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I’m holed up in my fancy hotel, cramming for my presentation tomorrow. All of the work has been done, now it’s all about finesse and timing.

I get really nervous speaking to peers. Someone in the audience probably knows more about my subject than I do. Middle school taunts loom large in the back of my brain. It’s not logical, it’s just there.

So I’ve been working on it. I’ve signed up to talk about our new Service Learning model to the library world at large. I spoke at the Young Adult Services conference in November and will be speaking at the Washington Library Association Conference tomorrow.

I’ve made some realizations. Having a partner is key. One person droning on is never as exciting as two. It takes the pressure of all of those eyes off of me to have another person up there and allows me to take a breath when I need one.

I deliberately procrastinate on practicing my slides until within a day of my presentation. It keeps me from getting nervous leading up and keeps everything fresh in my mind, what I want to say and how I want to say it. Why torture myself sooner than necessary? The trick is to make sure to leave time in what can be a busy conference schedule to practice on my own, and then at least go over timing with my partner.

Having really wonderful friends doesn’t hurt either. I’ve had support from several people who have helped me see past my boogie men to the heart of the matter, and offered to be there for me at my presentation to cheer me on.

The presentation in November went great. I won’t pretend that I am suddenly a rock star–I have coworkers who provide celebrity grade performances when on stage; I don’t have that skill and I probably never will. Part of getting over my anxiety is letting things like that go. However, if my subject is interesting and I can present on it in a steady and interesting way, I’ll be happy.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep practicing in this luxurious cage.


Raven has her masts and sails now, but isn’t quite ready to hit the Sound. We’re all chomping at the bit, to mix my genres, to get out on the sea. Just a couple more weeks!

In the mean time I’ll show you the progress of the galley, specifically the spice situation. It’s still a bit out of control,

There are 5 containers of cinnamon in this rack. Five.

Hopefully I can keep this thyme and sage alive for a little while.

but I have a long term solution. This cabinet…

Closes to look like this:

And this Atomic Espresso maker…


Fits in here!

So we can keep things nice and tidy. I plan to find more metal that magnets will stick to that is the right size to fit in the nook behind the red spice rack. Chris says he knows someone that can cut it for me. I’m finding that the magnets from the containers magnetize parts of the metal sheet in there now and make it so other magnets are repelled because of the polarity. Anyone know if there’s a trick to that? Thicker metal? Braining the folks that adhere the magnets different ways on different containers?

I went for a run yesterday and was surprised by my stamina. It might have been the magnificent view. Click on the photo for more photos from my run.

We had a few friends over for lunch today and we started talking about my friend’s recipe challenge and sharing recipes. It made me think about my messy ivy patterned recipe box and my online Drive folder where I have my most used recipes. I really need to finish switching those recipes over to Drive not just to save clutter, but to make them easier to update and share. As the rain of winter continues, perhaps I’ll use all my free time (only a little sarcasm) to put those recipes up.

WildlifeWildlife by Fiona Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was honestly surprised at how delightful this book is. When I started the pre-release I thought, “oh another upper class, private school, white girl, coming of age.”

While all of those things may exist in this book, it contains a fresh edge. The students are taken out of their natural elements and into the woods and we don’t get a good feeling for how privileged they are. They all seem like teens, with their own personalities and quirks. Sib especially, because even though she’s met fame, it hasn’t changed her into a different person. She cares about the world and her friends, even if she does overlook some obvious faults for far too long. She is a real person.

Lou’s grief hits you head on. As a biker myself, I can feel the loss of her boyfriend who died in a biking accident. She’s simply putting one foot in front of the other most of the time, but her personality wins through when she sees the atrocious way that Sib’s friend Holly treats others. We get to know her better as her grief gives way to living, and her dry humor and smart replies are priceless.

I was a little confused at first that a school would send students away for 3 months to live in the woods and experience some pretty intense backpacking trips, but then I realized it’s set in Australia. I could see that…

A joy to read.

Update: And now that I’ve found this article, I really want to read Six Impossible Things. Hurry up and come out in the US!!!

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Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of VietnamCatfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A gritty bike journey through the US West coast, Japan and finally, Vietnam. An (Andrew) bikes through all these places in search of himself, even though he is often more lost on his introspective journey than when he began. Interspersed with the tale of his travels are flashes to the past when he was a child in Vietnam before, during, and after the war, and as an immigrant in the US, ending up in Los Angeles.

An has a lot of self hate, and he seems to be searching for a way to like himself: if he can only find a reason to like the Vietnamese, he might learn to like himself. I’m not certain that ever happens, but he has a grand adventure trying.

All in all, very entertaining. I always wanted to know what would happen next and I found his ability to keep going despite his setbacks inspiring. I would have liked a bit more of an ending, but this is a memoir, so I’ll have to live with reality.

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I’m terribly bad at following through with my promises on here, aren’t I?  I believe that I said I would talk about how programs and teen advisory groups build community.  When I mentioned that, I was planning a short post because I was hoping to give a presentation on it at WLA this April.  Instead I will be helping facilitate a round table discussion.  No more qualms about talking too much.

I absolutely love having a teen advisory group.  As I said before, I looked at a lot of programming ideas before I settled on on TAG (I’m a dork, I like to say “TAG, you’re it!” on publicity.  The teens forgive me.) but after talking to Jackie I just felt like this was the right fit.  Our branch has a lot of teens and younger kids, a lot of families.  We lose the teens for a while in high school because they just have so much gosh darn work to do–I don’t think I would have gotten this group if they hadn’t started out in middle school last year.  Now they are in high school and they bring in their friends.  That means more teens using the teen area and the homework table.  More teens being a positive presence in the library.

When we have programs, our meeting room is right in the front of the library and everyone looks in to see why we are having so much fun.  If it’s a TAG meeting, we get curious gazes.  When we have a program, I make sure to put a sign in the window so that everyone knows what’s going on.  We celebrated National Gaming Day on Saturday and we got about 15 teens right at the start.  Later, families started to show interest and as the teens were game, we invited them in to play with us.  Moms, Dads and kids all came in and played Apples to Apples and Mario Kart.  I got to tell them why gaming in the library is so cool and they told me how wonderful it was to do something on that rainy day outside their house.  I invited everyone back to our inter-generational game and craft day in late December.

Building these bridges with teens, kids and parents is invaluable at the library. Giving teens a library connection to hold onto when they get into high school is key to getting them to return as library users when they become adults.  Having friends that advocate and sell library with the air they breathe helps that happen, as does seeing that friendly librarian face as they’re racing towards the lunch room at school.  I table a couple of times a year and offer candy for library cards.  I revel in the teens that can recite their library barcode numbers to me.  The ones that don’t have them want to know what all the fuss is about so I end up giving out applications with a “you’re going to need this for school” talk.  Teen advisory group members stopping by to say hi helps pave the way.

I also try to draw the community into programs.  When we had the neighborhood scavenger hunt last session, some of the locations were local businesses.  I took the opportunity to talk with the employees and managers of the businesses to let them know that they would have visitors and that there is a library, right down the street.  I’ve made acquaintances with some of them–we nod and smile now on the street–and one place has become very connected.  The employees use the library and the manager has offered to help with some prizes in another program down the line.  Full disclosure; I’ve been buying coffee and doughnuts there for a couple of years now.  I don’t frequent the other businesses as much and my coworkers don’t talk about the library as much as I do (they probably think I’m crazy ;)  I wear my badge proudly and talk about books and services when I’m out and about.  Stalkers be damned.  But my point is that if I spread my spending money out a bit, I would probably have a wider impact.

I don’t have to tell you that community is the lifeblood of public libraries.  Some libraries get sleepy, though.  They forget.  They serve the people who come in their doors with excellence, but don’t take the extra steps to bring in more (and yes, even when we have more patrons than we know what to do with, we need more advocates, more users).  What do you do to entice people through your doors?

As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the mentor program at work to help me figure out if management is the right path for me.  I am reserving my opinion on that for the moment.  At the same time, I am pursuing other professional opportunities outside, or somewhat outside of my workplace.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a PhC student at the University of Washington asking if I would be interested in taking part in an educational project at a local high school.  A peer from my cohort recommended me; she is someone I see in my work neighborhood and knows a bit about my work with teens.  The volunteer experience entails giving instruction in database use and being a professional contact for students after they have chosen a research topic.

I also helped the PhC student get in contact with librarians at the county library system when I found out that the school would be in their area.  I was able to do this easily because I know their cluster manager. I gave her the information on the program and let her decide if it was something that was supported by the library system’s goals.  She conferred with the librarians and they decided to support it.

I met with the teachers and other librarians last week, then today I taught my two database classes.  The other two librarians are teaching tomorrow.  The biggest challenges teaching these classes had little to do with navigating the website.  One was to NOT show how much better my system’s website is than the county’s.  That wouldn’t help.  The second was to keep the workshop within a half hour.  The first one went over and the second one I left out authority.  I was sad when I realized that.

The good news is that I wasn’t nervous.  What I learned is that I want to get better at my delivery, so that is what I’ll be working on the next few months.  My poor adult computer learners will be my guinea pigs.  I’m sure they’ll love it.

Other things I do in my own time to supplement my resume?  Mentoring a teen in the juvenile rehabilitation system, taking part in my P-Patch government, being a board member for my union and participating in conferences–although that last one is partially on work time.  I say only partially because there’s a lot of effort that goes into getting myself to a conference.  Some of the cost is covered and some of my time is paid, but not all, and if I didn’t have a will, I wouldn’t find a way.  Over the next couple of years I plan to focus more on local conferences, as it will minimize the time I’m spending away from home and be a bit easier on the pocket book.  I’m looking forward to participating in the Washington Library Association conference this year, where I will probably be facilitating a round table discussion.

I was already planning on visiting my middle school on Monday, but because of timing and communication, I was just going to staff a lunch table, telling kids about library services and rewarding them for library cards. Then yesterday I got an email–can I come to 6 classes and talk about library searching, books and services?

I love visiting classes and my regional manager happened to be in house yesterday, so I was able to say yes. I have the weekend off, so I had to prepare that day. Luckily I found materials in my library that covered all three subjects that the students would be reading about (that’s really unusual) and I had the experience of searching for them using our catalog fresh in my mind, so showing the search mechanisms is going to be a snap. I’ve been wanting to do a Prezi for a while, but I can’t be sure of the internet filters and I really didn’t have time to do it right anyhow. Next time.

Life at home has been pretty normal. The Boy has a lot of homework, I’m at a new level of geekdom–watching The Guild–and crocheting a lot to try to get some projects done for the holidays.

What’ve I been reading? The City of Thieves by David Brnioff, Adult fiction with teen appeal. Lev Beniof is 17 and living in the middle of a Nazi siege of the city of Leningrad during WWII. One night a German soldier’s body drifts to earth and Lev is caught looting the body. Usually this means instant execution, but instead he and another detainee from the night, a deserter named Kolya, are sent on a mission for the Colonel. To find a dozen eggs in a land where bread is made of sawdust. Well written and intriguing, I’d recommend this book to almost anyone.

Ok, go over here and read this short piece on Revamping Reference by Aaron Schmidt.  Make sure you give him till halfway through the post before you write him off as another radical roving reference advocate.

He makes some very good points about engaging the public and not being afraid to wow them with technology.  Some of the best interacations I have about digital materials are with people I can show that I know the technology.  It gives them confidence that I can help them.

I think a lot about roving reference and how difficult it would be with our current set up, at least at my branch.  The person at the reference desk is also the person that answers the phone.  The desk is the service point where many patrons know to go for help (which kind of help is another matter), and where circulation staff know to send people.

But this article is the first time I seriously started to think about solutions to those issues, and not just ones that required others to staff the information desk.

What if we had head sets so that we could answer calls on the fly?  We could refer some to the circ desk (because half of the calls are for them, really, even if I do usually just help them at the info desk). There could also be a pager (or even better, built into the headset) that would alert us if someone needed help at the front.  And how about having a tablet that would allow us to have access to email, infonet and horizon.  Oh my, and what if that tablet could be used for outreach?  With 3g so that internet access wasn’t an issue?

Yes, I know.  Pipe dreams at the moment with all our budget woes.  Does anyone else see a different future for reference?

xposted to work intranet

I started my Teen Advisory Group last year after looking at several options and talking to a friend about her group. My branch had a lot of requests for teen volunteer positions and no history of regular teen programs.  When I came to work there, it was during a rather unsettling reorganization.  None of us was doing much, and I got a few extra responsibilities that put a serious cramp in my ability to plan anything for teens.  By the time I was able to train someone to take most of those responsibility off my hands, it was summer.  The time was perfect to plan… something.

I considered a couple of different things.  Weekly programming seemed like an option, but keeping things fresh could be a problem and we don’t house our region’s gaming equipment, so getting it regularly would require more driving than I wanted.  Then I talked to my friend in another system about her teen advisory board and it sounded like the right fit.  I didn’t have any funding yet, so I thought I would start with a once a month meeting.  Now that timing seems right.  We have supplemental meetings when we need to.  And now we have funding, at least for this year, so they get to have pizza.

For the planning, I asked the librarians at the Teen Center for the forms they use for their Teen Center Advisors; an information sheet and a contract with a place for students and parents to commit to the time responsibility.  I edited these forms and sent them to the local high schools and put them out in the teen area.  I offer service learning credit for participating. Despite the fact that all the forms disappeared, I still had that moment where I didn’t think anyone would show up.

Instead I had 12 teens at the first meeting, and all of them stuck with me through the first year (two sessions, Sept-Dec and Feb-May).  We planned an author visit, celebrated National Gaming Day and helped with an all ages winter family day.  In our second session we made two videos, one for the ALA Why I Need My Library contest, the other to support our Steampunk Summer theme, and planned a community scavenger hunt.

I realized very early that I had to have an agenda and that it helps to write it up on the white board where everyone can see it.  I have a couple of strong personalities in my group and I’m still learning the best way to channel their enthusiasm.  But having a clear agenda with a few ideas for projects helps a lot.  I try to make sure the ideas are the teens, but within the limits of what I can do at the library and as relevant to library ideals as possible.  I was amazed by how many of those ideals the kids got when they made the Why I Need My Library video.  When we planned the scavenger hunt, it came about because of a box of prizes that I had that should be used.  I asked them how I should give them away, we brainstormed and the scavenger hunt idea was born.  They created the posters, helped me with the clues and the structure and helped with the program itself.

I require them to communicate with me by email.  Otherwise I would have to make 12 phone calls every time I wanted to talk to them. They have to write a blog post every month.  I’d say that is the biggest challenge we have is getting those in from a couple of people.  In the new session that just started, I introduced a log sheet for each participant to keep track of their hours and blog posts.  That way they can all see what’s expected and how they’re doing.

In my next post, I’ll talk a little bit about TAG’s, programming and community and how the library can build stronger ties to it’s neighborhood through TAG activities.

Ok, I’m back (I think, might be too soon to say).  The Boy and I have been setting up house, getting used to each other again and struggling with homework discipline.  He is coming around on the latter, slowly but surely.  His grades are good, but it’s early to say that and the hard projects are coming. I’m hoping we can get him into a healthy pattern before they start.  He seems to see the wisdom I’m preaching, when he isn’t rolling his eyes or telling me not to act like he’s stupid.  We’re working on it.

And “The Boy” just sticks for me.  I guess he will always be my boy, so not a big deal to call him such.  Especially here where he never bothers to tread.  I try to keep the embarrassing bits to myself anyhow.

So, libraryland is busy as always.  The new session of TAG is underway and while my group is smaller, it seems more solid.  I have a lot of kids back from last year and a few new people.  There are definitely a couple of dominating personalities, so I will be looking into learning about moderating meetings in that situation.

I took a beginning Excel class offered to city employees.  I expected to be bored for most of it, since I’ve been using Excel pretty often for the last 10 years, but I was pleasantly surprised that I learned something new through most of the training.  Part of it was learning where things are in the ribbon, which I admit has been making life difficult since the upgrade to Windows 2007.  I got my questions answered too, which will make me a better treasurer and would likely land me the temp job of my choice!

I also wrote my first “professional” blog post, over there–> It’s nothing revolutionary, but something I am interested in and not necessarily librariany.  I have some thoughts for a couple more, but need a few minutes at work to write them down.  Then I have some more reading and thought processing to do.

I had some fun with the pictures in the header.  They are all pictures I took, mostly around Seattle.  I like how they fit my mood and seem to fit my profession.

Ok, I’m off.  Lots to do this lovely Saturday that is likely to be the last sunny day in a while.  Ciao.