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2013 May



In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

My Gap Year(s)

On 08, May 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

showmetheawesome2This post is part of Show Me the Awesome: 30 Days of Self-Promotion, an initiative started by Kelly at Stacked, Liz at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Teacozy, and Sophie at SophieBiblio. Follow along on their blogs and on Twitter with the hashtag #30awesome. The banner is by John LeMasney at

If you’ve read my About Me page (or keep reading this sentence) you’ll know, among other things, that about two years ago I had a baby and quit my job. What you won’t know is how terrifying that prospect was and how difficult the decision was to make. I worried that no one would ever look past that gap in my work history or worse yet, would write off motherhood as a busy, but ultimately easy, job requiring no skill. Even in a profession dominated by women it can be hard for mothers to justify putting their family first. But what I wish I had known then, is how much better a librarian I am for having made that choice and actually staying home.

Now, I’ve never been the kind of woman who believed she could have everything. In fact, I’m not sure I know what that means to me and if I would even want it. But two years ago I had a job I loved in a profession I loved. Sure, it didn’t pay well, but that was fine for starting out.

I also had a husband I loved and wanted to start a family. When we sat down and actually looked at the financial reality of having a baby we realized my job wouldn’t cover quality daycare, not to mention all the additional costs that came with a baby. And deep down I knew it would take a lot more than a financial wash for me to go back to work immediately. I have to say in her infinite wisdom, when I told my boss I wasn’t coming back, she already knew what choice I would make, but thought I would have to see the baby’s face before making it. At least I didn’t have to feel guilty leaving.

I know it sounds terribly trite to say being a mother made me a better sort of person, but I can actually agree with the list of ways everyone says being a parent changes them for the better. I’m more patient with everyone. I’m more empathetic, although I think that’s mostly the hormones talking. I’ve learned to embrace unpredictability and imperfection because you can never be sure your kid won’t melt down in the grocery store or that you’ll handle it well when it happens. I’m great at managing time and often wonder what I did with myself before having a baby. I appreciate community more and want to be a part of it for my daughter’s sake. Considering librarians are essentially customer service professionals, all those characteristics are positive, but not all the ways I became a better librarian were so obvious (or cliched).

One of my first worries when I was home was that I would show up to an interview and sound hopelessly out of touch and outdated. I wasn’t especially connected with the library world and needed a way to stay involved without having a job. So, I started up a Twitter account (@AtomicBeeRanch) and began following other librarians, professional associations, and book sources. I set up a Google Reader account and got my mom to babysit one day a week so I could spend some quality time reading the various library blogs and the professional publications I began subscribing to. I also set up this blog (with a lot of help from my husband, thanks Tom!) to have a place I could leave a record of what I was doing. I joined a couple professional organizations and began attending their conferences (when our budget allows). I take professional development classes through ALA and catch as many free webinars as I can. Now I have a collaborative network I can rely on even once I’m back in the workforce.

Part and parcel with engaging in the library community, I’ve also become a lot more aware of the wider world of librarianship and the many ideas and opinions that are out there. I worked full time through library school and jumped into a library job where there was only one other person working with me. I was too inexperienced and there wasn’t time to worry about the big picture or much pressure to once I was working in a library. Which isn’t to say the future of libraries or the next big technological advance is something all librarians need an opinion on, but I think it’s important to have a philosophical foundation to work from, to guide you and I didn’t really have that before.

I worried, at one point, that being home might make it more difficult for me to find my way in my career, but instead it crystallized it. A few months into motherhood I was surprised to find I was missing the students. I also really missed the energy and excitement they brought to school. I had never felt tied to one particular type of library before, but leaving the kids behind made me realize I want to work with them again. And after all that fretting over staying home, I also decided that I don’t want to work for a company or library that would look at my gap years as a black spot. I know that my family will always come first and an institution that can’t respect that is one I can’t see fitting into. If at all possible, I also want a flexible, part-time schedule so I can still be home, even if it’s just a few hours after school.

I think most importantly though, I know now I made the right decision. I know how lucky I am to have had the ability to make a choice between work and staying home and I am grateful every single day that I don’t have to miss a minute of my daughter growing up; even the not so great minutes. I can see her flourishing right before my eyes and I will never have to ask myself if I shouldn’t have put my career first or if the financial sacrifice would have been worth it. I’ll never feel guilty that I didn’t give my daughter enough time and equally importantly I’ll never have to worry that I didn’t give my library enough time. Which means I’ll never have to resent the profession I love for taking that from me.

In the end, realizing all this doesn’t necessarily make me worry less about rejoining the workforce, but it does make me feel confident in my decision to leave it for a time. Sure it’s a cliche to say that being a mother has made me a better librarian, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

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In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Review: Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

On 06, May 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Raven BoysFrom GoodReads:

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Okay, despite reading the blurb about this book, I thought this was going to be a fantasy novel set in another world. Maybe I was mixing it up with blurbs about The Scorpio Races (which I don’t actually think is set in another world, either), but I was very wrong. And also very confused for the first few pages. Every time something modern and familiar popped up, like a car, I would think, oh I guess they have that in this world.

I was also prepared to dislike this book mostly based on the fact that the main character’s name is Blue. I hate it when authors come up with names that are different. I know they usually do it for a reason, but it just always makes me think some overwrought teenager named them. Thankfully The Raven Boys won me over after the first ten pages, which, incidentally was the point at which I thought, hey wait a minute, this is set in our world. Palm to forehead.

The characters in this were all really unexpectedly complex, even if they felt a bit young to me (which I think is more a function of my getting older than anything). Blue especially had a few really naive moments that I probably had as a teen. Besides being a group of misfits, they’ve got a lot of baggage that makes them a bit mysterious and interesting. Plus they’re on a quest to find the corpse road to raise a legendary king and I am all for dark, atmospheric quests.

I loved that Gansey was so manic about this quest, even to the point that he built a model of the city in his living room and keeps a journal of ephemera. If I ever go looking for something, I want to do those things. Adam was a bit infuriating for being so principled about leaving his family. I’m not really sure how true to life his refusal to seek help was just so he could do it for himself, but it also made him rather admirable. Blue seemed a little flat to me at first, but I think she has a lot going on under the surface and some of her plot points (her mother and Neeve, her father) will surface later in the series. I would guess she’ll be the one to change the most by the end of the journey.

Ultimately, though, it was Ronan I really loved. He’s got tons of baggage, but his f#%&-you attitude was refreshing. Punch first, ask questions later. He is clearly intelligent and even though it was a bit ambiguous at the beginning, he is clearly a good person. And he has a pet raven. Anyone with a pet raven is awesome in my book. Read this article about it, you will agree. Judging by the cover of the next book and it’s title, he’ll play a much bigger role.

I think another reason I connected with this book was because I went to a private school that was predominantly wealthy. I was not, so the way Blue and Adam feel awkward about money and infuriated by some of the feelings of entitlement rang pretty true for me. On the other hand, I was really irritated by Gansey beating himself up over comments he would make about money. I always felt that the reactions of Blue and Adam (and others) were not so much about Gansey being insensitive (self-confident doesn’t necessarily equal entitled) as it was about how they were misinterpreting his naivete about money as entitlement.

One of my favorite YA blogs, Forever Young Adult, read this book for their book club and has an awesome post about predictions for the next book in the series, The Dream Thieves. You can read that post here and be sure to scroll through the comments.

It could have been the creepy scene in the graveyard or the entanglement of love and death for Blue that sucked me in. Maybe it was the mystery surrounding it all. Or maybe it was the Tarot card readings and fortune telling. Or maybe it was Gansey’s neurotic obssession with the spirit road and his journal stuffed with ephemera. Or all those things. Whatever it was I am hooked.

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In Reading Round Up

By Elizabeth Wroten

Reading Round Up: MLIS Debate Updated: 5/8/2013

On 03, May 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten

I guess I’m hopelessly out of the debate loop in Libraryland, because I had no idea until this week that people were debating the need for librarians to have an MLS/MLIS. I don’t want to turn this into a lengthy opinion piece, but I wanted to add a couple thoughts and share three links to some good posts about the debate that I read this week. First the links:

As I said, I was totally clueless that this was even something up for debate. I always thought it made perfect sense to require an advanced degree to be a librarian if for no other reason that it shows some level of dedication. Plus I think it lends professional librarians an air of credibility and legitimacy outside the library community. Whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is another conversation.

I agree with the Effing Librarian, because library school does give you a good philosophical foundation, just like getting a teaching credential would give you a good pedagogical foundation. Sure it’s expensive, but education is. Maybe we should discuss reducing the cost instead of no longer requiring the degree all together. Although I think Andy’s idea about a certification isn’t bad either, especially for people who already have professional degrees.

Update: While I really agree with most of the sentiments in the guest post on Agnostic, Maybe my own experience with the degree was different. I worked full time in a really poorly paid position. The economy had just tanked and jobs were disappearing. I didn’t have the option to quit my job and find a library job. San Jose State, where I was enrolled, had many internship opportunities but they were all unpaid and in the Bay Area, a good two hour drive from where I was living. Taking one of those just wasn’t an option. I also noticed that many of the other students enrolled were older than I was and married. They either already had a library job or had a second income that gave them the flexibility to take unpaid internships or low paid internships. I wish I had been that lucky. I tried to get library jobs while I was in school, but no one was hiring in my city. I used library school, even if it wasn’t perfect, to get a theoretical background, to get a sense of the directions I could go, and earn the necessary degree.

That isn’t to say only librarians with an MLS/MLIS are good librarians. There are bad librarians with the degree and there are good ones without it. But I ultimately agree with the Effing Librarian that without some sort of educational requirement/certification it potentially opens the field up to a lot of unqualified individuals and when the administration that does the hiring already thinks you just run a book museum, that’s a problem.


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In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Review: Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

On 01, May 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Running DreamFrom GoodReads:

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She’s not comforted by the news that she’ll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don’t know what to say, act like she’s not there. Which she could handle better if she weren’t now keenly aware that she’d done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she’s missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.

With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that’s not enough for her now. She doesn’t just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.

This one was a light read despite the technically depressing subject. It was enjoyable, but it was a bit too upbeat for my tastes. Maybe it was realistic, but I felt like there would have been a bit more of a struggle on Jessica’s part coming to terms with the loss of her leg. Of course, that could just be the cynic in me. That being said, I think it did an admirable job dealing with a difficult subject. I also think it could be really heartening for the right reader while also having a broader appeal. As far as the writing, it took me a little while to get into it. But the short chapters and terse sentences really won me over.

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