Monday, November 17, 2014

Cataclysm!

I have had more things to do than at the moment, but not quite the sensation of everything converging into one big due date. That would be Wednesday!

We started moving into the new library last week. We have to be out of our temporary space by Wednesday, but we're still operating full-bore *while* we move. It's sort of crazy-making.

November 1 was last day for 2015 Odyssey award submissions, so I've been listening like a madwoman, and probably will be until that award announcement at Midwinter. I also started listening to Serial over the weekend, and all I can say is that committee work has ruined me for NPR and radio reporting forever.

I didn't make the trek to the YALSA Lit Symposium in Austin this past weekend. It's the first one I've missed, but the airlines weren't being accommodating. But I 'm headed out Wednesday, to National Harbor outside D.C. for our USBBY board meeting Thursday and then to hang out until ALAN Monday and Tuesday. So, irony of ironies, I'll be moved into the new library, but not able to get things fine-tuned until after Thanksgiving...

Last weekend, I celebrated the end of the doctoral stuff with a little fire. I burned all my survey instruments. It was quite cathartic.



Meanwhile, I'm refreshing at the queue for the university reader pretty much all the time, since that's the very last thing before my degree posts and I get a raise! I'm number 109, but they've plowed through 20 or so in a couple of days, so I have hope that will happen soon.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Pebble: a year with wearble technology

Last year, I bought a Pebble watch. I liked the fact it worked with iOS as well as Android and was a Kickstarter project. At around $100, it seemed a bargain. Little did I know, I might had made a smartest decision re wearable technology.

The Pebble is open to developers. At first, I was all about the watch faces. I love the German language version in particular. There are apps which you can use to trigger your camera, compass application which tell you what direction you are headed in, a Magic 8 ball app for portents. You can use eight apps at a time.



With my Pebble, I became a total convert to the wristwatch. If I was waiting for a text or a call, I could put away my phone. My buzzing little wrist would alert me. You can get really granular with what triggers alerts on your phone, which then sends them to your wrist to make it work for you. There were some mis-steps -- the time I accidentally started playing Ella Fitzgerald when I was trying to check the time in the middle of a standardized test comes to mind. But it is amazing how liberating this tool, which has the potential to be a shackle, actually is in practice.

What everyone always wants to know: the fitness apps. A couple of years ago, everyone was about little digital bracelet pedometers. I have friends who are always checking their FitBits or Fuelbands. Frankly, I wasn't curious, and I only just downloaded the My Steps fitness app with the Apple announcements. I learned that I walk more than I thought I did, especially at home.

Several people have asked me if I'm going to buy the Apple watch. But I feel like I am charging this eink one all the time, and the battery predictions of the Apple are pretty dire at a quarter to a fifth the life per charge of my Pebble. It almost makes me want one of those Rolexes that winds itself from your wrist motions.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Old school

I took on an additional extracurricular role this fall, coaching our high school's scholar's bowl team. We have our last county tournament today, but basically my Wednesdays and Thursday have been spent with a bunch of smarty pants kids, mostly boys.

There are differences from my own scholar's bowl days 25 years ago. Looking at those, you can practically hear the coaches thinking about ways to increase collaboration -- "worksheets" of twenty questions which whole teams (six players, including the two alternates) work to complete in two minutes and "bouncebacks" where opposing teams can "steal" bonus points, so they have to listen to the other team's bonus questions.


The content itself isn't that different, and neither are the skills. There's a lot of recall, a lot of drill and memorization of dry facts like names and dates. So basically, it's the embodiment of everything they keep telling us twenty first century learning is NOT.

So I spend most of my days showing kids how to find information using external sources, but then I have these afternoons concerned with what students can do without tools. It is cognitively dissonant, but very very fun.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Like Coming Home

I have the BEST gig. Sometimes, I forget that.

I have been spending time lately in other areas -- capital L Librarianship, international children's literature, advocacy, and I have been spending more time at school on administrative tasks (whole school, not library -- technology planning, state standards, pulling together emergency curriculum). Not to mention my far-from-ideal temporary space. With all these preoccupations, sometimes I forget what an incredible lot of great work school librarians are doing all over...

That's why this was the perfect time for me to go back to School Library Journal summit. I have been to many of these, in Chicago twice, in Scottsdale, Fort Lauderdale, Crystal City. They are always stellar. And seeing all these librarians from all over, here on the weekend and most on their own dime, to improve the libraries in their schools is inevitably heartening. But this time it was like a homecoming. So many old and new friends, it felt like half the people I knew were in the room...and it has given me some courage I've, frankly, been lacking.

I know I was more audacious in my old position. I had tenure, I had a body of colleagues in the district, including the terrific Holly Whitt, who won the SLJ/Lego Build Something Bold! Award at the Summit.  I had central office people I knew I could ask for help. Things are different in a smaller district, and I've appreciated how that helps the students. Things are weird on the state level, too, with more bodies titularly working on library media but with what results? Not to mention that I have spent much of the past two years biting my tongue, when I moved into a temporary space with poor climate control, termites, and leaks, when my principal didn't give me materials funds last year, when I had 147 students assigned to the library for classes this year. I'm a team player, but I'm not a magician. 

There are a lot of question marks with the 1:1 iPad deployment slated for the spring and with the new facility. I had a teacher last week tell me she hated the idea of me putting old books on the new shelves. I am downright terrified to report that one of the PCs has a virus, because that will mean it might be taken away, never to return, and then we'll be down to two. These are issues about resources, but they are very real. So to hear from boots-on-the-ground librarians who had great out-of-the-box ideas was really inspiring, and it's given me the strength I needed to work towards more and better support for our students. It's the students who only have access to three PCs instead of the state's1:75 guideline, which would give us at least twelve. It's the kids who suffer when I don't dip into my own pocket for the latest Rick Riordan (which I did last year, when I was feeling luckier and more generous). It's the kids who need to learn better information skills even when the assignments are a Google-able. 

I need to have some hard conversations. It's not something that comes naturally to me. But I've left the intellectual cave of my doctoral dissertation and am ready to get back in the swing of things, especially considering how wonderful things CAN be. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

What I've Been Reading Lately...

Blame the Odyssey audiobook award committee work, but I've been reading adult titles almost exclusively over the last few months. It's an antidote to all the children's books I've been listening to...

Since Mexico City, I've been all about suspense. I steeped myself in some Sarah Rayne (What Lies Beneath, House of the Lost, The Roots of Evil), F. G. Cottam (The Colony).

I read the wonderfully creepy and atmospheric Long Lankin in Washington, and also pretty much all of Sarah Waters in a big gulp. I had encounters with Affinity early on, and had avoided her, but I found Fingersmith and The Night Watch much more compelling, and The Paying Guests was a particular treat.

In Vienna, it was a British women's literature binge after a stop at W.H. Smith in Heathrow. I read Shopaholics to the Stars (which ends with a cliffhanger! more Becky Bloomwood stateside), The Third Wife (which was as terrific as I'd anticipated), and The One Plus One, which was an incredible feat of storytelling but seems to have lost its titular article in the U.S. edition. I adore JoJo Moyes' work and am thrilled her books are being reissued stateside with more neutral covers.