As the cliché goes, it is fun to spend other people’s money. Next week I will be going to Saskatoon for a massive book buying trip as directed by the school division. It is an annual practice for a library technician and a teacher representative from each school go on a purchasing spree in the fall. It is a new experience for me as well as dealing with purchase orders.

I laugh at my own foibles as I want to be both prepared and leave room for the spontaneity of browsing. My strategy is admittedly a strange hybrid of lists of needs to replace tattered copies or wants of new authors, or interests as well as consulting and talking to other teachers and students about what they want.

If Karen were in my shoes, she might choose the more spontaneous approach. My standard strategy has been “defensive pessimism” or preparing and planning when faced with anxiety-inducing situation. I saw myself a lot in the Upside of Pessimism article, but immediately thought of Karen, when I read a version that procrastination is the opposite response of people, who tend to think more positively. So there is always time tomorrow to complete that project. Neither way is better than the other but just reflects the person’s view of the world.

Sometimes my inner critic becomes overwhelming and I need to step back and focus at the main outcome, as well as say “what is the worst thing that could happen.” This self talk calms me down. Anyhow I have a good problem when budgets shrink elsewhere or there is lack of support for the library. Running to Saskatoon…

– Brenda

Brenda and I have advocated often for volunteering with library associations. This year I took on my biggest opportunity yet – Program Director for the Canadian Association of Law Libraries’ annual conference. It was a huge challenge, but one I felt ready to do.

Back in 2010, I agreed to be on the program committee for the 2012 CALL/ACBD conference, to be held in Toronto. I consciously accepted that job, realizing that the conference would  be moving to Winnipeg sometime in the near future, and I wanted to be prepared to help out. That experience was invaluable! If you haven’t done it before, you may think that being on the program committee means thinking up all the programs and finding people to deliver them. Our committee was actually only tasked with finding plenary speakers (three) and advertising the opportunity for others to offer programs for presentation (and then selecting the programs that would be included). What a relief!

When I found out the conference would be in Winnipeg in 2014, I was prepared to take on programming. I selected my committee by considering colleagues I felt would follow through on the commitment. My core committee of co-blogger Brenda Wong, Jodi Turner, Michael McAlpine and Mary-Jo Mustoe were fabulous. We brainstormed plenary speakers, and divided the tasks of inviting them among us. We sent out requests for programs through as many networks as we could, both national and local. Since Winnipeg is a fairly small market legally, I took it upon myself to contact a few local lawyers to present on their fields of expertise.

The program came together nicely, although not without some pitfalls. I don’t know if it’s just librarians as a group who are not the greatest at responding promptly, but our first call for proposals required an extension – after the first deadline we only had a handful of presentations! Adding on another two weeks gave some people a push to at least let us know they were trying to put something together. It’s a little disappointing, considering we all know the conference is going to be coming up and yet we wait until after the last minute to respond.

I’d like to say the conference went off without a hitch, but that would be lying. Even before the conference started, one of the co-presenters of a session backed out, but the other presenter went ahead, so that worked out. Then two presenters cancelled at the last minute, requiring a quick change in the program. We ended up having no sessions on the last day, but that was okay. We got more attendees at the AGM, always a difficult task.

Overall the conference was a huge success. We made twice as much money as we thought we would, the cost for the program was significantly under budget, and members went home with a positive experience of the city. (The food was so good, I gained 7 lbs!) Exhibitors were happy and members were happy – what more could we ask for?

I’d like to make a special thank you to Brenda, who stayed on the committee even though she moved to Saskatchewan and switched libraries to a school library. The whole experience was a fantastic learning experience, but I’m glad I don’t have to do it again!

Against YA?


Over at Slate they are trying their best to whip up controversy about sappy Young Adult novels. Ruth Graham thinks that ” …you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”

I am amused as I am both a librarian and immersing myself in YA and children’s literature. It’s plain wrong to broadly categorize all YA as too lightweight. There are some really well written novels that are still being studied. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier come to mind.

See the comment by atibamanii who is a retired librarian for a thoughtful response. To paraphrase atibamanii, a good story is a good story no matter what shelf it was found on.

Happy summer reading!

– Brenda

Summer Reading


Working in a school library with fine late May weather, I am finding it hard to concentrate. I am anticipating the home stretch as we wind down the year. The kids and myself are antsy thinking ahead to summer…and summer reading, in my case. Luckily I don’t have an assigned summer reading list. But kids going to summer school or private school might have pre-reading for classes to complete. Educator and author Donalyn Miller has strong opinions on the value of summer reading:

Assigning complex texts for summer reading doesn’t assure students are reading. Even if students muddle through these challenges, I suspect more than a few readers miss the deeper themes or fail to understand the books. Kelly Gallagher talks about “underteaching” books—sending students off to read difficult texts on their own without support from teachers—a practice that results in poor comprehension and reduced engagement for most young readers. Reading books they don’t understand does nothing to improve students’ reading ability and goes a long way toward disenfranchising them from reading altogether.

 (from blog post June 9, 2013 by Donalyn Miller)

I remember slogging through Huckleberry Finn in high school, which ruined me for Mark Twain’s work for a long time. So this time I tackled Charles Dickens with a slow, methodical plan. I chose Great Expectations carefully and opted to read it digitally in Overdrive. I own this copy, which is sourced from awesome free e-books at Project Gutenberg.  The result is very little stress to finish it fast and return it to the bricks and mortar library. At times, I can be a slow reader too, as this has taken me over a year to read. But my reading pattern has been a good fit, as Dickens writes in episodes, in which characters cycle back. By chance I browsed the graphic novel, but I refuse to watch a movie adaptation as I am enjoying the rich language and images that visuals would compete with my imagination. Many strong readers/friends have tried to dissuade me from reading Dickens as they have classified it as boring or too complex. I don’t think any text is too complex, but rather we need to come to it with the right frame of mind, and in a conducive context.

Choice for students is a critical factor as to whether they will develop and identify themselves as readers. That’s where my job is a more of a vocation to spark that interest in all the adventures waiting for them in books. The more they read, the more they can understand what they like and don’t like. Reading is not just task-based about completing the number of book reports per term.

And the last word goes to Miller who has a Book A Day challenge for the summer. I might just try it out…So many books, too little time.

– Brenda


Author visit


The world of school libraries is different than corporate libraries. A lot of my time is spent considering how to engage students in leisure reading, and leading into teachable moments. This week our school hosted James Leck in an author visit.  For me I learned about the publishing process and found out both Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Joy of Cooking  were self-publishing success stories. (Pardon the pun.)

But for a student, it was connecting the classroom to the real world. Things like spelling and punctuation count. There was an audible gasp in the group, when Leck gave example of how poor use of English language could jeopardize one’s success.

He outlined how a book becomes printed from book proposal to editing. A one page outline plus a sample of the book are sent on speculation to publishers. This slush pile can become quite huge. Editors will only read page proposals out of the thousands of packages they get.  If there are spelling or other mistakes, then they get shredded — so no second chances and things must be perfect!  It was one of those a-ha moments, when school and real world connect, clearly demonstrating that school work is not just theoretical.

On an unrelated note, author visits take a lot of planning, but are entirely worthwhile as a way to spice up your library programming, while promoting reading and libraries ultimately. The students saw a live author in action appreciating the laborious work that goes on in the background. It is so true that good writing is 80% re-writing and published authors just plug away at their craft.

Thanks to TD Canadian Children’s Book Week, coordinator Arwen Rudolph, and James Leck.

– Brenda

Author visit

Book Week 2014

What do I do?


What got me started on this post was this article from INALJ (I need a library job) called 5 Things That People Don’t Realize Their Librarians Do.

This is my year for public speaking. I’m sitting on a panel of library technicians at the 2014 Manitoba Libraries Conference called “What can you do with a Library Technician Diploma?” There are five other panelists for a 75 minute session, so I don’t have a lot of time. I’ve been thinking about how I can best describe what I do and how what I learned through my library technician diploma made the difference to performing this job.

When I think about what I do, I realize that the most important part of my job is building relationships. I connect with my lawyers to reinforce how I can help them, I network with my colleagues at other law libraries to support me when I don’t know what to do or where to start, and I connect with legal publishing vendors to ensure I get the best resources for my firm for the best price. Of course I also do the “library” stuff too, like reviewing and entering data into the library catalogue, making sure invoices are paid, suggesting which resources to use, training on database use, and performing legal research.

I’ve tried to get my role down to one line: I help my lawyers win cases for their clients, and help them find new clients. I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks figuring out how to put that all together into a 5-10 minute presentation that’s both educational and entertaining.

Wish me luck!

~ Karen


Raise a Reader


I know two toddlers that could not be more different. Rick’s mom is not a reader and finds “mom and tot” programs boring at the library. When I play with him, he is engaged but he doesn’t verbalize a lot. Things don’t bode well for his language development.  The other baby is Marie, who is developmentally about average. She can say “Bye. See you.” If you pull out a book, she is all over it and wants to sit for a reading.

So many people underestimate the early engagement of developing readers. There are great ideas in the link about How to Raise a Reader. Personally we always read in the family as I grew up. I also went regularly to the public library as a child. My uncle also bought me a book focusing on science and ramps. I learned a whole world was waiting for me inside a small  book. Let’s hope that little Rick has the same chance to discover of other worlds.

– Brenda


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 432 other followers

%d bloggers like this: