Tag Archives: library school

Summer?

It’s hard to feel like it’s summer these days. First, there’s the weather, which has tended towards unseasonably cool. It’s the middle of June and my roommate (who usually runs hot) turned on the heat this morning. Yes, you read that right.

Heat. In June.

Ponder that.

It’s also hard to feel like it’s summer because unlike many of my library school cohort, I have had no respite since library school classes ended in the first week of May. This is because, with my bad luck, the summer term for acupuncture school started the very same day, which meant that I skipped my last day of library class to attend my first day of acupuncture class.

So now, instead of leisurely whiling away the hours, I have chemistry once a week (just under four hours), tai chi, a course on the history and cultural foundations of Chinese medicine, and anatomy, which will be starting in two weeks time, and will meet twice a week for 3 hours each class. I’m also preparing to take my state teacher licensing exam, a necessary component of my degree program, wrapping up an online biology course, and taking a technology course for library school, which promises to be really fun and interesting.

It’s tiring, yes, and it’s a lot of work, but if I can make my life easier down the road, then it’s worth the sacrifice of a few more hours of free time. August (when classes end) seems both impossibly far away and extremely close. Somehow, I’ll make it, and everything will get done. All I have to do is breathe.

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Purpose and Meaning

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a close friend about regrets in life. Specifically, how it was kind of hard at times to not feel envy when I see Facebook posts from friends off to London or Paris or NYC for grad school or work.

That easily could have been my life had I chosen to pursue a policy degree or an IR program.  I had my life plan mapped out (in vague term): grad school at a prestigious university, a career path that would involve international travel, work at the UN or a similar body, writing insightful policy and opinion papers.   But then I chose not to go down that road, because I came to the realization that for me, that kind of work would be intellectually stimulating but would not feel very purposeful.   Having worked in NGOs before, and grown up around academic/political circles, I realized that I get frustrated with the constant talk and the perceived lack of action.

More than that, though, after working in the corporate world, I realized that I craved more activity in my work life.  I desperately missed the connection I had with my students in Taiwan.  Even on one of my worst days, I didn’t mind getting up and going to school because something made me smile.  And so it was that I came to apply to library school.  It’s also why I decided to not pursue acupuncture as a full-time career, because it would mean not working with kids.

I then told my friend how my projects this semester had helped reassure me that I am on the right path.  It was such a tremendous rush of satisfaction knowing I’d created projects that the librarians needed and intended to use, and their gratitude more than made up for the hours of hard work and complaining I did while putting the projects together.   I put together projects that had usefulness, that will impact students in tangible ways,  something I struggled with as a speechwriter.  It was extremely hard,  wondering what, if any, greater purpose there was to what I was writing, if it really truly mattered beyond boosting the image of the company.

This path, the work I’m doing, it has meaning, and that means I made the right choice, and remembering that makes it easy to overcome those brief moments of envy.

On Being a Minority and Multicultural Literature

I am rarely conscious of my minority status.  I’m just not.  Call it a blessing, privilege, whatever you want, but the fact remains that though my identity is important and does shape who I am, but it’s not a definitive part of me.

Yesterday, however, I became acutely aware that I was the only visible minority in the room, and my professor confirmed my thoughts, admitting that she wanted to seek my perspective on the topic of why multicultural literature is important but didn’t want to single me out, either, for being the token minority.    I appreciate her honesty, it’s just a very weird feeling to be so acutely aware of something that usually is not on my radar, and who would have thought it would crop up in children’s literature class, of all places.

But in some ways, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.  We discussed multicultural literature in class this week, and I found it mildly uncomfortable listening to a group of white women discuss vetting an author’s background to see if they (white authors) were creating authentic works of fiction concerning people of color.

Not only did this attitude make me uneasy, it also misses the point entirely of one of the articles we read for class, wherein the author summed up my thoughts on the matter quite nicely.  It’s not imperative that an author stick only to what they know, what they have experienced.  I don’t believe that for a moment.  However, it is important that the author has attempted to understand the culture/people they are writing about, that to paraphrase the author, they have gone inside that culture rather than writing solely from an outside perspective.

So that’s part of what’s on my mind after class today.

The other thing that I can’t stop thinking about is how surprisingly raw it felt as I spoke my feelings out loud to a class of peers who, I’m pretty certain, don’t understand firsthand, why I thought it was important to have multicultural books in the collection.   Maybe it’s because I’d just had a similar conversation over Thanksgiving with Julia, about how both of us felt frustrated by the lack of books that spoke to our experiences growing up not as immigrants adjusting to a foreign culture, but as Americans with two distinct, equal cultural identities.
Or maybe it had to do with my lack of sleep, but I found myself on the edge, emotionally, as I realized that as a child, there were no books written for me, or about me.  I read books about immigrants, books about Japanese-Americans living in internment camps, books about Jewish kids who identified first and foremost as Dutch or German or whatever and then as Jews, if at all, but there were no books that spoke to me, that told my story.

There were no books talking about what it’s like to have two cultural identities, nothing that reassured me that it was ok to feel confused, embarrassed, to want to fit in.  Nothing that taught me to be proud. I never read a book where the character’s ethnic or religious identity wasn’t somehow just a facet of who they were rather than being the predominant trait about them, and don’t you forget it.  I told my classmates that I genuinely believe that having access to these kinds of books would have helped me process and understand being different while being more or less the same, and attempted to convey how powerful an experience it was to get to college and find out that yes, in fact, there are plenty of books out there that talk about growing up South Asian in the diaspora.  The books I read in that class had a profound impact on me, but it took 19 years and a chance offering of a class in South Asian diasporic literature to realize that there were books written by adults, for adults, that talked about these experiences and conflicts.

But there remains nothing for kids.

And that, to me, is a big, big hole in contemporary children’s literature.  It’s not the only gap – two of the standard texts used to discuss gay parenting with humans as the protagonists, My Daddy’s Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies are nearing 20+ years old.  The fact is, America, and by extension, our classrooms and communities are growing ever more diverse.  California will be a minority-majority state in less than forty years.  Now, more than ever, there is a need for quality children’s literature written for minority kids, not kids who’ve just arrived from a foreign country (though acknowledging their experiences is also important), but kids who are growing up here, who are American, but who straddle two or more cultural identities in their daily lives.

Those stories need to be told, but they haven’t, and it’s made me determined that, as soon as I think of a suitable plot line, I’m going to try to write such a book.  Someone needs to do it, so why not me?

One Project Down, More to Go

It is with great relief that I have finished one of my major projects for the semester, a collection development project for children’s literature.   The assignment was to develop a part of a library’s non-fiction collection (think folktales, biographies, factual science books, history books, etc).

My particular area of focus was the Dewey 954-958.1 section, which in non-librarian speak, encompasses the history of Asia.  Only, Dewey is a little imprecise as to what constitutes Asia, so the Arabian Peninsula doesn’t count, but Cyprus does.  Russia is its own entity, but Siberia gets lumped into Asia.  Japan, Korea, China, and Southeast/East Asia have their own designations within the 900s, so my scope covered Afghanistan, the South Asian subcontinent, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and Lebanon.

My goals in developing this part of the collection had two parts to it. First, the librarian I worked with wanted to have more books that represented India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where many of her students come from.  The second part came from me.  As a firm believer in being informed about the world, I felt it important to include quality books on Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq because of the prominent role these countries play in US foreign policy.  Yeah, these are elementary and middle school students, but it’s never too early to start educating them about far-off lands.

So, what does a collection development project entail? In this instance, three steps.

1. Writing up a profile of my school and its population, and identifying the collection development goals.  This is the purely academic portion of the project.

2. Evaluating the current collection.  We had to write an annotated bibliography, which usually wouldn’t happen, but the purpose was to record our thoughts.  Each book was evaluated for currency (how long ago was it published?), accuracy, bias, relevance (does it meet the needs of the collection? Is it serving that purpose?), circulation statistics (if a book was last checked out in 2001, chances are, you should get rid of it), and usefulness.  We then had to determine whether we would weed, retain, or update each book.

3. Additions to the collection, or deciding what books to purchase.  This part was actually really interesting because a lot of the time as a librarian, you’re flying blind, so to speak.  It’s simply not possible to examine, in person, each book you want to purchase.  So what does a librarian do? They rely upon reviews, catalogs, and “best of” lists to see what other qualified people have had to say about a particular book.   You read what they have to say, consider how positive or not the review is, and make your judgments accordingly.  In the real world, you wouldn’t write down the justifications, and you would have the very real constraints of a budget, but for the purposes of this assignment, we had to justify our choices with supported reviews and had no budget.

All in all, I feel really good about my final product, and I hope the librarian I’m working with finds it useful as well.  Out of the 15 books we had to choose, I’d say 11 of them were really great choices, and I hope that she’s able to purchase at least some of them.

Tomorrow marks the start of a well-needed Thanksgiving break, and in between turkey and pie, I have a good deal of work to get done.  On my plate for the rest of the semester:

1. Literary critique for Children’s Literature

2. 3-class unit lesson plan for Curriculum

3. American Civics Lesson Plan for Curriculum

4. History Frameworks response paper for Curriculum

5. Annotated bibliography for Reference

6. Non-Print Media Log for Children’s Literature

7. Reader’s Theater presentation for Children’s Literature (we will be performing the classic work Is Your Mama a Llama?)

Wish me luck, it’s going to be a long haul to December 9th.

My, how Time Flies

Blink and the semester is nearly over.  One month from today, I will be wrapping up my library classes for the semester.  One month and ten days from today, I will leave for New York and fly home for a month of well-earned downtime.  Where have these eight weeks gone? It’s unreal.

Classes have gotten steadily more interesting – I daresay I now actually enjoy reference.  Children’s literature has exposed me to some great books I’ve never read before, and has reminded me of the magic of childhood.  There’s something about the sense of wonder and curiosity that kids look at the world that I find inspiring, and it makes me want to run out and start writing children’s literature if only I could adequately capture said sense of magic. Maybe one day…maybe next year. Curriculum is well…curriculum.  The professor is a lovely person, but the content feels largely pointless, and I wish that the class were structured differently.

So much to do, so very little time.  And then there’s my novel.  Which is crawling along at a dreadfully slow pace.  And then there’s my unfinished fanfic, which I desperately want to finish but can’t carve time out for just yet.  Thankfully this week is a holiday on Thursday (woot!) for Veteran’s Day, then class again, then THANKSGIVING! So very excited for that.

Crunch time is just around the corner, but I’ll make it through.  But maybe I should set up my bed first.

May the Madness Begin

Like many librarians, I harbor a secret yen to be a published author.  And so, in an attempt to be vaguely proactive about attaining this goal, for the last two years, I have participated in NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.   I have won both years, which means that I have two terrible, incomplete manuscripts of about 53,000 words apiece sitting cozily on my desktop, and I’m determined to give it another shot this year.  But this time, I’m scared.

You see, it was a lot easier to meet my word count totals when I was teaching or working last year, because I had a great deal of free time.  Now, I still have free time, but I also have major projects due throughout November and early December, when the semester ends.   To give you an idea:

– Reference Visit to be done and written up

– 3 part lesson on American history to be written for curriculum

– Collection Development project for Kid’s Lit

– Annotated Bibliography project for Reference

– Literature Review for Kid’s Lit

– Anatomy class – tests and final, with two papers thrown in

In short, I may well go insane.  Or not sleep.  But therein lies the beauty of NaNo; teaching you that writing is always possible, and if you wait, you’re never going to write your novel.  Technically, I’m cheating by recycling a few plot elements and a character from last year’s endeavor, but she won’t leave me alone, and I want to try and write her story, so let’s see how this goes.

Wish me luck.  I’ll see you December 1st, sanity possibly not intact.

Three Weeks In

Time is flying by – the beginning of September seems more like a distant memory now as we approach the middle-end part of the month.  Fall is just around the corner – the weather changed seemingly overnight here.  My first week here was characterized by sweltering temperatures, minimal clothing, and desperate hopes of catching even the slightest breeze.  And then I moved into our apartment and it got really cold, really fast.  Since then, it’s been warm during the days but almost consistently cold at night, necessitating the purchase of a fall jacket, socks, and close-toed shoes.   I dread to think of what the actual fall and winter period is going to be like.

Classes are going well – there’s a sizable amount of reading to be done, but not too much work.  No long papers for the most part, but lots of small assignments and projects.  I plan on starting my field work soon for both reference and kid’s lit, and I’m looking forward to them, actually.   I’ve also signed up to volunteer in the teen room of a local library once a week on Wednesday evenings, so we’ll see how that unfolds.

It’s so funny, taking these four very different classes.  Curriculum frameworks is a very education-esque class, where we spend lots of time talking about lesson plans, activities, and are going through the state curriculum standards one subject area at a time.   Kid’s lit is my most fun class, though I’m still worried about analyzing my beloved childhood favorites from the more cynical lens of adulthood, because it can sometimes be a very upsetting process.  Reference is kind of boring subject wise, but we did have an interesting talk this week in class about drawing the line in terms of censorship and grey areas like providing pornography to young people who ask for it in the public library, and what to do if someone is surfing porn on a public computer (the answer: by the ALA’s standards, nothing, but your individual library’s policies may vary).

And then there’s Anatomy and Physiology, which is like a completely different ballgame.  Different knowledge, different skills, but comfortingly familiar.  I haven’t taken science since graduating from high school, but I’ve always enjoyed it.  Taking this class is like a nice trip down memory lane as terms and concepts come flooding back, and although I have a functional and decent self-taught grounding in the basics of anatomy thanks to my interest in massage, I’m excited to solidify that knowledge as the semester progresses.

All in all, classes are looking pretty good.  Here’s hoping the rest of the semester goes as smoothly and well.