Friday, January 27, 2012

Five Questions I asked at Midwinter

For Five Things on a Friday, I was going to talk about five things I took away from the recent ALA Midwinter conference in Dallas. I'm still processing so that will have to wait. Instead I want to tell you about the five questions I took with me to the conference. These were questions I asked in discussion groups, at dinners, and hoped to find answers and inspiration from my colleagues.

I always go excited about certain sessions, or speakers, but knowing the real treasure of knowledge happens at dinner in a random restaurant or conversations between formal presentations. Here is what I asked and learned. All of these could be (and still might be) a post on their own, so I am trying to keep it brief.

  1. What do you do when patrons have the latest gadget but no supportive equipment?
    This has been bugging me for a few years now. Parents, especially in the lower socio-economic bracket, will buy a cool gadget for their children. But many of them don't work without a computer to synch them with, or an itunes account and credit card. And the library has computers locked down so tight that we can not download the needed software onto them. It's crushing to tell kids that I can't make their new present work. Brainstormed this with several people. More solutions later.

  2. How does a library manage large numbers of teenagers?
    I've talked about my afterschool hours before. I didn't get a ton of new solutions, but I did get reminded that all of our staff needs a break. I can feel in my soul and see in my staff's faces how very weary, jaded and burnt out we all are. Our busiest hours are 3pm to 5pm so I try to stack reference desk shifts for 2pm-4pm and 4pm-6pm so no one does the entirety of the worst time, and people get a break. Still pondering, especially how do I keep my staff from burning out?

  3. What new book(s) are you excited about in 2012?
    I primarily asked this of publishers as I visited their booth/dinner/breakfast. Partially spying for comittee work, partially to know what will excite my patrons in the next year. (Confession: I heard someone else ask this the first day and stole it.)

  4. Would you still advise people to go to library school?
    This is a question I ponder a lot. Short answer: I probably wouldn't. Long answer to come, at some point. More people said they would not recommed library school than those that would. Of course I didn't ask at any of the library school booths.

  5. What is Newbery going to require of me?
    I am scared and overwhelmed by the responsibility of being on the Newbery committee. That was my primary goal at conferene to understand better my responsibilities. And I do. I'm still overwhelmed but now I'm only quite nervous instead of extremely scared. There are a lot of books to read

Friday, January 13, 2012

Five Things on a Friday - Conference Survival Tips

Are you getting excited about the ALA Midwinter Meeting? Packing? Perusing the vendor list? Playing with the conference scheduler? Constantly typing MidWinter and having to correct yourself to Midwinter? That last one might just be me.

I love conferences. I run myself from 6am (first breakfast meeting) to 1am (drinking with friends) and sleep as little as humanly possible. I catch up with old friends/colleagues and meet new ones. The energy, excitement, and knowledge are better than any form of caffeine. However just going into it can be really draining. There are loads of tips and techniques for making the most of a conference. Humbly I submit mine. I really thought I had written this post (or one like this) before, but I couldn't find it in my archives.

  1. Before going: schedule multiple sessions for time slots
    The conference scheduler provided by ALA has been better and worse over the years, but it works fairly well right now. I always browse and choose as many sessions as sound remotely interesting. I'll put highest priority on the one I think sounds the most interesting. However I often find that once I'm there another sessions sounds more interesting. This saves me from frantically flipping through a conference schedule or trying to pull up the (overloaded) website trying to remember what that other session was. Go ahead and print out your schedule. I export my schedule to my phone, but I'm always prepared for catastrophic technology failure.

  2. Stay hydrated
    Bring your own reusable water bottle. Fun travel tip: you can take an empty water bottle (even one of those metal ones) through airport security and fill it up with water once you're through. Carry that water bottle the entire time, including in the conference hall. Refill it often. Drink a ton of water. You need the fluids. The refillable water bottle is better on your budget and better for the earth then buying water.

  3. Carry snacks
    I have low sugar issues, so this is one of my life mantras. But even if you don't, it's easy to get caught up in the fun of conference and forget to eat (or run out of time). Stock up on some granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, etc., before you leave and you'll avoid getting lightheaded and thinking the $4 conference center muffin is a good idea. (Also true for airports). As a side note, get your coffee before you go to the conference center. Lines are too long. It's not worth it.

  4. You need more business cards
    I only took four once because I wasn't thinking. Don't forget them. Digital era and all, they're still going to be what everyone asks you for.

  5. Be ready to organize paperwork
    Speaking of business cards, you're going to get a lot of them. Turn the card over and scribble a note about why you talked to them. Put them in a dedicated place for just received business cards. Whatever you do don't put them with your business cards. (That way lies madness and embarrassment when you hand out the wrong card.) An envelope put in your purse/briefcase/messenger bag will do nicely, but you can go fancier. I always have receptacles organized for all my paperwork. A folder with the printouts I will need (the schedule, hotel and flight confirmation, registration info, etc.). Additionally I have a folder for handouts and an envelope for storing receipts. This makes my life post-conference about 100 times easier.

There you go. Those are my hopefully practical and helpful conference tips. See you there!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Management Lessons from History

I love history, historical fiction, period dramas, and old movies. Recently I've been looking to them for management advice and techniques.

One of our biggest issues is (as mentioned in previous posts) the large numbers of teenagers. It's a good problem to have but 100+ teenagers in the library can be overwhelming to staff and other patrons. Normally (as I have to explain to some cranky old person* at least once a week) it isn't that any one person is too loud, it is only that there are a lot of people.

Sometimes it is that one person or one group of people are being too loud. If we can not easily identify which kid is the lynch pin and repeated general warnings do not work, we go to one of these techniques.

In the original meaning of decimation, a group of Roman soldiers were punished by drawing lots. One out of every ten was thus randomly selected to be killed. Horrifyingly, he was executed by the nine not chosen.
My form of decimation is a little more humane. If a group is consistently loud and will not quiet/calm down despite repeated warnings, then they get one last warning that the next time some of them will be asked to leave. We then go down the line and count them off (usually by 3's) and kick out a random group (either the 1's, 2's, or 3's). It's surprisingly effective. We only have to do it once and kids then learn to be calmer when we ask them. (We don't ask for perfect silence just a degree of calm and no shouting.)
And as my sister pointed out when I told her this method (after she finished laughing) you can make sure that the number you choose "randomly" kicks out that lynch pin kid. She knows me really well.

I am Spartacus!
If decimation doesn't work, we try this. If they won't be calmer and can't stop hitting/screaming/throwing furniture, just kick out the entire group. Yes even the kid who hasn't been doing as much. It's the same as crucifying everyone if you don't know which is the real Spartacus. We know only one or two kids is tossing the volleyball over the shelves, but we're going to punish everyone. No, it isn't fair. But it does teach you to walk away when you see behavior like that. And in this city, the police can arrest you for hanging around known gang members. Sadly guilt by association is a real thing. We don't use this technique much, but it is very effective when we do.

Two quick techniques to deal with large numbers of teens in the library. We use them sparingly, but they work. In a future blog post, I'll write about my recent obsession with medieval history and the result (hint I'm getting very protective of my sovereignty over my domain).

Happy Reading!

*I wrote this in a cranky moment. A week later and the combined noise of all the teenagers got to me and I snapped. It can be overwhelming and I'm inured to it. It's not only cranky old people who complain, just mostly.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Five Things on a Friday - 2012 Goals

As a general rule, I dislike resolutions on New Year's. I believe any day is a good day to start something better. Why wait until that one day? Make a decision and follow through. However there is a certain psychological thrill for big round numbers (hence why the 38th birthday isn't a big deal but the 40th is). And a new year appeals to that same sense that appeals to round numbers. It's a good benchmark and a pretty decent time to make goals. So here are my Friday Five professional goals. (For the record I was tempted to write in my official goals "continue to be awesome and don't burn the library down" but I resisted.)

  1. Be on the Newbery Committee
    Did I blog about this? I can't recall. I was elected to the 2013 Newbery committee. My term of service is now through next January. I'll read (almost) all the books eligible in 2012 and we will vote and announce the winner at Midwinter conference in January 2013. It's a huge time commitment (bye-bye knitting time) for this year in terms of reading and library conference trips (ALA Midwinter in January 2012 in Dallas, ALA Annual in June 2012 in Anaheim, ALA Midwinter in January 2013 in Seattle). It's not a goal so much as a plan, but it is my first time on an award committee and I'm really excited about it. I'll be blogging in moderation about it.

  2. Teach a class on Craigslist
    Last year's email class was fun and definitely served a great purpose. One of the things I do most is help people navigate Craigslist. I used it to sell my old phone this week and I got confused (and I'm good at this type of stuff). I think it would be a really great and helpful program for our patrons. When I do it, I will require that people have a valid email account BEFORE they come to learn about Craigslist. That always seems to surprise people.

  3. Expand our library's community partnerships
    Currently our two most valuable partnerships are with the Food Bank of Alaska and Let's Talk Anchorage. The Food Bank provides (as part of a federal program) full meals for some of our youth programming. We're hoping to present on it at the PNLA Conference in August. It's a great partnership but we can always flush it out more. I'd also like to see our library staff explore more partnerships as well.

  4. More audiobooks!
    I've been the graphic novel selector for our system for a couple of years now. (I do a bit of additional selecting, managing our leased book plan for best sellers, and spending grant money.) In 2011 I had the chance to place an audiobook order for the standalone audiobook players known as Playaways. This year I will be making all the playaway orders. As an audiobook addict, I'm quite excited!

  5. Take advantage of opportunities. Try something new.
    Too often we get comfortable in a routine and we stick to that. I love this library and the work we're doing. I want that to continue. But I also know that we have been open now for a year and a half, long enough to get routines established. When you first open, with a brand new staff, everything is a first, is new, is experimental. I want to keep that feeling as much as possible. We should keep the enthusiasm for the good things strong, toss the stuff that isn't working, always be willing to try something new. Everyday should have as much enthusiasm as that first week. And when an opportunity arrives, find more reasons to say yes than no.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Hat Knitting Frustration

Warning this is one of the posts that has nothing to do with librarianship and a lot to do with knitting.

I've knit a lot of hats. I'm pretty good at it. Do you hear that? That's hubris. And pride as we know goes before a knitter falling on the floor, weeping and throwing pointed sticks around.

It all started simply. My dad's head is oversized and he has trouble buying a hat that fits him. I thought I would knit him a hat to wear in the winter when he walks the dog. He needs it to keep warm, especially as every year passes and he has less natural coverage up there. He seemed agreeable to this plan. Normally he likes ribbed stocking caps because they stretch to cover his head. I don't like knitting boring stocking ribbed caps because they're boring. Knitted hats should be special. It seemed a bit daring but I chose the Knotty But Nice hat from Knitty. I added a full extra repeat of the cables to make it big enough. It was fun to knit, fairly quick, and turned out lovely. It was mailed to him (mostly) in time for his September birthday.

See how pretty?
Note how the bottom part is wider than it should be? I should have read the comments on Ravelry and done the ribbing down a needle size, the cables up a needle size, and the crown down a needle size. The hat (despite my mods) was too small/too short for Dad's head. Grrr. But it's pretty! (That doesn't count for anything). Yarn is Cascade 220

So I tried again. This time with the Ryan hat in navy blue Ella Rae Classic Superwash (one of my new favorite workhorse yarns). Modified the pattern for worsted weight (basically added a lot of extra pattern repeats and winged the decreases). Made it nice and long so it could be rolled/folded up double over ears. This one was mailed off in the first week of November. It looks lovely, see:

This time Dad thinks it is too big (and too loosely knit).

Now by the rules of statistics and Goldilocks if the first one was too small and the second one was too big, then the third one should be just right. Maybe I'll try that next year. Maybe not.

I knit two other hats for Christmas for D's sisters.

Quest from Knitty in Ella Rae Classic Superwash.

by Brooklyn Tweed in Cascade 220 Heathers

Those two hats fit well and worked well for their recipients. (I really only bat about 50% success rate at knitting for people other than myself.) Now I'm working on two baby hats and a hat for my knitter group's January hat swap.

I apologize for the poor quality of all these photos, I'm never home during daylight hours this time of year.