Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Importance of Libraries & Reading (with Printable Bookmarks to Share)

As a member of the the TX Library Association listserv, I am constantly reminded of how dire the current economic situation is for libraries and librarians (especially in schools), both in TX and nationwide.  Somewhere along the way, perhaps aided by the rapid growth in information technology and electronic access to printed materials, our nation has lost sight of the importance of libraries.  Actors, CEOs, and athletes are revered and outrageously rewarded; librarians and teachers are scapegoats and public punching bags.  Sad, and not just a little bit scary for yours truly. 

Throughout the ages, wise (and even not so wise) people have promoted the value of reading and libraries.  Unfortunately, these sage messages have gotten buried under political rhetoric, finger-pointing, and name-calling.  So, as a small way to promote library advocacy and the love of reading, I'm sharing some bookmarks I created.  I hope everyone who reads this blog will take the time to print them out and use them whenever they're in public reading a book.   Every little bit helps!

Click here - http://langmiddleschoollibrary.weebly.com/printable-bookmarks.html

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Playing with Glogster

Our 6th graders study World History and Geography using the PEGS method (Politics, Economy, Geography, and Social).  Every six weeks, they move on to a new continent, and students have to pick a country to research and present.  To keep it from getting too routine and boring with the same presentation method every time, I decided to introduce Glogging to the teachers in the hopes they would consider this for the next six weeks. 

As an example, I created a Glog of Italy (my favorite country) to show them the possibilities.  I included an audio of the National Anthem, a map with a link to a site with additional maps and geographical information, a plate of spaghetti with a link to an Italian food site, and an Italian flag linking to an explanation.  It was fun, only took about an hour, and offers kids (and teachers) a fun, tech-filled alternative to the same old written report.  Check it out!

4 PEGS of Italy Glog

Monday, January 31, 2011

Author Philip Pullman's Impassioned Plea!

Okay, if you don't want to hear anymore impassioned pleas to save libraries worldwide (and especially here in TX), then stop reading my blog now. Otherwise, I encourage you to read this article by the author of the Golden Compass series, Philip Pullman.


Leave the libraries alone. You don’t understand their value.


Isn't it sad that librarians, who should be spending their time helping their patrons (and, in the case of school librarians, working with their students to love reading and to learn valuable technology and research skills), are having to wage marketing campaigns just to justify their (and their libraries') existence? I read a great analogy posted on the TLA Listserv that went something like this...


Legislators cutting what they don't understand (i.e., library funding) is like someone pulling out and disposing of a car's engine because they don't appreciate how essential it is to car's performance.


Another quote that really struck me?


Cutting libraries during a recession is like cutting hospitals during a plague. - Eleanor Crumbleholme, Library Asst., University of British Columbia


I'll save the lecture for now, but I'm not done yet!

Help Save the Libraries!

Once upon a time, a famous library advocate (if memory serves me correctly, it was Benjamin Franklin) was quoted as saying "You can judge a community by its libraries" or something to that effect.  Author Mark Twain made similar comments.  Their observations are as relevant today as they were when they made them centuries ago.  So, if this is the case, then the United States in general and the State of TX in particular are guilty of gross negligence!  In a time when reading and technology skills are critical, TX has seen fit to put all libraries and their staffs on the chopping block.  Shame on you!

Here are just a few examples of what has come to pass and what is looming in the near future for TX libraries.  The proposed state budget calls for eliminating Loan Star Libraries (direct aid grants to public libraries), all state funding for TexShare databases, the K-12 Database program, and more.  Last school year, the Plano ISD eliminated all library assistants (while keeping the 10+ football coaches at each of the high schools).  The Austin Independent School District (Austin is home to the University of TX, by the way) is planning to eliminate all middle and high school libraries/librarians in the upcoming school year.  Here is an excellent article from an Austin ISD Middle School librarian outlining their plight - Stevenson: Why librarians are essential

Although there are some state legislators who advocate for libraries, their numbers are few.  One who will be voting to retain the current library funding is Rep. Rafael Anchia.  His full article in the Dallas Morning News is here - Rafael Anchia: How the local library helped shape my path to Austin   - and here is a brief excerpt...

Yet in 2009, the last year for which figures are available, the state provided an average of only 24 cents per person in public library support. The national average was $3.35. Texas ranks a sad 48th in state funding for this precious resource. With proposed budget cuts decimating essential library programs, we are headed on a path that will greatly harm generations of future Texans.

I have worked in both school and public libraries in many regions of the US and have seen first-hand the slow hemorrhaging of critical funding to libraries; however, TX is at the top of the list in its lack of support.  Texans are proud for being "bigger" at everything, but they should be ashamed to be the biggest destroyer of libraries.  If we can, in fact, judge the Texas community by its libraries, then it will be found guilty for its ignorance and shortsightedness.  Is this really the legacy our legislators want to leave?

If you care as much as I (and my fellow librarians) do, then please visit the TX Library Association website and voice your opposition to these proposed cuts.  Our school and public libraries are one of the few bastions of democracy, especially as the divide between rich and poor widens.  If we don't have fully-funded libraries and well-educated librarians on staff, the poorest among us will be denied equal access to information and technology essential for competing successfully in our global society.  Please, vote "yes" for our libraries, vote "yes" for our kids' future!  Click here - Texas Library Association - Save Library Programs.  Thank you for your support!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Books to Movies

Wow, how time flies during the holidays!  I just noticed that I haven't posted since just before Thanksgiving, and it only seems like yesterday.  I have to admit that, over the Winter Break, I watched more movies than read books.  However, I noticed that many of the movies were adaptations of popular books, which brings me to the topic of today's Blog!

When it comes to choosing whether or not to read the book before seeing the movie, people seem to be solidly in one of two camps.  Since the book always comes out first, most people will see the movie afterwards.  However, I'm in the other camp.  I'd rather see the movie, then read the book because, invariably, the book enriches the story and usually fills in the blanks that can't be covered in an average 2-hour film.  In my opinion, there's nothing worse than reading a fantastic book, then seeing how some screenwriter totally destroyed it to meet Hollywood's (sub?)standards.  If I've already read the book and liked it, I'll usually skip the movie rather than waste my hard-earned money to be disappointed.

For instance, one of my favorite books as a teen was Colleen McCullough's The Thornbirds.  At 700+ pages, it was a long read, but I enjoyed it so much that I read it three times.  (Ahh, to have that much free time today!)  Six years later, it was made into a television mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain (the actor I envisioned in the role) and Rachel Ward (a lousy actress who couldn't handle the task of playing Meggie, in my opinion).  I was glad that they employed the mini-series format because there was no way this story could be told in a single movie.  The story was left pretty much intact, but there were a few major plot points that were entirely changed (to the detriment of the film).  You wouldn't paint over the Mona Lisa, so why mess with a literary masterpiece?

However, there are times when books are so convoluted, surreal, or philosophical that committing them to film and giving us poor readers visuals is the only way to really make sense of them, albeit with one person's vision.  The book/film that instantly comes to mind is John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons.  Since the author himself offers up three separate endings to the story, no harm is done if the movie maker picks only one.  This book, by the way, was chosen by TIME Magazine as "one of the one hundred best English-language novels from 1923 to present."

So, what did I watch over vacation?  One was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem.  I didn't care for it as much as I had hoped, and I definitely felt that there were pieces of the puzzle missing.  I'll be reading the novel soon since just about every woman on the planet has by now, and I figure there must be more to the story than the screenwriter/director Ryan Murphy was telling us.

The other movie was a piece of light-hearted fare on Lifetime called Sunday at Tiffany's.  Surprisingly, it's written by James Patterson (the writer better known for his thrillers and, to kids, for his Maximum Ride series).  I say "surprisingly" because this one is a romantic fantasy!  For this adaptation, I may not read the book because I thoroughly enjoyed the movie (yes, romances are my guilty pleasure) and, after reading a plot summary of the novel, it sounds much darker and sadder than the film.  However, I just took time to look at reader comments online, and it sounds as if the book, although vastly different than the movie, is an excellent read.  What I don't get is why they used James Patterson's name if it was so loosely adapted by someone else (as if "inspired" by his novel).  Generally, other readers who watched the movie first also liked the book but those in the other camp (who read the book first) were very disappointed and were asking for a better, truer adaptation in the future.

So, what can students take from this discussion?  A lot of things!  One, if you're going to cheat and watch the movie instead of reading the assigned book, you're taking a big risk!  LOL!  Two, if you watch a movie you really like, see if it's an adapted rather than an original screenplay and then read the book from which the story is taken.  There may even be a written sequel (or two or three).  Three, if you read a book (like the Twilight or Harry Potter series), you'll either love the movies no matter what or may be very disappointed by the director's vision.  Remember: the beauty of a well-written book is in its ability to let the reader imagine the scene, to invoke our emotions, and to leave our lives enriched...and perhaps wanting more! 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Check Out My Dewey Decimal Glog

As mentioned in an earlier post, I just discovered Glogging (yes, with a G).  What a fun tool...and a great alternative for student projects.  I can envision so many uses for this.  This one's still a work in progress (need to add more links), but check it out...

http://gypsylibrarian.edu.glogster.com/glog-4457-7502/

Wrapping Up the Web 2.0 Class

Well, it's 8:45 on a Sunday evening, and I've just finished the last of the assignments for my Web 2.0 class.  Yay, no work at all this week...I can sleep in tomorrow morning.  However, my sincere apology to my class leader who has to work tomorrow grading the projects I (and others, I suspect) didn't finish until the last minute.  I owe you one, Johnnie!

During these two weeks (or was it three), I created this blog, a wiki, a Glog (yes, you heard right), a Library Orientation video using Photo Story 3, and even subscribed to Google Reader.  I also was introduced to Weebly.com and created a website for my school library including an embedded Google Calendar.  So, yes, I was VERY busy, but the knowledge I gained and the tools I now have at my disposal are invaluable.

I'm very much an "as-needed" learner...as opposed to "just in case."  So, this class was a godsend.  I'd been meaning to try out all of these new social networking tools and create a website, but without this class and its strict deadlines, I might not have gotten to it for a long time.  Now, I have so many things to add to my resume/portfolio and a whole new arsenal of tools for communicating, teaching, networking, etc.

I plan on using the blog frequently (and creating at least one more for my online business).  I've already sent the link to my Lang Library website to all of the Lang MS staff, and have eliminated the paper schedule in favor of the online one.  If need be, I'll be dragging some teachers into the 21st century!!!  I plan on introducing the Glog format to teachers as an alternative for student projects.  I think the kids would love it, and I'll have fun teaching them how to use it.  I'll be expanding and refining the Library Orientation video, will use it each year...and will add it to my website.  However, the jury is still out on the Wiki.  I find it difficult to use and not nearly as useful as the blog format.  If I need to do a group project with others in separate places, though, I might consider it.  We'll see.

So, enough for now.  I might be more tech-literature than 2 weeks ago, but I'm also bone-tired.  Night all!

Haves and Have-Nots

I haven't posted this past week because I was busy running my school's book fair.  With the elevator out of order and the library on the 3rd floor, it was doubly difficult to get the whole thing organized.  Now that we've finished up, I have some observations and comparisons to fairs I've held in other schools.  Thus the title of this post.

When I lived in West Hartford, CT, I worked as a parent volunteer at my children's elementary school.  We consistently sold around $10,000 worth of books, etc.  thanks to the fact that parents valued reading and had money to spend on books.  In 2001-2003, I worked at an inner-city school in Hartford, CT, where the demographics were 100% Hispanic (primarily Puerto Rican), 100% poverty-level, 65% special ed, and 50% bilingual.  Not surprisingly, our Book Fair proceeds were below $1500.  It didn't help that most parents (generally teen or early 20s) had bad school experiences and were uncomfortable being at their children's school.  They also had little to no money to spend on books, even if they did value them (which didn't seem to be the case).

Fast forward to the latter half of the decade, and I was now librarian in an elementary school in West Plano,  TX.  Thanks to a very active PTA, high socio-economic status, and a clear understanding of the value of reading, we sold no less than $22,000 (yes, 3 zeros) each fair.  So, you can well imagine how I felt when this year's sale (in an inner-city Dallas middle school) was considered successful with sales of only $2400.  All I could think of was how hard my student volunteers and I had worked to run the fair and how little return for our time we realized. 

I had much time to think about this while I manned the cash register this week, and it just saddens me to think of how the schools in wealthier neighborhoods are raking in the money (so they can buy even more new books for their already well-stocked libraries) while the schools in poorer neighborhoods raise next to nothing.  There has to be a better solution, but I've yet to come up with one.  While in Plano, we donated a 3rd of our proceeds to a sister school on the east side of the city, but I don't think that's an option in Dallas.  Wouldn't it be great if Scholastic (since they make so much on these sales) would spearhead a program whereby schools with high-grossing fairs could designate a "sister" school in another district (or their own) to automatically receive matching funds?  Nice dream for now, but it could be a reality someday.  I'll have to think about it...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review of Wenny Has Wings by Janet Lee Carey


I read Wenny Has Wings by Janet Lee Carey a couple of years ago, but it has stuck with me because it is one of the best books I've read dealing with the death of a child and the resultant grieving process.  Will North and his little sister, Wenny, are hit by a truck on their way to the store.  When Will wakes up in the hospital, he remembers that both he and Wenny started flying "towards the light" but that he pulled back because he didn't want his parents to be left alone.  The author guides us on Will's (and his parents') journey of recovery through a series of letters Will writes to Wenny. 
 
He's angry...at Wenny for leaving, his parents for being so lost in their grief, and himself for letting Wenny accompany him to the store that day and for not being able to save her.  His parents are incapable of helping him, so it is a youth minister who finally suggests that Will start writing letters to God.  Instead, he chooses to write to Wenny. 
 
This story is a tear-jerker, but it's also a message of hope and redemption.  I recommend that librarians and counselors read it, and add it to their bibliotherapy toolbox.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Blog vs. Wiki

I've created both a blog and a wiki this past week for my Web 2.0 class, and part of the 1st assignment is to compare the two methods of online communication.  In my opinion, a blog is individual and personal.  It's used by the blogger to share messages, opinions, recipes, crafts, photographs, and anything else that is of interest to her.

On the other hand, I see a wiki as more of a tool to use by a group (e.g., a class, a team, a company dept., etc.) to share useful information of interest to all members of said group.  As such, it is more objective, less emotional, and much less fun than a blog.  In a nutshell - blog=fun, wiki=function!

My Wiki

I've been working on a Wiki for my Web 2.0 class.  You can see it here - http://thegypsylibrarian.pbworks.com/w/page/32116187/The-Gypsy-Librarian.  It's obviously a work in progress.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Welcome to My New Blog!

I have created this blog as part of a Web 2.0 class I am taking with Dallas ISD.  My initial reason for signing up for the course was to meet Professional Development requirements so I could have the entire Thanksgiving week off!  However, now that I see how useful blogs and wikis can be, I'm excited to learn more and apply what I learn both to my job as a school librarian and my avocation as an online reseller (just eBay right now). 

As a teenager, I kept a daily journal, but since graduating from college (oh, so many years ago), I haven't kept it up.  I think blogging is a great opportunity to share what you know and love with other like-minded people.  It also helps you reflect on how you're currently spending your time and consider ways to enrich your life.  I look forward to the journey, and hope you'll join me now and then.