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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Librarianship, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Change is a hurricane or a door

2016-02-28 15.03.50

California Poppy, taken after last week’s lush rain

My formative years as a librarian were in library systems that built themselves around the concept of aggregated strength through collective action. (If you’re thinking that sounds socialist, take heed that this concept could easily describe the armed forces.)

That concept has a very weak toehold in California, across all systems. Yes, there are some shared systems and some resource-sharing and “power of this and that” and whatnot, but colleagues I know who can compare California with states with strong “systems” self-identification agree that for whatever reason, it’s different here.

Now fast-forward to early last year, when as a newly-minted CSU library dean I smoothed my starched pinafore, straightened the bow in my hair, and marched into my first statewide meeting, only to be corrected when I referred to our library “system” that the 23 state university libraries are actually a “loose federation.”

There are long-term ramifications to being a “loose federation” that are publicly available to anyone who cares to find them. To quote my doctoral cohort buddy Chuck, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” (Ben Franklin may or may not have said that, but Chuck says it a lot.) But more interesting to me is that not long before I arrived, our loose federation came together on a momentous decision that puts us on a path to systemhood by agreeing that the 23 libraries, currently independently licensing a mishmosh of library management systems from varied vendors, would move to a single system, prophetically named the ULMS (Unified Library Management System).

In all fairness, this isn’t the first collective effort of the Loose Federation. We stand on the shoulders of Biblio-Giants, which in my case is particularly helpful since it means I can see the projector screen even when taller deans are in front of me. We have a common core of e-resources that are centrally funded and brokered. In times past, there have been joint statements, strategic plans, and so on. It is because of our ancestors we can at least think of ourselves as a Loose Federation, versus 23 libraries doing their own thang.

I’m part of a committee that is deeply involved in the process to identify and answer key questions related to resource sharing. It is possible… just a wee possible… that it might have been good to ask some of these questions, if not before agreeing to move to a unified system, at least within the context of the vendor selection, but that’s spilled milk.

As we deepen the questions we pose and study the data for our answers, it’s increasingly evident that there’s a critical difference between agreeing we will provide all libraries a garden-variety database we would all license anyway versus agreeing that we’re going to move to a centralized system. This is one of those movies where two people go on a date and then find themselves married, except it’s biblio-polygamy, and most of us are opposed to polygamy on the practical ground that multiple spouses sounds exhaustingly complicated, like having more than two cats, and when you add librarians to the mix it sounds even scarier.

First, we’re losing local control to a central office, so we need to design and practice governance at a scale we haven’t experienced before. The central office needs our guidance (and they are the first to say that). We no longer have the luxury of having weak or strong governance years. We need to be always on our game. And the communication across and among the 23 libraries needs to be top-notch.

Second, the new system simultaneously provides opportunities and limitations. For example — the example I’m most intimate with — we will have the capacity to share resources among the 23 libraries as we have never done before. We’ve done it with physical books, but in a work-around-y, hodgepodge  manner, and we haven’t done it with e-resources. That opportunity/limitation opens many doors and poses many questions. The smartest folks are either thrilled or alarmed by this because they see a future where our physical and electronic library collections are managed and shared on a massive scale.

The thrilled-or-alarmed crowd also understands (at least I think they do) that some of the most keenly-desired wishes of the resource-sharing community can–in some cases, will need to–come to fruition. I particularly relished the moment earlier this week where I spoke with an expert who noted a particular limitation that would make most interlibrary loan department heads I know of faint for joy, because it would frog-march us to the Promised Land of standardized loan policies, where we would all have to–are you sitting down? Do you have smelling salts pressed to your nose?–agree on how long a borrower at another library could check out a book. (As Trotsky said, “You may not be interested in standardized resource-sharing loan policies, but standardized resource-sharing loan policies are very interested in you.”) And that’s just one teensy finding that has surfaced.

There are many more ramifications of this system move; most, I believe, will be good. But what I am also being reminded of is that change is a hurricane or a door. The people who expected this to be like things always were, except maybe a little less expensive and labor-intensive, are now spinning in the eye of the hurricane, wondering what hit them. The people who saw this as leading to opportunities both seen and unseen are slowly (not without pain, but with keen anticipation) opening a massive door to our future.

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2. She’ll be swell, she’ll be great!

Carla Hayden

Carla Hayden

I am over the moon about President Obama’s nomination of Carla D. Hayden to the position of Librarian of Congress. Carla and I were buddies back in Chicago–we met when she was YA coordinator at CPL and I interviewed her for a paper I was writing for library school, and later I worked for her as a storyteller when she ran the library at the Museum of Science and Industry. (I remember both of us being extremely annoyed that the Museum required children to pay extra to come to story hour.) And we are both proudly Zena’s kids.

There’s a lot of celebration about the facts that Carla will be the first female, first African American, and first actual librarian to become appointed to the post. But, aside from the most important point that she has been a smart, tested, and proven library advocate and leader for the past forty years, HOW GREAT IS IT that a YOUTH SERVICES LIBRARIAN will be running the place?

The post She’ll be swell, she’ll be great! appeared first on The Horn Book.

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3. Snowglobes and my research quest

First rose of springToday I was stopped at a red light in downtown Santa Rosa, and I looked over to see a tough guy in a muscle car with sheer delight plastered across his face. We were enjoying the same magical scene: thousands of tiny white petals scudding across the avenue, swirling in the air, drifting onto benches and signs and people.

This could explain the sneezing fit I had last night, but that snowglobe moment was worth it. When we were contemplating this move, no one said we would experience this beautiful warm snowfall. No one has commented on it to me at all. I guess it’s just me and Tough Guy, thrilled by the floor show.

I had no idea how beautiful this small city, and our neighborhood in particular, would be in the spring. The neighbors’ gardens are not even in full bloom, yet every block is resplendent with color and redolent with fragrance. My rosebushes, brave little souls who survived five years on a cold, partially shaded, windswept deck in San Francisco, are stretching their limbs toward the warmth and the light, their foliage thick and lush, their buds fat, the first rose gorgeously impeccable.

I am stretching my own limbs to the light as well, professionally and in my growth as a scholar–and with leadership studies, of course the two are ever entwined). Coming back from some reasonably tolerable conference, I realized I was happy to walk into the library. It is a human institution and not the Good Ship Lollypop, but it’s filled with caring people determined to make a difference in other people’s lives. (I wonder what things were really like on GSL, anyway. Probably lots of dental issues.)

Last night I turned in my last short homework assignment for the doctoral program. Assuming it doesn’t bounce back to me with a request for revision (Lord please no — I cannot write anything more about net neutrality), I have completed my last class for this program. Up next: completing my qualifying paper, studying for and taking comprehensive exams, developing and defending a dissertation proposal, then doing the research for, writing, and defending my dissertation.

Piece of cake, eh?

Yes, a lot of work, and the doctoral work is folded under a lot of work-work, and (since some of you may be wondering) compounded by my mother’s health care crisis, which has its four-month anniversary in two days. It’s one of those life crises many of us will deal with at some point — a foreign land that, when you get there, you find populated with a lot of people you know.

But I get a lot of sustenance from my doctoral work. My qualifying paper is about the lived experiences of openly gay and lesbian academic library directors. (A friend of mine teased me that I should interview myself, which reminded me of a stern lecture everyone in my class in the MFA program received about The Crime Of Solipsism, which sounded like something we should stand in a corner for.)

I deeply love this research project, and I earned this love. I did the hard thing — prolonging this project by over a year by torpedoing two papers that were too small, too meaningless, too insufficient, too lacking in rigor; papers I wouldn’t want to see my name on — to find my literary-research beshert, that topic I was meant to wrap myself around. The kind of topic that pulls me into its own snowglobe, where I stand arms upraised in its center, watching meaning swirl around me, its brilliant small bits glinting in the sunlight.

Later on, I hope, I’ll write a bit more about my research. I owe a lot to the great people who shared their time and thoughts about my work in this area, giving me courage to ditch the crap and focus on the gold, and to the subjects who providing fascinating, heartening, hilarious, heart-tugging, thoughtful, surprising, invigorating, and fully real interviews for my research. The Association of Openly Gay and Lesbian Academic Library Directors could fit in a hotel suite, but it’s a group I’d share that suite or even a foxhole with, hands-down.

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4. Come together, right now

Golden Eagle in flight - 5 by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Golden Eagle in flight – 5” by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Tomorrow is my first convocation at my new university. For my international readers, a convocation in this part of the world is usually a ceremony in the autumn where faculty, students, and the schools that serve them are welcomed into the new academic year. (Although sometimes “convocation” is a graduation, which I suppose makes it a contronym, and it is also the collective noun for eagles).

At Holy Names, convocation was a student-centered event, and began with the university community, dress in its finest, climbing up the 100-plus stairs to the dining hall for speeches and a lunch. I do not know entirely what to expect from tomorrow’s event (except there is no lunch, and it is held in the largest theater on campus, and relatively few students will be present), but I know that it will be different and that in its difference I will learn new meanings, symbols, and ways of being.

All weekend I have had the last four lines of Yeats’ “A prayer for my daughter” running through my mind:

How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony’s a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

There is a saying on the Internet, “do not read the comments,” and when it comes to major poems, I extend this to “do not read the commentary.” I made the mistake of browsing discussions of this poem, only to discover that rather than the sky-wide reflection on chaos versus order I know it to be, it is actually, among other flaws, a poem advocating the oppression of women. The idea that the poem is a product of its time, or that a father would want to be protective of his daughter, or that there is something to be said for the sanity of a well-ordered home life, is pushed aside in favor of squeezing this poem through a highly specific modern sensibility, then finding it wanting.

Higher education has been described as irrelevant, in a crisis, in need of great change, overpriced, stodgy, out of touch with the world, a waste of effort, and most of all, in need of disruption. And yet every fall universities around the country unite the stewards of academia in a ceremony that is anything but disruptive (convocation: convene, come together) and reminds us that the past, however conflicted and flawed, is the inevitable set of struts for building the future. Convocation tells us that the work of summer is done, and now it is time for students to matriculate, spend a few days having fun and learning the campus culture, then settle down to work. The clock is wound, and begins to tick:  professors teaching, administrators administrating, and librarians librarying and otherwise being their bad (as in good) information-professional selves.

When I think about the harsh words tossed at higher education, I am reminded not only of the dishonoring of great poems by forcing them through a chemist’s retort of present-day sensibility, but also how some leaders–and I have been guilty of this myself–are in such a rush to embrace new ideas (particularly our own new ideas) and express our pride in our forward-looking stance that we forget that many times, things were the way they were for a good reason that made sense at the time; and we also forget that in a decade or two our own ideas will be found ill-suited for the way things are done in that new era. When we do that we hurt feelings and body-block the gradual changing of minds, and for what purpose? We can and should continue the hard work of making higher education better, but we should also honor and embrace the past. Give the past its due, because for all of its failings, it birthed the present.

I see now that part of the thrill of convocation for me is how it fills a necessary void: the honoring of my own conflicted past (and all human pasts are conflicted), as well as my commitment to movement into the future. We have events honoring our own birth and also the calendar year, but too many cultures lack a Yom Kippur or Ramadan to help us reset and recommit. Lent comes close, but it is now nearly ruined by Secular Easter and muddy symbolism; as Sandy observes, it is strange behavior to celebrate the Lamb of God, then roast him for Easter dinner. I am also impressed by how many clueless people schedule ordinary events for Good Friday, which is the religious observance that makes Easter Easter.

So onward into the academic year. The spreading laurel tree of academic custom, framed by convocation in early autumn and graduation in spring, gives my life well-framed pauses for introspection and inventory, pausing the slipstream of dailiness, stirring memories, reflection, atonement, and even where warranted, a little quiet praise. Births and deaths, broken friendships and promises, things (to borrow from the Book of Common Prayer) done and left undone, achievements big and small, harsh words and kind actions, frustrations and triumphs, times of fear and times of fearlessness, critical moments of thoughtlessness and those of careful consideration: tomorrow morning, dressed as one does for signature moments, I will tag along behind librarians as they wend their way to a place I have never visited and yet will come to know well, and learn a new way of coming together, in this autumn that closes one book and starts another.

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5. The importance of important questions

2015-08-10 19.00.21Pull up a chair and set a while: I shall talk of my progress in the doctoral program; my research interests, particularly LGBT leadership; the value of patience and persistence; Pauline Kael; and my thoughts on leadership theory. I include a recipe for  cupcakes. Samson, my research assistant, wanted me to add something about bonita flakes, but that’s really his topic.

My comprehensive examinations are two months behind me: two four-hour closed-book exams, as gruesome as it sounds. Studying for these exams was a combination of high-level synthesis of everything I had learned for 28 months and rote memorization of barrels of citations. My brain was not feeling pretty.

I have been re-reading the qualifying paper I submitted earlier this year, once again feeling grateful that I had the patience and persistence to complete and then discard two paper proposals until I found my research beshert, about the antecedents and consequences of sexual identity disclosure for academic library directors. That’s fancy-talk for a paper that asked, why did you come out, and what happened next? The stories participants shared with me were nothing short of wonderful.

As the first major research paper I have ever completed, it is riddled with flaws. At 60–no, now, 52–pages, it is also an unpublishable length, and I am trying to identify what parts to chuck, recycle, or squeeze into smaller dress sizes, and what would not have to be included in a published paper anyway.

But if there is one thing I’ve learned in the last 28 months, it is that it is wise to pursue questions worth pursuing.  I twice made the difficult decision to leave two other proposals on the cutting-room floor, deep-sixing many months of effort. But in the end that meant I had a topic I could live with through the long hard slog of data collection, analysis, and writing, a topic that felt so fresh and important that I would mutter to myself whilst working, “I’m in your corner, little one.”

As I look toward my dissertation proposal, I find myself again (probably, but not inevitably) drawn toward LGBT leadership–even more so when people, as occasionally happens, question this direction. A dear colleague of mine questioned the salience of one of the themes that emerged from my study, the (not unique) idea of being “the only one.” Do LGBT leaders really notice when they are the only ones in any group setting, she asked? I replied, do you notice when you’re the only woman in the room? She laughed and said she saw my point.

The legalization of same-gender marriage has also resulted in some hasty conclusions by well-meaning people, such as the straight library colleague from a liberal coastal community who asked me if “anyone was still closeted these days.” The short answer is yes. A  2013 study of over 800 LGBT employees across the United States found that 53 percent of the respondents hide who they are at work.

But to unpack my response requires recalling Pauline Kael’s comment about not knowing anyone who voted for Nixon (a much wiser observation than the mangled quote popularly attributed to her): “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.” 

In my study, I’m pleased to say, most of the participants came from outside that “rather special world.”  I recruited participants through calls to LGBT-focused discussion lists which were then “snowballed” out to people who knew people who knew people, and to quote an ancient meme, “we are everywhere.” The call for participation traveled several fascinating degrees of separation. If only I could have chipped it like a bird and tracked it! As it was, I had 10 strong, eager participants who generated 900 minutes of interview data, and the fact that most were people I didn’t know made my investigation that much better.

After the data collection period for my research had closed, I was occasionally asked, “Do you know so-and-so? You should use that person!” In a couple of cases colleagues complained, “Why didn’t you ask me to participate?” But I designed my study so that participants had to elect to participate during a specific time period, and they did; I had to turn people away.

The same HRC study I cite above shrewdly asked questions of non-LGBT respondents, who revealed their own complicated responses to openly LGBT workers. “In a mark of overall progress in attitudinal shifts, 81% of non-LGBT people report that they feel LGBT people ‘should not have to hide’ who they are at work. However, less than half would feel comfortable hearing an LGBT coworker talk about their social lives, dating or related subject.” I know many of you reading this are “comfortable.” But you’re part of my special world, and I have too much experience outside that “special world” to be surprised by the HRC’s findings.

Well-meaning people have also suggested more than once that I study library leaders who have not disclosed their sexual identity. Aside from the obvious recruitment issues, I’m far more interested in the interrelationship between disclosure and leadership. There is a huge body of literature on concealable differences, but suffice it to say that the act of disclosure is, to quote a favorite article, “a distinct event in leadership that merits attention.” Leaders make decisions all the time; electing to disclose–an action that requires a million smaller decisions throughout life and across life domains–is part of that decision matrix, and inherently an important question.

My own journey into research

If I were to design a comprehensive exam for the road I have been traveling since April, 2013, it would be a single, devilish open-book question to be answered over a weekend: describe your research journey.

Every benchmark in the doctoral program was a threshold moment for my development. Maybe it’s my iconoclast spirit, but I learned that I lose interest when the chain of reasoning for a theory traces back to prosperous white guys interviewing prosperous white guys, cooking up less-than-rigorous theories, and offering prosperous-white-guy advice. “Bring more of yourself to work!” Well, see above for what happens to some LGBT people when they bring more of themselves to work. It’s true that the participants in my study did just that, but it was with an awareness that authenticity has its price as well as its benefits.

The more I poked at some leadership theories, the warier I became. Pat recipes and less-than-rigorous origin stories do not a theory make. (Resonant leadership cupcakes: stir in two cups of self-awareness; practice mindfulness, hope, and compassion; bake until dissonance disappears and renewal is evenly golden.) Too many books on leadership “theory” provide reasonable and generally useful recommendations for how to function as a leader, but are so theoretically flabby that if they were written by women would be labeled self-help books.

(If you feel cheated because you were expecting a real cupcake recipe, here’s one from Cook’s Catalog, complete with obsessive fretting about what makes it a good cupcake.)

I will say that I would often study a mainstream leadership theory and  then see it in action at work. I had just finished boning up on Theory X and Theory Y when someone said to me, with an eye-roll no less, “People don’t change.” Verily, the scales fell from my eyes and I revisited moments in my career where a manager’s X-ness or Y-ness had significant implications. (I have also asked myself if “Theory X” managers can change, which is an X-Y test in itself.) But there is a difference between finding a theory useful and pursuing it in research.

I learned even more when I deep-sixed my second proposal, a “close but no cigar” idea that called for examining a well-tested theory using LGBT leader participants. The idea has merit, but the more I dug into the question, the more I realized that the more urgent question was not how well LGBT leaders conform to predicted majority behavior, but instead the very whatness of the leaders themselves, about which we know so little.

It is no surprise that my interest in research methods also evolved toward exploratory models such as grounded theory and narrative inquiry that are designed to elicit meaning from lived experience. Time and again I would read a dissertation where an author was struggling to match experience with predicated theory when the real findings and “truth” were embedded in the stories people told about their lives. To know, to comprehend, to understand, to connect: these stories led me there.

Bolman and Deal’s “frames” approach also helped me diagnose how and why people are behaving as they are in organizations, even if you occasionally wonder, as I do, if there could be another frame, or if two of the frames are really one frame, or even if “framing” itself is a product of its time.

For that matter, mental models are a useful sorting hat for leadership theorists. Schein and Bolman see the world very differently, and so follows the structure of their advice about organizational excellence. Which brings me back to the question of my own research into LGBT leadership.

In an important discussion about the need for LGBT leadership research, Fassinger, Shullman, and Stevenson get props for (largely) moving the barycenter of LGBT leadership questions from the conceptual framework of being acted upon toward questions about the leaders themselves and their complex, agentic decisions and interactions with others. Their discussion of the role of situation feels like an enduring truth: “in any given situation, no two leaders and followers may be having the same experience, even if obvious organizational or group variables appear constant.”

What I won’t do is adopt their important article on directions for LGBT leadership research as a Simplicity dress pattern for my  leadership research agenda. They created a model; well, you see I am cautious about models. Even my own findings are at best a product of people, time, and place, intended to be valid in the way that all enlightenment is valid, but not deterministic.

So on I go, into the last phase of the program. In this post I have talked about donning and discarding theories as if I had all the time in the world, which is not how I felt in this process at all. It was the most agonizing exercise in patience and persistence I’ve ever had, and I questioned myself along the entire path. I relearned key lessons from my MFA in writing: some topics are more important than others; there is always room for improvement; writing is a process riddled with doubt and insecurity; and there is no substitute for sitting one’s behind in a chair and writing, then rewriting, then writing and rewriting some more.

So the flip side of my self-examination is that I have renewed appreciation for the value of selecting a good question and a good method, and pressing on until done.  I have no intention of repeating my Goldilocks routine.

Will my dissertation be my best work? Two factors suggest otherwise. First, I have now read countless dissertations where somewhere midway in the text the author expresses regret, however subdued, that he or she realized too late that the dissertation had some glaring flaw that could not be addressed without dismantling the entire inquiry. Second, though I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it expressed this way, from a writer’s point of view the dissertation is a distinct genre. I have become reasonably comfortable with the “short story” equivalent of the dissertation. But three short stories do not a novel make, and rarely do one-offs lead to mastery of a genre.

But I will at least be able to appreciate the problem for what it is: a chance to learn, and to share my knowledge; another life experience in the “press on regardless” sweepstakes; and a path toward a goal: the best dissertation I will ever write.

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6. Whips AND chains

story-of-oI’d really like to ban the term “self-censorship” from discourse, given that we already have a spectrum of words–from “prudence” to “cowardice”–that say more precisely what we mean, and because it causes us to be confused about what censorship actually is.

As Megan Schliesman at Reading While White posted last week, the discussion about A Birthday Cake for George Washington is not about censorship. People talking about what’s wrong with the book are not censors; people saying it will damage children are not censors; Scholastic deciding to cease the book’s distribution is not censorship. Hell, somebody buying a copy of the book only in order to consign it to a bonfire is not censorship. (I think I told you guys I did this once, with a Sidney Sheldon book whose utter disregard for logical plot construction and consistent characterization caused me to pitch it into the fireplace by which I was reading. It felt naughty.)

Censorship happens when the government–and this includes public libraries–gets into the business of restricting access to information. As far as A Birthday Cake for George Washington is concerned, it would be censorship if a library that held a copy decided to restrict readership to adults, for example, or removed it from the collection on the basis of its being “offensive” or “harmful to children.” It is also censorship if a public library decided not to purchase the book on the grounds that it is offensive or harmful, or if the library thinks it will get into trouble with those who find it so. This is of course very tricky–libraries don’t purchase more books than they do, and it’s rarely one criterion that guides that decision. Here is where we have to trust in the librarian’s integrity and the library’s book selection policy and adherence to ALA’s Library Bill of Rights. I know I’ve told the story here before about the librarian I knew who didn’t purchase a sex ed book for children on the grounds that it didn’t have an index. Yes, it did not have an index–but that wasn’t the reason she didn’t buy it.

I bring all this up because of an interesting exchange I had on Twitter last week with YA novelist Daniel José Older. Reacting in a subtweet to my post about A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake, Older wrote “Ah here’s the Horn/Sutton tut tutting on why Scholastic should’ve let kids read that book,” with a screenshot of part of the post. I replied–or barged in, depending on your views about subtweeting–that I and the Horn believe kids should be allowed to read any book they wish. Then he asked me if I was cool with kids reading Little Black Sambo, Mein Kampf and The Story of O. (I think he dated us both with that last example.) Although I’m aware that this was intended as a sort of gotcha rhetorical question, it made me realize that Mr. Older is probably not familiar with the way librarians think. I said I was perfectly fine with kids reading any or all of those three books.

A bias toward believing that people, kids included, should be able to read whatever they want is so ingrained in librarianship that we can forget that it seems like a radical stance to civilians. And as discussions about children’s books have moved, via social media, beyond the usual suspects of teachers, librarians, and publishers, it would be good for all concerned to remember that our assumptions are not necessarily shared.

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7. Sunday Musings - Gender and Reading - Gendered Reading

By Copyright by Fritz W. Guerin, St. Louis. [Public domain]
Gender seems to be perpetually in the air in the world of librarianship and children's literature.  I have been in this field for a while now and have worked in some different settings, but my setting of well over 10 years now has been in a school.

Over the past month or so I have been paying more attention than usual to our collection, gender and circulation.  I first started off simply with a post-it and two columns.  Each time a student would check out a book, I would mark off the column with the gender identification.  Every day the results would be similar.  The boys and girls in my school check out a similar amount of books.

I then decided to utilize the catalog software. (Anyone who knows me knows that I *love* running statistics!) I started off looking at the top ten patrons (those with the highest number of check outs) for the month, then I ran it back to the last 9 months of the school year.  The results?  Out of the top 10 patrons, 7 of them are boys.  Open the stats up to the top 50 patrons and the gender mix gets closer - 26 girls and 24 boys make up our top 50.

I have many thoughts about the why of this.  We have 4 librarians shepherding our students through their years at school.  Our early childhood librarian is a man, so one of the students first looks at what a reader looks like is Jesse.  We are very mindful about the books we share with our students, and we try incredibly hard to make sure there is a variety with characters who are diverse in all sorts of ways.  When we find stereotypes, we talk about them with the students.  We don't go in for the "Girl's Read" "Guys Read" variety of booklists or book talks.  In fact, two of my favorite anecdotes about assumptions helped make me more aware of my own gender bias after being steeped in this girls vs boys culture my whole life.  We have a boy who is a super reader, and he mostly (to my knowledge) was a reader of graphic novels.  He pretty much read everything we had for his age group by the time he was done with 4th grade.  At the end of the year, I ask the students to reflect and I ask them their favorite title.  His favorite title of all time?  The Penderwicks by Birdsall.  We also had a group of middle school boys who quietly came into the library and methodically checked out every single Clique book.  They didn't hide them, read them out in the open, and felt no shame along the way.

It's really up to the adults in the room to set the tone and fight against the pink and blue tide.  Create a reading culture, make sure you are not perpetuating the stereotype by handing boys sports books and girls friendship books.  Highlight books that get outside of the gender box.  Remember, there are no such thing as boy books and girl books, no matter what some marketing departments might say.

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8. What's In A Name

creative commons search "name"
As someone who has a background in feminist studies, I know that the naming of things is important.  There is a power in a name, and politics exist within the realm of naming as well.

What does this have to do with libraries and librarianship? Quite a bit.

When I was in library school back in the mid 90s, my graduate school was going through reaccreditation.  One of the issues on the table was renaming the school.  On the table was changing the degree from a Masters in Library and Information Studies to a Masters in Information Studies.  Heated debates ensued, but at the end of it all, the students felt that it was really important to leave the word library in the title of the degree.

In the world of school libraries, after a stint of media centers, it seems that the term of favor now is Information Commons.  My response to this is that I think that the very idea of information commons is implicit in the idea of libraries.  I do understand that the term IC is probably much sexier when it comes to funding. Whenever I tell folks I am a school I usually get a chuckle and nudge and told either I don't look like a librarian, or asked if I still teach Dewey.  I know if I told them I was worked in an information commons in an academic setting I might get a little more respect.  I find myself, however, sticking to the terms library and librarian.

Trust me, I have done plenty of reflection regarding whether or not I am simply becoming one of those "GET OFF MY LAWN" people.  I really don't think that is it.  I don't think that I am clinging to something that is outdated.  Rather, I think that folks really need to broaden their view of what it means to be a librarian and work in a library.

What do you think is in a name?

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9. call for proposals: REFORMA

The Call for Proposals to present at the Fifth REFORMA National Conference (RNC5) taking place in San Diego, CA, April 1-4, 2015, is now open! REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking

Please visit the website below to get the information and send your proposals for leading presentations, facilitating breakout sessions, or exhibiting posters. The conference’s theme is “Libraries Without Borders: Creating Our Future”. The 2014 REFORMA National Conference Program Committee will evaluate proposals for relevance to the conference theme, as well as clarity, originality, and timeliness.



Deadline is September 1, 2014.

Filed under: librarianship, Opportunities, professional development Tagged: ALA, Librarianship, REFORMA

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10. REFORMA National Conference

I received the following in an email from REFORMA, The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking.

Are you doing research on the Latino community and its library needs? If so, please consider submitting a proposal to the Fifth REFORMA National Conference. The Call for Proposals is here:


Program Track A: Collections & Resources would be a great place for studies of YA literature for Latinos.

Program Track F: Technology & Innovation would be great for discussing Latino teens and their use of ICTs and media.

If, on the other hand, you want to learn more about serving the Latino community (53 million strong and counting!), consider attending the conference. You can find general information on attending — including information about our FREE preconference — here:


Filed under: librarianship Tagged: ALA, REFORMA

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11. The alarming five-year pin

Five-year pinNot long ago I had a back-and-forth with MPOW’s head of HR, who is a great HR head, by the way (and after my spring HR class my admiration for her role deepened–talk about a complex role people take for granted, like, you know, library work). She told me I would be receiving my five-year pin, and I kept insisting it was too early. But in the end I said ok, I will receive my five-year pin, because the day of the ceremony was exactly six months from my five-year anniversary, and also because she wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.

I was startled to get here. Many people have elaborate career plans such as “I’m going to be the dean of an ARL library” or “I’m going to be the interplanetary guru of electronic resources.” My modus operandi has been more along the lines of, “Hey, that looks good,” or “I’m new in town, do you have a job for me?” This baggy approach to personal career management has had spectacularly uneven results, but it did result in my present position, which is an undeniably good fit for me, even, or perhaps especially, on the craziest days.

Everything I said about managerial leadership two years ago still holds, but I continue to have very good lessons-learned, and not all of them learned the hard way. So in the spirit of the ubiquitous listicles on the web, I present my top five:

* Campus relationships are key. Some years back I wrote a “guest response” piece for ACRL that took a position — likely in the minority — questioning the value of faculty status for librarians. I would soften that view today to say, after the manner of Pope Francis, if it works for your institution, who am I to judge? However, I do stick by the point lurking under my piece: faculty status is not a substitute for building and maintaining strong relations with all stakeholders on campus–not just the faculty, but key departments such as advising, tutoring, writing studios, orientation, admissions, campus ministry, and especially, campus services — my library may be hurting for a renovation, but it’s clean and, for its age, well-maintained.

* Sticking around has value. Those relationships don’t happen overnight, so another happy re-discovery is the joy of longevity. If you’ve been in the same library thirty years you and I may have different definitions for that term, but this job rivals only my job managing Librarians’ Internet Index (RIP) for longevity, assuming we allow for my military service being a series of smaller jobs within a larger eight-year job. People have arrived, served the university well, and departed, all on my watch, and I’ve seen a lot of change, as well as some things come full circle. And I’m still here, plugging away at the big things and the small things alike.

* Managerial leadership can be learned (parts of it, anyway). I have learned a lot on the job. Nevertheless, the doctoral program is helping me from many angles. There is the direct classroom experience of highly practical classes on human resources, strategic finance, managing in a political environment, fundraising, and so on. Then there is the scholarly aspect: research, reading, and writing (rinse, repeat). While  there is no substitute for integrity, common sense, optimism, and collegiality, learning how to write a case statement for fundraising is not a bad thing at all.

* The organization comes first. This rule manifests itself in many ways big and small. The boss gotta be the boss.  I prefer to ask “How?” or say “Not now, but let’s find a way to do this,” but sometimes “no” is the correct answer. If a key stakeholder relationship has been damaged, I need to repair it, even if I have to grovel (and trust me, I’ve groveled). If constructive feedback is warranted, I need to provide it (though constant positive feedback is crucial, too). Using Heifetz’ analogy, it’s up to me to clamber up to the balcony every now and then to see what’s happening on the dance floor, and then adjust as needed.

* Do what needs doing. Every institution has its own reality. In our case, I found myself writing an evacuation procedure, purchasing additional emergency response gear in case the lower level was not accessible, and leading the entire library, including student workers, in active-shooter training.  I also ensure we regularly update a small printout of everyone’s non-MPOW phone numbers and email so we can contact one another in emergencies. Was all of that “my” job? Yes, some of it was, but more importantly, it is my job to ensure we are prepared for emergencies, and human safety is non-negotiable.

Make sure you’ve fulfilled the bottom rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy. In addition to improving our emergency response, in the last two years I’ve done what I could to make staff more comfortable and productive. The staff area, carved from a former “processing room,” is aesthetically sad, with worn cubicle panels, ugly tile, and hideous cabinets, but I patiently championed adding overhead fans to the staff area, which has increased staff comfort, and this summer the head of library IT and I built a “seated cost” budget plan to help us ensure staff are adequately equipped for their roles, with scheduled upgrades we can plan and budget for each year. Little things — a full-size fridge, a Keurig, a hydration station for filling water bottles — make a difference.

* Do what you can, and keep trying. As I wrote in 2012, I need to be mercilessly optimistic. Management and leadership have a certain household-laundry quality, with perpetual problems and challenges that mean the last sock is never washed. There are some big things that may not happen on my watch. But I don’t stop developing proposals and plans for improving the library that I share with key stakeholders, and this readiness, plus a variety of creative relationships, have led to improvements to the library, beginning with a refresh of the computers in that aging lab, on to a new reading area, to the first refresh of the furniture on the main level in the library’s 56 years. We’ve also increased our workforce in five years, and for that I can be justly proud, because our services define us.

Have fun with the silly stuff. Several months ago, the library — specifically, I and another librarian — were pulled into an elaborate time-sink of a project to secure permissions for an anthology of prayers and poetry the university will be self-publishing. I am here to tell you that most copyright workshops stop short of the truly practical guidance, which is how to chase down, stalk, wheedle, negotiate, and beg your way to get permissions for material, or even how to go back in a time machine, to when you first got wind of such a project, to insist that submissions be accompanied by little things such as authors, titles, and publishers. But as much as I grumble that this isn’t what I planned to do this summer, the reality is that our efforts are greatly appreciated, our guru-ness in copyright is further solidified, and the end result will be good.

Get (and maintain) a life. I have a loving spouse, two amusing cats, and a variety of interests, and oh yeah, a doctoral program.  I have heard about directors that work from dawn into the wee hours seven days a week, but I don’t know that their libraries are run any better than mine. I definitely put in my dues; I’m always the director, 24×7, and some periods are busier than others. But I’m no good to the institution if I’m frazzled and depleted. This has  also made me very selective with my speaking and conference activities, in part because I don’t want to be an absent boss, and also because catch-up is hell. Every once in a while I dose myself with “vitamin colleague,” checking in with peer directors for a phone call, Skype, or lunch, because there is some stuff I just can’t share with anyone else.

* Be fully present. Above, I referred to things happening “on my watch.” I have observed some directors take a job with their eyes fixed on their future goal (see above, “wanna be an ARL director”). I have seen others turn into what we called in the Air Force ROADies (for Retired On Active Duty). The sweet spot for me is to get in early every day, be present as much as possible, and be actively engaged with my role as library leader.

It’s possible to renew your present-ness. Last fall was a tough time: the second semester of the doctoral program was grueling, and there were other things going on at work that zombified me. I felt, later on, that I had checked out, even if I still got things done. But that was then and this is now. Nearly every day I drive through the gates of the university with a sense of anticipation;  to quote Thelma in Thelma and Louise, “I don’t ever remember feeling this awake.” (And if you’re tempted to make the inevitable “driving off a cliff” comment, remember that Thelma and Louise were choosing a life framed by that level of being present.) I am captaining a ship sailing toward our library’s vision, with my eye on the horizon as well as the decks, and I can feel the engines pulling us toward our future. It feels good.

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12. Cause to celebrate?

stormcenter Cause to celebrate?If it’s time for Banned Books Week it’s also time for my annual bucket ‘o scorn for ALA’s  cynical exercise in spin. Like Bette Davis in Storm Center, “I’m tired. I’m tired and beaten. There’s no use pretending.” Now Davis, playing a beleaguered librarian trying to uphold the freedom to read in McCarthy’s America, was truly fighting the good fight (too bad she didn’t have a good script, though; the young boy driven mad by Red-baiters and setting fire to the library was a Bit Much). ALA, on the other hand, has simply set up its usual straw men in the form of its dramatic list of “top ten most frequently challenged books.” (The Association recorded 307 challenges in all but does not say how many challenges each book had.)

What bothers me most is the conflation of “banned” and “challenged.” Banned means the book has been removed from a library (or restricted therein), or–and less definitively to my mind–from a required or suggested reading list. Challenged means a citizen or group has ASKED a library in a “formal, written complaint” to restrict or remove a book from a library (or from a required or suggested reading list). There’s a big difference. Wouldn’t you like to know how many of these challenges resulted in banning? Beyond anecdotal evidence about some of them, ALA doesn’t tell us.

These “formal, written complaints” are generally done at the library’s behest on a form issued by that library as directed by its collection policy. Why do we get so bent out of shape when people actually use it? The answer is–and here’s the cynical part–that we don’t get bent out of shape at all, instead using these challenges to revel in our sense of cultural superiority and to raise a fund-raising alarum. No wonder ALA finds book banning something to “celebrate.”

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13. SundayMorningReads

In case you were wondering, I don’t make a penny blogging. I have a day job that all too often has nothing to do with diversity or young adult literature. Literacy, yes. Information literacy. When I first learned the IMG_3109term, it described the skills necessary to locate, share, evaluate, access and present information. What it means to be information literate is growing and changing over time as our interactions with electronic media has expanded. Metaliteracy is one example of this change.

This literacy is what school librarians teach and this is why we need them.

My day starts tomorrow with me teaching searching skills to high students and ends after my regular hours with instruction to grad students, again on searching skills. Teaching the same thing at these two very different cognitive levels. I would say I’ve figured out teaching research to high schoolers, but giving it to strangers in a one shot sessions with not enough time to deliver a fully developed lesson is more than a challenge. Grad students? They should be able to digest a rather lectured delivery. I’ll go for that 20 minute max of ultimate brain attention.

I had an interesting revelation regarding this literacy recently regarding cultural relevance. It basically involved a Middle Eastern student who was assigned to research information on a certain car by evaluating information on a U.S. government website, the manufacturer’s site and one other. A student from a country where leadership is never questioned and the of questioning of authority is just not done. How then, do you teach these students to evaluate the information they find in the media?

Our world is diverse indeed.

Celebrated this weekend in at the Madison public library, The South Asian Book Award winners.

Elizabeth Suneby
Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education
(illustrations by Suana Verelst)
Kids Can Press, 2013

Jennifer Bradbury
A Moment Comes
Atheneum Book, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2013

2014 Honor Winner

Farhana Zia
The Garden of my Imaan
Peachtree, 2013

Librarian Amy Cheney has announce openings for In the Margins Book Award and Selection committee (ITM) for next year –  January 2015 – January 2016 for the 2016 list.  Click here to fill out an application of interest: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1gan284mn-KQskRYN5syGSpFbCDJx2ObBiJj6arZ8Hwk/viewform?formkey=dDZqR1RIQ0FQOGJkVTRJcmZoVWVfN1E6MQ We will be conducting interviews in December. In the Margins serves those young adult readers who are certainly in the margins, those who are incarcerated. Her recent SLJ article reviews recent books that fit her young readers needs.

YALSA has submitted a grant proposal to help disconnected youth, those who are with jobs, skills or knowledge that allows them to develop skills to prepare for the workforce. YALSA needs you to support their application by sharing what your library does to help disconnected your.

Please don’t take the work of school librarians/school media specialists for grant. 40% of the elementary school is Los Angeles have no librarian. No information literacy instruction, no skilled professionals to build capacity for a lifelong love of reading. KC Boyd fearlessly fights on behalf of students in Chicago to have librarians/media specialists in their schools. Here in Vigo County, the schools that still have librarians pull them out to teach science.

What’s going on in the schools near you? Who is teaching and advocating for your children to be truly literate in the 21st century?

Filed under: Me Being Me Tagged: Librarianship

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14. Crankypants Monday

badsanta1 620x330 Crankypants MondayInteresting discussion about holiday library programming over at SLJ. I have two questions.

First, as is so often true when we are talking “on behalf” of children, I want to know if Santa-in-the-library is genuinely offensive to non-Santa people, or is this a case of one party being offended in advance on behalf of another? Without even asking.

Second, where would you draw the line? Some conservative Christians, for example, have taken exception to Harry Potter. Does that mean no Harry Potter programming? Taking into account cultures and/or parents that frown on dating (let alone pre-marital sex), do we decide to forgo booklists or reading club discussion of YA romances? And you might as well jettison any and all folk material from story hour for fear of offending animal rights people, animals-don’t-talk people, anti-princess people, and purist people who want to make sure LRRH ends up in the wolf’s belly. Commenters over at SLJ have pointed out that the American holiday that does not piss somebody off simply doesn’t exist, and I would add that if you decide to decorate for nothing more than the seasonal changes you are still opening yourself up to accusations of paganism, Darwinism and/or climate change denial/hysteria. Because this is America and this is how Americans are these days.

None of this is to justify your Christmas decorations on the grounds of “majority.” Because this is a library, where we say fuck the majority and try to do the best we can for as many people as possible. So celebrate everything: better the risk of your bulletin boards and story hours going over the top than the deadly peace of guaranteed non-offence.


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15. Supporting Asian Pacific American Librarians

From the Asian Pacific American Library Association (APALA) blog: 

Each year APALA offers financial assistance to a student of Asian or Pacific background enrolled in or accepted to an MLS program. APALA also offers libraries and organizations scholarships to develop Talk Story: Sharing Stories, Sharing Culture literacy programming; these programs reach out to Asian Pacific American (APA) and American Indian/Alaska Native apala_brand_tote_bag(AIAN) children and their families through the exploration of stories in books, oral traditions and art.

APALA needs your support to sustain and grow these important services to our communities!

Please consider purchasing items from the APALA Store. A portion of store precedes benefit APALA scholarships and programs like the ones mentioned above.

apala_logo_tshirtThere are items to fit every personality and budget, including apparel, mugs, water bottles, cards, buttons and much more.

Please visit the APALA Store on CafePress.

Filed under: librarianship Tagged: APALA

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16. International Librarians Enhancing Access and Development Fellowship Opportunity

iLEAD (International Librarians Enhancing Access and Development) Fellowship Opportunity

The Department of Library and Information Studies (DLIS) at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) invites applications from international students to its iLEAD Fellows Program. An iLEAD Fellow will be an international student taking the Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) Program, supported by an International Graduate Assistantship (IGA) (stipend with tuition waivers requiring 20 service hours/week). More information about graduate assistanships can be found at the “Financial Support” tab at: http://lis.uncg.edu/prospective-studentsadmission/

The iLEAD Fellows Program is one of the Department’s international initiatives http://lis.uncg.edu/academic-programs/diversity-and-community/Application form: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEJWVmpyQ3NRNDl6UjV2SG5Nb0xzaXc6MA

The application includes an essay of 750 words or less on applicant’s experience with and plans to enhance library and information access and development in your home country, especially to diverse and underserved communities.

Up to two iLEAD Fellows will be selected from the new incoming international students, starting in Fall 2013, on the basis of demonstrated academic ability, evidence of commitment to enhancing library and information access and development in their home country, and financial need. To be considered for the iLEAD Fellows Program, applicants must submit both a UNCG Graduate School application for admission to the MLIS Program and the Department’s Graduate Assistant Application by the stated deadline.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Lee Shiflett, Director of Graduate Study  [email protected]

Filed under: librarianship, Scholarships Tagged: IFLA

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17. Asian American and Pacific Island Heritage Month

The month of May has been full of celebrations of Asian American Pacific Heritage Island month. I can’t say I often find much that highlights Pacific Island Heritage. It’s estimated that the Pacific Islands consist of 20,000-30,000 islands and is divided into three specific regions: Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Three blogs I would suggest following to keep up with children’s and YA lit in this region are the following.

Hawaiian Book Book

Asian in the Heart World on My Mind

Into the Wardrobe

And, you’ll never go wrong following Asian Pacific American Librarians Association’s website. In addition to highlighting members, they feature articles which answer “What’s Your Normal?”, sponsor literature awards, mentor new members, offer grants and scholarships and sponsor Talk Story , a literacy program that reaches out to Asian Pacific American (APA) and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) children and their families.

 The following are a few of the recent books set in this region.

 Island boyz Graham Salisbury In this rich collection, Salisbury’s love for Hawaii and its encircling sea shines through every story. Readers will share the rush a boy feels when he leaps off a cliff into a ravine or feasts his eyes on a beautiful woman. They’ll find stories that show what it takes to survive prep school, or a hurricane, or the night shift at Taco Bell, or first love. Graham Salisbury knows better than anyone what makes an island boy take chances. Or how it feels to test the waters, to test the limits, and what it’s like when a beloved older brother comes home from war, never to be the same.

The Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer Minke is a young Javanese student of great intelligence and ambition. Living equally among the colonists and colonized of 19th-century Java, he battles against the confines of colonial strictures. It is his love for Annelies that enables him to find the strength to embrace his world.

Aloha, Kanani and Good Job, Kanani by Lisa Yee Kanani loves helping out in her family’s store and sharing the wonders of Hawaii with visitors. When her chic cousin Rachel from Manhattan comes to stay for a month, Kanani can’t wait to get to know her cousin and help Rachel feel at home. But a clash of cultures ensures, and Kanani feels ignored. She tries to extend hospitality but everything she does seems to make Rachel unhappy. How can she find a way to connect with her cousin and make things better? Sometimes people who want help the least need it the most– her mother tells her. After a mixup with a diary leads to a fight, Kanani reaches out to Rachel in an openhearted spirit of caring and good will, and discovers that she has misjudged her cousin. In the process, Kanani learns the true meaning of Hawaii’s aloha spirit.

Tall story by Candy Gourlay Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long-lost half-brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London where he belongs.

Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as crazy as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. Eight feet tall, in fact—plagued by condition called Gigantism and troubled by secrets that he believes led to his phenomenal growth.

In a novel packed with quirkiness and humor, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.

Mister Pip by Lloyd Johnson (links to review on this blog)

Book descriptions from Amazon.com.

 What other books or blogs have you found that highlight Pacific Island literature for children or teens?

Filed under: culture, librarianship Tagged: APALA, Asian American Pacific Island Heritage Month, Pacific Islands

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18. ACE SCHOLARS: Degree Opportunity

I received the following information in an email. If you or someone you know is a member of an under-represented community and are interested in an Master in Library and Information Science, please read on!

Deadline: August 1, 2013.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro was recently awarded a 3rd ACE (Academic and Cultural Enrichment) Scholars grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.

As part of this grant, UNC-G needs to recruit 10 students from under-represented communities into their ALA-accredited two-year Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) degree program and prepare them for professional positions in community college libraries, with emphasis on serving diverse populations, including refugees and immigrants.

The program can be completed online or face-to-face on the campus in Greensboro, NC. The program requires a full semester practicum in a community college and service learning projects, as well as specialized course work in community college librarianship. As fellow NCLA members, we are hoping that you might be able to identify staff members, former students, or interested others to join the program.

The ACE Scholars will receive:

·       full tuition and fees, and a monthly stipend to attend the UNCG LIS program

·       memberships to ALA and NCLA or other state organization

·       community college practicum opportunities

·       networking and mentoring opportunities from community college librarians

The time for application is short. We must have a completed application to the graduate school by August 1, 2013. The program will start in mid-August. The program is fast-tracked. It must be completed in 2 years.

To apply: 

1) To apply for admission to the graduate school. For this they will need:

·        Recent (within 5 years) GRE scores

·       Transcripts from either a US institution or have transcripts from a non-US institution evaluated by a NACES accredited organization.

ainternational transcripts.

2) To apply for the ACE Scholars Program for Community College Librarianship scholarship. Please submit:

  • The application
  • A personal statement that explains your interest in community college libraries
    • The statement can be a written document or a video presentation
    • Discuss in up to 500 words why you are interested in participating in the current ACE Scholars Program and
    • Discuss in up to 500 words what value your diversity background/experiences will add to community college libraries serving diverse communities, such as New Americans

3) Participate in an interview with the grant’s principal investigators in person or through some other medium.

Click here to complete the ACE Scholar application and upload your documents.

Learn about admission and application requirements here:



Filed under: librarianship, professional development, Scholarships Tagged: library scholarship

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19. Back to the Grind


My colleague, Valentine, with illustrator Faith Erin Hicks

About this time last week I was finishing my last Best Fiction for Young Adult committee meeting in Chicago. I met with 14 other libraries and had such good discussions about the best of what is being published in young adult fiction. Despite the lack of age, gender or ethnic diversity in the group, I have to say I was quite impressed with the attention to selecting a wide range of fiction for teen readers and attention to what matters in literature. I just can’t say enough about this group of women and how much I’m enjoying and learning from this process.

I didn’t like missing the entire conference, though! I can only technically say this was my first ALA because I didn’t get to do anything. OK, I did make it to the exhibit hall Friday evening where I was able to meet Laurianne Uy, Kekla Magoon (with whom I’ll be presenting at ALAN this fall), illustrator Faith Erin Hicks and Hannah Erlich (who has been sending me books from Lee and Low for years). I also found Soho Press and Kathie Hanson from Native Voices Books, NativeVoicesBooks.com.


John Lewis signing his new book. Photo courtesy of Valentine


Alice Walker. courtesy of Valentine.

But there are so many people I didn’t get to see or meet! So many events I missed!!

ALA is HUGE!! I missed the quilt exhibit, movie previews, parade of bookmobiles, cooking sessions, author readers and signings. While I was in meetings, my colleague was texting me photos of her meeting John Lewis and Alice Walker.

To be honest, I knew I’d miss these things. But mentioning all that went on at the conference gives me the opportunity to share the wide reach of librarians. While there were hundreds of presentations, there were thousands of meetings during the event. From diversity to literacy, ebooks, international libraries, data management anddigital

photo-7 copy

Laurianne Uy

preservation, all that was there! And more!

I’ll be at ALA Midwinter where we’ll once again hear from students who have been reading BFYA books and twe’ll again discuss every book recommended after which we’ll vote on which we’ll add to the BFYA 2014 list. I’m still struggling to get caught up, but I refuse to be as far behind in January as I was in May.

So, now I’m back to work in my little library in Terre Haute. I’m finishing out summer projects and preparing materials for the fall. I’m finally getting a department chair at about the same time the library dean is leaving. Change is inevitable, isn’t it? We’re always surrounded by an abundance of opportunity, the trick is to be prepared. And, to have courage!


I had been neglecting my garden. Before.



Filed under: librarianship Tagged: ALA, BFYA, courage, garden

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20. SundayMorningReads

Have you ever had a difficult time deciding if you needed a particular food supplement so you closed your eyes, held it in your hands and quietly waited to see if it there was a natural tendency to pull or push it away? You have to close your eyes and let you instincts kick it for it to work.


Doughnuts of choice in Terre Haute are Square Doughnuts

I was watching this new show on the Cooking Network where the contestants compete to see who could prepare the best doughnuts. Three contestants, this week two white males and one black female. She was cute, young and very articulate. You do have to say ‘articulate’ when referring to a person of color who is well spoken, right? I can’t just say she had a soft voice with a cute lilt, right?

When challenged to create Japanese themed doughnuts, I wondered if any of these contestants knew of the surprises found in doughnuts in Japan. It can be anything from shredded fish to egg salad, usually savory rather than sweet. One of the guys came close with his rice stuff concoction but the young lady seemed even closer with a green tea dough. I wondered if she and the other judges had closed their eyes to the contestants and relied solely upon what they saw in the doughnuts how different would the results have been? I noticed that every time the black woman’s doughnuts were presented, thewhite female judge seemed to put an edge in her voice (could I say she was inarticulate?) and felt mean in her criticism of the black woman’s work.

I’m not accusing these people of racism, but am saying race (and gender…) is an issue. After all, I found myself way more focused on the black woman than that of the white males. What if race had been taken out of this instance?

Seeing race not only causes the doughnut to be discounted, but it also keeps the cook out of the surrounding conversations. It keeps the book by Indian authors segregated on that shelf just for Indian authors and in relegates Asian authors to workshops for Asian authors rather than for mystery writers. It’s like this post on Code Switch that discussing how minorities hurt corporations. A portion:

Those social settings tend to be segregated, with whites tending to spend time with whites and blacks with blacks. (The next time you are in an office cafeteria, notice who sits next to whom at lunch.) In a world where ethnic groups cluster together, those in the minority are less likely to share and benefit from spillover effects in the ecosystem and are therefore less likely to learn early on about important company developments or technological innovations.

I can’t just buy the books by the new Malaysian author and stick it on a shelf. It needs to be included with all the other dystopian fictions and book talked with them as well!

Am I talking myself out of blogging for books of color? HA! No, because this is still American and our eyes are not closed. And I know that this blog brings together people of all backgrounds through shared interest.

This week I’m heading to my first Unconference and it will be held at DePauw University. Topic: Information Literacy. I’m working on a couple of great interviews that should post very, very soon!

Next week, it’s Cincinnati and the National African American Librarian Conference where I’ll be presenting with B. A. Binns and David Miller. Today, I’m expecting my sister to drive over so we can go harvest the garden.  I’m expecting okra, cucumbers, tomatoes and perhaps a head of cabbage! In the meantime and between time, I’m still reading BFYA.

Have a great week and try that thing of closing your eyes and trusting your instincts!

Filed under: Diversity Issues, librarianship Tagged: sunday morning reads

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21. Cincinnati!!

The Queen City!

The Queen City!

Being a librarian is all about adapting to change and this conference of black librarians has provided no exception

Zetta had a gorgeous beach outside her hotel while I had the levee along the Ohio River.

Zetta had a gorgeous beach outside her hotel while I had the levee along the Ohio River.

to that rule. Zetta Elliott was out and B. A. (Barbara) Binns was in a few months ago.

Our third presenter was an unforeseen no-show.

My expectations were to deliver and then attend key presentations with then leave to re-explore my former hometown. The conference simply provided too many connections for me to explore as much as I would have liked.

Barbara and I delivered a well-received presentation on the reading habits of young black male readers. It was informative to hear Barbara discuss her observations of young black males in various venues as she researched her books and her resulting wisdom to not write about males in their homes. In realizing the different ways young males interact, she knew that they would also interact differently at home. Since she hadn’t observed these interactions, she avoided writing about them.

Audience questions led us to discuss cover issues,  the need for more black male authors, what males do read and why we should let them choose what that want to read so that they will read. Good librarians quickly realize that most people aren’t reading because they haven’t found what they like. I provided a 6 page list of books for boys ages 9-18 based upon the list on Greg Neri’s blog and Barbara provide free, signed copies of her book! It confounds me that so many people claim they cannot find these resources!

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Evening at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

I was disappointed that vendors such as EBSCO who typically have huge exhibits at conferences sent only one person with a notebook.

My literary find was Hole in the Head by Wilbert Smith Ph.D.. This book is  about Dr. Smith uncovering the story of a dozen Blacks (eleven men and one female) in Lyles Station, Indiana  (a historic all black settlement) who were experimented on as young children when photo copyradiation was first being harnessed for medical use. As a result of experimentation, these individuals lived their entire lives with holes in their skulls. Using hats and wigs, most found ways to cover this infliction that they developed for the sake of science. Despite the damage and dishonor done, this is a story of overcoming obstacles and achieving greatness.

I’m looking forward to reading this book and being prepared to further my discussion with Dr. Smith when he visits ISU this fall.

photoI connected with college friends, some whom I hadn’t seen in over 30 years! Met the audacious Karen Lemmons with whom I’ve communicated online for years and we have made plans! Quilt plans!!!!! I spent time on the campus where I earned my undergrad degree and was overwhelmed by the transformation of the campus of the University of Cincinnati. Yes, change was certainly the theme of this visit.

I went to lunch with my conference badge still on and locals asked what conference I was attending. Of course they expressed pleasant surprise when I told them black librarians and they wanted to know more. I didn’t quite tell them as much as I’ve written here!

Thursday evening I visited the National Underground Freedom museum and was surprised to find that one of the performers in the quartet was the niece of my college roommate!

Filed under: librarianship, professional development Tagged: B. A. Binns, BCALA, Black males reading, Cincinnati, NCAAL, Wilbert Smith

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22. Zora Neale Hurston Award

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2014 Zora Neale Hurston Award offered by the American Library Association Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).

This annual award, founded in 2008, is given to an ALA member who has demonstrated leadership in promoting African American literature. To further the professional development of the winner so that he or she can continue to build multicultural collections and serve diverse populations, the winner receives funds to attend the ALA Annual Conference, tickets to the Literary Tastes breakfast and the FOLUSA Author tea, and a set of the Zora Neale Hurston books published by Harper Perennial at the time the award is made.

Candidates will be evaluated based on the quality and contribution of their project. Project examples include, but are not limited to, a program, display, collection building efforts, a special readers’ advisory focus, or innovation
in service. Candidates will also be evaluated on the extent their projects promoted African American literature and highlighted its rich history and diversity. In addition, the candidate’s project should serve as a model for others, must be innovative and/or should advance service in this area.

Candidates will also be evaluated based on the quality of their essay and the ideas expressed therein (clarity of content and form, clear goals and benefits of attendance, commitment to ALA and the library profession, enthusiasm, and potential growth perceived).

Some previous winners of the award include Lavonda K. Broadnax of the Library of Congress for her bibliography, Selected Literature Published by the Civil War Soul Sisters; Vanessa Irvin Morris, Drexel University, for her book The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Street Literature; Theresa Venable, Children’s Defense Fund Haley Farm’s Langston Hughes Library for library programming featuring African-American authors and African-American illustrators of children’s picture books at the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture and the Big Read, and Anthony Loum, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), for his work planning and ensuring the quality of programs delivered by BPL in the 2009 Big Read for which Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God was the chosen book.

The 2014 award will presented at the RUSA Awards Reception during the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV, June 26- July 1, 2014.  To nominate someone, download and complete the [http://www.ala.org/rusa/sites/ala.org.rusa/files/content/awards/znh/znhurston.pdf] nomination form (PDF format), and follow the submission instructions therein.
Questions should be directed to the committee chair, Jannie R. Cobb
mail to: [email protected] ][email protected]

The deadline for nominations is January 15, 2014.


Filed under: awards, librarianship Tagged: Zora Neale Hurston Award. ALA

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23. #whylib Journey - Hmmm, Why Indeed?

Children's Book Week poster from my childhood

A Twitter conversation among school library colleagues grew into a call for Tell Your #whylib Story for School Library Month and from there, librarians from all types of libraries joined the conversation. Here is my "why" story.

Once upon a time there was a little kid who loved libraries and books and was an avid library user.

When, as a preschooler, she asked if she could run the cool ka-chunking check-out machine, her branch librarian said, “When you grow up and work in a library, then you can!” Hmmm.

As an elementary school-ager, she walked the mile to the branch library weekly - which actually was as good as the penny candy store she stopped at on the way back - both were full of good stuff but the library was free! Surrounded by  thousands of books, she imagined that working in a place like that would have to be heaven. Hmmm.

When she was old enough, she started taking the bus to the giant Main Library.  She was perhaps a little young to be using the adult section where the really interesting books were. She knew it because when she asked for help, the reference librarians turned a cool eye on her and always inquired, “Have you checked the catalog first?” (You Meanies, of course I checked!!) It struck that now pre-teen ager that perhaps she could make libraries a little more fun, a little less quiet and a lot less intimidating. Hmmm.

At college in the lovely '70s, she found the intermediate courses without prerequisites the best: Astronomy; Physics for Poets, Metallurgy (engineering), Old English, Old Norse, Medieval Lit, - well any lit for that matter, Scandinavian Mythology (not influenced by Tolkien, was she?), Theater, Art History, and the Development of Language and Writing. Nearing her graduation, she thought, "What all can I do with this disparate knowledge?" She looked at UW-Madison SLIS and thought, "Hey I could organize myself AND libraries!" Hmmm.

Once in graduate school, with an excellent children's services program, many future children's, teen and school librarians in her cohort , the CCBC just down the hall and more excellent courses to take on campus like Child Development and Creative Dramatics, she knew that work with children and families in libraries was exactly where she was heading. Hmmm.

When she got her first job as a children's librarian in La Crosse, she was encouraged by wonderful mentors like Avis Jobrack, Jane Botham, Nancy Elsmo, Pat Bakula, & Ginny Moore Kruse who taught her “Give yourselfpermission to be creative.” You had to believe them! Plus working with kids and in libraries was as good as she imagined. Hmmm.

From there she got active in state and national library association work, met tons of colleagues IRL and continues to meet and work with them virtually. She began storytelling and giving workshops and presentations and met even more people and saw where they all worked - at libraries very small to large.Each interaction with library folks has enriched her practice. Hmmm.

Throughout the years, the librarian learned something new every day from the kids and families who came through the doors of the libraries she worked at. They taught her that connecting the right book to the right child can have life changing implications. Hmmm.

And now, 57 years after trying to use the checkout machine and 38 years into my career, I look back at
all of these “aha” moments that led me on the path of librarianship. Reading the tweets and posts tells me the story I'm telling isn't unique to me. You all live it each and every day as you work with your communities. We are all awesome for the fundamentally important work we do in bringing information and literacy to our patrons. Despite tough economic times, our libraries and our work with the kids is vital and more important then ever. Yes!

Our happily ever after IS the work we do. And that is all the why I need!

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24. What’s a children’s librarian to do?

JeaneD Whats a childrens librarian to do?Twice in the past week I’ve been asked to opine publicly about the future of books and libraries for children, first at the NYLA conference in White Plains and then at the investiture of Eileen Abels as the new dean of the Simmons GSLIS. I had far fewer answers than questions, which I present to you for possible mastication:

Whenever I worry about the future of publishing and, in particular, the demand for professional book reviews in an increasingly Amazoned world, I think, “well, I could always go back to being a librarian again.” I’m twenty-five years out from the Chicago Public Library but I still hold my union card in the form of an MA from Chicago’s Graduate Library School (itself gone for almost a quarter century as well).

But then I think, could I? My library school curriculum included no courses in electronic reference, never mind the web, which did not yet exist. In Don Swanson’s required computer class, we learned assembly language and how to program IBM punch cards. As a children’s librarian in the early 80s, I worked at a branch that boasted the first public-access microcomputer in a public library, the brain child of branch manager Patrick Dewey. Adults used it to access BBS networks; kids used it to play Pong-like games and use very elementary, black-and-white, educational programs. For story hours, our idea of high-tech was a filmstrip projector.

Still I tell myself that the basics of library work with children remain the same as when I was working in the 80s and in fact when Anne Carroll Moore and Alice Jordan, cheered on by the Horn Book’s Bertha Mahony Miller, were establishing children’s librarianship as a profession a century ago: Library service based in book collections and storytelling, presided over by librarians with deep knowledge of literature and methods of bringing children and books together. Last week I was at the White Plains Public Library in New York and while the place was so high-tech that I expected lasers to shoot from the ceiling, books—regular old print books—were everywhere.

How long will this remain true? As reading becomes increasingly at one with the ether, will librarians have a place? As even reader’s advisory becomes more automated and egalitarian, to whom do we give advice? If there is no physical collection of books to maintain and promote, what do our jobs become? I would like to believe that there are 21st century Alice Jordans ready to colonize and civilize the brave new digital world, and I hope that our library schools are getting these pioneers packed and ready.

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25. Librarian Amy Cheney

“Youth of color have much more frequent contact with the justice system than white youth. Black youth account for 16% of the youth population, but represent 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the detained population, 38% of those in residential treatment, and 58% of youth committed to state adult prison”.

These numbers originated in The Sentencing Project’s Criminal Justice Primer: Policy Priorities for the 111 Congress 2009 and they’re often repeated to scare or concern us about black youth. I suggest you really read these numbers to understand what they’re saying. In the document, race is the only demographic used to describe incarcerated youth as if race alone determines one’s likelihood of becoming part of the penal system. This discounts the influence of family stability, income, education or other socio-economic factors. It also focuses so much on the disturbing rate at which black teens are incarcerated and camouflages  that the majority of teens incarcerated are White.

Does it matter?

It does if you’re librarian Amy Cheney who works tirelessly for the literacy rights of incarcerated teens. Amy wants to know her teens so she can know what they read. She wants them all reading.

You might know Amy from her YA Underground column in School Library Journal. From time to time, you may see her name pop up on a library listserv when posts updates regarding In The Margins Selection Committee. You may also know her as one of 10 winners of the inaugural “I Love My Librarian” award presented by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Times, and the American Library Association that she won for her work at the Alameda County Library Juvenile Hall in California.

Amy visited my blog sometime ago to ask me to post a call for committee members for In the Margins. I got busy and never posted the call. I felt it was only right that I give my readers an opportunity to meet Amy and learn about the work she does so that they may consider volunteering for this committee the next time a call is made. Here’s Amy!

Amy, where did you grow up?

San Francisco, CA. And I’m still here. It’s a beautiful city.

Do you have any pets?

I do. A miniature black poodle named Roxie. I had to a lot to overcome the stereotype of poodles. I thought of them as yippy and prissy. I call Roxie a reverse rescue – she was a show dog and a breeding dog. She’d never been in a car, on a walking trail, to the beach. We are having a blast. She is quiet, smart and a great companion. And I feed the wild birds in my neighborhood. 

Meat or vegetables?

Both – but I eat local and sustainable, and I know sometimes it’s debatable how sustainable eating meat is.

Are there any books that stand out in your memory from your childhood?

As a kid I read It’s Like This Cat – it won the Newbery award in 1964. I was separated from my birth family but in 1986 I found out that my great aunt Emily Cheney Neville wrote the book. It still blows my mind – her book won the award and was the first book that didn’t have a “positive” ending and was about “inner city kids.”  It was considered quite edgy at the time. 

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. And East of Eden by John Stienbeck. I read a lot as a kid and read a lot of adult books. 

What book(s) are you in the middle of reading right now?

3 books: Runaway Thoughts: the first Pain of the Prison System (P.O.P.S) Anthology from Venice High School; Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison by Nell Bernstien and War Brothers: the novel by Sharon McKay. I just finished Allison Van Diepen’s On the Edge – her new book coming out in November. 

How did you get involved as a librarian working with youth in custody?

This has been written about a lot – here is a recent interview.  But something I haven’t said in print before is that growing up as an adopted child I felt out of place, that I did not belong, that my parents didn’t want me, that I was somehow bad. I felt isolated. Also, the majority of adoptees today are still denied access to their own personal birth information and their original birth certificate. I could relate to prison – being separated from those you love, from your community and from information. From as early as 8 years old I was aware of prisons and the people in them, and had many nightmares about the holocaust and the separation lines. Many people in prison today got there through the foster care system. 

I often see you call for librarians to work with In the Margins Book Award and Selection Committee. Who are the teens this committee serves?

We strive to serve teens from the poverty classes – those that are in a cycle of poverty which often includes some form of street life/homelessness and juvenile institutions. 

But possibly the more important issue is that we are advocating not only for our teens living in the margins, but for authors and publishing by people living in the margins. There are several books – such as Marilyn Barnes’ From Crack to College and Visa Versa, Ebony Canion’s book Left for Dead - that deserve and need reviewing and promoting and don’t have either from the library world. We are filling a void between writers, reviewers, readers and the book world that shouldn’t be there and I hope will become less because of our work. 

What compels you, what surprises or confounds you about the population you serve?

That we live in the same world but on different planets. 

Could you describe the services these libraries typically provide for young people.

Hope. Possibility. A Lifeline. Diversity.

How do you begin to excite older students about books who have no relationship with them and/or poor reading skills?

It’s really about relevance. I love that my kids are so into BUCK and also MK Asante in general. They are dying to see his film 500 Years After – and they most likely would have never seen either the book or the film as relevant unless they met him.  I had a counselor come up to me and tell me that a kid spoke with her, in awe about a book that he is reading for the third time. He just loves this book, Jasper Jones The kid is a struggling reader – he reads about fifth grade level. Jasper Jones is a sophisticated book with challenging language, but the kid is completely relating to it and so is willing to engage. Jasper tries to deal with the dynamics of being blamed for everything. He is never innocent. He is always guilty in the eyes of the town he lives in. My kids can relate to this. 

Amy and I spent some time discussing authors who are taking non-traditional approaches to publishing and the appeal these authors have to the young people with whom she works. L. Divine and Jeff Rivera and two of the authors she mentioned.

Do you think self-published authors are doing a better job of filling the void for your readers?

I don’t think they are doing a “better job”, but I do think that their books are important, necessary and worth reading and promoting, and they are providing more books for my insatiable readers – many become insatiable once here and they have found excitement, diversion and relevance through books.  Including self-published/small press published books gives a different viewpoint on what is out there, what is available, what people are doing. Some people of color are not finding their place or even wanting a place in the mainstream publishing world due to a variety of factors.

What do you want those who read this to know about ways we can support libraries that house incarcerated teens?

If there isn’t a library in your detention center: Kids are there, kids are bored out of their minds – for the most part – and they need you, books and libraries. If there is a library in your local detention center, there are plenty of ways to partner with them, as well as group homes and other places that teens are living that need you, books and libraries. I asked a kid today what library they went to on the outs and they said, “barnes and noble.”  I had another kid ask me what library to go to and who to talk with at the library because she didn’t know and was afraid to talk to people there. it’s intimidating! remember that. 

Librarians can also support Amy’s work by nominating books to the In The Margins Selection Committee, by volunteering to join the committee next time the call goes out or by subscribing to the YALSA – Lockdown listserv so that we can be aware of issues, needs and concerns in prison libraries. Actually, ANYONE can nominate titles, not just librarians.

I find Amy’s work, energy and story to be quite captivating. I had to ask her how’s she’s doing with the memoir she’s working on.

Agh. I’m stuck. The hardest thing for me is structure. I took a class from one of my idols – Julia Scheeres who wrote a brilliant book about race, religion and adoption: Jesus Land. I admire her skill greatly. She encouraged me to take my 25 page experimental piece into a larger and full sized memoir. It’s hell to do, but her encouragement is what keeps me going. 

Finally, Amy what does diversity mean to you?

Being willing to step outside my comfort zone continually. Being willing to look at my own bias, filters and defensiveness, being open to considering a different viewpoint or way of looking at things, humility, listening, the unexpected understanding leading to connection with another.  

Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to get to know you and to learn more about the work you do.




Filed under: Interview, librarianship Tagged: Amy Cheney, In The Margins, incarcerated teens, prison library

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