Thursday, November 29, 2012

Public Library Scenarios

Our professor gave us some scenarios to consider that are rare but quite possible encounters for public librarians.
You want me to sign you up for WHAT?
You are the children’s librarian in the public library.  A group of teenage boys comes up and asks to be registered for toddler storytime.  They tell you that they also signed up for an upcoming menopause class and a retirement planning meeting.  You’ve seen these boys around and have a good rapport, so you ask them to confide in you.  They tell you that they are protesting the lack of “good” programming for YAs.  You want to defend your peer, but privately you completely agree with the teens.  How do you respond?

In this case, I would share a good laugh with the boys. I would thank them for thinking about addressing this gap in our service in the library and that they haven't given up on us. I would tell them, though their thoughts are appreciated, their plan would be rather counterproductive. I would tell them to give me a couple of days to pull some stats together and have an emergency meeting with my colleagues to see what we can do. We could install a suggestion box. I would think about other outreach methods, perhaps a dedicated computer station in a private space with a webcam to record video/audio recommendations during the time teens tend to come in. Using a survey (with prizes) and working with school teachers and other local youth organizations to find new programming ideas are some alternatives as well. They boys are welcome to join (or revitalize  the library youth advisory group. If there is no such group, I could explain the model of how it works and ask them if they are interested in joining.

Volunteerism or, But I have a Master’s Degree!

You’ve only been in this job for seven months, and already you can count 23 times that someone has commented on how nice it is of you to volunteer at the library.  Sometimes you respond with humor, sometimes you jump into a long and detailed story about your educational history, but today you are ready to snap.  You aren’t blaming the patron, but you do need a good script that you can use in the future.  You are also wondering if there is some way to change the local image of librarians on a larger scale too…What should you do?

I've ran into similar situations for a couple of time at the school I work. Substitute librarians and main office secretaries assumed I was a visitor to the school. I always replied with a smile, "I work here! Isn't it great?" Twenty-three times in 7 months sounds unbearable. In this case, one could also say, "I started working here this year after getting my master degree in library science. I'm so proud to be here everyday and help people in our community. I answer about X questions in any given day, [list some other visible and none visible responsibilities]. Please let me know how I can help."

Tattoos and pants, oh my!
A man comes up to the circulation desk with a stack of children’s books.  As you are checking them out he licks his finger, reaches over to your arm, and “pretends” to wipe off your small tattoo.  As you stare at him in horror, he tells you that he thinks tattoos are vile and crass and that no one should work in the children’s room that has one.  He also tells you that he thinks it is undignified to be wearing pants, and they would have hired a man if they wanted a masculine figure.  Other than throwing the books at his head, what can you do?

I considered having a visible tattoo. The only reason I don't have one yet is I can't decide what I want to have. I considered having a little flower tattooed to my wrist, because that's what my mother's name means. If a person comes to me while I was helping a patron and pretend to wipe the flower tattoo off of my writes, I would be infuriated. I would keep checking out books and say to the man, "I believe in the value of not judging a book by it's cover. I pour my heart and soul into helping this community and I think that's what matter the most. The way you shared your personal judgement is rather hurtful." Then, I would turn to the patron I was helping to check out and apologize for involving him/her in this awkward situation. If the man would choose to stand in front of the circulation desk feeling offended or seem to have something else to add. I would have to call a senior (and respected) colleague out to deal with the situation. "Given that I feel very offended already, I don't think I am in the best condition to carry on this conversation. I hope you understand. Would you like to talk to my colleague (or manager if appropriate)?" I don't think I would expect or go about demanding an apology from the man. 

Monday, November 26, 2012


One of the highly rated session at the conference was called "Fifty Free Online Reference and 2.0 Tools." This session highlighted some of the favorite web resources found on California Learn Resource Network (CLRN).
CLRN is a state funded initiative which lead to gathering, cataloging and reviewing educational resources online and the establishment of the free web database: 
I wasn't aware of this site until this workshop. Previously, I relied on libGuides, IPL, Open educational Resource Commons (OER Commons: to find quality educational web resources online. CLRN is my new favorite place to find free web tools because:
- its entries are up-to-date and thoughtfully cataloged,
- each reviews captures the essence of the site recommended
- recommended sites have rich information and is mostly advertisement free
- provides an area for user feedback, which I hope teachers and library will start posting how they used the particular resources.

Some of my favorite recommendations are:

Household Products Database
Sixty Symbols: YouTube Video Descriptions of Math and Science Symbols
2 Page Plays

Keynote speaker

I attended the 2012 CSLA (California School Library Association) Conference in San Jose. The keynote speaker was Tasha Bergson-Michelson, one of the leading search educator and researcher in California. Librarian by profession, currently working for Google, Tasha advocates for teaching students effective ways of using tools and resourced such as Google and Wikipedia. Parents use these tools on a regular basis and sends positive messages to their children about their effectiveness. Many family decisions, trivial and important are made by Googling information online. When teacher librarians completely dismiss the values in these popular sites as bad search tools and unreliable sources, children receives mixed messages. Children don't inherently prefer authoritative sites for all of their inquiries, and will continue to use convenient tools such as Google and Wikipedia.

In addition to building content on Google's Search Education site (, Tashia writes search techniques and information literacy:

Her article "Building Good Search Skills: What Students Need to Know" 
show her solid background as a school librarian. It is quite comforting to know that school librarians has a solid presence in the Google search design team.

Tasha also spoke about library as a place that cultivates a sense of wonder and creativity. She suggest that teachers and parents encourage students keep a "I wonder" diary. Turn in their daily random (and often interesting) questions and try to find answers as a class. I thought this would be a wonderful class project for all grade levels and many subjects.

In our small group conversations after class, Tasha also shared her thoughts on building kids' awareness of honoring other's work from early on. This way, when students reach middle school, learning to include formal bibliography in their writings would be more of an "organic process" than an artificial rule superimposed by their school librarians. She suggested that as soon as children start making books, they should be taught to include a tribute and/or acknowledgment page in their books. In other subjects, teachers can also incorporate an acknowledgement system. One example was a math teacher requiring his students to include an acknowledgement section after each question answered, noting those who helped with problem solving and checking answers. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lately, I've enjoyed reading posts from "The Show Me Librarian"by Amy Koester, a children's librarian in Missouri. Her lastest blog was about Halloween programming at her public library, for which I wrote in a comment:

Partnering with the county ambulance district, the children's Halloween event opened with a tour of the the ambulance, in which two EMT's demonstrated the stretcher, heartbeat monitor, and lights on the ambulance. After presenting safety rules on Halloween, the spooky stories were finally told. This might have been a very common Halloween program, but for someone like me who didn't grow up celebrating Halloween and generally preferred staying home and rest early on the night, this was a brand new idea.

Even though I am not into ghost, monster and alien stories, over the years, I did acquire a taste for zombie-themed novels and movies. When I first started working with teens, I didn't share the same excitement with my students when the spooky season came close. A few years later, I pushed myself into learning about the imagined apocalyptic world occupied by zombies as a way to connect to my students and the important part of modern American culture. (I imagine I will be doing more of that as I progress into the profession of librarianship.)

Koester's Halloween program reminded me of the zombie-themed disaster preparedness program I saw last year on CDC's website. I visited the site again today, and found that they added even more ideas and activities:

There are lesson plans, activities and even a graphic novella. These are good resources for teachers. Teacher librarians as well as public librarians can also use the site as a part of their Halloween programs.

Friday, October 26, 2012


I read a blog article by Joyce Kasman Valenza on VOYA:

The article, titled "The Flipping Librarian," serves as a good introduction to the concept of "flipped classrooms and libraries" as well as resources of information and technology necessary for the implementation of this concept. (Of course, teachers, especially English and History teacher, have been using non-hightech ways to flip their lesson for a long time. They front load the content by assigning readings.)

The concept of a flipped classroom was not foreign to me. I have previously adopted it in teaching Mandarin to adults and home-schooled students. I uploaded my slides and recorded the lesson on VoiceThread, where my students could also easily record and add verbal and textual answers to my mid-lesson questions. We then used class time for group activities and pronunciation corrections.

The "flipped library" was a rather new idea to me, however,  I could see it working quite naturally in school libraries. A video guide introducing students to new databases could be viewed at home, and then in classes, students would form groups and work on search challenges. Groups would present their findings and describe how they used the databases. Practice activities, group discussions and presentations would work as interactive tactics for reinforcing and integrating the newly obtained information.

However, even in the well-to-do school district where I work, there is still a significant difference between the haves and have-nots in terms of technology resources at home. With the implementation of flipped classrooms and libraries, it is even more important to make sure we are sensitive to the digital divide. Our library offers over-night laptop checkouts for students who need them. If we encourage  teachers to try flipping lesson, which I think quite a few teachers would come abroad right away, I am afraid we will not have enough laptops for all of the students in need.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I ran into a couple of blogs on dystopian YA literature this week:

One showing the float chart decoding the genre:
I suddenly remembered that I wrote some dystopian-ish short stories as a teenager, but after reading this chart, I realized what I had written was only post-apocalypse.

The other blogs I read attempted to explain why teens are attracted to dystopian stories:
I think she summarized the reasons very well.

Dystopian fictions are definitely a big hit at the school library where I work. These posts got me thinking about programming for teens based on their interests in this genre. I tried to search on the web, but only found more book recommendations like this one:

Does anyone know any public or school library programs based on teens' fascination with dystopian fictions?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ada Lovelace Day

This year's Ada Lovelace Day ( was on October 16th. On this day, some celebrate women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in honor of the world's first programmer, Ada Lovelace. After talking to a couple of senior and junior girls in the beginning of the school year, I realized some of our female students needed more information about the field of computer technology and encouragement to pursuit it as a career. I met some of these bright young women when they volunteered in our library, and the others I got to know for they visited the library on a regular basis. When the topic of their future careers came up, they said it would be cool to work for Google or Facebook. They aparently lacked knowledge about the profession and the diversity of the field of engineering and technology. Taking advantage of the time I had with them, I told them computer engineering is more than programming. The field has deep connections with other disciplines.  In addition, computer engineers of various types can have very different responsibilities and work environments.

These girls became my motivation for setting up a display in the library for Ada Lovelace Day. I created a informational display using both digital and print materials. On a Mac desktop, I looped videos about Ada Lovelace and inspiring modern female engineers and scientists:

A libGuide created by our librarian about careers in mathematics was used as an interactive display.

I created a handout on pre-engineering local summer camps for high school students based on the recommendations from our teachers and this website:

I also printed and displayed short biographies of successful young female engineers taken from

Attracting the artistically inclined girls to the display, I included a brief biographical sketch of Lovelace in the form of comic: