Celebrating Earth Day

Recently, I hosted a library program at which we took old t shirts and re-purposed them into useful tote bags. In celebration of Earth Day, I thought this would be a great way for people to take an old t-shirt that they didn’t wear anymore and turn it into a useful bag to take to the grocery store. The best part is that it requires no sewing skills whatsoever.

First, you turn the t-shirt inside out (if you want the front of the t-shirt to show.). Then, take a good pair of fabric scissors (Don’t cheap out. You’ll be sorry.) and cut off the sleeves of the shirt. Then, cut off the collar with a deep “V”. The shoulders of the shirt will be your handles. Now, line up the bottom edges of the shirt and cut tabs about 2 inches tall and about an inch apart. Also cut the edges of the t-shirt to match the tabs you just cut. Finally, tie each if the corresponding tabs together  using double knots. and turn your t-shirt right-side out.

I have done this craft with teens and adults, both of whom enjoyed it immensely. It also gave me the opportunity to talk about taking reusable bags to the grocery store instead of using the plastic ones. The library where I work encourages us to focus on local, state or national issues. Helping the environment and reducing waste is an issue that affects everyone, globally and locally.

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Summer is in full swing

Those hazy lazy days of summer are nonexistent for public librarians working with teens. I began my career as a librarian working in teen services at a small community branch library. How quickly I forgot how crazy it is to host so many programs in such a short time. I spent two years working in reference and didn’t have the crazy schedule. Summer is a more low-key time in adult services. This month I have at least two a week.

So far this summer, my staff and I have hosted laser tag, several crafts, video games and other activities. I had a colleague teach a yoga class and I hosted a Minute to Win it game to kick off the summer. It’s been fun to see the kids come to these activities. My library branch is in a low-income area and I’m glad that I can expose these kids to things they might not be able to do otherwise.

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20somethings are coming back to libraries

Too often people between the ages of 19 and 30 have been left out of many programs in public libraries. A few years ago, The East Baton Rouge Library wanted to change that. As a cooperative effort between reference and teen services, the library is providing targeted programs to this group so often dubbed twentysomethings. The library provides an array of activities at various locations around the city from game nights to crafts to informative classes.

As someone who is rapidly approaching my mid-thirties, I have attending many of these gatherings despite being slightly out of the target age range. I think my favorite one was the coffee and tea tasting. Two local businesses: Pure Delight Coffee and Red Stick Spice Co came to educate us about coffee and tea. I also really enjoyed some of the board game night where I learned how to play Settlers of Catan.

I think efforts like this are important for libraries to embrace. Too often, they have programs that appeal to kids and families and older adults. But I’m happy to see that the younger people around Baton Rouge coming out to these programs. It’s great to see a place for people to meet each other besides bars or restaurants. Recently, I joined this team and have started planning events like this at my branch. I like coming with ideas that will appeal to a wide range of young people who live close to my branch. Check out upcoming events for twnetysomethings on Facebook or on the library’s website www.ebrpl.com

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New Badge Earned: Cyclist Newbie

So after living in a very bike-friendly neighborhood for almost a year, I have finally purchased a new bicycle. I haven’t had a bike since college. And haven’t really ridden in many years. Yes, I remembered how to ride a bike but wow was I wobbly and shaky for those first few rides. I am slowly getting back into shape and training my muscles on how to ride. Thankfully, I live in Capitol Heights so there is a convenient bike lane. However, it’s going to take some time before I am ready to venture outside my neighborhood.

I have been mulling over this for some time but finally decided to go into Mid City Bikes last week to see their selection of refurbished bikes. I knew I wanted a nice one but didn’t want to spend too much. The staff there are very knowledgeable and after hearing what I wanted the bike for helped me to pick out one in my price range. Several friends had recommended this shop to me and I’m happy with the experience. I hope to be cruising around BR all the time (at least as the heat allows!)


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Hour of Code

Today, I helped facilitate a session of An Hour of Code at a local elementary school in Ascension Parish. Czarina Walker, founder and CEO of InfinitEDGE Software, asked me to help facilitate this session for all the fifth grade classes at Spanish Lake Primary School in Geismar, LA.

I was to help a class of 35 students through the self-guided coding exercises cleverly disguised as Angry Birds mazes. The goal of each challenge is to move the Angry Bird character to the end goal. The students have to figure how to manipulate the character in the least amount of code blocks. It was a lot of fun. The kids helped each other out and I assisted them while helping them to come up with the solution on their own. I think they had a lot of fun. I did notice a boy actually reaching over and doing the coding for the girl next to him. I had to nicely tell him to let her do it. After working with her for a bit, she figured it out on her own. I noticed that in the class, I got more questions from the girls than from the boys. All the girls were able to finish in the hour but a few of the boys didn’t finish. I think some of them were reluctant to ask for help. I would be interested to see how this exercise played out in a classroom where the genders are separated.

For the kids who finished early, I had them start the Anna & Elsa game. It was quite challenging. But both the boys and girls were into it. The more tech savvy kids had fun while the rest of the class got more familiar with the game and the building blocks of writing computer code. I encouraged the teacher to make it a regular lesson. There is more the teachers can do from the teacher dashboard.

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LLA 2014 Conference in Lafayette

I made my way to Lafayette for the annual conference for the Louisiana Library Association. The keynote speaker for the opening session was library consultant Pat Wagner (no relation) spoke on the future of libraries. I had a nice conversation with her before the keynote which was very nice and made a contact for a coworker who is relocating to Colorado.

The second day was packed full of concurrent sessions on various topics. They moved the opening of the exhibit hall to mid morning so I didn’t have a ton if time to visit the different booths. Was very surprised to that a Premier Jewelry consultant had set up a booth. Great idea to come to a librarian conference.

I went to many informative sessions but two stood out to me in particular. One was on E – Publishing and was not that informative at all. The presenter didn’t really have any positive information to impart. She had published her books on a small press in ebook form but also in print. So I was a bit confused why the session title was called “E-Publishing” Frankly, I have learned more about publishing ebook from Mur Lafferty and her podcast I Should Be Writing. I think it would be awesome for Mur to speak at a professional librarian conference. We see avid readers and budding writers everyday. This session stood out as not that helpful or informative to me. I feel like she gave the wrong advice to aspiring writers.

The other really great session was actually the last of the day on Friday. It was an informative session on getting published in scholarly journals. The presenters, Megan Lowe and Walt Fontane,  spoke about how to get your work published in a professional journal and they brought their experience from academic libraries and showed how librarians from all types of libraries could benefit from writing about their work. They offered some great tips on the writing process and about the process of submitting your work for peer-review. I hope to be able to get together with colleagues from public libraries in the Baton Rouge area to see if we can put together a peer review group.

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YALLFest 2013

It was definitely a completely different experience this time around. The first time around, I was a volunteer at the very first one. This time, I could relax because I was just there as a participant and could take it all in. I completely enjoyed the keynote with Veronica Roth and Rae Carson. It was fun waiting in line with other fans and meeting fellow librarians. The authors spoke about the role of female characters in young adult literature and what drives them to write which I thought was very interesting. I got there early enough to get a wristband for the Veronica Roth signing line. The great thing about that was that I was assigned a half hour window in which to show up for my signing. This made it possible for me to attend panels.

Speaking of panels, I really only got to go to two or three. I went to the panel on Fantasy and Dystopian Fiction. However, I missed on the others that I wanted to go to in order to stand in lines to get author signatures. I had to give up on the Ally Condie line after about 30 minutes because I was so hungry. Decided to eat lunch with a friend instead. I personally think too much was crammed into one day. There honestly wasn’t enough room for the long line in the signing tent. In order to get Rainbow Rowell’s signature, I stood in a line while she was still giving a talk. The room where she was speaking was full.  I know this was a free book festival however, with the huge draw that it received this year, I sincerely hope that organizers will consider a larger venue next year. Perhaps one that can accommodate everyone more easily.

I really did enjoy the excitement about books. While I was in line for Rainbow Rowell, I got to talk with some of the best people. They were all very nice. I especially liked talking to a few of the teens that were still in high school. We talked at length about books, music and school plans. I just thought how amazing it was that these girls were waiting in line to see an author and not some pop star.

While I was waiting in these lines and going to these panels, I noticed that there was a definite shortage on minority authors in attendance. A few minority groups were represented but there were no African-American authors. I was a teen librarian in an urban library for almost a year. I know that there are a ton of African-American and Latino authors who write great books that kids love. I read quite a few of them. I really wish that the diversity of the young adult literature landscape had been accurately represented at this book festival. I hope that in the future organizers can make an effort to include more minority authors in their billing. I would like to see more writers of color represented at this festival in future years.

All in all, I had a great time at the book festival. I really enjoyed seeing old friends and making some new ones. Loved being able to finally meet Rainbow Rowell, of whom I am a such a huge fan. I also loved being able to visit my hometown for such a great event. Hope it continues to get bigger and better.

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Gearing up for Y’ALLFest in Charleston!

8704965257_ac76fd3f3d_bI am getting really excited. Not only do I get to go home to visit friends and family but I also get to go to this awesome young adult book festival called Y’ALLFest. There will be tons of authors there and I cannot wait to meet them.It is sponsored by the local independent bookstore, Blue Bicycle and takes place in the heart of downtown Charleston. I have read a lot more young adult literature in the last year, so I am more excited than the last time I went.

Epic Reads has sponsored a keynote with YA authors Veronica Roth and Rae Carson. They are doing a ticket giveaway on their Facebook page. I have entered as well because I’m a spaz and completely forgot to buy myself a ticket. So if you’re going and didn’t get a ticket, enter to win one.

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Ray Bradbury and Mass Media

I recently attended a panel discussion about the themes of censorship, mass media and the classic novel Fahrenheit 451. This panel was part of the Mix Tape Lecture Series, which brings together speakers to talk about hot topics to coincide with upcoming features at the Manship Theater. The speakers included Baton Rouge Area Foundation Executive Vice President John Spain, and East Baton Rouge Parish Library Assistant Library Director Mary Stein. The main topic of the panel was a discussion about how censorship, the 24-hour news cycle and how our world compares the futuristic one imagined by Bradbury over sixty years ago.

The mass media aspect of this event really drew me to attend. The panelist spoke on the effects mass media has had on our society. There are many events in recent history that were delivered to us via Walter Cronkite or CNN, but, in recent years, the way we receive news is massively different. Many of us read our Twitter timeline or Facebook stream to glean the day’s news stories. However, in doing so our experience of an event is a bit disconnected. For instance, I had a very different experience when on the morning of 9/11 than when I heard the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. I personally like getting my news from multiple sources and being my own curator of the day’s news. I feel like this gives me a better worldview. I can see how some can think we have lost some of that shared experience of news.

The panel also spoke on censorship, as it is a central theme in Bradbury’s novel. As a librarian, censorship is something I deal with on a daily basis. It still surprises me just how many books are challenged or banned toady. I have based my career on helping people find the information they need and connecting them with books that will enlightened as well as entertain. I am a firm believer that libraries shouldn’t censor material. That is the job of the individual. Parents should ultimately decide what their children read. I am thankful I was raised in a home where my parents encouraged us to read extensively. Librarians do their best to act as a guide to everyone. We divide our collections into age-appropriate sections in order to help parents decide what their children read..

This panel also touched on how technology has made us more isolated. While I can see evidence of that in some, I see technology has shrunk our world. Because of technology, I can read about news from across the world, keep up with current events in my hometown and FaceTime with my 3-year-old nephew who lives hundreds of miles away. Ten years ago, moving 800 miles away from my close-knit family would have been very different from my experience today.For me, it has allowed me to foster my relationships with friends and family from a distance.  I have lively conversations with my friends and people whom I have never even met. I feel like there has to be a balance in our lives. I try my best to foster relationships with real people in person but still use technology to maintain those connections.

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Book Review: Fangirl

FangirlDo you read and/or write fanfiction to your favorite book series? Did you ever feel like people outside of the fandom “just don’t understand”? Welcome to Cath Avery’s world. In Rainbow Rowell’s latest young adult novel, Cath is just starting her freshman year of college in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is also a HUGE Simon Snow fan! She and her twin sister Wren were engrossed in the Simon Snow book series as kids. They both started writing a fanfiction story called Carry On, Simon!

But now that they are staring college, Wren thinks it’s time to put aside childish things. She insists that they live in separate dorms and meet new people. But this is the easiest for Cath, who is more introverted and doesn’t deal with new situations very well. She ends up with a surly roommate who has an always-around charming boyfriend. She also has to deal with a fiction writing professor who think fanfiction isn’t real writing and a cute classmate who only wants to talk about writing.

I completely loved this book. It took me back to my freshman year of college with all its difficulty, uncertainty and awkwardness. While I never wrote fanfiction, I read plenty of it. I loved reading about this fangirl and my heart completely goes out to her as she is navigating a brave new world. I love any writer who not only created a great story but creates a story within a story. We get to read Cath’s fanfic and excerpts from the fiction Simon Snow series (a hilarious Harry Potter stand in). There are so many inside jokes and pop culture references that I was LOLing quite a lot.

I liked this book so much that I listened to the audiobook even after I had read it in print. Maxwell Caulfield narrated the Simon Snow excerpts at then end of each chapter. Amazing! As a longtime fangirl of certain books, TV shows and music, I can now add Rainbow Rowell to that list. I am hooked!

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