Chicago Under Siege by Thousands of Librarians!

ImAttendinglarge  I’m very excited to be attending the ALA Annual Conference this year in Chicago! This will be my second ALA Annual; I attended for the first time in 2011 as a participant in the ALA Student to Staff program, a fantastic way for library science grad students to attend Annual   without paying the conference fees AND to gain insight into the inner workings of the ALA.   However, while I’m not actually a first-time attendee, I still feel quite overwhelmed by the options, advice, and opportunities!  After all, I’m still very much a newbie librarian 🙂 But I’m very excited and I plan to do as much as possible over this action-packed weekend! I plan to share my experience–and communicate with others–via Twitter and Tumblr during the conference.

So if you’ll be at ALA Annual this weekend, please say ‘hi’ if you see me!


Here is a recent photo of my face to use for reference. Note that it has been sepia-toned to make me look classier than normal.

 I’ll be attending the AASL preconference ‘Real World, Real Tools’ on Friday afternoon and then I will be at a variety of sessions over the weekend.  I’m hoping to attend the 8th Annual Newbie & Veteran Librarian Tweet Up on Saturday evening and possibly some of the other evening event Friday and Saturday nights.

To follow me, social media-wise, here’s my information:

Twitter: @onesmartcupcake


Hope to see some of you there!


The Club Connection: Bringing The Library TO Students!

This post represents a category of content that has been fairly rare on my blog so far: writing about library programming.   I have yet to blog much about library programming, lesson development, or other library activities for several reasons.  Mostly, as a young rookie librarian, I find the amazing, creative programming blogged about by my more experienced peers a bit intimidating. However, I hope the use this summer to change this pattern!  Especially since I believe that offering a break down of my tentative programming will encourage other newbie librarians.  After all, one of the biggest lessons I learned during the last few years as first a library intern and now a full-time librarian is the value of accepting and embracing failure–especially the failure of new activities or programs.  A program or a lesson won’t always work the way you hoped–or work at all.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable.

Today, however, I’d like to share a couple of library activities I developed this past year that were actually successful.  These two particular activities were especially successful in connecting specific groups of students with the library and reminding them how the library can be a source for information & support outside their academic needs.  It’s not a particularly new idea but I want to write about the great value in using pre-existing teen groups (such as school clubs) to connect young adults with the libraries in their lives.

My collaborations with student groups this past year represent two different methods for the creation of such events: the ‘active search & approach by librarian’ method and the ‘eager seizure of an unexpected opportunity’ method.  The first collaboration came about when I initiated contact with a student leader of a club and made a direct proposal. After spending the last week of June 2012 attending a wonderful conference of multicultural education–The Georgetown Day School’s Equity Collaborative, I began the school year  determined to find new ways within my particular sphere of influence to make our school a more explicitly supportive, inclusive, and safe environment.  One fairly simple act was to quietly reach out to our Queer-Straight Alliance and offer to share some LGBTQ-specific resources available in our library.    Initially my offer was, in fact, too quiet and it was lost in the bustle of the new school year.  However, I tried again in the spring and was able to make a connection.  Through quick conversations with our QSA’s president, it was decided that I would come and visit their next meeting to share a list of resources relevant and interesting to LGBTQ youth.  I spent just over a week pulling together a resource list that included a diverse group of YA fiction featuring young, LGBTQ protagonists, a few key nonfiction titles, and a couple of good websites.  I also put together a quick Power Point presentation that allowed me to give an overview of the list’s contents.  My goals were: to show them rich diversity of currently available fiction and nonfiction for & about LBGTQ youth, to explain explicitly where they could find these resources and get good information, and to demonstrate that their library is safe place where they have adult allies.

Now, as I stated at the beginning, this simple activity is neither revolutionary nor extraordinary.  However, I am very proud of it because it accomplished a rare feat:  I actually achieved all my initial goals and it will likely be a repeatable activity! Students who attended checked some books out right away and some came back & asked for more later.  The president of the club requested a digital copy of the resource list to share with club members unable to attend the meeting and the group’s faculty advisor was enthusiastic about the idea of repeating this event early next fall.

Here are my presentation and resource list, both of which I plan to update slightly over the summer 🙂

The second collaboration with a student group came about through pure chance and, even more excitingly, a direct approach from a student.  This year my newborn Student Library Advisory Board (SLAB, as its members like to call the group) and I planned & ran two very fun movie nights in the library.  Our second movie night was a Valentine’s Day theme and had around 25 students in attendance–which is awesome, especially considering the relatively small size of our school, the many other options for Friday night activities, and the geographic spread of our student body.  Afterwards, a student that attended this movie night emailed me, saying how much she enjoyed the event and that she was interested in doing a movie night event for a student group she had recently helped begin on campus. She asked if I could give her some tips about setting up such an event.  I happily responded, offering to help her plan the event.  The group is focused on spreading awareness about various issues related to adolescent health and the members wanted to do a movie night as a fun way to begin a discussion about adolescent mental health issues.

I was thrilled to be asked and so we worked together to plan a small Friday evening event during which we would show the recent film adaption of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of A Funny Story.  Both the student leader and I connected with a member of our school’s awesome counseling department and she agreed to open the event with a informational discussion about adolescent mental health and mental illness.  Meanwhile, I, of course, offered to create a resource list of websites (based on suggested from our wonderful counselor) and fiction dealing with adolescent mental health issues.  To create this list, I made use of one of the best resources out there: other librarians!  I sent out a request for fiction titles related to adolescent mental health to the yalsa_bk listserv.  In response I received an amazing wealth of titles! So again, thank you to the wonderful subscribers of the yalsa_bk listserv!  The event went wonderfully–the opening discussion was really informative,  the movie touching and funny, and the resource list well received–with a digital copy requested to be emailed out to friends 🙂

Here is the resource list I created with the help of our wonderful counseling department and the awesome subscribers of the yalsa_bk listserv.

I somewhat stumbled into this method of library outreach over the past year but I’m very excited about these small successes since they were fairly simple to implement but powerful in their impact.  As a result, I’ve created relationships with more students and I’ve found ways to share the library’s resources in targeted doses to interested audiences.  I’m hoping to continue this type of outreach next year by repeating events like the QSA resource share and by seeking out other student groups who might be open to collaboration.

How have you used pre-existing student/youth organizations or clubs to connect teens to YOUR library?  I’d love to hear more ideas in the comments!

48HBC Finishing Line: One Last Quick Review + Final Stats

48hbc_newI did it!  Despite several large chunks of time when I was out occupied with other commitments this weekend–and time for sleeping–I actually pretty much achieved my reading/blogging time goal and read more books than I predicted!  And although I technically still have until 7am tomorrow morning, I’m ready to get some sleep.  So I’m calling my finish line a bit early.  Here’s my last quick review and my final stats.

For my final book,  I snuck in a quick read of Persepolis: The Story of A Childhood. 

persepolisPersepolis: The Story of A Childhood – Marjane Satrapi 

This graphic memoir has been on my TBR pile for a very long time and I was determined to use this weekend to finally move it to my ‘Read’ pile!  I snuck it in right at the end, in between my Tony Awards viewing 🙂 A compelling look at the Islamic Revolution in Iran from the perspective of a child and young teenager, Persepolis is heartbreaking, humorous, endearing, frightening, and important.  I love Satrapi’s deceptively simple illustration style.  I also really appreciate her ability to tap into her memories and produce a narrative voice that honestly and accurately portrays a child’s perspective.  It brings events that could seem like distant history very much to life through its evocative illustrations and the very human, individual stories told.  I give it a strong 4.5 / 5 stars.

Challenge Final Stats:

Hours Read: 13.5 hours (+ 1.25 hours listening to Doll Bones) = 14.75 hours total

Hours Blogged:  3.75 hours

Social Networking: .75 hours

48HBC Hours Final Total: 19.25 hours

Books Read: 6.5 books ( 6 whole books + the final 1/4 of Sticks & Stones and the first 1/4 of Doll Bones)

Pages Read: 2,153 pages (including my Doll Bones listening, calculated using Abby The Librarian’s formula in her great 48HBC audiobook post)

I’m so happy and proud to have joined in the 48 Hour Book Challenge for the first time this spring!  I definitely feel that I achieved my goals of whittling down my TBR pile, revitalizing my blogging habits, reading some great books, and interacting with the great community of participants!  I have so many new blogs to read!  Thank you to Ms. Yingling Reads for hosting the challenge this year–and to Abby The Librarian for her informative tips posts which motivated me to participate this year. I will try to do some more catch up on 48HBC-related social networking tomorrow evening and will be watching all the participants’ blogs for further reviews!  I will post some longer reviews for most of the books I read this weekend–but since I am going traveling for most of this month, they might not all appear until July.

Thank you again to all my fellow participants!  I’m off to dream–probably about books!

48HBC Update #5

48hbc_new Wow! The challenge is nearing the end for me since I’ll be sleeping a chunk of my last several hours before I officially finish tomorrow morning at 7am.  But so far, I’m feeling really pleased with my progress!  I also really appreciate all the blog comment and Twitter conversations  I’ve had with other participants.  I have so many new blogs to add to my list 🙂

So here’s my latest quick review:

cadet of tildorThe Cadet of Tildor – Alex Lidell

I’m a big fantasy reader and my preferred sub-type of fantasy fiction is high fantasy with strong world building and, even more importantly, strong complex female protagonists.  So  The Cadet of Tildor was on my TBR pile as soon as I heard about it!  I decided to read it this weekend after hearing a fairly positive review from one of my students–a voracious fantasy reader.

Overally, I found Cadet an enjoyable debut fantasy adventure that will likely appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, & Rae Carson.  The world is interesting–definitely reminiscent of Pierce’s semi-medieval Tortall (especially as portrayed in her Beka Cooper series).  Renee de Winter is the last remaining female cadet in the senior class at the Academy where Servants–the most elite officers in the Crown’s human arsenal–train.  Renee is an appealing protagonist–prickly, determined, headstrong, brave, and sensitive.  She has a strong sense of her duty and a moral core focused on her role in enforcing the Crown’s law.  I enjoyed watching Renee grow as she faces the physical challenges of being a woman in a man’s world and the intellectual & emotional challenges of acting ethically in a world where everyone has an agenda and right & wrong behavior can’t be easily aligned with legal & illegal behavior.  However, I do think the novel is burdened with an overabundance of story lines and occasionally I felt a bit overwhelmed by quick shifts in events and by the constant juggling of characters and plot events.

But overall, I’m giving The Cadet of Tildor a solid 4/5 stars and I plan to recommend it to my fantasy fans this fall!

I’m also really enjoying my gradual listen to the audiobook of Holly Black’s Doll Bones!

Challenge Update:

Hours Read: 12.5 hours (+ 1.25 hours listening to Doll Bones)

Hours Blogged:  3.25 hours

Social Networking: .75 hours

48HBC Hours Current Total: 16.5 hours

Books Read: 5.25 books (+ first 4 chapters of Doll Bones)

Pages Read: 1,929 pages ( + first 4 chapters of Doll Bones)

48HBC Update #4: Day 2!

48hbc_newWow! Day 2 is underway and I want to put out a quick update before I head out for my Sunday morning activities.  Since my last update, I’ve finished another book and started an audiobook.

0-545-21511-0 The Romeo And Juliet Code – Phoebe Stone

I added this middle grade novel to my TBR pile as part of my goal to read more younger middle grade novels, especially those currently popular with student in our Lower School (grades 4-6) library.  Sadly, this particular novel didn’t work for me.  I like the historical setting, the codes & code-breaking, several sweet romances, and family secrets.  And I completely understand the story’s appeal to its population–a light romance, a bit of historical espionage, and a mystery to solve.  However, Felicity’s voice just didn’t work for me.  Occasionally her tone became a little prissy or sanctimonious–which didn’t match her bold and mischievous actions.  And certain repeated phrases and statement gave the impression that she was trying a too hard sound British–rather than sounding genuinely British.  So for me, I’m going to just give this one 2.5/5 stars.  But I’m interested to hear other’s thoughts about it!

However, I also started an audiobook of Holly Black’s new Doll Bones and so far am finding it utterly delightful!  I plan to start reading The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell next!

Challenge Update:

Hours Read: 9.5 hours (+ .75 hour listening to Doll Bones)

Hours Blogged:  2.5 hours

Social Networking: .5 hours

48HBC Hours Current Total: 12.5 hours

Books Read: 4.25 books (+ first 2 chapters of Doll Bones)

Pages Read: 1,521 pages ( + first 2 chapters of Doll Bones)

48HBC Update #3

48hbc_newWhew! I’m nearing the last several hours of Day 1!  And while I’ve spent about 3.75 hours of the time since my last update attending the graduation ceremony at my school and it was a lovely break and a great chance to see off our great seniors.  But now I’m back and I’ve finished another fabulous book!

white catWhite Cat – Holly Black

I’ve been meaning to start reading Holly Black’s The Curse Workers series for a couple years now and I’m so glad that I used the Challenge as an excuse to grab a copy and read it.  This is a sharp, sexy genre-blender of a novel.  White Cat mixes classic noir, mob mystery, and urban fantasy–and the result is a dark, twisting thriller that plays with questions of family, identity, power, and morality.  Cassel is fascinating protagonist and narrator and his friends & family are equally interesting characters.  I’m definitely planning to pick up the rest of the series this summer!  A criminally good 4/5 stars from me and a full review to come!

Challenge Update:

Hours Read: 7.25 hours

Hours Blogged: 2 hours

Social Networking: .5 hours

48HBC Hours Current Total: 9.75 hours

Books Read: 3.25 books

Pages Read: 1,225 pages

48HBC Update #2


Whew! I’m about 6 and half hours into the challenge and am pretty excited with my progress so far!  Since my last update, I finished 2 books–although I’m counting them as 1.25 books read since I began the one of them earlier this week and just read the last fourth this morning.  Here are some quick write-ups about each of them:

sticks & stones

Sticks and Stones: Defeating The Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy – Emily Bazelon

Wow!  What a compelling and important piece of contemporary non fiction!  I believe this book first came onto my radar just in the last week or so while checking out some recent posts on Edutopia. I found this post on summer reading suggestions for educators by Mark Phillips.  Sticks and Stones was included on the list and I managed to pick up a copy at the library this week.  I started reading it that day and couldn’t put it down.  Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate, lawyer, & professor, writes compelling, incisive, and approachable prose and she brings the keen eye of an investigative journalist and the commitment of a youth advocate & parent to her coverage of the complex, current topic of bullying.  I love her use of three specific cases combined with great, diverse research.  This is a very important book for anyone who works with kids of any age–and for anyone interested in this highly topical issue.  This book in particular is significant because it uses such detailed accounts of specific cases to illustrate the complexity of bullying–and the danger of oversimplifying such an important topic.  It also offer narratives about possible solutions and concludes with a great list of resources (like most librarian, I love a great resource list!).  A definite 5 stars and highly recommended reading from me!  I plan to share this at my school next week before we all run away for summer!

language inside

The Language Inside – Holly Thompson

Wow! I read this in an hour flat and for that hour, I felt utterly transported in the way that only great fiction can achieve!  Novels in verse can be tricky–but when they work, they really work and this is a prime example.  Thompson’s free verse suits Emma’s voice and situation perfectly as she attempts to navigate her sudden transplant from Japan–her home since infancy– to the United States–her birth country.  The fact that the move has been prompted by her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis has only added to Emma’s sense of loss and isolation.  This is a truly multicultural story about the complexity of identity, family, and finding an authentic personal voice.  The Language Inside was an immense pleasure to read and I have much more to say about it so I will definitely be writing up a longer review in the next few week!  A shining 4/5 stars!

Challenge Update:

Hours Read: 4.75 hours

Hours Blogged: 1.25 hours

48HBC Hours Current Total: 6 hours

Books Read: 2.25 books

Pages Read: 915 pages

48HBC Update: One Book Down!

I’ve finished my first book–the utterly delightful, 2012 Newbery Honor Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage!

three times lucky

I don’t always get a chance to read as many novels that fall on the younger end of the middle grade spectrum since I spend the year working with 7-12 graders.   So I like do some catching up over the summer. I like to get feel for the books my incoming 7th graders might have been reading before they get to me–and there are so many excellent middle grade books being written right now I can’t help but want to read them all!   Three Times Lucky is a perfect example of a middle grade gem!

The story is the ideal combination of exciting mystery, quirky small town tale, and a classic search for identity.  I absolutely adored Mo from the very first page; she is a wit-smart, hilarious, and incredibly sympathetic narrator & protagonist.  The supporting cast of characters could easily have become flat stereotypes of the traditional ‘quirky Southern townspeople’ but Turnage carefully reveals their human complexity as events unfold.  I especially love the way Mo’s determination to solve the mystery of her past and identity intertwines perfectly with the thrilling murder-kidnapping-robbery caper.

 A big 5 stars from me and likely a fuller review to come!

Challenge Update

Hours Read: 2 hours (after subtracting about 15 minutes for food fetching, teeth brushing & dish washing)

Hours Blogged: .5 hours

Books Read: 1 (Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage)

Ready, Set, Read! : 48HBC Starting Line!

48hbc_newLet the marathon reading begin!  I’ve started at promptly 7:00am–my first cup of coffee is brewing & I just choose my first book!  I will be continuing with my current nonfiction read, Sticks and Stones: Defeating The Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering The Power of Character and Empathy  by Emily Bazelon and jumping into Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.  

I’ll be updating here as well as on Tumblr and Twitter.  Don’t forget–check out the 48 Hour Book Challenge introductory and starting line posts over at Ms. Yinging Reads for more information and follow everyone progress on Twitter by tracking #48HBC.

48 Hour Book Challenge!

48hbc_newAfter hearing about it for years, I finally decided (quite spontaneously) to try and join in the 48 Hour Book Challenge, which takes place this weekend from Friday (today) 7am to Monday 7am!  In my usual blog-reading catch-up time, I read several great posts by Abby The Librarian and decided that even though this weekend happens to be graduation weekend at my school and my last semi-free weekend before my practically back to back trips to London (as a chaperone to 15 teenage girls) and to Chicago (for ALA Annual!!), I couldn’t resist the chance to join in this fabulous community-and to whittle down my continuously growing  TBR (To Be Read) pile!

Since this is my first time participating, I have pretty modest goals.  I’m hoping to get in about 15 hours of reading/blogging–then perhaps 18 hours total if I take my one hour of social networking time per every 5 hours of reading.  I’m not making any goals related to  number of books or pages–I’m just going see what I manage to read this year! My larger goals of participating in the Challenge this year are less concrete.  I’m hoping to recharge before the next very busy couple of weeks, to kickstart a more regular blogging practice,  to read a bunch of great books, and to participate in the wonderful community surrounding this challenge.

I have a big pile of potential reads sorted out–with back-ups available, of course!


My TBR Pile for the 48 Hour Book Challenge!

I don’t plan to get through all of these–I just like to have options 🙂   I am hoping to take advantage of the 1 audiobook rule and was excited to find a copy of the audiobook for Holly Black’s exciting new middle grade novel The Doll Bones at my local public library–it sounds delightfully creepy!  Additionally, I’m including my current book: the compelling and highly important Sticks and Stones: Defeating The Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering The Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon.  Assuming I don’t finish it today, I’ll count whatever remaining pages and fraction of the book (.5 or .25 books) I read tomorrow into my total.

I will be starting at 7am Saturday morning and finishing at 7am on Monday.  I will post some quick reviews and progress updates here (and perhaps on my recently revitalized Tumblr as well);  I will also try to do some tweeting as well–follow #48hbc to see everyone’s progress!  Check back here tomorrow morning for my starting line post!

Still want to participate?  It’s not too late!  You just need to pick out a 48 hour period sometime over the weekend.  Check out the information over at Ms. Yingling Reads where the challenge is graciously being hosted this year!