What IMLS Means to Me…

With all the budget cuts, its easy to think that Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) doesn’t have as much impact as other programs. Sometimes, it seems like the same libraries benefit and other libraries (school libraries, rural libraries) feel left out. But sometimes things is not as they seem. IMLS’ impact can be felt even if your library has not directly benefitted.

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Let’s look at my library. I am in a small, rural, public school library. I have applied for LSTA grants multiple times unsuccessfully, I tried applying for an IMLS grant unsuccessfully. Even though I have not received money directly through them, I’ve benefitted indirectly from grant reciepients. One goal of IMLS grants is to move the library profession forward. Their strategic plan focuses on innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Many of their grants provide professional development for librarian professionals and educators.

I’ve had the privledge of participating in two mentoring programs at the state level funded by IMLS and LSTA. The first was Pennsylvania School Library Association’s (PSLA) Emerging Leaders Program. This program connected me with mentors, other strong librarians, and helped me grow a network of professionals that I still rely on. Rural librarianship has a tendancy to leave professionals feeling isolated and inadequate. I know that I would not be the same professional today if I didn’t access to this mentoring program early in my career. Working with other educators to see what they were doing acrss the state broadened my horizons and encouraged me to work harder for my students make sure they were as competitive as students from across the state. We were able to compare curriculum, technology, instructional strategies, library management, and programming ideas. Now I try and pay it foward and connect with other librarians face to face and online, promoting programs like the Emerging Leaders Program. As a young librarian, my goal has always been to keep myself centered and avoid feeling isolated. These opportunities have helped me flourish.

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The second program was Pennsylvania’s ILEADUSA. This program did end up with grant money going toward my library, but the more important part came from the professional development that came with the program. This was an immersive program where we worked with a team to develop a project and expand our technology skills. These trainings opened my eyes to the great things going on in all types of libraries across the state.

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I admit that I mostly speak to school librarians and view many problems through a school librarian’s lense. It was refreshing to see life through the eyes of a public or academic librarian. They had a different way of approaching problems and a different view. Although all three types of libraries promote life long learning, we all have drastically different ways of implementing it. In the school library, it is very direct. We give them lessons, maybe some clubs, but it is very structured. Academia is more hands off. Students are given a menu of options and very little structure. Public Libraries have to market themselves and develop programming depending on the needs of their community. Both public and academic don’t have a captive audience like I do. Talking with librarians from these settings made me realize that I could have a balance in how I encourage life long learning.

Programs led by IMLS give me a chance to grow as a professional. They help me think of new ways to service my students. They force me to step back and reflect on my school and my program and think how I can improve it. IMLS empowers me to be a better librarian and serve my community and my students in the best way I can.

 

Book Review: Ghosts

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

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Published by Scholastic in 2016.

This book took me a long time to get to. It happened to come out during my book fair in November, and I book talked it during our raffle and so many kids jumped on the waitlist for my libray copies! It’s take me this long to for it it be back on the shelf!

Catrina and her family are moving to Bahia de la Luna because the air will be better for Catrina’a sister Maya to breathe. Catrina misses her friends, but is hoping that that her sister can be healthier. As they wander around, they meet Carlos who gives ghost tours. Maya is so excited about the idea of meeting a ghost. Cat is not. Telgemeirer doesn’t shy away from the reality of degenerative conditions.

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Page 72, Dying isn’t pretend. It’s real.

Carlos realizes that Maya’s best chance of meeting a ghost is by going to the mission. Once there, Carlos explains that ghosts need a little encouragement to interact with the living. They love the smell of foods, and need a breath from a living person before they can speak. The ghosts are so excited by Maya’s youthful energy that she’s overwhelmed by their attention. Carlos and Cat have to run her to the hospital.

Months pass, and Cat is still angry at Carlos for endangering her sister. She goes to school as her sister recovers, starts making friends, and worries about when and if Maya will recover. Her mother reminds her that Cystic Fibrosis is something that gets worse over time, not better.

Dia de los Muertos rolls around and Maya has to stay in. Cat ends up going trick or treating with her friends, then they go to the party downtown. Cat realizes that ghosts are not terrible and finds a way to share them with her sister.

I love that literature opens the door for hard conversations. Even in a happy, fun graphic novel, these issues that we really don’t want to deal with can be discussed. In these books Maya’s CF doesn’t define her, but it’s still THERE. Life is like that. We all have a perspective that colors the way we view the world, but it is only a small part of who we are.

My only complaint is that the ghosts are protrayed as constantly happy, like eager puppies grateful for attention. Several others have pointed out that California missions have a complex history and many of the ghosts wouldn’t have been pleasant. I understand that sometimes we are restricted by story length and sometimes it’s hard to add nuance to everything. If we are able to generalize things in stories, (like all ghosts are nice and helpful), it becomes easier to generalize things in real life and encourages stereotyping.

 

 

 

VR Tech Review: King Tut VR

While our reading teachers were enjoying nonfiction selections about the pyramids, we decided to have our students use the King Tut VR app.
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This app takes you into Tutankhamun’s tomb, gives you a view of not only the mask, but the hieroglyphics in the tomb. Narration gives students a chance to realize the meaning behind these symbols.

Visually, this app is pretty nice. Not as fancy as the Nearpod 360 views or Random 42, but it meets it’s purpose and it more polished that other cardboard apps. But the simplification of hieroglyphics make it easier to for the students to see.

This app steers you toward what it is talking about. The kids may not like this, but as an instructor I love that it keeps them on task.

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From a classroom management standpoint, this app made me nervous. The app is not as powerful without the narration. It is very hard to get students to start the app at the same time. The reading teacher and I made the decision to to let the students all listen to the narration at the same time (it was a little loud and chaotic). It went much better than expected. We polled the students on their opinions on it, and they thought it wasn’t overwhelming. They are very good about listening to the ground rules of VR, (butts stay in chairs, listening ears stay on, and be careful with the ipods). The calm narration and quiet background music makes it so this app works with a crowd, but that is not the case for every app. We are lucky to have students who understand that we are feeling out the boundries of this technology and give honest and respectful feedback.

An iPod issue that we learned was with the sleep feature. The iPods were set to sleep after 2 minutes of no interaction with the screen. When we tested it, it would have a black screen just as our teachers got excited about it. To save time, we had our first class to use the app go into settings and set it so it wouldn’t go to sleep.

For more information about the app: https://www.eonreality.com/portfolio-items/king-tut/

Tech Review: Cedar Point VR

Our science classes were studying force and motion, and were looking for something new to add to their lessons. We decided to try Cedar Point’s VR app that previews their roller coaster “The Valravn.”

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The kids loved it! We started by showing them what they would ride. We rode the ride and used information from the ride’s wikipedia page to calculate different aspects of force and motion.

For students (and librarians) who are prone to motion sickness, the google cardboard interface is not as disorienting as higher end models. The kids are good at knowing what works best for them, (to use glasses/not use glasses if they have vision issues or when to stop because it makes them dizzy)

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In other apps, students get distracted by bystanders. This app has you riding the roller coaster by yourself. You are able to see the scenery and enjoy the full experience.

My only complaint is that the ride doesn’t start you facing forward. It is already oriented to start a certain direction. The app starts by looking at the start button, and they don’t realize that they can look around. We adapted quickly, but I felt bad for the kids that were new to VR and didn’t look around.

Quote-tastic: The Sun is Also a Star

I recently had the pleasure of enjoying The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. I’m not normally a fan of romantic (ish) books, but I loved Yoon’s layers in this story. It was filled with fully developed characters who were very aware of the world and their place in it. Below are some of my favorite quotes.

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“Carl Sagan said that if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you musht first invent the universe.” (p. 1)

“Desperation translates into every language.” (p. 18)

“There’s a pure kinds of joy in the certainty of belief. The certainty that your life has purpose and meaning.” (p. 48)

“It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.” (p. 74)

“The poetic heart is not to be trusted. It is fickle and will lead you astray.” (p. 102)

“Why not more poems about the sun? The sun is also a star, and it’s our most important one. That alone should be worth a poem or two.” (p. 178)

“The sheer number of actions and reactions it’s taken to form our solar system, our galaxy, our universe is astonishing. The number of things that had to go exactly righ is overwhelming.” (p. 203)

“What is falling in love? A series of small coincidences that we say mean everything because we want to believe that our tiny lives matter on a galactic scale. But falling in love doesn’t even begin to compare to the formation fo the universe. It’s not even close.” (p. 203)

Book Review: Free Verse

Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

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Published by G. P. Putnam and sons in 2016

Sasha has experienced more loss than most 8th graders should. Her mother left her years ago. She and her brother were raised by their father, Ben until a mining accident claimed his life. Then her brother puts off college to raise her until he his killed fighting a fire in a bakery. She is moved in to foster care with a lady named Phyllis. Phyllis is patient as Sasha is dealing with all her trauma. Then Sasha discovers that a cousin of her’s is Phyllis’ neighbor. She befriends the cousin’s son, Mikey.

School is a challenge. Meeting with the guidance councelor, having the school bully watch a meltdown, getting invited to join poetry club (which happens to be run by the school bully), and making a friend on the bus.

Since this book is called “free verse” it would be a let down for it not to have poetry in it. The third section is told in poetry as Sasha explores different formats. She also uses it as a coping mechanism when trauma makes speaking too much to bear. These poems are beautiful and move the story along smoothly.

Sasha has a tendancy to run. When an accident causes them to no know if Mikey’s dad is alive or dead, she decides to take Mikey with her. She gets a few towns over, until she’s picked up by the cops, but Mikey stays on the run. Will Mikey be found? Will Sasha have a family that will stay?

This book does a good job of being realistic and making each character 3 dimensional. They are responsive to trauma in their situations. Almost everyone that Sasha gets to know has a backstory and a reason/motivation for their actions. In this polarizing time, this book does a good job of imaging a part of the country complexly without being patronizing or focused on a handful of issues. Mining accidents are mentioned multiple time in this book, but Sasha points out that miners are people with lives outside of work. They are parents, artists, adventurers, and many other things. Huebert, Sasha’s cousin mentions the “smarts” that are necessary to work the incredibly delicate/dangerous machinery involved in mining.

FTC disclosure. I recieved this book from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review.

Quotes.

“Wake me…Before you go running off again…just wake me. Then if you run, I’ll run with you.” (p. 69)

“It’s like haiku opened a door inside me that I’m trying with all my might to shove closed again.” (p. 98)

“You can’t understand what makes a good story if you’ve never starred in one, or at least been a particularly memorable (sometimes tragic) supporting character.” (p. 258)

“I’m secretly awful.” (p. 264)

 

Book Review: The Girl in the Well is Me

The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers

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Published by Scholastic in 2016.

Kammie is new in town, attempting to fit in. She tried to be accepted by The Girls, a group of popular kids. After they convince her to cut her hair, she sings for them on a rotting wooden cover over a well. She falls through and is now stuck in the well. The Girls don’t seem to be moving to quickly to get help.

As her situation goes on, she is forced to reflect on why she has to be in Nowheresville, Texas. Her father embezzled from a charity, and is in jail. She is forced to face the fallout that her father caused her. Wondering if anyone would care enough to come find her, she is guided by hallucinations to help her cope.

This story is incredibly layered and beautiful! Middle grade readers will enjoy this!

Quotes:

“We left a lot of things behind, but not enough. It turns out you cna’t get away from yourself. The museum of you is inside you.” (p. 180)