Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

My Friend Dahmer is that book. You know what I mean, the book you mention in conversation with friends that makes them stop and say, “You’re reading what book? Seriously? Why?” Exactly. It’s that book.

That book is the incredibly true story of Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer, and the author’s pseudo-friendship with him in high school. In the preface, Backderf explains how he knew his unusual perspective was a story that must be told. As someone who is not intrigued by serial killer stories, I have to say the idea of learning more about what motivated this horribly sick man was fascinating. In light of all the recent stories of bullying and school shootings, maybe some insight could be derived from looking at how he became such an incredibly damaged person.

The story begins with Dahmer as a lonely young boy obsessed with dead animals and follows him through his high school career as the weirdo outsider. Through the author’s drawings, we see Dahmer as more than just an awkward teenager. He is struggling with his identity and the realization that he is gay, as well as the nasty divorce of his parents. To top it all off, he is also dealing with terrifying thoughts of mutilation, necrophilia, and an overall fascination with death. The reader can sympathize with the fact of his sad life yet easily remain repulsed by him.

The artwork reminds me of Comix legend, R. Crumb (fitting as his review is featured on the cover), and the elongated and slightly grotesque bodies suit the subject and give the reader some distance from the subject by their exaggerated nature. The inclusion of drawings of Dahmer the author did in high school adds to the bizarre realism of the book.

The drawings of Dahmer’s eyes fascinated me. Backderf makes the choice to show the eyes as bespectacled, numb, sunken, almost as if nothing can reach through to him and no one can read his thoughts. In other frames, the glasses hide the eyes or show a dark grey, blank reflection. In both cases, one can only think this is a character that cannot be reached and has become completely disengaged from those around him.

A constant theme in young adult novels is the idea of fitting in, being part of the crowd. This book is not so much about fitting in, but about the need for human connection. Dahmer’s thoughts are so dark and ugly, there is no way he can connect with the “regular” teens around him (the drawings of the glasses help show the disconnect with the world around him), and yet one wonders if someone had tried would that have made a difference. Would he have become the depraved killer that he did, if he had had a group of friends, or at least one caring parent, or a concerned teacher or counselor that could have reached out to him.

Check out Goodreads for more info on this book.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pinterest Addiction

Blog Post #3 Pinterest Addiction

Long ago, in the stone ages of time known as the mid-nineties, I had my first apartment, and in that apartment I had stacks of magazines… stacks and stacks and stacks and stacks of magazines. Martha Stewart, Glamour, Vogue, Elle, Time, Newsweek, Southern Living, Details, Rolling Stone, Cooking Light, and who even knows what else. This was before library school so I had yet to start collecting stacks of copies of old American Libraries and School Library Journal magazines. The sad thing is that a lot of these magazines had moved around with me, packed lovingly in boxes and schlepped from place to place.

Why did I have all those magazines? I would like to think I had a million reasons to keep all of that stuff, but it usually boiled down to one thing – there was something in that particular issue, I had to keep. Whether it was a recipe, a workout routine, an outfit, or an article about a favorite artist, writer, musician, whatever, I had to keep that whole magazine so I could access that one item.

Sometimes I would actually cut something out and save it for later. I did have files devoted to themes like cooking, books, and music. I actually remember assessing whether I should cut something out, or tear the page because I wanted the article on the other side.

I eventually dumped a lot of that stuff when I realized that I just never looked at it. I never used it. It was pointless to have all the magazines because there was no way to access what I needed in a timely manner. It would take me an hour to find the one recipe that I needed, and that was only if I remembered which magazine the recipe actually appeared in.

The same problem happened when I started collecting articles for my comps exam at Catholic University. Two years of grad school made for a lot of reading in professional journals. Now I not only had the actual journals to contend with, but I also had photocopied articles that I needed to be able to weed through to find information that I could use for my final exam. I literally had two milk crates almost full of articles and periodicals that I just might need for the final.

Thankfully, I have rid myself of most of those magazines and photocopied articles and my house is relatively free of clutter. Ahem… well, magazine clutter anyway.

The best part for me, with the evolution of all the tablets and curation tools is that I no longer have to have all of that paper collecting dust and taking up space in my home. I do not have to worry about flipping through twenty magazines for an hour to find that one cookie recipe. Now, there are tons of options for saving items of interest. Tumblr, Instapaper, ScoopIt are all great tools, but my personal favorite tool for curation is Pinterest ( I love Pinterest. Love, love, love it. It’s easy to use, its interface is friendly and inviting, and I can organize my all of my stuff into easy, searchable categories.
If you are unfamiliar with Pinterest, here’s the description from their website, “Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing the things that inspire you” (Pinterest, 2013). It is an online pin board, where you can create boards (with labels like “Food, Glorious Food”, “OOTD”, “Library Ideas”, “Printables”, etc.) for things you want to look at or access later. You can either pin things from the main Pinterest site, from your personal main feed page, from the drop down list of suggested popular pins, or you can pin things that you see while trolling around the Internet, by using the “Pin It” button that attaches to the tool bar on your browser. 

I originally started using Pinterest as a way to follow some of my favorite bloggers and keep track of some of their crafty/foodie ideas, but I have come to use it for other things. Sure, I keep track of recipes and fun crafts to do with my son, but I’ve also used it for school. Reading lists, teaching ideas, library displays, persuasive writing prompts, read-alikes, Common Core information, suggested core teacher apps, and countless other education ideas. There are also how-to’s for infographics, Instagram, Evernote, InDesign, and PhotoShop, plus the tons and tons of ideas for lesson planning for all school levels. Of course, there are also all the librarian/literary/bookish jokes and quotes which are fun, too.

Pinterest has become the first place I check when I am looking for ideas for home design, lesson planning, recipes, outfits, crafts, for everything and anything. I find it incredible that one place is such a great tool for collecting ideas, it doesn’t cost anything, and there is always more to see.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cheap Trick & Martha Stewart

Blog Post #2 Cheap Trick & Martha Stewart

“I want you to want me, I need you to need me, I’d love you to love me, I’m beggin’ you to beg me…” “I Want You To Want Me”, Cheap Trick, from the album, In Color, 1977.

What do lyrics from an old seventies song have to do with Library Science? If you think about it, quite a bit.

While taking this reboot of library science/education courses, I’m constantly reminded of the fact that librarians love working in a community. It’s just simply what we do. We need patrons, and they need our copious resources. Books, periodicals, computers, printers/copiers, reference help, reader’s advisory, and story hour are the typical public library services that immediately come to mind. And these services are helpful, necessary (especially in small and rural communities), and valuable for those that can take advantage of them.

The problem is so often our patrons are stuck in believing that those services are the only things we provide. In a recent conversation with a social studies teacher, I realized that his image of the library media specialist (LMS) is stuck in the stereotypical old lady with a bun, with dangling half glasses on a chain, and a super-powered shushing finger. His idea of collaboration was simply to ask for resources to be put aside for use in class, no intention or thoughts of collaborating on planning a research lesson. This surprised me, as he is a young teacher and claimed that he really liked the librarian and thought she was good at her job.

It makes me think – what does it mean to be good at our job, if people don’t know or understand what our job is? Like the Cheap Trick song, we want people to want us, love us, and need us, but sadly they don’t really know what to want from us beyond monitoring the library and curating the collection.

Looking at the Maryland Common Core (MDCC) standards for reading in Social Studies, on the website, we can see that the VERY FIRST standard expects students to work with primary and secondary sources. Who better to introduce those sources than your friendly neighborhood librarian? Actually, I believe a case could be made for LMS involvement for every one of the MDCC standards for reading in Social Studies.

So, if library media specialists can be included in just about every part of the MDCC standards for Social Studies, English, and other academic disciplines, then why the hesitancy to collaborate with us on lesson planning?

Librarians and Media Specialists spend a lot of time promoting themselves to each other, just follow the tweets of School Library Journal, ALA, YALSA, AASL, or any of the individual bloggers (no offense to rock star librarians Valenza and Hamilton, I do humbly bow to you), but we don’t always seem to promote ourselves effectively to the people that COULD REALLY USE our services. Teachers need to know that we can do more than just arrange books on a cart. We can actually explain why we CHOSE those particular books and why they will work best for individual projects. Evaluating sources, exploring bias, encouraging critical thinking, offering citation help, recommending reading material – this is what WE DO.

So, the question is… How do we get them (teachers, educators, etc.) to see us as we see ourselves, valuable players in the education process? How do we get them to want us for more than just curation?

This is where Martha Stewart comes into play. Here is a woman who seemingly is able to prepare, cook, and freeze multiple meals from scratch, manage acres of gardens (not to mention gardens on multiple properties) and a menagerie of animals, paints and decorates every room in every house she owns (seven, at last count), crafts adorable things without any glitter residue, and manages to read, write, think, tweet, interview, present, and explain all of her many tasks on her radio show, blog, twitter feed, TV show, magazine, website, etc. etc. etc. Wow. I’m tired just writing down all of her media outlets. I can’t imagine what she feels like at the end of the day, much less when she actually sleeps.

The point is, for over twenty years now, many of us turn to her books, website, TV program, SiriusXM radio program, Pinterest page, or her Twitter feed. We see Martha as the expert on food, gardening, crafts, antiques, weddings, design, and all things beautiful. There’s no doubt in many consumers minds that she is the expert on all things domestic and could add to a conversation on any number of topics.

Clearly, the Martha Stewart Living brand is omnipresent. Not surprisingly, her company is called Omnimedia. You can find her anywhere, everywhere, and social media has certainly helped her ability to reach everyone and anyone, be they the super-connected online guru, or the clip and save magazine mom.

What I’m saying is how do library media specialists become the Martha Stewarts of their schools, with multiple connections, influences, functions, and applications? How do we change the perception of what we can offer to teachers from simply books and carts into a more dynamic “librarian 2.0” view?

I think the answer is marketing, marketing, marketing. Every day. All day. 24/7 streaming. An LMS should not only be curating her physical collection, but should curate her library’s website, if possible and/or allowable by her school’s technology policies. If she can’t curate the website, create a fan page on Facebook (link to my hometown public library) or a group page on Pinterest (link to a library I follow on Pinterest), or even a Tumblr (link to cool library page), or even a Twitter feed (MCPL has a feed!) devoted to the school’s library media center.

Does this solve the problem of collaboration? Maybe not at first, but you’ve got to bring people to the table. People come to Martha Stewarts’s many media outlets because they know they can expect beautiful, high quality, elegantly designed ideas. If we can bring people to the library media center that are interested in our bread-and-butter services (reading, research, and citation help), maybe we can get them to try looking at how we can serve the community in new ways. By using social media, we can make it easier for teachers to find out how valuable the LMS and the library can be to a school community. Teachers can see that the LMS is knowledgeable about the school, and not just the library space; that the LMS knows the curriculum and how to support it using different types of resources that suit different intelligences; that the LMS knows how to reach students using a 21st century PLN approach, and not just shushing them and ignoring their prior knowledge and backgrounds; and that the LMS will ALWAYS be interested in supporting student learning and research.

Teachers will always be protective of their lessons and their classes, because it is their domain and that should be respected. However, if they could see that library media specialists are here to help, not add more to their plate, then possibly it could be, as Humphrey Bogart tells us at the end of Casablanca, the “beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

You Can Do It!

The interesting thing about taking a technology class this semester is that it has actually gotten me thinking about the past, rather than the future. Before I left my last job, I had all these plans of sewing, crafting, cooking and baking, taking photos, and blogging about it. I was inspired by some of the bloggers I followed on Google Reader and wanted to be a contributor to the blogging world.

The problem was I would need to learn how to create a blog, make graphic design decisions about font size and placement of content, and then learn how to upload my content to the Internet. I would also need to learn how to make videos and post them on YouTube, improve my photo taking skills (this was before Instagram and Snapseed), and create jpeg files of my pictures (I had not yet heard of gif files and vine videos were not available at that point). I would need to learn how to use Photoshop, or at least try and create lame word document graphics (I had no idea how to make an infographic poster). I would need to learn how to embed links, and learn how to create links so people could follow me through RSS feeds, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter. There was so much to do to simply create the site and was faced with decisions I had never even considered. In the end I was worried whether I would be able to create a valuable and meaningful online space.

It was overwhelming. Where was I supposed to begin? And how was I going to learn to do all of this stuff? I ended up abandoning my blog after only two or three posts, and went back to enjoying and following other people’s blogs.

The problem is, to do my job successfully and be a librarian of the 21st century, I need to learn all of these things. One cannot work in a modern school without having knowledge of the fun technology available, and a basic idea of how to use it.

 Last semester, the courses I took required me to challenge myself and learn how to engage with the world online. I used Prezi, Animoto, Voki, Voicethread, Wix,, Screencast-o-matic, and other fun tools. I even started using Dropbox and Google Drive, instead of ye olde thumb drive. It was fun, and in the end, using these tools was not that hard, merely time consuming when you are learning on the fly and doing everything through trial and error. However, I learned how to manipulate and create fun and interesting content for class, and more importantly, I learned I CAN do these things.

The frustrating part however is that I still do not think in terms of, how can I create this content and disseminate it online. My natural instinct is to work privately and in a less communal sense. This will be something I will have to overcome and charge myself to think in a more global/communal sense. Thinking in a more communal sense will help me to promote my library - new books, new programs, new technologies, new collaborations, etc.

In the future, I will try to do the following to be more visible online - Read a good book? Post review on Goodreads, on blog, and be sure to link to blog from Pinterest and Twitter. Go to National Book Festival on the Mall? Post pictures on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Create a Vine of my son’s karate class… because he is just that funny. There are tons of other things I need to work on and try in order to be more visible online. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

LBSC 642 Demands A Return!

So, after abandoning the blogging world for awhile, I am returning! One of my fall courses requires that we post to a blog, so here it is. I'm back!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Did she get lost???

Hey there, sports fans! Sorry to have left you in the lurch like that. So, where have I been, you ask? Why have I abandoned you like one of my dead houseplants? Well, two reasons:

1.     There’s a hole in my library. Literally.
2.     I got caught in a holiday vortex. Literally.

As Ricky “Babalu” Ricardo used to say, “You got some ‘splainin to do”.

First, my library is being renovated, so we moved the entire operation over to a temporary location, and when I say temporary, what I mean is trailer, and when I say trailer, I mean a cozy little doublewide for me, the copier, and about 3,000 books. Photos to come, lucky you!

The move involved a great deal of weeding of old books. I asked myself burning questions like, do we really need 6 (SIX wretched paperbacks?!?!) copies of Hardy’s Return of the Native? Or 4 copies of Joyce’s Ulysses? Ulysses? For the Twilight crowd? Or the Anime kids? Ain’t nobody gonna read it. How about 2 copies of Camus’ “l’Etranger” in the original French? Talk about Absurdism!! The science collection was a further embarrassment - Do we really need a book circa 1950-something on finding the atom? Haven’t we found it?  Didn’t we split it? Didn't we bomb a country with it? My fave decision was removing an entire shelf of political science books. Why do we have all these books on US foreign policy in the Soviet Union? From the 60s and 70s, no less, not even the glasnost 80s, for goodness sakes; gotta beat dem Commies into space, that’ll teach ‘em to mess with us (said in best Texas accent). I considered photos of some classic titles and covers, but decided, in the end, to protect the innocent.

Egad, it was an ugly, outdated mess.

For about 2 weeks, we had recycle bins full of damaged paperbacks, moldy reference books, and outdated junk (Yeah, I said it, JUNKY books! They’re not all treasures, people!), sitting outside the library. I was amazed at how many students, wearing sad little faces, asked, “Why are you throwing away all the books?”, as if I were some sort of evil Rankin/Bass, Heat Miser of a librarian. I had to stop myself from replying; “You didn’t check them out when they were on the shelves, why do you want them now???” But I won’t think about that now, I’ll save a post about the future of libraries for another day… 

Happily, we made it through, tossed some moldy books, gave some away, and kept and stored the best of the rest. The collection is certainly leaner, and meaner, but hopefully we’ve created a library FOR USE. Shout out to my library hero, S. R.Ranganathan!

Once the Big Move was over, we were post-Halloween, and knee-deep in Thanksgiving prep, and then somehow it was Cyber Monday, and yada, yada, yada... I know it is a universal feeling that the time from Oct. 31st to Dec. 31st is a full out sprint, and this year is no different. I’m looking forward to a much needed holiday break.

As always, Excelsior, my peeps!