to be part of a panel presenting on ways in which the panelists used the CCBC resources in their work. Our panel was comprised of a research university prof; an author/historian researcher; a university prof/researcher/writer...and me!
Here are my actual notes for the talk I gave. Lots of laughter when I showed the audience what I was speaking from. The catalog card is significant for many reasons not least of which the CCBC has meant so much to me and my practice of youth librarianship that I only need a hint to share the good stuff.
Library School Student - the CCBC was just a hallway down from SLIS. As a youth focused SLIS student I could access the newest books and get to know the breadth of children's literature and research on it with the best reference desk. I got strong.
Collection Development - the CCBC was a must-go early in my career as I honed my collection development chops. I would bring down stacks of old catalog cards with titles jotted on the blank side to look at and decide if we REALLY needed that particular title. And I found great unreviewed material like books in the incredible Small Press Collection to add to the collection. I could go back to my director with a stack of cards of what we didn't buy because I actually had the book in hand. He made the connection, and always funded these quarterly, 3 hour round trips to Madison.
Colleague Connector - the CCBC was the unsuspecting facilitator of some of my strongest connections with school colleagues. My favorite connection happened with Judy, our district reading coordianator. An invite to experience the CCBC with me and spend those 3 hours commuting resulted in big ideas and a lasting connection that informed our amazing partnership work for twenty years between the library and schools.
CCBC Advisory Board - I served on the board twice and I learned even more about the resources and the many ways both school and public libraries accessed the collections and information. It helped me hone my leadership skills as well!
Book Discussions - the time I spent participating in the monthly book discussions taught me how to truly learn the art of careful listening and powerful advocacy for books. National level book award committees use the CCBC Discussion Guidelines for a reason. They work! Eveything I am as a reviewer for SLJ and in my award committee discussion work I owe to the CCBC and that modeling and training and experience.
Intellectual Freedom Service - not many people outside of our state know, but for decades the CCBC has helped WI librarians navigate book challenges by providing, in complete confidentiality, reviews and other support materials to help answer a challenge. Ably run for the past twelve years by this year's WLA/WEMTA Intellectual Freedom Award winner Megan Schliesman, this service has helped me twice in my career. And I appreciate it.
Multicultural Focus - The CCBC , with its annual CCBC Choices publication and long-running observations and discussions of muticultural issues in publishing, has helped me hugely in creating a collection that reflects our world. Conferences, speakers, authors and illustrators have been brought to me as well through their work in this area. They helped me develop a strong collection early on.
I was honored to be asked to represent a working librarian's perspective on the panel (and I tell you humbled by the company I was keeping!). Congratulations to the CCBC on their 50th and many, many more great years to you!
We have blogged about our field tripadventures before - Library Stars for 2nd graders (now in it's third year), and our two new additions: Library Sneakers for 2nd graders and 7th grade tours. These intensive field trips aim to introduce the kids to the library and its resources in a fun (but focused way) that is choreographed so expertly it looks like we are making it all up as we go. Let me talk about this from the perspective as a manager of our department.
The field trips take a ton of hidden-to-all-but-us work and preparation. We get class lists from the school, look up each and every student for fines and whether they have a card, drop off and pick up new card registrations, set a 2-month storytime hiatus to accommodate the twenty + tours, forgive all but cost-of-book fines for all children – and offer “Fresh Start” cards and forgiveness to parents of kids with COBs – create special bookmarks, write the scripts, recruit from among staff outside the department to have the 3 field trip leaders and desk coverage (and few, if any, twelve hour days or split shifts).
On the day of the field trip, each librarian guide knows her part and is committed to hitting their mark. Classes are split in three and rotated among the librarians (one does book talks, one does a YS intro tour, one does a “secret background”). If we stray off the clock, one group has to wait. Uh-uh. Not gonna happen. There is also improvisation (the group is late but has to leave at the same time; the kids can't focus so we decrease the time free-exploring the books and collections) that flows smoothly because the staff is ready.
The results are worth every bit of background prep - seeing new faces at the library, knowing kids understand just a bit more about how we work and the way accompanying parents and teachers get excited and look forward to these trips. We get an excellent rate of returns (kids who come back get book bags or a special star), the preschool parents who have to forego storytime are grudgingly understanding and staff throughout the library are super supportive.
Our first year was grant funded; our second funded by the schools and the third year our school coordinator and I had talked about the library splitting the costs. The financial pressures on the district are as keen as those we feel at the public library. It's a small thing to prioritize this support . Shall we spend, for each grade level, $500of our programming money on busing that reaches 1200 kids or hire 3-4 performers for the same cost, far fewer in attendance and no message about libraries or what we do? Hmmm. Snap! We know the answer to THAT!
And then you get this message below (in answer to our query on what we owe for half of this year's busing) from the school coordinator and every piece of this is even more powerful:
I'm so glad everything went well and that our families are finding value in our community libraries. I know you sincerely want to help with the cost, but it is not necessary. We budgeted for the buses and all went well. The time your staff spends with our students and staff at our elementary and middle schools more than covers the 'in kind' cost of traveling to get to the libraries! Your work with Central HS is also very appreciated and we're working on the ways to get you connected at Logan High as well for next year! This is how partnerships work, in our humble opinion. We'll budget for the trips again next year -- it is so worth it for our kids!
(and in a PS to our director, she wrote:Iknow that you are fully aware of the value of your staff, but I just want to tell you once again what a great group of professionals you have -- their commitment to our community is over and above most. If at anytime you want to highlight this partnership at one of your library board meetings -- happy to stop by and have our teachers/kids tell their stories!)
As a manager, I am intensely proud of my whole crew. I open doors and support their work, play devil's advocate to hone the process, help connect the right team member to the work or piece of the work that best fits their skills and talents. All the rest, ALL THE REST, is done by the team. To step back and see them all step up is what I am there for. And, as a manager, to read that support for their efforts from our school peers is all I need at the end of the day. Thank you Linda, Celine, Sara, Brooke and Emily (and my management colleague Jen) for what you do.
This is one of my favorite photos at the always amazing Astronomy Picture of the Day. It shows the Great Nebula in Orion - a huge cloud of gas and energy where suns are forming in a stellar nursery. While the science intrigues me, I see it as a metaphor for what we can do best in youth services - help support and lift up our colleagues anywhere on their career path.
I've been thinking alot about this lately - partly because I've been teaching. There is this aspect of giving information in the act of teaching but a far deeper piece where the students give just as much - sharing, problem solving, teaching and supporting each other. I always learn when I teach.
I've also been thinking about this - partly because I have been looking at management and hiring not just in our own library but also as I develop workshops, presentations and courses on youth services management. Part of what you do every day as a manager is look for ways to open a path for the team members to work more smoothly - whether its removing a rock from the path, helping re-find the way, putting the breaks on a cart careening off the path or providing a little muscle to help ease the passage up a tough hill.
Partly because I have been in so many conversations with colleagues all over the country about how to encourage the sharing so we can preserve knowledge but also build on it. We should each want to plug into librarians at all points in their career to network, to share and to encourage their work and passion. Whether new or a vet, we can lift each other up by asking for our colleague's opinions, program ideas, and youth librarianship thoughts.
Amy Koester wrote recently about this is Storytime Underground and I couldn't agree more. We all have something to share, to learn and to gain. It isn't just the bloggers and presenters who have a platform though. It is every youth librarian every day in their work pushing that envelope further out. The stellar nursery isn't just for the beginners in librarianship - it is for everyone along their career's path. We all need that nurturing and support - and we all can give it.
Maybe, in addition to our PLN (personal learning networks), we need to commit to a ULN (universal learning network). Open ourselves up not just to our familiar network but build further and more openly outside of our tribe and our group and our lanes of connectivity. If we each think ourselves as a mentor - even if we are just six months into our first position - and our job is to lift each other up, how powerful could that be?!?!
We can then consciously support a youth librarian idea nursery that spreads and supports the work of us all by connecting to the unconnected, the un-cohorted, the un-MLISed. We can build the network by including never-before-presenters to panels we are creating to present at CE/conferences/webinars at all levels. We can make sure our blogs are open for guest posts. We can nurture those who don't have a path to leadership or an audience and are hesitant to step forward.
Flannel Friday, Storytime Underground, Thrive Thursdays and lots of bloggers are leading the way to this kind of universal support. Our challenge is to continue and reach more deeply out to those unconnected who can use the support just as much. I know we do it. But can we do it more? Oh yeah, we're youth librarians and we all are that nursery for each other.
Ok, ok, so I feel a little guilty even bringing this up. As a blogger, I know I have a slightly bigger audience than I would without. But no guts, no glory. I join my colleagues in the blogosophere to invite you to read through the suggested Conversation Starters at ALA and vote for ones you'd love to be involved in.
I hope you consider two I am lucky enough to be involved in with my fabulous colleagues: Amy over at Show Me Librarian; Amy over at Catch the Possibilities and Mel over at Mel's Desk. After some chatting on twitter that moved over to a google doc (more than 144 characters...wow!), we decided to try the conversations even further out with more people jumping in and proposed two programs for ALA this summer. We are excited about the possibilities!
Thinking Outside the Storytime Box: Building Your Preschool Programming STEM for preschoolers! Dance parties for toddlers! When we stretch beyond storytime, our youngest patrons benefit from richer learning experiences, their parents and caregivers engage with the library in fresh ways, and staff become motivated by new, creative challenges. Jump out of the storytime box and explore active and passive early-childhood programs that are easy to plan and repeat, maximize your staff resources, and enable you to reach more young families. Our panel will share program ideas, planning resources, and early literacy connections to help you leave prepared to build on the core storytime experience. Presenters: Amy Commers, Amy Koester, Melissa Depper, Marge Loch-Wouters
Unprogramming: Recipes for School-Age Programming Success Do you find yourself spending tons of time planning school-age programs that are over in the blink of an eye? Are you ready to challenge yourself to be more efficient with your staff time and department's resources? Discover how to streamline planning and preparation while offering worthwhile literacy-centered programs--where kids help shape the direction of the program! Panelists will share tips for "unprogramming" at your library as well as ideas for helping staff adapt to this new style. Prepare to leave with a myriad of program ideas and resources for unprogramming on your own. Presenters: Marge Loch-Wouters, Amy Koester
If these topics are ones you would love to chat on and you are an ALA member, please do vote for these...and a host of other good ones proposed by ALA members. Read them and leap!
How many times lately have I been tweeting or doing blog posts about some amazing thing I've read from Youth Services bloggers I follow? So much of what I read takes me to places of discovery that I have never been before. And it clearly inspires my blogging and TTFLF's content.
This post is completely happening because I was blown away by Amy Koester's Peer Sourcing post at Show Me Librarian. In the post she acknowledges the power of collaboration and learning from others to build the scaffolding to new programming and thinking paradigms in her work. As I've said before, everything comes from somewhere - whether hatched in our brain or sparked by something we read or hear or collaborate on.
When I started blogging five years ago, there were mostly kidlit blogs - lots of reviews of and thoughts about children and teen books. Only a handful of bloggers shared programs, initiatives and opinions on youth services. And that was what I was really after.
As the years have gone on, more youth people have joined the conversation. From robust posts at ALSC, YALSA, and the Hub to individual bloggers inspired by Flannel Fridays or a desire to share their professional journeys in working with youth, I now have over 100 blogs that I follow. They are ripe with opinions, storytime ideas; teen program mojo; cool initiatives and more. Who knew?
I agree with Amy that we learn from others in a way that informs and improves our work. This is really a shout-out to all the youth services bloggers for putting it out there and sharing. I learn every day and in every way from you all. You all make me a better librarian. And you inform what I write about here.
I've had a book birthday this week - Bear's Best Friend is born and out in the world now, and garnering some nice reviews and media attention, (which is a thing that always makes authors happy). The ever-wonderful Armadillo Magazine have done an interview with me, which you can read HERE - there's a signed copy of the book to win there too, so it's well worth having a look!
Of course, a book birthday also means that the Publicity Event Train sets out on its journey round the country. Normally, I talk to schools and festivals about Greek myths. I've been giving my Journey Into Greek Myth talk for many years. I know my stuff, and it's a well-honed, well-oiled machine by now. But Bear's Best Friend is a picture book. I've been out of the picture book loop for a long time, so as well as giving birth to a book, I've also had to give birth to a brand new event to go with it. Luckily this time, I don't have to do it alone. For the first time ever I'm part of a double act, since my wonderful illustrator,Sarah Dyeris an integral part of this new creation.
As a writer, working with an illustrator is, for me, a bit like magic. There are my words, spilled out of my head and onto paper in black and white rows, and then there they are, magically translated into pictures through the amazing lens of an artist’s imagination. It's a process that never ceases to amaze me. But doing a joint gig? How was that going to work? Who would go first? How would we structure the event? It was a step into the unknown for both of us.
We talked a lot on the phone. We emailed each other ideas. What emerged was an interactive event based around our Bear's (slightly strange) hobby of topiary, with parts for both of us to play, including props of bear ears/hats, leaves, a foolproof way to draw a teddy, and, of course, many many bears. But would it work in practice?
On Saturday, we set off to find out, and I'm glad to report that the answer is - it did, brilliantly! Sarah and I have just finished our first ever joint session at the fabulous Seven Stories in Newcastle (which I wrote about here a couple of months ago). Public events can be tricky to handle, but not only did we manage to get through storytelling, animal noises and chatting about best friends (my bit), but also an incredible amount of top-notch creative stuff (Sarah's bit). By the end, the whole place was a sea of Beary pictures, some of which were pretty impressive, given that the average age of the artists was 3 1/2. (I'm sorry I can't show them to you here due to a slight technical hitch on the photography front).
Now that we've cracked the whole joint event thing, I'm looking forward to doing a lot more with Sarah. We'll be at the Tales on Moon Lane Bookshop on Tuesday 28th May and at the Discover Story Centre on 1st June, so do come and see us in action if you're nearby and have small kids. I can't speak for Sarah, but personally I can't wait to put on my fluffy bear ears again! Lucy and Sarah's new picture book, Bear's Best Friend, is published by Bloomsbury "A charming story about the magic of friendship which may bring a tear to your eye" Parents in Touch "The language is a joy…thoughtful and enjoyable" Armadillo Magazine. Her latest series for 7-9s, Greek Beasts and Heroesis out now from Orion Children's Books.
I attended the SLJ Think Tank in NYC last week. It was a transformative day for me - not just because of the outstanding and thought-provoking speakers but also for the chance to be with colleagues I have met in a whole new way.
In the past, if I wanted to bounce ideas off people or get my collegial-jolt, attendance at state and national conferences was the main way I interacted to get my youth librarian-idea fix. The networks of colleagues who mentored me, friended me and supported me (and back at all of them with the same from me) especially at ALA was grounded in real time and in real places. The gabbing, blue-skying, laughing, eating and drinking that brought us together helped me become the children's librarian I am.
But something changed in the last year that broadened and opened my horizons so far I feel that I can almost see to the end of the universe. Although I've been communicating in new ways through this blog and Facebook, my time on Twitter and in Facebook groups brought a new immediacy and connectivity to my work. For those who find this journey of discovery ho-hum, bear with me.
I was a late Twitter adapter, partly because, as a yakker of legendary repute, how could I harness that into 140 characters? But once I jumped in, I realized that the immediacy of the conversations and links led me to deep connections with and respect for people I had never met IRL. Ideas hatched, work flowed, tempers flared, sympathy was extended and support and wicked humor was always there.
Professional Facebook and Google groups (ALA Think Tank, Code Named Awesome, Flannel Friday), all discovered through Twitter, added to the fun and gestalt. The overlap among them all in terms of interacting with colleagues across many social media platforms only increased the connectivity.
So when I came to New York (you knew I'd get back here, right?), I got a chance to meet, IRL, so many people who are friends in social media: @amyeileenk, @mmlibrarian; @libraryvoice, @MissReneeDomain @melissaZD, @sophiebiblio. I realized that despite the fact we were meeting for the first time, I felt we had been friends forever.
And I felt free - and connected - in a way that is deeper than my professional association connections - perhaps because there are no expectations of work for me when I am involved with social media friends and colleagues (well, unless we hatch something!). These connections and chats sustain me and spark my imagination. It is really connecting with people's minds directly and I learn at the feet of these colleagues (take note Twitter and FB, lurkers, engage and show your stuff!!).
So a big shout-out to all my creative partners on social media whether I've met you IRL or not. Our connection is what fuels me!
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