22 December 2014

Upon Reflection

So it has been a while, again. I have seen a lot of talk lately from other librarians that I know that they also seem to have lessened their blog posts. With the influx of social media and the amount of people that exist there, there isn't as much to share in one contained area. Plus time! Who has had time? This, actually, is what made me decide to do this post, to kind of give myself a gathering point of professional and personal achievements to remind myself of the singularities that have happened and led my Path from January to December. So that those times I sit and wonder what I am actually doing with my Life, I can remember that things have been done!

Things that have happened, in random order:

I was honored to be nominated as a Library Journal 2014 Mover & Shaker, as a Community Builder. My library had gone through some amazing changes since I joined it in 2012, and I loved working with the staff and community to showcase it as an important part of the town.

At nearly the same time, I left my lovely library for a job with the Massachusetts Library System. Now I work as an advisor, assisting libraries with their services and designing training and workshops for library staffs. I get to work as a liaison for small libraries, and share my love for collection development and readers' advisory with the masses. I love it; it challenges me and expands my view of librarianship on so many levels.

I watched my daughter return to high school after giving birth to her son. I am so proud of her, for she has met so many challenges over the past year with her life. Not only has she gone back, but made improvements through school and is on track with making plans for the future.

My son is working with his new therapeutic school, which I am so grateful to have discovered. It has been a long year of challenges and problems in the mainstream school, no matter what we all tried, he just wasn't getting what he needed. There are still challenges, but I know he is in a place equipped to work with him on those as he grows.

I travelled to Las Vegas for the first time in my life, attending the ALA Annual Conference. Besides being involved in a terrific program about first-time directors, I got to see what I always wondered about with Las Vegas nightlife (and day life). And heat. And neon. And heat. Did I mention the heat?

I get to continue working with books even though I am not selecting in a library anymore. As a social media subcommittee member for LibraryReads and a reviewer for Library Journal, I have been introduced to SO many wonderful titles that I will never be able to keep up!

I have gotten the chance to watch my beautiful Little Dude grow and hit his first birthday in December. I never expected to have another child in my house at this point, much less a grandchild, but he is beautiful and joyous and exasperating, like any wonderful being on this planet. I also became his legal guardian this fall, as his mom settles her Path forward. I know this was the right choice at this juncture. I look forward to each smile on his face.

I have met more people online that I truly consider friends. Who would have ever thought that people you never, or hardly ever, get to see will share your joys, triumphs, sorrows and travails? I am so, so grateful to those I am connected to, who have chosen to connect to me in large and small ways. You all honor me with your presence in my life.

Watching my children get older reminds me that I am getting older (dammit). I know that I am not "old" by most definitions, but definitely feel that I have not taken care of my body the way that I should. It is easy to forget that I am not in my 20s, or 30s, anymore, and things that I took for granted cannot be handled that way anymore. So I started visiting a bodywork specialist on a somewhat regular basis this fall and winter. I totally support the place of massage in healing and care for one's self, but this practice goes a little bit further, and tunes into whatever may be going on at that time in my life. Sometimes work, sometimes nurture, but always a chance to reconnect and listen to what I need.

Along that same venue, I signed up for a six month program with a nutritional life coach starting this month. My self-care tends to go out the window a lot, and food is definitely a component that needs to be tailored for my health, and the health of those I live with. I look forward to learning about my relationship with food and nutrition, and its place in the whole of my life and how it affects so much more than just my physical self.

Life finds its balance, and not all has been joyous:

Emotional challenges with my niblets lead me to wonder how good of a parent I am at times. Entering a time when I am supposed to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I am now recommitted to another child for an unknown period of time, and I cannot deny I do not know how prepared I am for that. I was readying for the "Time of Me", but that is delayed as this new journey unfolds.

My four year relationship with my girlfriend ended. Change is always difficult on this level, and knowledge of truths and compassion can be hard to manage when things do not go as once expected.

I don't have the best relationship with my physical self as I should. Hopefully some of the changes I am starting will help with that.

I still struggle with my professional personhood: no matter what I do is it truly enough, or am I just being superficial? What is "enough"?

Friendships wax and wane and I struggle at times letting my friends hold what I cannot and trusting they are there to do that.

Winter's dark can emphasize the bleak, the aloneness, the struggle. However I write this on the Winter Solstice: the shortest day of the year, and the promise of a little more light from here on out. It is upon this that I think about what has come before, and realize that there is more to come. For all of us.

Namaste, my tribe. I look forward to our New Year.

01 August 2014

Introducing Friday Five

I have a lot of work, and a couple not-quite-work-but-kind-of projects going on, plus the addition of a now-mobile seven month child in the house, makes precious little time to get back to the blog. I have updated my Portfolio page with my ALA presentation - there were no slides, just talks - and my upcoming LibraryReads presentation for NELA in October. Content has been scarce here, but I came up with an idea which I think plays well with the work I am currently doing.

Today I will start a regular (hopefully) post about five books that I am reading, just read, read a while ago, haven't read yet but think will be really interesting. I hope some of these spark an interest in you. All titles link to Edelweiss or Goodreads.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty. This is not my typical read, however Doughty's memoir of her start as a crematory assistant, the emotions and situations that she has dealt with, give an honest and humorous look at her life. I heard her talk during BEA also, and she is as funny in person. This book is coming out next month, and I completely believe it should be on the next LibraryReads favorite list. Since I cannot vote anymore - please do it for me!

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews. This just came out on Tuesday, and is a terrific urban fantasy. Set in a time where magic does not play well with technology, and both show up at different times, Kate Daniels is an investigator for hire, as well as the Alpha's mate, even though she is human (kind of). I read this in e-galley form last month, and find it to be a pivotal title in the series. I am really looking forward to where Andrews (wife and husband writing team) take Kate and Curran's story from here.

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix. I found out about this book at the BEA Librarian Shout and Share, and was immediately entranced by the stylized cover. Heavily satirizing Ikea, this story of creepy things happening in a big box store had me both feeling icky and laughing at the same time. I am not a horror reader, but the light handed prose mixed well with the ghost story and did creep me out - so I consider it a success. I brought this title up at July's Early Word Galley Chat.

Murder in Retribution by Anne Cleeland. A title I read for the August Library Journal, I was fascinated/disturbed by the relationship of the two main characters, Doyle and Acton, kind of like reading the comments - you don't want to know, but you have to know what in the world keeps these two going? Cleeland writes a tight mystery, and the characters are so obviously, well, damaged, in their own ways. This is the second of the series, so go read Murder in Thrall first.

Making a Collection Count: A Holistic Approach to Library Collection Management by Holly Hibner and Mary Kelly. (One of these things is not like the others...) I needed to mention this title as it has been on my work desk and a constant go-to the last month while planning my first continuing education course on collection life cycles. I was even fortunate enough to get my own copy from Holly, over great food in Las Vegas!

17 June 2014

Heading to ALA!

In another week I will be on the road (or in my case, in the skies) to ALA Annual in Las Vegas. Not only am I excited to be attending my second year in a row (and in my life), but I will also be speaking on a director's panel for a Conversation Starter. We have the prime final slot on Monday afternoon: come see us!

Now that I have shifted from library directorship to advising library staff, I have diversified the sessions that I want to attend. Leadership still rates high, as this is something that is going to become even more important over the next few years. What I have seen personally, and in participating discussions, is that those in management positions are starting to leave, mainly through retirement (hey, finally some of those jobs we were promised in library school!) yet there is a dearth of qualified applicants. Not the basic tools: we all took some form of "Management of XX Libraries" in our grad courses, but in the skills librarians are not always prepared for: marketing and public relations, dealing with municipal departments and library boards, leadership within the library and dealing with staff, and of course "What do you mean the toilet overflowed again?" aka facilities management. Obviously not all of this can be covered while getting our degrees, yet the need is definitely there.

Also, those that are coming into new management positions are tending to be younger, newer librarians. For some, this will be their first management position, and they will be supervising staff that have been there several years, sometimes decades, longer than they have. While I tend to stay out of observing anything in the "new versus seasoned library staff" debate, it is definitely in existence. 

So I am attending a few sessions where newer directors are speaking, along with looking at professional development trends, as this is where my work now lies. You will also find me at sessions on collection development and reader's advisory, as both are a passion and a focus for me. All in all, I once again have too many sessions I'm interested in attending (who doesn't?), and will have to make some choices along the way. 

Some of the sessions you may find me at will be:


Pre-Conference: Stepping Into the Director Role: Preparing for the Part 

Library Journal Mover & Shaker Luncheon


AAP/LibraryReads Book-a-Licious Breakfast 

Turning Books Into A Cool New Tool: RA Marketing in the Age of Maker Spaces

Collective Engagement: What Aspiring, New and Seasoned Professionals Bring to the Table

Grow Forward: Professional Education Needs in the 21st Century

Continuing Education for Libraries: A National Conversation


Lightning Rounds: Sustainability at Your Library

Conversation Starter: Change Does Not Suck


Discovery: The New Name for Reader’s Advisory?

Stranger than Fiction: Reader's Advisory for Nonfiction

My Session! Conversation Starter: What I Really Want to Do is Direct: First-Time Library Directors Discuss Their Experiences.

I am also excited that many social media colleagues are staying in the same hotel as I am, and that I will have a chance to catch up with so many others. So, if you want to meet up, just let me know!

19 May 2014

Reader's Advisory Unconference

On Friday I traveled with Anna and another local colleague to the Darien, CT Library to attend a Reader's Advisory Unconference set up by Stephanie, Darien's head of Reader's Advisory. I have attended an unconference once before at Darien, on Programming, which was a big hit, and I expected no less for this one. As I work on planning continuing education for my new job at the Mass Library System, reader's advisory is definitely one skill I want to bring to librarians across the state. From the RA 101 sessions and genre overview webinars by Joyce Saricks we have been offering, and the start of the Western MA Reader's Advisory Round Table, it is definitely popular with library staff.

After a somewhat slow commute down to CT, we arrived in time to listen to the end of author Emily St. John Mandel's talk on reading and libraries, and heard her read from her new book Station Eleven. Then the voting began!

We had all submitted topics during registration, and Stephanie had us each use post-its to vote for three topics after asking if we had any additional requests. The top nine topics would be discussed during the different sessions of the day, three in each time slot. I was very grateful that only two topics I wanted to hear were scheduled at the same time; however, I decided to focus on those that would let me hear what library staff were looking to learn.

My first session was on Revitalizing Book Groups. We had a couple Darien Library staff members along to take notes and help lead the conversation. Topics such as Books in a Bag, topical/genre book groups, and supplying outside book groups were covered. One librarian talked about a Twitter Book Group that she knew about, another discussed short story book groups that were always full. Setting up outside the library, whether at a pub, a senior home, or bringing titles to a soccer game for the regular group of moms showed that libraries are not just going with the same "every month in the library" scenario.

Then it was off to RA and Social Media. This one was interesting as the discussion was a little hard to pull out of library staff. There was definitely talk, but it seemed that (in my opinion) most librarians were there to see how to make it work. Social media is still tricky for a lot of libraries: who is doing it, when it is done, where it is done -- all of this contributes to an online profile that is just one more activity, albeit a very important one in this day and age. Important takeaways included: scheduling through clients such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite can help a library use a single block of time to post, focusing on one or two areas instead of trying to be on top of every new social stream, and making sure to find ways to create two-way engagement online.

Also, in the lessons learned category:

The final session I attended was Getting Staff Excited about Reader's Advisory. This, to me, is really important, not only as a trainer but for those within libraries trying to encourage staff involvement. We talked about staff genre study groups, although some noted that sometimes those that are considered key staff -- especially those at the circulation desks -- were the ones who did not consider it important, or "part of their job." There has been an attitude that reader's advisory is a reference staff issue, but most agreed that any and all library staff should be able to perform RA, and hopefully feel comfortable giving suggestions to patrons who ask for them.

After the last session, we gathered together to give quick snapshots of each session, which was nice for people like me who could not clone themselves in time to attend them all. My overall takeaway was that while there does not seem to be any new trend waiting around the corner for reader's advisory, it is something library staff are finding to really be entrenched in their work, and that it is an important part of customer service, engaging the community, and outreach.

We had a lot of people follow AND contribute on social media: our Twitter hashtag was #rauncon, and Stephanie plans to collect them into a Storify. There will also be notes -- and from some sessions, book lists -- on the blog. It was terrific to be able to meet a lot of colleagues that I knew from social media, share ideas (and lunch!), and bring ideas back home.

28 April 2014

All the Change

Spring has sprung!  I am ready to open windows, let air and light in, and move forward from the stasis that winter seems to bring from so many directions.

There has been a lot going on for me professionally, which is still quite amazing to me. I never thought I would be one that would have my name out and about (while harboring secret introverted wishes to do the just that), but with colleagues and friends advocating for me, I am happy to report the following:

In January I was named one of Library Journal's Reviewers of the Year. My dear editor Mahnaz Dar said some wonderful words about me. While I have been working on genre fiction for a few years, this past year I started doing home economics, specifically focusing on homesteading and urban farming topics. It is such an honor to be recognized for the work I do with Library Journal, and I really enjoy stretching my writing mind in different ways.

Then, in March, I was named a 2014 Library Journal Mover and Shaker. For all of the discussion this award has wrought the last couple of years, I admit that for me, this is one of the biggest accomplishments I have had. I was named a Community Builder for the work I have done at my library the last two years. When I look at what was listed, and knowing many things that were not, I cannot believe I had time to do much of anything else besides be at the library! However, the Board, my amazing staff, and the community has truly lined up behind the library and shown that they do support us.

So, the award was truly bittersweet as it came at the same time I was announcing my resignation as director. I was not expecting to be transitioning this soon, but I accepted a position at the Massachusetts Library System, which began in April. I am the Advisor to Small Libraries, one of a group that travels throughout the state supporting libraries and their staff with all sorts of library issues, along with continuing education. MLS provides state-wide delivery service, continuing education, and is piloting the state-wide eBook platform, of which my former library is one of the test locations. I will be focusing on small libraries (pop. under 5,000), but be available to any member in the Commonwealth.

This is a big transition for me, as not only is my workplace no longer just a mile from my home, but I will be doing a lot of traveling throughout the state each week. However, I find it exciting to be part of this group, and being in a supportive role for so many librarians and library staff will be a great challenge.

I have another bit of professional news, but am going to save that for another post since this one is coming so late!

07 February 2014

The Art of Reviewing

I recently finished a collection development article for the February Library Journal, covering a couple of my favorite topics: urban gardening and homesteading.

Looking at this made me realize that I have been reviewing and writing professionally now for several years, and sometimes it is still amazing to me that I am actually doing it.

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know it has taken a lot of different paths through the years. I started reviewing titles on the blog because I wanted to bring more of my professional interests into it, and because I wanted to share my thoughts on the books I read and was interested in.

If you look at the archives, you will see a lot of science fiction and fantasy and LGBT titles, plus urban farming, gardening, and homesteading. A bit of an eclectic mix, I know, but I wanted to talk about what appealed to me, as opposed to keeping to one "theme" for reviews.

In 2011, I saw a call from Library Journal for new reviewers for a brand new format: e-originals. Books that were only being published digitally were really taking off, and Library Journal knew that reviews would be needed for collection development. At the time, I still had my previous job at the network, which included working with our shared OverDrive catalog. As libraries were seeing demand for ebooks grow and the limits in effect by publishers who (at the time) were not providing access to a lot of the frontlist titles, a lot of titles were sitting under the radar. So, I joined a merry band of librarians to review digital romances. Since then, I have read and reviewed a range of romance from historical to fantasy to erotic, but have really enjoyed covering the LGBT titles, especially M/M, romances, of which there are certainly plenty.

Not long after, I responded to another request (on Twitter, actually) by Library Journal for someone to write the Mystery Preview for the April 2012 issue, then jumped on the call for the SciFi/Fantasy/Horror Spotlight in August. These long articles really stretched my skills as a reviewer, as I was looking at trends more than actual titles. I know that without my wonderful editor, I would be up a creek without a paddle (and probably without a boat or life jacket either). I was honored to be asked back to write those same articles in 2013, plus I also ended up joining the science and technology reviewers, writing reviews of artisan cooking, beekeeping, and the like. All similar to the titles I loved reviewing on my blog and that are of personal interest to me.

This has all led to some fun things, for example:

I was thrilled to be chosen as one of Library Journal's Reviewer of the Year. To have this work that I do validated in this way really makes me believe that I am making a solid contribution to the profession.

When I was young, I dreamed of being a writer. While this is not the bestselling novel I expected to publish, I am a writer, and happy to be one such as this.

04 February 2014

Lock and Load: Questions about the new Adobe DRM

Today I caught a tweet from a colleague to make sure that librarians dealing with ebooks took a look at the new announcement by Adobe that they were going to update their DRM.

What Anne was talking about is this article: The Digital Reader: Adobe to Require New Epub DRM in July, Expects to Abandon Existing Users.

Now, programs and such get updated, I know, but the problem with this announcement is that Adobe has stated that after July, it will no longer supported the previous version of DRM. This is problematic for quite a few reasons:
  • People that have older dedicated ereaders, such as the Kobo or discontinued Sonys, could find they are not going to get any kind of update. This means that they will not be able to read new EPUB titles on their devices.
  • Third-party apps should be able to be updated, however it is unsure how soon that will happen. This delay would definitely affect library ebook readers, which means library staff will bear the brunt of trying to explain it.
  • One thing that was mentioned by Toby on Twitter is that some vendors, like OverDrive, store their EPUB copies on their own servers. This brings up the question of how all of these titles will have their DRM updated -- and how long it will take. I do not know enough about the application of rights management to know if it is a simple change or not, however, I am kind of leaning toward...not.
  • Another unknown is the effect this will have on independent bookstores that are selling ebooks. Many of them will have to front the costs, which could mean a hit to them.
Now, of course this is all supposition at this point, and some may think that we are just waiting for the sky to fall. I hope that there is little fallout to this issue, but as a librarian who works almost every day with patrons who are just holding the tail of the ereader tiger, this could slow things down even more in libraries.

What are other people's thoughts on this? Are you expecting smooth waters or a rough road ahead with the new Adobe DRM?

02 January 2014

New Year, New Stuff

Whoops! Where did the time go?

I have to admit, it has been a really busy last couple of months, the biggest one being this:

We welcomed my grandson, Duncan, on December 9th. Yup, I said grandson. "Why Kristi, you don't look old enough to be a grandmother?" 

Y'all are saying that, I know. Right? I hope? Well, in this day and age, I am not, not really, yet such is life. I knew that 2013 would be a year of changes, however this one really was not expected. 

Really though, how could one not love this cynical face?

So, this really put a crimp in my December, however I did accomplish a lot with the library. Our fundraising continues for a Mobile Laptop Lab. We received a Challenge Grant earlier this year for 50% of the funds if we raise the other half. We are almost 3/4 of the way there as of today! We had some big technology changes with going to Envisionware for print and time management, and moving to our consortium's wireless network as opposed to our own line for the public computers. This will definitely help when the MBI Broadband Project completes the final segments and we have a dedicated fiber line into the building. We expect this in the next couple of months. 

Also, January means we start planning for our Summer Reading Program! Judging by the current weather conditions (schools are closed the next two days because of the storm coming through New England), thoughts of summer will not be unwelcome. I hope I can plan some fun things for the adults to do this summer. My Youth Dept. Supervisor and I also plan to hold an SRP for teens for the first time, so we are really going to be in planning mode this winter and spring.

Of course, a new year brings thoughts of new beginnings and the resolve to start new things. While I could regale you with my plans on improving my mental and physical well-being, my desire to actually complete some knitting projects, and a clean out of my attic and basement (exciting stuff, no?), I think that what I will actually share is my reading plans.

This year I want to work on improving my reader's advisory skills, and a big part of that is breaking out of my comfort walls and taking on different genres and stories. Obviously my heart belongs to science fiction and fantasy, mystery and homesteading, but that does not work for everyone that crosses the library's threshold, sadly. 

Part of my plan was to make sure to read one or two of the titles on each LibraryReads list this year. Many are from genres that I do not frequent, so that will be one direction to go. Then yesterday I discovered a Tumblr post by my friend surlyspice, about A Year of Reading Suggestions, which seems to hit all of those sweet spots that I have missed throughout the years. Each month is a different suggestion, and January starts off strong:

In January, read a book published the same year you were born.What was the world like the year you were born? Get in a time capsule and read a book that reflects the culture, views, and lifestyle of the era of your birth. Tip: Google search for best seller list [year].
Goodreads has done a lot of "Most Popular Books Published In [Year]", including my own birth year. There are some interesting looking titles, and some that I have already read, go me! I am leaning towards the top title, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, because I have to admit I haven't read it yet, and so many of my library- and age-related compatriots have.

What do you think of the choice? Any others on the list deserve more of a chance?