Friday, November 18, 2016


This year has been one of the most challenging I've ever had. I'm a privileged being, but I'm obviously operating in a world I didn't see coming and that I didn't really know existed. All the things I care deeply about -- children, public education, equity, diversity, social justice, freedom of speech -- seem not just to be discounted, but actively fought against. It's dispiriting, to say the least.

I'm grappling to redefine myself since I've lost my street cred as a practitioner. I have incredible students, doing important work, but I'm feeling more and more like my job is to buoy their spirits in addition to educating and enculturating them as school librarians. There are practical considerations as well as philosophical ones. I spent a month doing work around ESSA, only to hear from my state department of education that things related to that implementation were on indefinite hold, post-election. I'm at NCTE, but library-less, so my ALAN box will go to one of my students. It is more philanthropic and abstract, and a lot less fun than pressing just-right books into students' hands.

Maybe things are ripe for backlash. Maybe we will end up investing heavily in the arts and humanities, in creating social and cultural supports. Whatever the answer is, I am going to have to push beyond my comfortable affirmative bubble that cosseted me this far. I have to confront my own fears, and the bile in my throat, to be a force for the positive. But I only have so much time, energy, and money to expend, and to what ends?

This is a journey, with some trying detours. but imagine how wonderful it will feel to finally put your foot down heavy on the accelerator, or better yet, set the cruise control. These potholes are only temporary, right? But I don't think the answer is privatizing the roads.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Inching my way out

I wrote most recently about my renewed paranoia about the internet of things. I, who love the publishing and educational opportunities afforded by all out wonderful online resources, am getting cranky about putting myself out there. Even with all these plug-ins and anonymizers, I am downright worried about visiting certain sites, especially with political sea-change looming. 

Yesterday, I tried to comment on a local newspaper article, but couldn't - I don't have facebook. There was no other authentication or login method. You are expected to locate yourself and your network that way. I was as affronted as the first time Apple told me how many minutes to what it had intuited was my workplace.

So when I read Nicholas Carr's The World Wide Cage, excerpted from his new book, so much rang true, especially about blogging, what it was and isn't now, but also about the economics and power dynamics of this system we have enabled.
"[Benkler et al.] failed to appreciate how the network would funnel the energies of the people into a centrally administered, tightly monitored information system organised to enrich a small group of businesses and their owners."

"The culture that emerged on the network, and that now extends deep into our lives and psyches, is characterised by frenetic production and consumption – smartphones have made media machines of us all – but little real empowerment and even less reflectiveness. It’s a culture of distraction and dependency."
It reminds me of the conversations I had around privacy when I visited Russia in 2006. The teachers and librarians I met didn't understand the concept. Surely, they argued, you would want privacy only if you were doing something illegal or untoward. I found it difficult to justify the fact that maybe you just wanted to keep somethings to yourself, or choose what to put out there. 

I think the central issue I have is people taking random leavings on the web as a whole of someone's being -- the alleged criminal whose anti-authoritarian re-tweet from 2012 is showcased on the newscast, the beauty queen whose liking a racially-tinged joke on facebook comes back to haunt her, what passes for journalism in our world of churn. Well, after all, privacy was an anomalous state.

Monday, August 29, 2016

From the all your eggs in one basket file...

I sometimes used to riff during Google workshops that someday they was going to hold my data hostage and I would be forced to give them whatever they desire. But I sort of did that to myself this past month.

I blame Citizen Four, the documentary with Edward Snowden. After he scared me good, I basically firebombed my Macbook Air, downloading all sort of anonymity tools in a fit of paranoia.

And then a series of unfortunate events conspired to leave me Google-less.

1. Suffering from election-year neuropathy (seriously, my last flare up was in the summer of 2000), I fall down in a parking garage at UNC-Asheville, breaking my beloved Android Nexus tablet, my favorite ereading device and main entry into G-world.

2. You cannot buy that tablet anymore, for love or money, but there may be a new version soon. So I am down to an iPhone and a laptop for our three week long twenty-year-anniversary trip to Australia and my subsequent IBBY 2016 Congress in New Zealand. Thank goodness I did not take the Chromebook!

3. In Australia, need a text code from my phone to use Google-stuff on the tabla rasa black box Macbook Air. But my phone seems to have run up again the silver compact in my bag, shattering the screen and now only the home button is working. Why I thought putting something the size and weight of a hockey puck in my purse was a good idea is uncertain. I should have just used that front-pacing camera for a mirror like a normal person, obviously. So now I don't even have a camera for travel pictures.

4. Inexplicably, I didn't bring one of my unlocked phones and even the little bag of pay-as-you-go SIM cards that usually lives in my bag. Blame my perpetual quest to always carry my luggage on the plane a la Meet the Parents. And it's winter there, and people kept telling me how cold it is.

5. Evidently, my rescue email is from a job I last had in 2012.

6. No Drive, no Calendar -- almost worse than not gmail.

7. Can't I just restore to an earlier browser and system incarnation? I try it, but still demands authentication code.

8. My husband gets sick. We learn that New Zealand is a medical paradise, inexpensive, patient-centered, and super clean. Eventually, we are cleared to leave the country.

8. AT&T is happy to give me a new phone for two more year's bondage.

9. Success at last! Welcome back to 3,632 emails. And the jetlag from Oceania is no joke. So if you are waiting on an email from me, it might be a few days.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Rare experience

ALA Annual was an energizing blur of celebrations... but one experience was so extraordinary I can't not write about it. We all have our pet topics, things we particularly enjoy reading about. My own include Anne Frank, New Orleans, and North Korea. So the opportunity to chat with debut author Sungju Lee, whose memoir about leaving North Korea, Every Falling Star, will be published by Abrams' Amulet this September, was especially thrilling.

In South Korea, there are only 30,000 people who have escaped North Korea, so Sungju is one of a small coterie able to talk about life in the closed society. Funny and thoughtful, Sungju is professionally determined to work towards reunification of Korea through diplomatic channels, and his book for young people sets out his dramatic backstory.

Sungju's book focuses on his experience as a relatively pampered child of privilege who is forced to fend for himself after his family leaves the capital city of Pyongyang. When famine forces his parents to leave to seek food, he takes to the streets, where he and his band of brothers develop their own society and moral code. It concludes when, at long last, Sungju finds his grandfather and eventually, his father, joining him in South Korea.

We spent so much of the evening in Orlando talking about Sungju's experience after leaving North Korea, living in Canada and studying at Warwick, but after reading his book -- it was the first I grabbed after reading nineteen YA novels over the past six days -- has left me wishing I'd ask more about his leaving home. I almost asked him about whether he had to change all his clothes, since that seemed such a part of other accounts I'd read, but it seemed too intimate. It turned out to be a component of his journey, too.

A fascinating read!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Election time!

No, not that election, silly. A much more civilized and less contentious one, the American Library Association, our beloved professional organization. Those ballots open today!

I happen to be on that ballot twice -- once for the 2018 YALSA Nonfiction Award, once for AASL's Regional Director. If you are reading this, you probably know my raison d'etre happens to be reading, books, libraries, literacy. If you are a member of those divisions, I would appreciate your vote(s).

But I also have some recommendations.

President-elect: Steven Yates. Steven is a fellow Alabamian, a fellow school librarian, a solid fellow full of graciousness and responsibility. He also can have hard conversations. Excited to see where he takes AASL...

President-elect: Ernie Cox. Smart guy, has done the hard work to get here. And if that's not enough, Ernie chaired the Newbery that picked Last Stop on Market Street, so he thinks out of the box.
Board of directors:
Amy Koester You can't get more dedicated to children's services.
Sarah Wethern Sarah is a voracious reader, watcher, thinker with very good taste. I trust her implicitly.
Angie Manfredi Whip-smart social justice warrior, perhaps the smartest person on the front lines today.
Sylvia Vardell USBBY stalwart, promoter of poetry in this age of ours.
Katie Salo One of those twitter friends who constantly impressed you with her enthusiasm and smarts.

Board of Directors:
Robin Kurz When you work on a committee with someone, you can tell if they are conscientious, and Robin most certainly is.
Kafi Kumasi I met Kafi at an IMLS seminar at Indiana in 2006 and have been following her solid work over the last decade.
Kathy Burnette Someone I just know from online, but Kathy's thoughtful presence there bodes well.
Edi Campbell One of the absolute best kidlit bloggers out there.
Margaret A. Edwards:
Jennifer Anne Rothschild  Somehow, Jen manages to be quick, deep, and connected, all at the same time.