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In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

On 06, Dec 2012 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Update 11/14/2016: This book is a whole lot of no. I did enjoy it, but now I see it’s problems. If you want to know more, and you should, please read Debbie Reese’s comments on it here. It is problematic for the way it portrays natives. I’m embarrassed that I liked this so much and now looking back on it it isn’t at all enjoyable. Please don’t recommend this one.

From GoodReads:

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

Normally I read quite a bit of fiction to keep up on current publications and I enjoy the large majority of what I read. It isn’t what I would choose to curl up with on vacation, but I still find things to like in most of the books. I can also see how they would appeal to certain kids. However, every once in awhile I come across a book that really resonates with me. Sometimes I can just feel my high school (or middle school) self connecting with the book. Those books are like a little shot of sweet nostalgia. Sarah Dessen does that for me, as do the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan. Sometimes I just really enjoy the story. Ship Breaker was that way. And then, occasionally, there is a book I just fall in love with. It’s frequently for a reason I can’t predict and they tend to be a disparate set of books. I always feel a little funny saying that about a novel intended for someone a good 10-15 years younger than I am, but it’s the truth.

Tiger Lily was one of these books. I am already predisposed to like new takes on familiar stories, although Tiger Lily was really more the story behind and before the tale we know of Peter Pan. But it took a story that I have always found a little ridiculous and made it so real, so realistic, and so relatable.

I think at heart Tiger Lily is someone every girl imagines herself as at some point. Awkward, not beautiful, different, independent and unhappy about that. I think every girl finds herself falling in love with someone they know they shouldn’t and yet decides to take the risk.

There are a few aspects that make it more of a fantasy or magical realism, but don’t dismiss it out of hand for that. If you suspend a tiny bit of belief, it has the very real fear of being different; the intense flush of love; the terror and exhilaration of losing oneself in a relationship; the fear of growing up and the knowledge that comes with that; the pain of loss; the shame and anger of betrayal; the hopelessness of feeling trapped by a destiny. Even all the fantastic characters- fairies, mermaids, even the pirates and lost boys to some extent- are vehicles for these emotions and feelings. The adults as well as the younger characters show a range of age-appropriate emotions and I think this is why it was appealing even to me on a personal level.

Tiger Lily was one of  those books that I emerged from and wondered how life continued on so calmly and methodically around me.

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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Redux: Personal Branding

On 30, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

The topic of branding has been something I’ve heard a lot about over the last couple years as my husband is very interested in marketing. He’s a huge proponent of branding a business, a lengthy and involved process. I’ve caught some of his enthusiasm and certainly see the benefits of developing a personal brand. Needless to say when an article from American Libraries on personal branding for librarians showed up on Twitter, I clicked over and read it.

Unfortunately, I felt the article was too harsh on branding and how it can best be employed by librarians. I don’t want to convince anyone that branding is something they must do, but I like branding and I see its applicability in looking for a new job and in demonstrating your value as a professional. I even believe that most people engage in some branding on a regular basis without even knowing it.

Part of branding is definitely maintaining an image. It’s foolish to think you have control over everything out there about you, online and off, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on ensuring that the majority of available information about you is accurate and positive. By keeping track of what is out there, you’ll have some idea what a potential employer (or your current one) is seeing and we all know they will Google you. I think a lot of people already think twice about what they put online and there are options for essentially search engine optimizing yourself. But I would imagine that most people don’t need to do this. People are beginning to self reflect before they self reveal and that, right there, is part of branding.

I have yet to meet someone who isn’t completely self absorbed that likes to talk about how wonderful they are. But when you go out for a interview or even ask for more funding or support from your administration, you have to talk about how wonderful you are. Usually you can couch it in terms of how wonderful the programs or ideas you’ve had are, but even then most people I know (myself included) feel like a total narcissist afterward. And yet, your ideas and and your accomplishments are one of the best parts of your personal brand. Not only do they show off your abilities and talents they also herald what you are capable of in the future. It’s okay to be humble, but librarians do a lot of great things for their institutions, for their students, for their patrons, for their fellow librarians, and for themselves. Why not spend some time thinking about how great you are and find creative and positive ways to share that with people? The better we are at this as professionals, the easier it will be for us to demonstrate our relevancy and value to administrators and to the community.

I think the ultimate goal of personal branding is to make some one come across as polished, poised, focused, and thoughtful and also to encourage reflection on what you are looking for professionally. I did agree with the American Libraries article that personal branding needs to be authentic. Call a spade a spade. Being inauthentic is lying. Misrepresenting yourself is terrible for a brand, personal or otherwise. Your personal brand must be you and spending time developing it is only going to help you understand what you are looking for either in a job or from your job. It might even help you land a job. That would certainly be a perk.

Personal branding is difficult and must be done right to be effective. It’s also not for everyone. I was glad to hear that librarians are starting to pay attention to this trend, but I disagree with the conclusion that personal branding is half hucksterism. If done correctly and for the right reasons, it isn’t. It’s half crucial life skills and half self understanding.

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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Redux: Teens, Research, Embedded Librarians

On 29, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

Just about a month ago Pew Research came out with a report on teens and research. The long and the short of it, in their words, is that:

“…the internet has opened up a vast world of information for today’s students, yet students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up…”

Obviously this has a lot of implications for libraries, but it got me thinking about embedded librarianship again. This may be an old term for integrating library skills, time, instruction, and assistance into an existing department or program, but I think it still is an important idea. An idea that needs to be embraced by more libraries and schools.

The Pew Research study revealed that teachers believe students have better and more access to information, but are not necessarily better at navigating the information or finding credible information. The study then found that,

“47% of these teachers strongly agree and another 44% somewhat believe that courses and content focusing on digital literacy should be incorporated into every school’s curriculum.”

I found this to be a little worrisome. Maybe it’s just me, but less than half of those teachers really want to see these skills taught to their students? Yes, if you add in the other 44% the vast majority kind of want them taught. But, really? Only “somewhat”? I think the desire should be a lot stronger. And if it was, I think libraries and librarians would have a powerful ally in convincing the administration that its necessary to offer these skills.

And that’s where embedded librarianship comes into play. Teachers, at least the ones I have worked with, are loathe to give up their precious classroom time. And for good reason: time is finite and the amount of material they need to get through is vast. Students, at least the ones I have worked with, hate lessons that don’t feel relevant to what they are learning. And for good reason: they want to get away with doing as little work as possible and they don’t want to waste precious time on stuff they don’t think they need to know. If you embed these library skills lessons into the classroom and into what the teachers are already teaching, though, its a win-win-win. Teachers don’t lose any of their classroom time and still get through the material they need to. Students don’t end up with extra work and can immediately see the applicability of the skills they are learning (at least you hope they do!). Librarians get to teach the digital literacy they are so passionate about and they demonstrate their relevancy to students and teachers alike.

I don’t really think that any of what the Pew study said was news to librarians, but I think the more the message is spread the easier it will be for librarians to demonstrate a need for our profession.

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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Redux: Letting Go

On 21, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

It always irks me when someone in customer service cops the it’s-not-my-job attitude. I am a big believer in doing what is necessary to get things done or go the extra mile, even if it means taking on a task that isn’t technically my job. Rewriting the MLA citation handouts as an interactive pdf when all they really needed were a couple typos fixed? Sure! After all, it made the information much easier for the kids to understand and access and that’s what a library is all about.

I am also a big believer in great customer service in libraries. I know many people in Library Land don’t like to call it that, but  librarianship is, in a lot of ways, a customer service profession. No I don’t help people find a dressing room, but I do help them find a book on the shelf or information online.

That being said, is there a time when it’s okay for us to let loose a little and actually take the it’s-not-my-job stance? Obviously, yes. We can’t do everything. But I think the answer is more subtle than that and it came to my attention the other day while watching the first AL Live video (which was very interesting, by the way).

Maybe it’s just me and the blogs and tweets I read, but I feel like librarians have become hyper focused on technology in an attempt to distance themselves a bit from the books-only image many people have. More specifically, I see a lot of predicting of technology trends. I understand and agree that libraries are becoming more tech oriented and I love technology. I’m even married to the technology director from the school I worked for. Sometimes it feels like I live and breath technology.

My aha! moment during AL Live was that I can say, “It’s not my job” to predicting where technology is going. It is my job to follow and use technology and decide what will work for my library and my program. I suppose that’s what most librarians do, but I still feel like there is a pressure to find new apps, find new gadgets, find new social media and it makes me feel very focused in one area. Libraries are not all about new technology just like they are not all about books. In my limited library experience I’ve seen this pressure backfire with the use of a bunch of web apps that petered out or that didn’t actually appeal to the patrons. The new major technologies adopted were found by some one whose job it truly was to follow the technology industry.

The ideal place for libraries to be is not as early adopters. If the popularity of a technology follows a bell curve we need to be on the leading edge just as it’s really beginning to gain momentum. By that point it should be becoming ubiquitous and it’s usefulness to the library should be obvious as well. We won’t look like we’re behind the times. We can help introduce people to it and help them see it’s value. In letting go of predicting The Next Big Thing we can redistribute our attention into all our ventures and areas of expertise.

I’m not suggesting libraries should hop on every band wagon and try every new technology fad. I’m not suggesting we need to ignore technology. I’m not even suggesting this is how every library and librarian is feeling and operating. I’m just suggesting we (I) can let go a little and occasionally let it be some one else’s job to find The Next Big Thing.


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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Redux: eBook

On 20, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

I just want to say that I am fed up with eBooks. I am sick of people asking me if I think they mean the death of libraries. I am sick of people asking I if think they mean the death of print books. I am sick of hearing about the publishers of eBooks and the fights libraries are having with them. I am sick of reading about the future of eBooks. I am sick of reading about DRM on eBooks. I am sick of eBooks.

I just want, for a little while, to curl up with one of those eBooks and read one. No strings attached. No cacophony of negativity. No guilty thoughts about the soullessness of them. No possibility of switching over to play angry birds for “just a minute”.

Okay, I like eBooks. There is a lot of stuff that I prefer not to have taking up precious real estate on my bookshelves. They can be a bit cheaper for the consumer (library purchasing issues aside for the moment, please!). I can skip packing a suitcase full of books to take on vacation. I can easily read in bed or while nursing my daughter, or while out and about (my Nook books are on my iPhone too!). They aren’t perfect and I still like my physical non fiction and children’s books, but I like eBooks.

I guess my angst over eBooks comes from the overload on discussion of them. I have this haunting feeling that we’re about to become hyper focused on eBooks (see my post of hyper focus on technology in general here). I think we need to give them a bit more time. Yes, we need to take action. Yes, book publishers are being jerks. Yes, libraries are about books. But they are not all about books.

So for an hour I want to let everything about eBooks drop away while I sit and enjoy one.

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