Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's the End of the Assignment as We Know It

Well, folks, this is it: the blog assignment has officially ended. I would ask where the semester went, but I am still struggling to accept the fact that it is November when just yesterday it was early October.

I am not 100% sure where I am going with this post, apart from saying that I'm kind of sad that the blog assignment is over. There is nothing quite like a deadline to kick me into action, although a large chunk of such work is often churned out at the last minute. I cannot tell you how many blogs I have started and then abandoned due to a lack of time--one of my classmates postulated that this particular habit of mine may be responsible for the fact that so many blog names are already taken. This seems like a reasonable theory to me. The part of this assignment that I really liked was the fact that I had to keep writing because it was an assignment for school. And if I don't do an assignment for school, I will get a bad grade in the class and NEVER GET INTO HARVARD.

(Note: Apart from a brief period in kindergarten when I believe that I was going to go to Harvard and have a dual career as the first woman president and a fashion model, I have never had serious Ivy League ambitions. Interestingly, this has had little effect on my internal logic in regard to academic performance).

But now the assignment is over and my continued posts have no weight on my academic career. My intent is to keep on posting about library-related things because this is a topic that I enjoy talking about. However, I feel obligated to warn readers that I have a terrible track record for this sort of thing. Taylor Swift could have written "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" about my relationship with blogs, although to be fair, my breaking up and getting back together with blogs is less reflective of an inability to commit and more of a symptom of a busy schedule.

Anyway, the point is that just because the assignment is over does not mean that the blog has to end. Given my track record, I'm reluctant to make promises about how this time it will be different, but I can promise to try my best. Hopefully, you'll hear from me soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Comments from the Peanut Gallery #8, 9, & 10

Felicia has an interesting post about following a dress code while still maintaining a sense of individual style. You can read it (and my comment) here.

Guest ALSC blogger Caroline McKinley has a lovely post about the role of animals in libraries. Her library has a bird named Holly GoFlightly, which I think is completely adorable. You can read her post (and my comment) here.

And finally, YALSA blogger Linda W. Braun has an interesting post about the future of teen spaces. You can read her post (and my comment) here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Election News You've Been Waiting For: Vote For Books Results

I know that you are all have been waiting for the results of the most important election of the century:
Let me tell you a secret: I love making bulletin board displays. It's a combination of arts, crafts, and creativity that I thrive on and I consider myself very lucky to have a job where I get paid to do this (among other library-related tasks).

I put up the Vote for Books display in mid-October. Kids could pick up a ballot at the front desk and vote for one character from each category, or write in their own. Voting was limited to once per day and completed ballots were kept in an ultra secure shoebox that I repurposed as a fancy ballot box. On Wednesday, the election judges (me) tallied up the votes.

We had a total of 128 ballot submissions, which is a pretty great turnout for a small community. From what I observed, the kids enjoyed it--there were many earnest discussions about which characters were most deserving (one girl made a campaign button for her favorite character) and what winning the Vote for Books election actually meant (short answer: it's just for fun).
And in case you were curious, here are the candidates and the results (and a more detailed look at the display):

My reactions:
--I expected Picture Books to be a race between Fancy Nancy and The Pigeon, but Scaredy Squirrel trounced them both and actually got the highest number of votes in the entire election.
--The thought of Amelia Bedelia in any position of authority frankly terrifies me. I loved those books as a child, but she made me so nervous because I knew that she was going to mess up.
--I knew Fiction would be a close race between Harry Potter and Greg Heffley, but I expected a little more of a turnout for Judy Moody and Babymouse.

Overall, a fun and fairly easy display to create. Even if you are not an arts and craftsy type, you can do a modified version of this without much hassle.

Did anyone else do a similar display this past week? I'd love to hear about it!

You Canna' Take My (Intellectual) Freeeeeedom!!: Filtering Internet in Schools

The internet started to make an appearance in my classrooms around third grade--I have a dim memory of attempting to search the web for an encyclopedia article and being somewhat frustrated by the format. Until about sixth grade, the internet was present and accessible in my classrooms, but not used to the extent that it is today--this was in the days of dial-up and SLOO-OO-OOOW connection speeds, which I imagine had an effect on classroom use. But starting in sixth grade, internet research and online resources became more and more prevalent in my school assignments. Internet use was usually a classroom activity--my teachers would reserve the computer lab for the purpose of completing a particular assignment or working on ongoing projects. Lab time was supervised by the instructor and it was rumored that the school librarians could see what you were doing from a special program on the staff computers (it was not entirely clear whether or not this was true).

I remember being aware of one instance of a classmate viewing inappropriate content--a boy in my class got busted for printing out pictures of naked ladies and chihuahuas, although not both in the same pictures. The librarian seemed equally annoyed by the fact that he had wasted so much paper to do this. At the time, my reaction was primarily one of disbelief: it seemed like the kind of thing that you do when you are deliberately trying to get caught.

I don't remember my middle school or elementary school computers being filtered, but high school was a different story. My high school years coincided with the emergence of social networking, which apparently presented a problem for the administration. Xanga, an early blogging site that was popular with a lot of girls in my class, was blocked my junior year, along with MySpace. Facebook opened up to high school students during my senior year, and for a while, the administration was not wise to this great secret. They eventually caught on and Facebook was similarly blocked. While we didn't find ways around the filters, we did change our browsing habits to avoid the filters--Facebook and Xanga might be blocked, but Text Twist on Yahoo! Games was absolutely fine.

The most frustrating part of these actions was the fact that it seemed that the administration could not trust us enough to make decisions on our own. The blocking of social media sites was largely justified by the fact that it was not school-related, regardless of the fact that some use of the sites occurred during study hall or lunch periods. It was not considered useful, so it was banned.

One of my teachers used to tell us, "It's a private school: you check your rights at the door," which I suppose is true to a certain extent. But even if that is the case, is there not an intrinsic value in treating students with respect?

I don't know if they still filter or block sites--there's been some significant turnover in the administration since I graduated, so things may have changed. The explosion of social media and the advent of the smart phone (in high school, I was rocking a silver flip phone with no camera and limited internet connection that I was not allowed to use because it was something like $1.99/minute) may make it futile to restrict internet access on school grounds. So, if technology has taken the teeth out of filtering software, what do you do?

Filtering or blocking cannot and should not be mistaken or substituted for supervision or education. Blocking Facebook did not teach me about the dangers of internet predators, nor did it convince me that it's a waste of time: the only thing it taught me was that the administration didn't really understand or care about my information needs. So what's to be done? Instead of wasting time and energy trying to restrict and control access to technology, why not use it for your own educational purposes? Show kids how to use social networking to collaborate on projects or share ideas. Lead classes on internet safety, including cyberbullying. Teach kids how to incorporate web and print materials into research projects. Help kids find resources and tools that reflect their interests and needs (Power Point too boring? Try Prezi. Difficulty organizing? Try Things or One Note). Respecting the needs of your patrons goes a heck of a lot farther than condescension, regardless of the age of the patron.