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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Conference Reflections: ACL Institute, Race Matters

On 09, Jun 2016 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

Last Friday I went to one of the best conferences I’ve been to. It wasn’t fancy and it wasn’t expensive. It was only a day long. I signed up because two people I have been following were going to be presenting and I REALLY wanted to see them. They were Zetta Elliot and Debbie Reese. While I already greatly admired them I came away from the conference with a newfound respect for them. Everything they said just clicked for me. They often make me feel uncomfortable, but I should, if for no other reason than my discomfort really makes me examine myself and the world around me and pushes me to learn and open up.

My biggest takeaway from the conference was twofold. Usually I like conferences where I can take something concrete back to the library or classroom at the end, but this one was different. My takeaway was really codifying my thinking about our collection and making a decision about how I would approach both weeding and purchasing. I have decided anything that has racist content in it goes off our shelf.  This seems really obvious, but while trying to pull things off the shelf I have asked if we can leave things so they spark discussion and had my other librarian make the same suggestion. I’ve also gone back and forth on the idea that pulling a lot of these materials constitutes censorship.

But from here on out, I don’t care if people want to label it censorship or think the materials should stay for historical/conversational purposes. Because unless we are having explicit conversations about these questionable depictions in materials, the kids are internalizing it and that perpetuates all our problems with race and with privilege. And let’s face it, the majority of materials are going home and are not being discussed, examined, or broken down. They just aren’t, plain and simple. I’m sorry (not sorry) if people think that I’m pushing an agenda, but I can’t stand by and let our children internalize racism. No one is okay with that when you call it out, but because it’s so often “under the waterline” as Mitali Perkins called it, we are letting this stuff slip by and it’s not okay.

The second part of my takeaway is that I need to be very, very careful and thoughtful in examining the narratives that our collection creates (i.e. do all our books with African Americans show them as either poor or in historical contexts as slaves). I was already very aware that I needed to focus on this, but I feel a much greater drive to really examine it now. Collection development is not just about getting overt (or even subtly) racist content off the shelves.

I was glad because some of the steps the speakers talked about for incorporating diversity I’m already doing. I know I have a lot more work both personally and in the library to deconstruct the racism that is so prevalent, but it’s nice to know I have taken some steps in the right direction and have started the journey.

Thank you to Debbie for helping me really accept my new weeding policy. Thank you to Zetta Elliot for making me think (and for being gracious as I very nervously introduced myself and tripped over my own tongue while gushing about how much I love your work) and for making me see that I fall into some of the same traps I keep trying to stay out of. Thank you to ACL for such a great conference.

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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Quick Thoughts on ALA Annual, Diversity, and Collection Development

On 01, Jul 2015 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

So I just got back from ALA Annual in San Francisco. I’ve been two other times, but this is the first time I’ve been and had a real purpose. I wanted to visit sessions that might be pertinent to my library and I wanted to get posters and bookmarks and things to give away to the kids this year as little prizes. I also ended up picking up a bunch of ARCs to read and give to the kids.

This being the first time I’ve really gone around looking for ARCs and books to buy I wasn’t clear on how exactly the exhibits worked, but now I feel like a I have a handle on it. And now I see what people mean by how white all the books are and what they mean when they say to ask publishers for their diverse books. I get it now.

I wish I had done that this year. I wish I had been quicker on the uptake when it came to figuring out how the publishers give out ARCs. But we plan on going to Orlando next year and I will be way more selective about picking up diverse books then. I am glad though, because the books I bought and had signed (for our home collection and for our library collection) were almost all diverse (the exceptions being a hamster, a Scottish folktale because we are Scottish, and a writing prompt picture book).

My plan this year is to be buying primarily diverse books for the library. There are a few series and a few titles we need to replace that aren’t, but by and large my collection development selections will feature diversity. We have a very strong core collection and don’t need the latest and greatest shiny new books. Sure, we need a few (when the kids ask for them or if they are actually worthwhile), but I want the latest and greatest shiny diverse books to make our collection great.

As a side note, I am teaching two summer school classes over the next two weeks (Makerspace and sewing) so I won’t be posting, but I will post one or two things in the last weeks of July.

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In Remix

By Elizabeth Wroten

Notes From the Makerspace: CUE recap

On 13, Nov 2014 | In Remix | By Elizabeth Wroten

Two weekends ago I attended the CUE (Computer Using Educators) fall conference. I really like this conference because it is for education (a lot of the professional development I do is really just for librarians) and it has tons, and I mean tons, of session options. It runs over two day, a Friday and a Saturday.

I went last year and attended one session that was all about makerspaces and the maker movement and it is what really started my mission to get a makerspace up and running. My husband and I talked a lot about it and we got the after school enrichment administrator and the art teacher on board. And then we let the ball drop. I was busy at home with our daughter and my husband has plenty on his plate.

This fall we picked up again when the head of the middle school gave us a little kick in the pants and started the conversation up again. We pretty much picked up where our plans from the previous school year and had fallen off and now I’m running the makerspace.

This year at CUE there were a ton more sessions about makerspaces I tried to attend them all, even if they were more about getting started than about actually running it. It was such a relief to hear people talking about the same things I have been thinking about for a couple years now (in conjunction with makerspaces and with the Reggio approach that I’ve been researching). It was also a relief to hear that other people are just jumping in and learning as they go along much like I am.

My biggest take-aways:

We need a dedicated space. In our own space I won’t be having to clean everything up and tuck it tightly into bins every afternoon. I can leave projects out and this helps the kids pick back up where they were and keep projects going for extended periods of time. I know that this kind of thing will help kids delve more deeply into projects and learning.

I want a 3D printer. Last year I saw a session on copyright by Christine Mytko. This educator is amazing. She made copyright cool. This year she was talking about 3D printing and you should have seen the stuff she has had her kids learn how to do. It was stunning (her site has more). I know a 3D printer isn’t absolutely necessary, but if I could use one to get the kind of learning she got out of her kids it would be incredible.

It’s wonderful to know that there are people who want this in education. Sometimes I feel very lonely and out-there with my educational ideas. Unstructured time for kids? Letting a second grader use a drill and hand saw? Yes! Let’s have some faith in kids and let’s give them time to be creative and thoughtful and follow what they are interested in! It was nice to hear that others think about this the way I do.

If you do have activities set up, they should fit on a post-it. Instructions should be simple and the set up should help make what needs to be done evident. (I will talk more about this in my next makerspace post).

-I need to read Invent to Learn and Tinkering from Make magazine.

In all, I’m so glad I went to this and got to talk about makerspaces some more.

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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

ALSC Institute Reflections

On 23, Sep 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

Last week I was lucky to be able to attend the ALSC Institute. I absolutely love going to conferences. I am such a introvert and am happy living in my own little land here on the blog and in my MakerSpace, but conferences really force me to get outside that shell. Despite being introverted I also love to collaborate and even though conferences don’t exactly facilitate collaboration, they do give me the opportunity to hear other people’s thoughts and perspectives. Even if they aren’t solving a problem I have or aren’t working on a project exactly like mine, I can often find tidbits that I can apply to my projects and problems.

I was especially excited during this conference to see so much information and enthusiasm for STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). Beyond creative, flexible thinking, makerspaces are often a lot about STEAM. I found a lot of ideas to take back to my MakerSpace. I also found a personal connection. I always enjoyed science and math (okay, maybe not in seventh grade, but that was an anomalous year) and now that I’m home with my daughter I’m really making a concerted effort to expose her to STEM concepts.

Seeing the authors speak was also a treat. I love when they share their personal experience with libraries, librarians, and reading. But they always offer insight into a lot of other subjects. Steve Sheinkin spoke directly to my distaste for the traditional model of teaching seen in schools. He worked as a text book contributor and was always having to cut what he found to the most interesting tidbits of information from the historical stories. This ultimately led to his career as an interesting history book author. The first panel examined how hard it is being a tween and how awkward they were at that age. I think most people feel that way and it’s always reassuring to hear that these people who we admire felt just as ridiculous as we did at that age. I was especially taken with Andrea Davis Pinkney’s talk on Saturday. She gave me an entirely new appreciation for how the art in a picture book works with the text. I kind of knew they were supposed to work together, but that was a whole new level. And it dovetailed nicely with a comment Mac Barnett made at the talk the previous evening about how he wished more reviewers paid attention to the interplay between art and text in picture books. Duly noted.

As a mostly stay-at-home mom, it’s also nice to have an opportunity to really think about and be involved with my career. Going to these conferences isn’t cheap and it means being away from my daughter- something I don’t necessarily want to do. But every time I go I am glad I have done so.

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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

One Day…

On 03, Jul 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

One day we’ll have scads of money and I’ll be able to go to all the professional conferences I want. 🙂 In the meantime I can’t help but wish we were in Las Vegas for ALA Annual Conference. I keep seeing all this awesome stuff that people are doing and reading about all these interesting sessions they are attending.

I made the decision a few months back to go to the ALSC Institute instead of Annual. It wasn’t necessarily cheaper, but it is closer to home (in Oakland) so it would be easier for my husband and daughter to tag along. They plan on spending their days in The City doing fun things like visiting the Exploratorium and the Academy of Sciences. Unfortunately, going to the Institute meant there was no money to go to Annual and seeing all this great stuff I can’t help but hope I made the right decision!

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In Reading Round Up

By Elizabeth Wroten

Reading Round Up: Mixed Bag

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. 🙂

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