By Elizabeth Wroten
On 18, Feb 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.
Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.
In a recent interview I read on NPR with John Irving he made a comment that kept coming back to me as I read The Miseducation of Cameron Post. He noted, “…how thoroughly intimidating and confusing and conflicted the world of adult sexuality seemed when you were on the doorstep of it but still standing outside.” I suppose this is a place we’ve all found ourselves, but it was especially true of Cameron who finds herself there on the eve of her parents death. Add to that the confusion of the realization that she prefers girls, something that has never been explicitly condemned in her world, but she is sure would be.
While I wasn’t sure I loved the book, despite it’s buzz, I did find it incredibly compelling and relatable. The story is all about figuring out sexuality, love and relationships and the confusion that comes with the inexperience of the teenage years. Cameron may have the added confusion of being a lesbian in a place where homosexuality is discouraged, but I think ultimately her struggles aren’t really unique to lesbians. Like any teenager she’s trying to figure out that “world of adult sexuality”.
Despite Cam’s relative inexperience, this book isn’t for the prudish. Kissing and sex abound, as does pot smoking and language. But the struggles are so relatable and so universal that none of it seems to be gratuitous or there just for the sake of scandal. The book also seemed to move lazily through the years considering how predictably the plot unfolded. But I think that was kind of the point, or at least the explanation I was going with, because it certainly reinforced Cam’s naiveté. The rest of the characters in the book always felt authentic and never came across as two dimensional. Even though this really isn’t a book for the religious set, I thought it was very fair-handed in how it dealt with evangelicals and their teachings. I also think the well-rounded characters helped keep the plot feeling less like a vehicle for a Message than a real story.
While Cam’s situation, as an orphan and lesbian in a small conservative town, may be familiar to some, it isn’t these particulars that give the story its power. Nor was it the sex scenes that will titillate some. Had I read this book as a teenager I know I would have found it incredibly provocative. Not because I was struggling with my sexuality, but becuase, like most teens, I found sexualtiy and relationships, as John Irving said, incredibly confusing and even a bit frightening. And at heart, Miseducation is all about figuring those things out for yourself and overcoming the fear.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 15, Feb 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
Just making a point of telling everyone that I am going to try and complete the YALSA Hub reading challenge. You can read more about it here, but what it boils down to is I have to read 25 books by June 22nd. That’s totally do-able, so long as I don’t get too distracted. Like all librarians, there are so many books I want to read, but I have a house to keep in order and baby to look after (although she frequently gets read aloud to from my books while she plays) and myriad other obligations and hobbies (we should have new bees in a month or so!!). Since I haven’t done much reviewing on this blog (mostly because the books I have been reading so far don’t relate so much to my library career as they do to my child-rearing career) I thought I would review the books that I read for the challenge here. Hopefully I’ll keep up a good, steady stream.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 08, Feb 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
Just a few links this week to share.
This one from Stephen’s Lighthouse is a pyramid of learning showing how much students retain of a lesson depending on how you present it. I think this is informative and bears remembering when you are doing lesson planning. I think the point is not to discourage you from ever lecturing or stopping required reading so much as encouragement to be sure you are using a broad range of teaching methods.
While I am not a writer and never will be, I found this response to Philip Roth telling an aspiring writer not to bother very inspiring and humorous. I think the underlying message is good no matter what you do: you have to try and if it’s between giving up and doing something you are passionate about then go for the passion.
I came across this article in the class I’m taking through ALSC on information literacy. I thought it was very interesting that they used anthropologists to help create and execute the study. Their findings that students aren’t nearly as research savvy as we like to think is also very interesting. I can’t say I’m surprised having seen what skills high schools students in an elite prep school come away with (or don’t). The findings also remind me that kids always seem to be a lot more tech savvy than they really are.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 04, Feb 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
So I guess that new bookless library that is going to open soon in San Antonio is causing a bit of a titter in the media – in and out of Libraryland. If you haven’t heard about it you can read a bit about it here on NPR’s website. The story has now run on NPR’s All Things Considered and also on APM’s Marketplace. I think my husband even told me he saw something about it on Gizmodo.
I thought, however, that the idea was interesting in light of two other blog posts I read on The Ubiquitous Librarian and on Censored Genius. Admittedly they aren’t exactly about the topic of ditching books, but they have ties to it. And they got me thinking about adding my two cents to the whole maelstrom.
I guess what irritates me about this whole debate is that it should be a non-argument because places like this new bookless library are really outliers on one end of a spectrum where most libraries fall somewhere in the middle. We should remember that library services are varied. We offer readers’ advisory and we offer computer classes. We offer study space and collaboration space. In the end I don’t think anyone, except for a very few outliers, are advocating that we drop everything in favor of buying the latest and greatest technology or that we abandon books altogether.
In some ways my irritation hearkens back to my thoughts on how librarians (or at least the slice of Libraryland I happen to follow) like to predict the next big thing in technology. That isn’t our job, though. And neither is going bookless when that isn’t a fit with your institution’s mission. I’m 100% for being innovative and looking ahead to provide services your patrons couldn’t even articulate a need for. But at the end of the day you need to take into account your community’s or institution’s culture. Know thyself.
In fact maybe this ties in with the blog post I read about on Hi Miss Julie about recognition and outrage at people getting lots of it for shiny new ideas that don’t really relate to the day to day literacy that goes on in libraries. I get irritated when people try to argue against the (imagined?) bookless revolution, too, by essentially saying that libraries are all about books and how can we even think about implementing technology? I understand that Miss Julie wasn’t really making that argument (in fact her point had nothing to do with the future of libraries debate at all) and that she is in a unique position as a children’s librarian. But we also need to recognize that we are living in a digital age. Even children will have some exposure to technology and need the skills to cope with a digital world. It doesn’t really matter if we personally like the idea of using screens and gadgets. They’re going to, and if that is what we need to encourage their literacy and build their information literacy skills, then that’s what we need to use. Especially if that’s what our institution’s or community’s culture demands.
I touched on this a bit in my piece about crossover from my parenting research. The thing about our patrons these days it that they are becoming as much creators of information and content as they are consumers of it. In Brian Mathews’ piece on The Ubiquitous Librarian he says:
At Virginia Tech we’re positioning ourselves to not only provide content, but to support content production. We think of this as not only about access to information, but also about enabling the creation of new knowledge. We’re evolving from a warehouse model toward a studio model.
And this is what we need to take into consideration when we add gadgets, books, and anything else to our library space and collections. This is how people interact with the world these days- through books, through the Internet, through Facebook, through crafting, through Tumblr, and through a million other content creators and aggregators.
I guess the crux of all this is that I believe libraries are more community hubs of learning, and always have been, than they are bastions of literature. Sure we offer books. But that isn’t the only way people learn and connect, now or in the past. Despite all the heated arguments for libraries being 100% books or 100% technology, no library really is. We all fall in the middle. With the exception of that one in San Antonio, of course.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 01, Feb 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
I guess this week I was really drawn to some blog posts I read. Here’s a list of a few that I found particularly relevant and interesting:
From the Censored Genius on what Apple can teach libraries. Think customer service. It’s very tongue in cheek, but under it all there’s a good point that libraries are ultimately in customer service and should act like it.
Funny video about QR Codes. Because they suck and need to go away.
Excellent advice about creating good displays. Enough with the tschotskes. Found this one through Twitter.
I agree with Andy Woodworth about why blog. I also think that one of things he says, about wanting to say bold things even if others don’t agree, fits in with my desire to call people out on their shenanigans this year. I’m tired of putting up with not calling spades spades and I appreciate that Andy does that on his blog.
Just as a little added piece here at the end I found this through Sue Polanka (I think) about EasyBib adding a new learning module of sorts. It could be interesting/useful. I would like to come back to it and look at it more in depth, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Research Ready.
I recently came across a post on The Digital Shift about the book sharing website GoodReads. I was very surprised by this quote:
“You may not have heard much about Goodreads, and the public at large hardly knows it exists, but this site has a devoted following among book lovers.”
Really? I guess I know what they say about assuming. I just really thought librarians at least were aware of the site. I highly suggest reading the post, it does a great job of making the case for signing up for the service.
Personally I’ve been on it for just shy of two years and find it invaluable. Originally I began by using for readers advisory; as a way to catalog all the books I had read. I am able to give my review or thoughts on the book and place it in any number of “shelves”. I tend to group my books by genre, but because the “shelves” are flexible I can place one book on several.
I quickly discovered that it was also a great way to do some digging about whether it was worth reading a book or not. As much as I want to read every book I read a review for, it’s not possible. By reading through a mix of reviews (e.g. good, bad, and middle of the road), I find it much easier to make the call on whether or not to add it to my to-read list.
I also recently transfered over my Amazon wishlist (which was really just a bunch of titles I wanted to read) and revamped my lists of books to read. Again the flexible “shelves” were very helpful in creating these lists. I had kind of started out only tracking my YA read and to-read lists, but now I have everything from parenting titles, to personal non fiction selections, to YA on there.
If you haven’t already checked it out I suggest hopping over there and signing up. You may find it to be really helpful. You can also check out my profile and lists if you want to see how I’ve been using it.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 25, Jan 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
I’ve been collecting up links over the last two weeks, since last week I decided to go with a job hunting theme. Hope there’s something here for everyone.
Here’s a neat tool for augmenting videos. Popcorn from Mozilla allows you to add links, pop-up comments, Twitter feeds, definitions, etc. I could definitely see applicability with the flipped classroom and with library instruction that isn’t boring. On the other hand, if you have too much going on it gets to be distracting and detracts from actually watching the video. Less is more. Less is more.
From Walking Paper, a piece about getting out of the library to evaluate user experience. I think this is a great idea, not only because we can end up so engrossed in our own libraries and library land, but also because it makes us look at good experiences and see how they can apply to our situations. I should add that I love this blog. He always has great ideas about user experience, something I am particularly interested in and find important.
Corin the Librarian has a podcast called Library Chat. It is available through iTunes. It sounds very interesting and he kicks it off with Jenica Rogers. He is also going to interview Rivkah Sass of my hometown library, Sacramento Public Library.
I recently joined CUE (Computer Using Educators). They’re a great source for professional development including online webinars. The nice thing for me is that they hold a conference just over in American Canyon (near Napa). I like it when there is professional development that doesn’t involve major travel.
Here is a very interesting response to the second portion of Forbes’s articles on libraries and ebooks. This has less to do with ebooks and more to do with taking issue with what the author, David Vinjamuri, told librarians they should be doing. The really interesting thing here is that Vinjamuir actually commented and Kristi Chadwik then responded.
I really enjoyed this piece about school libraries becoming learning commons. I do think libraries need to think about making collaborative spaces more prominent. I also think it’s important to know your community’s culture before making a leap like this. I also don’t think books need to go, but we offer a lot of other services besides books. And when it comes to book I prefer the “just in time” model to the “just in case” one. I may use this as a jumping off point for another post.
Here is a really interesting piece from the New York Times about “conditional stupidity”, or feeling smarter or dumber based on social situations and factors. I got the link from a tweet by The Unquiet Librarian (Buffy Hamilton) who made a good point asking if there are implications of this in education. I certainly think there are.
I wish I read faster. I think a lot of librarians wish they do. Here is a technique from Bill Cosby of all people to help with that. From Brain Pickings this week.
From The New York Review of Books, what will the Library of Congress do with all those tweets they are archiving? A good question.
And finally, for anyone who was a fan of Arrested Development (if you aren’t you need to be). It’s apparently The Brothers Karamazov updated and set in LA. I always knew there was something to that show.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 21, Jan 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
So I know there is a lot of talk about the shift in how librarians connect their patrons with information. The cliche is that we used to be gatekeepers, but are now more like tour guides.
I also know that the flipped classroom (yes, this takes you to a Wikipedia article) model is gaining momentum in schools. In this shift the teacher moves from sage on the stage to guide on the side.
If you read my post last week about how my personal parental research has lead me to some changes in my professional approach to teaching, you may not be surprised to hear that I think these two movements are two sides of the same coin. Both teachers and librarians are moving toward working along side their students, interacting with them more instead of handing information and knowledge down from on high.
I for one am excited by this possibility. I think students are very capable of directing and being involved with their own learning and that interacting with their teachers in a more productive environment will only improve their learning and motivation. I also think these models work well for teaching adults since adult learning tends to be much more self-motivated and paced. I will be looking for ways to incorporate this model into my own teaching philosophy and practice.
For a good infographic and break down of arguments for and against the flipped classroom see this Forbes article.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 18, Jan 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
It is no secret that I am currently home with my daughter because it was cheaper for me to quit my job than pay for good child care. That being said, though, I don’t think I’ll be home forever. There are days I am very glad to be home and then there are times I miss being in the library and miss teaching.
In the meantime I am blogging, updating my resume, doing some personal branding, attending conferences and professional development courses, and trying to find the time to become more involved in professional associations. All this in an attempt to keep in touch with Libraryland (for my own personal gratification as well as for professional reasons).
It was nice this week to watch the lastes installment of AL Live which was all about landing your ideal library job. Ultimately it was a lot of practical advice for landing any job (ideal or otherwise). I highly recommend watching it if you missed it. I’ll post a link below. I also have come across two articles about interview questions, both of which are helpful. And an article about cover letters.
I have to thank one of my LIS professors (although I am sorry I don’t remember which one!) here. She had us write practice cover letters and resumes in our final semester of library school and then everyone in class critiqued everyone else’s. It was imensly helpful even if my letters and resumes have improved, the exercise got me thinking about it.
And finally, a piece from Bohyun Kim, one of the AL Live presenters. It’s just a bit of optimism about misconceptions of the library job hunt.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 14, Jan 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I wouldn’t normally discuss parenting on this blog, but bear with me for a minute. With preschool programs for my daughter on my mind, I’ve been researching various educational and developmental philosophies, theories, approaches, ideas, etc. I’ve been really drawn to the Reggio-Emilia approach and the Montessori method. I like how autonomous the classrooms and teacher-student relationships are and how the students dictate what they want and are ready to learn. The Reggio-Emilia approach even goes so far as to not have a set curriculum, but instead allows the students to determine the topics of study and how they will be studied and experienced. I can even see shades of the unschooling method I’ve read about. The thing is, I always thought of this research and information as something seperate from my professional life. But I had a sudden insight the other day while reading an article in YALSA’s fall publication of Young Adult Library Services about teen spaces.
I suddenly saw a connection between these educational opportunities that I want so much for my daughter and the educational practices I should be relying on in the library. The Reggio Emilia approach accepts students as competent individuals who work with teachers to co-construct knowledge.
Teens, children, and adults these days are as much creators of information as they are consumers of it. True, not everything produced is great; we all have our moments. But, I think this idea is more of a mindset, especially for teens. They really see themselves as capable creators and we should too.
If librarians want to discuss how we are no longer the gate keepers to stores of information, we need to accept our role as tour guides. If we want to be the guide on the side, we can no longer be the sage on the stage. (Just to throw those familiar cliches out there.) We should be co-constructing knowledge and information with our students, not giving it to them as if we know and they don’t and as if there is some specific set of skills they need and we have. This is social media and the Internet. Things are changing all the time and a more flexible attitude and generalized skill set will serve our youth better than a checklist of skills and pieces of information they must have. That isn’t to say we aren’t experts and they are or that they need to learn nothing and everything. It just means we need to collaborate with them and see them as much more savvy and capable than we do and allow them to help us help them learn.
This may not be such a profound leap for everyone and I suppose in a lot of ways I was coming to these conclusions regardless of my reading, but the crossover from my research as a parent caught me off guard and inspired me. I would encourage anyone interested in that style of teaching to look into the Reggio Emilia approach. It isn’t meant for libraries and is usually used with early childhood education, but I still think many of the guiding principles are very applicable to the world today and to how libraries can teach.