Thursday, December 31, 2015

On Going Full Circle in 2015

I always seem to remember to post on 31st of December! A quarter of a year has passed since my last update, and now - looking all the way back to January - everything from the first half of the year seems to blur together. In some ways I've come full circle - but I'm looking forward to the new year and what it brings.

One of the best experiences of that first half of 2015 was hosting a foreign exchange student. Giovanni (who we all called Giovi, because we couldn't quite pronounce his name correctly) was one of the best students we could have asked for - kind, outgoing, did extremely well in school, and we got along really well. He taught us a lot about his home country, Germany, and I hope we helped him have a great American experience. It also gave my husband Nate and I an idea of how we could work together as parents - if we ever are fortunate enough to adopt. We obviously weren't perfect - but we survived and learned much about each other as well. It was hard to say goodbye when the time came in May!

Exciting things at the Oskaloosa Public Library this year included another round of Teen Tech Week, a fun program on prohibition that included a beer tasting at the library thanks to a partnership with the fantastic Cellar Peanut Pub, and the planning and execution of the summer reading program. One of my proudest moments was the kick-off party for the summer program - we had nearly 400 people from the community in attendance! Free hot dogs from the Oskaloosa Summer Lunch Program and free snow cones from SnoBiz were a draw - but it was still nice to see so many people excited about reading and going to the library.

In June, Nate accepted a position at the University of Kansas Libraries, and moved back to Lawrence, Kansas. It was a tough couple of months apart while I hunted for positions in the area and submitted my letter of resignation to Oskaloosa. It was tough leaving the Oskaloosa Public Library - I really enjoyed working with the kind, dedicated staff and the community. I'll miss developing programs and working with the teens and so much. But Nate and I were itching for more than Oskaloosa - the city - was offering us...

Nate and I then spent two weeks in Europe in August and September. Each new trip we take, we'll probably say it's the best one we've done yet - but it truly was a great experience. We visited many historical and touristy sites in London and the surrounding area, including the British National Library, King's Cross station, Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey), the Harry Potter Film Studios, and Stonehenge. Then we took the Eurostar over to Paris where we saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the gardens of Versailles, and had a memorable dining experience at Dans le Nior - a restaurant where you eat in total darkness and are served by the visually impared.

In September, I also returned to the now renovated Lawrence Public Library - this time as a part-time Readers' Services assistant. After applying for a number of positions in the area, this was the first opportunity offered to me, and I just wanted to be able to make the transition to Lawrence with Nate. It's been an adjustment going from a full time administrative position to nearly entry level position, as anyone could imagine, but I'm still loving what I do. I'm in a brand new department totally dedicated to helping readers find their next books, and I've been challenged to improve my readers' advisory skills.

Swanky new LPL headshot!

Way back in May or so, I was invited to give the closing key note presentation at the joint Kansas and Missouri Library Association conference in Kansas City, Missouri the first weekend of October. Definitely another highlight of my year, I got to share Librarian Problems with about 400 librarians! The somewhat well-known tumblr I created nearly four years ago has gained over 20,000 followers and more than 15,000 likes on Facebook. I had tons of fun sharing and laughing with the crowd!

Though I'm kind of back where I began in libraries and in Lawrence, Nate and I are really glad to be here. We really love the city, and there's much more going on for us - restaurants, cultural events, a larger university, etc. In order to help make ends meet, I also took on a part time job at a local grocer - but that didn't last too long. Between worrying about scheduling conflicts to working with (sometimes) impatient customers to freaking out about my drawer being short, I felt it was too much stress and that I could spend my time doing much more productive things. Like writing. 

So perhaps you'll see more posts from me in 2016? Who knows! Thanks for reading - and I hope you have a happy and festive New Year!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I Need a Library Job: The Struggle is Real

Sometimes you have to take a risk and hope for the best. I’ve shared this news with my friends, family and the community already, but I’ve officially turned in my resignation to the Oskaloosa Public Library – my last day will be September 11. My husband was offered and accepted a really great position with KU Libraries in June, and I’ll be moving back to Lawrence, Kansas to join him. Thus, I’ve been in job search mode for the past couple of months. And the struggle is real.

I feel I was pretty fortunate in getting my past two positions. My first library job was the result of a library school project, and with my second, connections and good references really helped. Honestly, I don’t feel like it was as tough as I’m experiencing now. But I haven’t given up hope yet. Here are a few things I’ve had to learn or remind myself in my new job search:

Don’t let one rejection (or five!) discourage you.
There are a lot of fish in the sea, and there are a lot of librarians in the field. Jobless librarians. Experienced librarians. When there are fifty applicants for one position, there’s a good chance that you may not measure up when compared to the others. But that doesn’t mean you’ll never measure up. The list of available library jobs may be small, but take the time and patience to apply, apply, apply!


Apply, apply, apply!
The more applications you put in, the more you can improve your resume, cover letter and interview skills and the better the chance you’ll have at getting a job. You may think there’s a perfect job at the one perfect library, and you won’t be happy anywhere else, but the time you spend waiting for that job to open at that one library is time you could be spending gaining experience elsewhere.

Learn how to sell yourself.
You may think you have a reputation that precedes you. You may have great connections and references. However, just because you have volunteered or worked for a library before and have done a wonderful job doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in. Each interview – even if it’s with the same hiring supervisors over and over again – is a new one. You’ve got a new crowd of applicants to compete against. Learn how to translate your skills and abilities to fit the position, and be confident! You don’t have to embellish, but explain how your years of serving tables or selling retail demonstrate your customer service skills, etc.


Be patient.
Waiting to hear back on an application is the toughest part. I know. Some hiring processes are much slower than others – especially when there are 50 applications to dig through. If you’re concerned that they may not have received your application, it’s okay to check in on it, but you don’t have to call in every three days asking for an update. That’s bugging. If you’ve sold yourself well enough in your cover letter, they’ll contact you.

Be grateful – and show it!
Hiring supervisors are busy, and the hiring process takes a lot of their time. If they give you an interview, close it by expressing your gratitude for their time and consideration. Sending a quick thank you letter or email afterward is also nice too. It shows that you care enough about the position and that you’re professional and considerate of their time. If you don’t get this particular job, they may remember you for the next.


You may not get the job you really, really want. I didn't, and it’s been tough. But like I said, I’m not letting it discourage me. Some of my trouble may be because I’m hyper-localizing, but I know there’s a job out there for me, and I’m working really hard for it. To anyone who’s in the same position – keep at it! We’ll get there! Good luck!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Review - Anything Could Happen

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody's in everybody else's business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained. 


-Summary from Goodreads.com

There’s much to appreciate about Will Walton’s debut novel, but a lot going on too. Anything could happen for Tretch Farm, and a lot certainly does during his winter break.

Tretch is in love with his straight best friend, Matt, who has two dads. His straight best friend is in love with a girl who may or may not like him back. Tretch tries to avoid a pretentious, yet clueless girl who works in book shop. He struggles with coming out. Then there’s the bully who called him out on his crush. And a grandparent dying of cancer. On top of all that, Tretch learns that his best friend is moving away, which causes him to attempt suicide, but not really. Oh, and a cow gives birth to a breached calf.

That’s only some of it. I appreciate that, underneath all that’s going on for Tretch, Walton’s novel is another coming of age coming out story. I like that he presents Matt’s dads as decent parents who raise a well-adjusted child. Tretch’s feelings for his best friend are honest and realistic. I felt, though, that his maturity was inconsistent. Tretch reads classics and has mature, sexual thoughts about his best friend, but then narrates about fearing and avoiding a black cat because of bad luck. 

I would still recommend this book to anyone who may be struggling with coming out. Walton shows that it’s okay to take that risk and that the results may not be as bad as you expect. Overall, I gave Anything Could Happen 3 out of 5 stars.

You can find Anything Could Happen at a local library by clicking here.

This review also posted on http://booksavants.blogspot.com.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Review - The Book of Unknown Americans

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel's recovery--the piece of the American Dream on which they've pinned all their hopes--will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles.

At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamà fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she's sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America.


-Summary from Goodreads.com
The Book of Unknown Americans is a powerful, eye opening portrait of what it's like to be a Latino immigrant in the United States. Henríquez tells the story of the Riveras and the Toros, alternating between Maribel's mother Alma and Mayor. In between their chapters, short vignettes detail the experiences of a number of other Latino immigrants.

What I really liked about the book was how real the characters seemed to me. Alma is fiercely protective of Maribel, especially since she comes to blame herself for Maribel's accident and condition. Her husband, Arturo, devotes himself to keeping a job and staying out of trouble so they can stay in the United States so their daughter can receive the help she needs. Mayor is a freshman in high school who lives under the shadow of an athletically gifted older brother and can't quite live up to his father's expectations.

A neighborhood troublemaker, Garrett, is at the center of the events that lead to the climax of the story. He begins to stalk and pursue Maribel, and it's his interactions with both Mayor and Alma that lead the reader to fear for the girl's safety. What also concerned me, though, was how quickly Mayor's feelings for Maribel developed and how far he takes them. They talk a few times and suddenly he's in love with her and feeling her up.

Overall, though, the story was moving and heartbreaking. I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a clearer picture of how hard some immigrants do work to get into this country and how dedicated they are to doing the right thing.



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Passive Program: Coloring Pages for Adults

With the recent popularity of adult coloring books that many libraries are taking advantage of for programs, I decided to cash in at my library as well. I had considered purchasing copies of the books that are available, but then was concerned they would come back...well, colored.

To see if there's actually an interest in my community, I've decided to try out a passive program first. This takes very little staff time, and if the coloring sheets disappear, I know I can take it further. I love the idea of a "coloring and cocktails" program!


I found a list of free adult coloring pages available on the web, printed a few off, copied them and now have them out in the reading room with colored pencils, a pencil sharpener and signage explaining the deal. We already have a number of patrons who frequent the room to work on puzzles we set out, so I'm thinking it may go over pretty well!





Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Book Review - God Help the Child

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child—the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment—weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult.

At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. 
There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally, Bride’s mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that “what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”

-Amazon.com description
Ever since I took a seminar class on Toni Morrison in college, I’ve been a big fan of her work, and I was excited to pick up God Help the Child. Morrison’s characters come to life, and though we may only meet briefly in the pages of her books, you come to feel like you’ve known them for years. Her wisdom and experience exude from her stories, and I always learn a lot.

Even though the description says the novel is set in our current moment, I really felt that the story was timeless. Besides a few mentions of modern technology, I could easily believe if it said 1920’s or 1950’s or the 1960’s. The focal point is on the characters, and technology and modern society doesn’t play too much of a role in the plot.

Anger, pity, jealousy – Morrison develops her characters through their personal experiences and makes you feel something for them. Gold Help the Child is told through multiple perspectives, which is common with a number of Morrison’s novels. Child abuse – psychological, physical, and sexual – is a key theme in the novel and the development of the character’s experiences as adults.

Born with dark, blue-black skin, the central character Bride was raised by Sweetness, a mother who couldn’t bear to event touch her and whose affection stopped short of neglect. However, Bride grows to become a successful career woman in the cosmetics industry, and, with the help of a fashion consultant, learns to love herself through accentuating what her mother found so detestable.

Unexpectedly, Booker, the man she’s been seeing, skips town; his last words, “You not the woman I want.” This leads Bride to a trip through the country to Whiskey, Booker’s hometown. On the way, she wrecks her car and ends up spending six weeks recovering with a rural couple and Rain, the pale skinned girl they’ve taken in. This is where I would have liked to have seen a bit more development. Bride and Rain connect in a way, but their relationship clearly isn’t that important to the main plot.

After Bride recovers, she continues on her path to Whiskey where she plans to confront Booker. Along the way, we learn an important incident in Bride’s childhood that led to a series of events that came between the lovers. The novel closes with Sweetness reflecting on the lasting affect parents have on their children’s lives.

I appreciated this novel like many of Morrison’s, but I put it down wanting more. Perhaps it’s because it’s under 200 pages? I wanted to see more of the relationship between Bride and Rain, as they story only hinted at a connection, but, as in real life, sometimes those connections are fleeting. Overall, I thought God Help the Child was another of Morrison’s inspiring stories.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Prohibition & Free Beer at the Library

This past Monday we had a first for the Oskaloosa Public Library: a free beer tasting! What made it greater, though, was the fact that we paired it with a presentation on prohibition. Local author, Linda Betsinger McCann, shared about her book Prohibition in Eastern Iowa, and afterward the awesome folks from The Cellar Peanut Pub provided samples of four Iowa craft beers.


Linda was a great presenter and storyteller. She shared about her research process and her interactions with the people she interviewed about prohibition in Iowa. It was interesting to learn that Al Capone - who I only ever associated with Chicago - had a presence and influence in Iowa during the 13 year span of prohibition.

I could tell that Linda is passionate about history and about sharing the past with younger generations. What I really appreciated was her effort to research police records from the local paper to share with the audience. She cautioned everyone that they may learn something about someone they know, as she experienced at other presentations!


Following Linda's presentation, I invited the owner of The Cellar Peanut Pub and his pubtender to talk a little bit about the four craft beers they brought for samples. They included beers from Lion Bridge Brewing Company out of Cedar Rapids, Exile Brewing Co. out of Des Moines, and Peace Tree Brewing Co. out of Knoxville.

I'm very grateful that the The Pub was willing to donate the sampling, and hope that they got further business after giving people a taste of what they offer. The owner and pubtender were great, and it seemed like the people sampling the beers really enjoyed them.

Because Oskaloosa tends toward the conservative side, I was prepared to hear some negative feedback about having alcohol in the library; however, I haven't yet. I did, though, do a bit of investigation beforehand to make sure it was all legal. First, I spoke with the state's bureau of alcoholic beverages who said that if the samples were under and ounce and served only to patrons 21 years or older, it wouldn't violate any state ordinances.

Next I checked with the city attorney and the public works director, and they couldn't find anything in zoning ordinances or the city code that prohibited the sampling. Then I checked with the city's insurance to make sure it would be covered under general liability. Finally, I made sure it was cool with the city manager. He even said he spoke to a couple of city council members, and they liked that I was doing new and different things to bring people into the library.


The event brought 40 people to the library, which I felt for a Monday evening was really good. Some of them even revealed on the program survey I handed out that it was the first program they had ever attended at the library. Everyone had positive comments too!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Turning 30 on the Edge of a Cliff

Nervous, thrilled, scared – this is what I’m feeling as I’m leaving my 20’s behind. I’m turning 30 years old tomorrow, and a part of me feels like I’m about the leap from a giant cliff. When I look back at everything I’ve done in the past 10 years, I can only imagine what possibilities await in the next decade. It’s both frightening and exciting.

Final Fling party my senior year at Graceland.
I entered my 20’s a sophomore at Graceland University, having just made the decision to change from education to a triple major in English writing, literature and math. When I told an academic counselor my plans, she laughed and said I would be there for ten years. I finished in four. But I faced challenging 18 to 24 credit hour semesters, long nights reading and writing papers, and advanced topics in mathematics. I proudly left Graceland with a BA honors degree.

I also left with about $20,000 in debt. With that looming over me, I grabbed the first jobs available. I went back to work at the gas station I worked at during high school and continued to work weekends there while doing overnights at a group home and weekdays as a para at a high school. I lived in a small apartment above a liquor store with three cats and spent what little free time I had reading and writing poetry. Romantic, I know. This lasted about a year and a half before I finally applied to grad school for my MLS.

While in library school, I gained my first job in a library and transitioned to Lawrence. I started at the Lawrence Public Library after an assigned reference desk observation which I coincidentally completed just before a part time position opened up. That was my foot in the door.

Pulling a mannequin from my beetle for a display at LPL.
Thanks to the help of my then supervisor, that part time position grew to full time assistant and then officially “librarian” within 2 years. Keeping track of desk statistics, processing inter-library loans and serials, putting together displays, teaching computer classes – I did everything and I really fell in love with being a librarian.

Lawrence is one of the best places to spend your early 20’s. It’s where I really started to come out of my shell, grew professionally and met my husband, Nate. I learned to love myself, and it was possible because of the positive, youthful, progressive attitude the university town generally espouses. But when I was there, I foresaw little chance to move up professionally. So I applied and gained the director position at the Oskaloosa Public Library, and Nate and I moved to Iowa for my next adventure.

Nate and I cutting our wedding cake, 6/9/12.
I was 27 when I started as director. With only three years of library experience behind me, I had to learn how to work with a library board, represent the library at city council meetings, oversee a department budget and manage a staff, a few of which have worked at the library longer than I’ve been alive. Honestly, I briefly experienced a fear of failure – of not being good enough.

Teen Zombie Crawl - one of my favorite OPL programs.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to do all of the “director responsibilities” alongside many of the things I loved doing at Lawrence. I’ve been passionate about my job and library service, and that’s one of many things that have carried me through. Nate and I bought our first home, and we have grown into the Oskaloosa community together. And that’s where I am now.

So here I go. I’m jumping into my thirties. I’m not sure where they’re going to take me, but I’m excited to get there!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Poetry & Arts in April at the Library

If you've read past blog posts, you'll know that I'm a fan of poetry and that April is National Poetry Month. I try to do at least one thing related to poetry at the library, even if it's a simple display featuring titles from our poetry collection.


In the past, I've gone all out and used mannequins for Poetry In Your Pocket Day, featured favorite poets from staff and let a poetry slamming gorilla loose in the library. This year, I kept the display simple, using a word cloud with poetry related words and phrases.

Borrowing an idea from my days at the Lawrence Public Library, I decided to set up a "Poetry Nook" in the entryway of the library. I've provided pens and paper, and am encouraging patrons to write a poem and put it in the box. The poems, then, will end up in random places around town - in a library book, in a booth at the local coffee shop, etc.

My major poetry event will be for teens. Members of our Teen Advisory Board requested we do a Poetry Slam again this year. For some reason, whenever I plan one of these, I have to include a bag of frozen burritos as one of the prizes. That bag of frozen goodness is always the most coveted prize - even over a $50 gift card!

Our Youth Librarian also has gotten into the spirit of National Poetry Month and has put together a fun Poetry "Mad Lib" for the children's area. I'm looking forward to seeing what crazy things the kids come up with!


I was also approached by FACE of Mahaska County, a local arts organization, about planning and cross promoting arts-related programs and events in Oskaloosa for Arts in April. They recently opened an art center in town, and it's very exciting to see what they're bringing to this small-ish community. One of the things they're doing is yarn bombing different locations around the city - including our Reading Garden:


They've coordinated with a number of organizations in the community and have put together a calendar of things happening this month. From graffiti installations to a Gallery Hop to one act plays directed by high school students, there's a lot going on!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Put A Bird On It!

My newest display is inspired by my favorite clip from Portlandia, Put A Bird On It! I figured birds would be a nice spring-ish topic, so I pulled pretty much anything that has a bird on the cover.


I thought pulling titles from 598 and 636.6 would be a little too easy, so I also pulled anything from fiction and our movies. Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, of course! I also cut out a few silhouettes to make the display pop a little.


And here's the inspiration:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Getting Shift Done

Yesterday, my staff and I completed a major re-cataloging, labeling and shifting project. A long time ago, the library had a separate biography section, and at some point, one of the directors decided to interfile them into the nonfiction. We've had a number of patrons recently request, though, that we have a separate section again. We certainly don't have a huge nonfiction collection, but this was one of the biggest projects I've done since I started as director.


I began by going through the collection pulling the biographies. One of the previous directors had the cataloging staff start putting biography stickers on new titles, but they didn't go through the collection and put stickers on anything already on the shelf. This made the process a little more complicated than it could have been, because I had to go through each volume on the shelf, especially in the 900's, 800's and 700's.

What also complicated it was staff was directed to put biography labels on anything that had subject headings of biography or memoir. To me, there's a definite difference between the two, and I only wanted biographies in my new section. Many of the titles that I considered memoirs were by obscure or not well known writers that I didn't think people looking for biographies would be interested in. For example, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven had a biography label on it.


The next step was re-cataloging and labeling (or un-labeling) the volumes. We decided to organize the titles by the last name of who the biography is about, and if there were multiple biographies on one individual, they would be organized by the last name of the author. (I borrowed this idea from the Lawrence Public Library, who completed a similar project before I left. I also went with the same labels!)

My cataloger made quick work of changing the classifications in the system, and a library assistant made sure each new label looked nice and neat. We then started placing the biographies in their temporary location - empty wooden shelves along the wall at the end of the stacks. This would have been a nice way to use these shelves, but they're kind of hidden and are too low.

The permanent home for the biographies is between the large print and nonfiction stacks. This meant that we had to shift the entire nonfiction collection back to accommodate them. With the help of my staff and the local high school robotics team who volunteered their time, though, we accomplished this within three days. We now have a biography section!



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Create & Innovate: Post-It Note Pixel Art

For our monthly teen crafting program, we invited teens to decorate the library with Post-It Note pixel art. You basically create giant mosaics with the Post-Its!


A very simple activity, you just need various colors of Post-Its and window or wall space. We did this program a year ago, and we found out the Post-Its don't adhere to our painted walls very well. Large glass surfaces work best. Otherwise, a large roll of butcher paper comes in handy.


It's helpful to have a few examples or guides, or even provide graph paper so the teens can plan out their art before putting it up. We'll be leaving these up through Teen Tech Week - they're perfect decorations!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley
by Shaun David Hutchinson

Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived.

Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him.

Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, burned on half his body by hateful classmates. His agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together through all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But Drew knows that life is never that simple. Death roams the hospital, searching for Drew, and now Rusty. Drew lost his family, but he refuses to lose Rusty, too, so he’s determined to make things right. He’s determined to bargain, and to settle his debts once and for all.

But Death is not easily placated, and Drew’s life will have to get worse before there is any chance for things to get better.
- GoodReads.com description

From reading the description, I really expected to enjoy this book. My initial thoughts were, “Could this be an LGBT The Fault in Our Stars?” And as I read, I kept wanting to compare it to the television dramedy, The Red Band Society. I was really curious how the relationship between Andrew, the boy secretly squatting in the hospital, and Rusty, the burn victim, would develop.

There were a few things, though, that I couldn’t get past. I couldn’t accept the idea that a teen could live unnoticed in the unfinished wing of the hospital in which his family died. Would the local police and the hospital staff be so incompetent? On top of that, Andrew is able to work in the hospital cafeteria and get paid “under the table,” which I found implausible as well.

I’m not sure how I felt about the characters either. Andrew is likeable enough, however, his personality felt a bit confused for me. He comes off both mature for his age and naïve. He shoulders the responsibility of his family’s death, but he comes to believe the hospital’s social worker is “Death,” and that she took his family away from him.

Everyone else that Andrew interacted with at the hospital was accepting of and acknowledged his sexual orientation, which was nice to see; however, it came across a bit idealistic. Trevor and Lexi are two cancer patients that Andrew befriends. They’re secretly in love with each other, and Andrew helps them come together. I kind of cared about their story, but I felt they weren’t as developed as I would have liked.

Rusty, too, seems underdeveloped as well. We learn that he was bullied and tortured at school and in the hospital because he was set on fire at a party. The only thing that seems to draw Andrew and Rusty together is Andrew’s empathy and the fact that they’re both gay. Andrew reads a few books to him and promises to protect him from “Death,” and suddenly they’re in love.

However, what I did like about the book was that it addressed bullying and suicide, which could serve as good talking points with young LGBT readers. Many LGBT teens, and even adults, could relate to wanting to hide from what they experience as an abusive, intolerant world. Also, I appreciated how Andrew did not perpetuate a gay stereotype. He’s into sports, writes and illustrates a graphic novel, and isn’t focused on his appearance.

Overall, I did like The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley and would recommend it to anyone looking to read more with LGBT themes. I’d give it three out of five stars.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Teen Tech Week: Libraries are for making...

Last year I had so much fun with Teen Tech Week, I couldn't wait to start planning this year's events at the Oskaloosa Public Library. We're still about a month out, but I've gotten everything finalized and the promo posters are off to the printer! Not wanting to do the exact same thing as last year, my youth librarian and I worked with our Teen Advisory Board to see which programs were worth repeating and what ideas they could come up with. I like to go all out, so we've got something planned for every day of the week:

Tech Tear Apart
This program was so popular last year, we had to do it again. Over the summer, we had to switch out our entire lab of computers which were running on the now outdated Windows XP. I saved a few, so we have plenty of PC's for teens to tear into. We'll pretty much give them the tools, let them tear them apart, and then have a discussion about what each of the parts do. It's a great opportunity for those who may not have a spare computer lying around to see what makes them tic.

The Science of Doctor Who
We have a core group of teens who are big fans of Doctor Who. It was our original intention to have a professor of physics come in an speak to teens about space time continuum and quantum mechanics, but I could never get a response from anyone at the local college. Instead, we'll be watching the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know? and making sonic screwdrivers and TARDIS.

YouTube Request Hour
Sort of a last minute, easy program, we're planning to hook up YouTube to one of our big screens and let the teens request their favorite videos. Music, parodies, silly cat videos - anything PG thirteen. I was hoping to do another Skype chat with an author, but again, no responses to my emails and I was getting pretty close to crunch time.

Classic Video Game Day
Between my youth librarian and myself, we've got a good collection of vintage video game consoles. Another simple program, we'll hook the systems up to a few old tube TV's and let the teens play video games from the 80's, 90's and 00's. And what's a video game day without snacks?!

Robotics Demonstration
Our local high school sponsors a pretty successful robotics team, The Sock MonkeysI've invited them in to give a presentation on what they do and to give a demonstration of their robot. Many of the teens who come to our programs are already involved, but it also gives The Sock Monkeys some needed volunteer time.

Back to the Future Part II
We'll be ending Teen Tech Week with a showing of Back to the Future Part II to give teens an idea of what the folks in 1989 thought technology in 2015 would look like.


I have to give a big shout out and thank you to YALSA from whom I borrowed some graphics and a few ideas. To see some of their ideas visit their site at http://teentechweek.ning.com/. Teen Tech Week is a great way to promote the library's technology resources and get teens excited about using the library. The teens who participated at the Oskaloosa library last year really enjoyed the programs we offered and are looking forward to this year's.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Review - Landline

This review is also posted on my library's blog, The Reader's Window.

Georgie McCool’s husband, Neal, has left her and she’s trying to keep cool. They’ve been together for fifteen years.

He’s actually only taken their two girls to spend the holidays in Omaha, but he wasn’t happy with her when they left. That’s because Georgie elected to skip out on the Midwestern Christmas to work on her sitcom.

Then something strange happens. Using the old yellow, rotary landline at her mother’s house, she contacts Neal. 1998 Neal, not 2013 Neal. The Neal that left her once before when they had temporarily broken up.

Is she going insane? Hallucinating? Or is she actually talking to the Neal of the past? Between working long hours on scriptwriting and reflecting on her marriage and taking care of herself, Georgie tries to make sense of all this.

I've enjoyed everything Rainbow Rowell has written. Both heartbreaking and romantic, Landline also offers moments that will make you laugh. Rainbow’s characters are as real as your best friend, and you’ll find yourself soaring through this read.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Books for Dummies

If you dug through my past posts, you'll know that another part of my job I enjoy is putting together displays. Displays are a perfect way to promote items in the library's collection that may not get attention otherwise. This week, I decided to feature our "for Dummies" books!


At my previous library, we had four spaces for displays and they were left up about a month. We had to sticker all the books we pulled for the display and change each item's shelving status so people would know where they were - this was a lot of work. Here, I typically change out displays every two weeks or so. With a display like this, I can just wander through the stacks, pull titles, and have a display up in minutes.

Right now, we have a table at the top of the stairs that's the first thing you see on the second floor. I'm working on getting a shelving unit put there instead, though, because I like the face out display a little better.  However, the "Books for Dummies" display has only been up for a couple of hours, and I've already over heard a couple of comments on it. I'm glad it's catching patrons' attention!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Create & Innovate: Giant 3D Snowflakes

We have a small group of teen regulars at my library who are hardcore crafters. When I took over/started helping out with teen programming, I started a monthly crafting program called Create & Innovate (that's edgy, mature and modern right?). Each month I plan either a specific craft or go very general and open the craft cupboards and let the teens go at it.

This month's craft was giant 3D snowflakes. My Youth Librarian made these with her K-5th grade after school kids, but I thought teens would enjoy making them too. All that's needed is paper (I had an assortment of colors), scissors, glue (or tape) and staples.


This tutorial on Youtube was super helpful:


I only had a few teens, but they enjoyed the craft. We even had the local newspaper come by and take a photo. Eight inches of snow had just fallen the day before, and he was looking for something non-weather related to print...ha!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Why I Do What I Do

As I was leaving the library this morning for my annual budget discussion meeting with the City Manager and Clerk, a patron stopped and greeted me. Out of no where she said, "I'm so glad you're here and the library's here." There was no way she could have known where I was headed, but her comment greatly quelled any nerves I may have had about the meeting.

That comment also reminded me why I'm here and why I do what I do. Whatever her reasons for her passion for the library, it's my job to ensure that she has access to the services and resources she needs. It's my job to justify expenditures and requests for funding for library services to the Board and City Council so that we can continue to provide those services and resources.

Books, CDs, DVDs, magazines - all of these are often times viewed as frivolities to council members who have other ideas for taxpayer dollars. I've discussed before how an investment in these items can actually save the community money. But it's also the story times, research help, computer classes, teen programs, author visits, presentations and many other things beyond the physical items that add value to the library as a public service. None of these would be possible without the library's most valuable asset - staff.

A significant portion of the library's budget goes towards staff salaries and benefits, and any cut to the library's budget would mean a cut to staff. I'd hate to see that. I'm very grateful for the staff that I have, and for all that they do to make the library what it is for the community. The library would not be the same without their years of experience, their knowledge, and their positive customer service.

I came into this position for what I feel was a pretty young age. I only had three years of library experience behind me, but I'm grateful that Board and the City have given me this opportunity to serve in this position and gain even more valuable experience.

I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought or fantasized about moving beyond Oskaloosa. Or what it would have been like if I had never left the Lawrence. However, that patron's comment reminded me how much I am needed and appreciated here, and how happy I am to be here.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Top Five Friday: Favorite Reads from 2014

Between work at the library, spending time with my husband, and hosting a foreign exchange student, I didn't take as much time to read as I wanted to in 2014. I'm a little embarrassed to mention how many books I made it through, but here's five that I really enjoyed:

1. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

I always enjoy a good Murakami novel. The title character tries to come to terms with and understand the sudden and inexplicable estrangement of this group of high school friends. Less fantastical than some of his other works, but the mystery and intrigue remains.

2. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Small town Iowa. Horny teenage male. Giant, man-eating praying mantises. This is the story of the end of the world. Bizarre but hilarious. I loved it!

3.  Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Another scientifically weird, but good one! Travis gets his head cryogenically frozen and reattached to someone else's body. He wakes up five years in the future, but to him it was just waking up from a nap. He has to learn to adjust to a world where his family and friends moved on without him.

4. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

A beautiful coming of age story about forgiveness and accepting one's talents. Jude and Noah, twins, used to be close. Getting into a prestigious art school, vying for their mother's attention, falling for guys - they share similar aspirations which end up getting between them.

5. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
My Books and Beer Club pick for February, The Interestings is a lengthy novel that follows the lives of six friends who met at a summer camp for the arts, exploring how choices affect one's life path. When I read I'll Give You the Sun, I couldn't help but compare the two.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

A look back at 2014

Well, 2014 came and went. I clearly didn't get a whole lot of blogging done here, but I've certainly spent a lot of time and creative energy on other things. It's been a productive year at the library, I've met and made more connections here in Iowa, and overall I'd say it was a pretty good year. Here are a few specific things I've enjoyed:

Books and Beer Club
When I first arrived in Oskaloosa back in 2012, I received a kind welcome from the co-owner of a local bar, The Cellar Peanut Pub (famous for their craft beer selection and America's best dressed Bloody Mary). Over time, they've made it clear that they welcome everyone - straight, gay, transgender, etc. - as long as you're nice, and it's been great knowing there's at least one welcoming business in Oskaloosa. 

In January I approached the co-owner about hosting a book club at the pub, and we started the Books and Beer Club. We began with Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave as our first pick. We read many great books through the year, and our discussions have always been enjoyable and thought provoking. It's actually the first book club I've been a part of since high school, and I've had lots of fun with it!

Teen Programming: Anti-Valentines Day, Teen Tech Week and Find Your Fandom
I think I've said it before, but if I weren't a library director, I'd probably want to be a teen librarian. I've had a lot of fun this year with programs and events for teens. In February, we held and Anti-Valentine's Day party for teens where we wrote break up songs, decorated angry hearts and made voo-doo dolls (for which I got my first phone call from a concerned patron). In March, I put together a week long series of programs centered on technology for teens, including a tech tear apart, skype interview with an author and robot building.

For their summer reading program, the Teen Advisory Board selected Find Your Fandom over the collaborative suggested theme, and we had tons of fun with it. We hosted a mini-comic convention, continued with our popular Dungeons and Dragons program, and gave a way great prize packages, including Harry Potter books and movies, Doctor Who series on DVD, a Sherlock collection and a stack of book box sets. We've got a great group of teens involved with the Teen Advisory Board, and I can't wait to see what we come up with next year!

Adult Programming: Paranormal Researchers, Coal Mining & More
I think I've figured out what draws adults in Oskaloosa to events at the library: anything weird or historical. My most successful program for adults was a visit from Chad Lewis, co-author of The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations - we had about 80 people! Other programs that drew in crowds was a presentation on a former coal mining town, a portrayal of Ulysses S. Grant, and a lecture on Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.

I've also started the Oskaloosa Social Media Group for anyone involved with social media for businesses and organizations. We meet once a month and have an open round table discussion about tips and trends in social media and share with each other what's happening in Oskaloosa. I'm no expert, but I have enjoyed sharing my own experiences and knowledge with the group. One of the people who've gotten involved said that they have noticed hearing much more about the library recently - a goal which I've been working towards since I started there!

"Raising" a Foreign Teenager
In April, I posted on Facebook, "We've done the paperwork. Nate and I may be expecting in the fall. Wish us luck!" After a few congratulatory comments and well wishes, I had to explain, though, that the paperwork was an application for hosting a foreign exchange student! Needless to say, we were approved and in August we welcomed Giovanni into our home. 
Hailing from Düsseldorf, Germany, Giovanni's been a great guest and addition to our household. Nate and I have enjoyed having him and seeing him get involved with things like marching band, jazz band, robotics, Key Club - and even the library's teen advisory board!