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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.

davenport

Like many libraries, ours has been shifting attention to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), with a bit of art thrown in for fun and creativity (STEAM). We hired Juan Rubio about a year ago to join our Youth and Family Learning team. He is amazing and procures cool gadgets and funding for work hours to cover us learning about the cool gadgets. A few of the things he’s brought us are Geolocative Games, 3D Printing Programming, Little Bits, and Finch Robots.

So far I’ve had training on the Finch robots. We use Samsung Chromebooks with the Snap Extension. You can use the Snap without the Finch and program a Sprite to move around, so it’s worth checking out if you are interested in really basic programming. There are 4 levels of difficulty in Snap, which is useful in teaching. The picture below is level 3, which I find to have the most functionality and easier to use than level 4.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 at 9.08.26 PM

Here’s where I warn you that I have no background in programming aside from a little HTML, CSS and XML. I do understand that the Snap commands represent a more complicated coding language underneath. I’ve even learned how to have the program show some of that language, but I don’t know what it means.

You can still teach Snap/Finches without knowing coding languages. It’s mostly logic once you get the hang of where everything is. You need a Control and a motion command in order to make the Finch do something. You can add operators and sensors and use variables to do more complicated sequences, as you can see above.

Some things were frustrating for me and the students. The Finches didn’t always behave as they should, even when the program was perfect. Sometimes the problem was that a student would have 2 or more programs running at once and they would interfere with each other. Other times the traction on the floor or table wasn’t good for the Finch’s wheels. Sometimes it just didn’t do what you told it to. Especially when it came to the sensors. I was able to turn this into a learning experience where we tried many different things to get the Finch to do what we wanted, trying different inputs and environments. The students learned that sometimes the environment is going to get in the way of what you want to happen.

I’ve had 2 groups of students so far. I do outreach at a local family housing community center, where families are transitioning out of homelessness. It’s long term housing, so they’re fairly stable, at least in having a place to live. The teens that I work with there are mostly girls from ages 11-14. For these classes, I went once a week for 3 weeks and had an hour each time. An hour was not enough and the teens have a lot of things on their plates, but we had a good time and they learned a lot. We’ll have our party in early May and students will be challenged to make their Finches dance, make music and do a light show.

outreach

The other program I’ve had was at our branch over Spring Break. It was 3 days long with a party at the end of the 3rd day where they showed off the tricks they’d learned. This group was mostly boys, ages 8-12. They’d all had Scratch before, so understood most of the Snap programming basics. I had to modify the first few curriculum for them, then move quickly to the more advanced workshops.

My next training will be on the Geolocative Games. With that, we’ll create a game that is a digital scavenger hunt. There are a lot of ways to make this game beneficial to the community. One of my colleagues did a project with her service learning group where they researched the history of their neighborhood, then put locations named after iconic people into their game, with information to teach the gamer about the history.

It was a really fun and sometimes frustrating experience. Totally worthwhile. I wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t had a very wonderful coworker at my branch who could help me with the more technical stuff. He is also a very patient and intuitive teacher and I learned a lot having him there to help with the outreach programs.

 

I got home from a great day at the library to this article by Linda Braun. Linda is our Youth Services Manager and since she put this article out into the world in a professional capacity, but not a Seattle Public Library outlet, I feel comfortable answering it in the politest terms I can muster.

Linda, do you work in public services? No? How long has it been since you have? From what I’ve read on your resume, it’s been a while. Many years, in fact. And no, dropping into a program every few months does not count.

So when you tell us that being busy during Summer Reading (Sorry, Summer of Learning) isn’t a reason for concern, I wonder which library world you’re living in.

According to your piece, this is the only time that our libraries are busy. How would you know? And actually, have you seen our circulation stats? Our program attendance? The number of programs and outreach visits we plan in house each year?

The real argument against your opinion piece is this: How can we give good customer service to these hundreds of families that descend upon us when the summer program starts when we have the same staffing level we had the day before?  How can librarians suggest just right books to parents, teens and children when there are 10 more behind them and only one of us in the building? How can circulation staff keep up with all the fine payments and new cards (because the old ones expired) etc that come with this influx? We do the best we can and we do it cheerfully.

And yes, we complain to each other in private as a means of support through a crazy time. Then things settle down after a week or two and we can do a better job. Welcome to the library Linda. Maybe someday you’ll be one of us.

Right after getting back from Florida I went to to Wenatchee for a library conference. I had The Boy ride along on the first leg of his journey to Spokane. He’s gone to stay with his grandparents on his father’s side to see if he can find a job over there for a while. Job prospects in Arlington and Darrington were pretty slim before the 530 Slide and they’re even more dismal now. He’s having a tough time over there. He’s lonely and really just wants to go home.

In split family drama, The Boy’s step mother reacted badly to him saying that and sent some messages to him and his grandmother. Some of what she said was negative about me. Usually I let their relationship be their relationship and just try to give The Boy perspective, but I really don’t like the badmouthing and drama that always seems to go with these blow ups, so this time I just blocked her from my life. I don’t need it and now it’s not my problem.

The conference itself was educational. I took a Video making pre-conference where I learned a lot about lighting and sound. My organization gave some really good talks–so much so that I ended up staying at those presentations rather than going to hear others, which was my intention. There was an interesting talk on reimagined spaces–something hot on our list–given by the next county over. I also got to network with a lot of cool folks, some of whom I’ve seen before, but just never got to connect with. Others I didn’t get to talk to enough. Now that I’ve been elected to the CAYAS board, I want to get to know the other key members better.

Tomorrow I’m representing Books on Bikes and the library on Bike to Work day. We’ll be giving away some library swag and have the ability to issue library cards and check out materials. Should be fun!

I’ll get a review up of Half Bad in a day or so. It was quite good.

I’ve been struggling to get through a book. It seems like I only get a few pages in a night and that just doesn’t cut it when you have a pile of books to read.  On top of it, it’s a book that a lot of people like and one that I bought, thinking I would like it.  That’s right, I actually bought a book. ahem, back to the subject. So, I’ve decided not to finish it. I can still give it to the right teen–someone who likes supernatural mysteries with strong characters and strange plots with a little historical fiction.

Now I’m reading The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness.  It’s the kind of book I can’t wait to get back to. The main character is just a regular guy on the surface, a little amazing below it, who finds himself in a very strange situation. I love the story, the tone and the complex characters and I’m so happy to move on to something that keeps my mind intrigued.

The library has been busy. I’m planning a couple of special projects that have been going up and down with triumphs and setbacks.  Each time I run up against a setback, another opportunity saves the program. It’s been bumpy but I’m learning a lot and feeling very optimistic how they will turn out.

Now if only I could make most of my job revolve around community biking programs, I’d be set! ;)

Oh, one more triumph this week. I watched a webinar today given by Eidelweiss and finally scored my first digital ARC. I also figured out how to download it. So I’ll be reading Singapore Noir, a series of short dark stories set in Singapore, a place that’s always intrigued me.

And now to go nurse this cold. My third in a month. I hope it’s short.

 

A lucky few that are subscribed to my blog somehow have probably noticed the reviews that have popped up here recently. I’ve been reluctant to start blogging again because private life has been more exciting than library life in a lot of ways, and I talk about that so much on Google+ that it seems silly to blog it too.

However, library life has had some golden moments in the last 6 months.  I attended the Pacific Northwest Library Association’s Leadership Institute in October of 2014. It was held at Fort Worden in beautiful Port Townsend. The weather was beautiful. I can’t talk about what they do in the conference, but it was very helpful and I feel so much gratitude towards my group and mentors for their help.  Here’s a few pictures to distract you. The second picture is of my folding bike. Chris and I sailed to Port Townsend and I rode my bike down to the Ferry to Edmonds, which was a grand adventure.

Many deer ran around the park

So sunny for October!

My library has also undergone a small remodel over the last couple of months. The children’s area has been expanded to reflect our usage (so 50% bigger) with lots of seating both desk style and comfy reading style. It’s much brighter and more welcoming. One of the changes that were made though was a combined reference and circulation desk. This has had some mixed results.  My feeling is that this is the future, but also that our practices of staffing the desk will change also. I can see that it would be best to have a basic librarian position at the desk, then have the advanced librarian staff doing more specialized work–outreach, reference, etc somewhere they can easily come to the aid of those on desk. Right now I’m helping with fines and finding holds an awful lot. I like giving good service, but I don’t want to get to the point where they’re wondering why they’re paying me so much to do clerical work. More pics:

New children’s area after school

One view of our fancy new desks–fab models, no?

Straight on. The desks go up and down–very space age.

Hopefully I will continue to find interesting things to say here. Thanks for reading.

 

That sounds like an admission of guilt or something.  In reality, I’ve just been living and not really had anything I wanted to write about.  Life keeps on moving.  The boy went back to his father’s house shortly after my last post, things got really busy at the library and my energy was needed for other things.

On to bigger and better things:

Image

May is bike to work month and I’ve been going full swing.  My plan is to ride 100% to work this month and I’ve done it so far, with only a few days left to go.  I’ve got 227 commuting miles under my belt and have actually ridden at least 20 more (I stopped keeping track) for side trips before or after work.  My team is amazing, having ridden 1130 miles this month so far.  We’re beating our rival team by over 200 miles.

The boy and I went to the University Street Fair on Saturday and we got him a bunch of art supplies for his birthday.  I let him pick what he wanted, but was happy that he asked my opinion.  I’m not terribly artistic, but I’ve used most mediums at some point or another and have had artists as friends, so I was able to steer him towards some nice brush and thin tip markers and we got him a calligraphy set inspired by an artist we saw at an all ages show last year.

On Sunday we went to my dad’s and I put the new bike together…well, mostly.  It turns out I was missing a headset, so I’ve ordered that and I don’t think that will be hard to put on.  Then I’ll need to practice because I’ve never spent much time on a road bike.  It’s really different from the upright of a mountain bike.  I am so excited to ride this bike during STP.

And finally, I’m seeing a new special someone.  It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’m optimistic (probably too much so).  I keep expecting someone to jump out at me and say “you’re not allowed to be this happy, give that back!”  He’s sweet and strong and fun and that’s all you get for now.

Ciao!

Wow, I haven’t been here for a while.  Lots of things have changed and every time I sat down to write all of it felt a little too heavy to drop on the page.  Nothing is bad, there was just a lot of life going on.

I suppose bad is relative though.  I did break up with the Mister.  Long distance relationships wear you down after a while, and for me, our relationship got worn down to nothing.  There’s no he said, she said, just an end and a new beginning.  I am happy being single and it isn’t that different from being in a long distance relationship.  At the moment, I’m happy being me.  Maybe someone else will come along that is also happy with me being me and we can be happy together.  There should probably be a law against using the word happy that many times in a paragraph.

Libraryland has been wonderful.  I’ve been participating in our programming committee and feel like this is a group who’s work will make a difference.  I got approved to have a Teen Space at my branch too, in addition to Teen Advisory, so now we will have a once a month hang out spot just for teens.  Reading Marathon is coming up in about a week and we go next week to the middle school to promote it at lunch hour.  I love having a specific program to promote–ok, I just love tabling and all the teens I see.  I feel like a mini celebrity bribing the kids with candy to love me (I mean, love the library of course). Oh and we got a new regional manager.  Yup, another new manager.

The Boy is very nice to have around.  He’s at an awkward phase where he wants to be a gentleman, but he forgets sometimes and lapses back into teen sas.  I am diligent in reminding him to “be nice” and he’s always pretty quick to come around.  Unless there’s school work involved, then it takes him a little longer.  He got a bit of a scare this quarter though, so even that attitude is changing.  For now.  I understand wanting to be in charge of your own life but failing school isn’t a good way of proving you’re ready to be a man.  Oh, and when it takes you two days to empty the dishwasher, that means I have to wait that long to do the dishes. (That’s an exaggeration, in case you’re wondering). We’ve been having a nice time together generally.  The power struggles have gotten shorter and we have some pretty good conversations when we sit on the couch in the evenings.

This snow is awesome.  I had Wednesday off to take The Boy to his doctor appointments, but of course they were all canceled.  I stocked up on groceries on Tuesday night and I’m super glad because I haven’t been outside for the last 2 days for more than taking pictures and taking out the trash.  I got the house clean and organized yesterday and now am enjoying the warmth and quiet.  I think I’m going to go hang out in my newly reassembled bed for some quality reading time.  Hopefully my legs will not atrophy before my 6 mile run on Sunday.

I’m feeling a little guilty.  I just ended a google+ conversation with “You obviously know nothing about what libraries do, so I will just end this conversation here.”  And I added a little passive aggressive smiley face.

Why do I feel guilty?  My fellow public librarians know.  I should be using the opportunity to educate the public.  I should smile and tell about all the wonderful services we provide to those who need them.  But when you tell me that “they” should take 25% of the public library budget to create a free 4G network so that people can download books for free?  How does that provide access for all?  That serves the upper middle class single male.

I should have told him about all the free digital books we already provide–for free–as well as about the great services we can provide him when he loses his cozy coding job over at Acorp.  Living out of your car?  Get a shelter address and you can have access to 90 minutes a day of computer time, take advantage of the free wireless and download books to the e-reader you bought just before you got that pink slip.  At least till you sell it for food money.  Don’t think it could happen to you?  Watch The Company Men.  The only thing saving Bobby Walker from life on the street is a loving family.

I recently read Rotters by Daniel Kraus.  It’s a hard to believe tale about a boy who’s mother dies sending him to live with an unknown father one town over who turns out to be a grave robber.  Yes, the story is a bit unbelievable, but the situation of going from a living wage family to being practically homeless is not.  This is what our middle class male that works in tech forgets.

And what about the other people they have to share the earth with?  What about the elderly patron who can’t use a mouse?  Those who can’t imagine reading on a screen?  Those who need audiobooks on CD because they are blind and can’t see the readout?  There are many more scenarios, but I think you get my drift.

This description applies to two of my brothers and my brother in law.  I find them to be a bit more enlightened about society than many, but they still don’t quite realize how good they have it.  Doesn’t everyone have extra money every month?  And I know I shouldn’t just pick on men, but they are the majority that have these blind spots and are in the tech field.

My excuse for not educating this guy?  Google+ comments didn’t seem like the place.  It would have taken too long and too much space on someone else’s post.  Internet etiquette (netiquette?) tells us to blast away on our own forum, so here I am.

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?