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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!