Friday, May 31, 2019

Audio Books Aren't Cheating

How many times have you had this conversation?
Person: How do you find the time to read so much?
You: Well, I listen to audio books in the car and at the gym--
Person: Oh, so you're not REALLY reading! Audio books are cheating.

Well. Have we got news for these people! AUDIO BOOKS ARE NOT CHEATING!

FIRST of all. Why is it "cheating"? Is reading hard work that we are somehow skipping? I sure hope not. If reading is supposed to be work, then I have been doing it wrong for years!

The Basics

Let's take out the part of the equation that beginning readers (up to about fifth grade) need to be able to read and process what they're reading, by decoding the words and comprehending their meaning. As adults (and also as teens), we don't need practice decoding; we are reading for comprehension and enjoyment. As such... what does it matter how the information enters our brain?

What I usually ask people, if questioned about this topic, is if they can understand what they have heard. Do they need practice reading? No? Do they enjoy the stories? Yes? Can they talk about it later? Okay then! They have successfully internalized a story.

We must also consider those who are unable to read print. Are books in Braille truly "reading"? Can a person with vision issues say they are an avid reader, when their books are audible? I would argue that, yes, they can.

The Science

If you look at this from a perspective of science, the brain processes a story that is read in pretty much the same way as a story that is heard. University of Virginia Psychologist Daniel Willingham, author of Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do, explains that, "for typical adults (who decode fluently) listening comprehension and reading comprehension [are] mostly the same thing. And experiments show very high correlations of scores on listening and reading comprehension tests in adults." So... yes, it's pretty much the same thing.

Dr. Willingham also objects to the often-chosen word, "cheating," in regards to reading. ​"Comparing audio books to cheating is like meeting a friend at Disneyland and saying 'you took a bus here? I drove myself, you big cheater.' The point is getting to and enjoying the destination. The point is not how you traveled." Hear, hear!

And Also

In his interview with CNN, Willingham also asks us to consider how the author wanted their work to be experienced. Newer books, such as Amy Poehler's Yes, Please are almost meant to be heard, and the inflections of the narrator (Poehler herself) add an extra element to the experience. Some titles, such as dense nonfiction, may be far more enjoyable to the reader than the listener, as they can easily flip back to reference previous passages. 

Of course, this leads us to the question of the drama: 
Is it cheating to read Shakespeare, when it was meant to be seen?

Let us know your thoughts here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Friday, May 24, 2019

You Don't Have to Love the Classics

I went to the Massachusetts Library Association conference last week and had a wonderful time. I got tons of great ideas, and I've already started working with staff to see if some things we learned about are feasible for our library. On the lighter side of things, there was a vendor table that asked us, what is your LEAST favorite book?

Answers were widely varied, and I know there was a fair amount of overlap between this topic and their other question, "what book inspires you?" What struck me was the number of "classic" books that people had listed as their least favorite.

What Makes a Classic?

The first question I had was, what makes a book a classic, anyway? The fact that it's well-known, or has lasted through the years? Many people have written entire books just trying to answer this question. I can't claim to be any more intelligent than they, but I can have my own thoughts on the matter.

Italo Calvino says that a classic is "a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers." This is a lovely way to think of it, but I would argue that The Cat in the Hat is a classic and I have gotten pretty much all out of that one that I possibly can.

Mark Twain declared that a classic is, "something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read." That seems somewhat closer to the truth, though I find it very ironic that the works of Mark Twain are now, themselves, classics.

This also makes me wonder: Can a book lose "classic" status if people no longer enjoy it? There was a time when the Tom Swift science fiction books by Victor Appleton were on everyone's radar, but you might not have even heard of them today. (Fun fact: the TASER is actually named for the character; it stands for Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle.)

Do We Have to Love Them?

No matter how you define the term, we all have several examples at the ready. Do we have to enjoy them (or pretend to)?

I used to joke that I was a terrible librarian because I can't stand the works of James Joyce. I have come to the conclusion, however, that it doesn't matter whether I like him, or any other author, or not. The real question is: Will I still make sure to find these works if someone wants them, or I think they might enjoy them? If yes, then it doesn't matter what my personal views are. You want Ulysses? Here it is!

The thing is: times change. In some cases, what was once acceptable and even normal is no longer okay; the Laura Ingalls Wilder books are a good example of this. While they are a product of their time, and we can still love the stories while being aware of the bias of the narrator, they are less popular now than they were, and may have a resurgence in popularity, or may fade away (like poor old Tom Swift).

Also, people change. Attitudes change. The sweet story you loved as a child might take on a whole new - sometimes disturbing - meaning as an adult. 

So, no. We don't have to love them. We can make up our own minds about classics -- but we also don't get to judge anyone else who decides they are still perfect.

Classics We Didn't Necessarily Love

Taken from the list at the conference and conversations that I've had with other librarians, I have compiled a short list of classics that are very divisive. What do you think? 

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Why didn't you love it? "The title character wants to make friends so he rips off his shiny scales to share with his friends. This isn't sharing cookies at lunch - he mutilates himself so others like him. Disturbing."

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Why didn't you love it? "The tree gives her all for the little boy, to the point that she is left a dead stump with nothing left."

I Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Why didn't you love it? "The mom breaks into her adult son's house to hold him in his sleep. CREEPY."

Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
Why didn't you love it? "That guy had a messed up view of human nature."

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Why didn't you love it? "I kept reading it thinking it must get better...and it didn't."

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Why didn't you love it? "Holden Caufield is such a spoiled brat!"

Friday, May 17, 2019

Ready to Go Book Display: By the Numbers

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go! Book Display." Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. This month we are featuring book titles with numbers!

Recommendations for Adults:

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (Feb 1999)
A New Jersey bounty hunter with attitude, bail-bonds apprehension agent Stephanie Plum pursues a former vice cop, now on the run, with whom she shares a sordid history and a powerful chemistry.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Jun 2003)
Tells the story of the Buendia family, set against the background of the evolution and eventual decadence of a small South American town.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom (Sep 2003)
Weaves three stories about 83-year-old Eddie, the head maintenance person at Ruby Point Amuseument park. Eddie meets 5 individuals in heaven each with a story to share, a secret to reveal and a lesson.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (Nov 2005)
Working in Gaborone, Botswana, Precious Ramotswe investigates several local mysteries, including a search for a missing boy and the case of the clinic doctor with different personalities for different days of the week.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (Mar 2007)
In the aftermath of a horrific small-town school shooting, lawyer Jordan McAfee finds himself defending a youth who desperately needs someone on his side, while intrepid detective Patrick DuCharme works with a primary witness in the daughter of the superior court judge assigned to the case.

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup (Apr 2014)
Born a free man in New York State in 1808, Solomon Northup was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841. He spent the next 12 years as a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation, and during this time he was frequently abused and often afraid for his life.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Aug 2011)
Immersing himself in a technological virtual utopia to escape an ugly real world of famine, poverty, and disease, Wade Watts joins an increasingly violent effort to solve a series of puzzles by the virtual world's creator.

11/22/63 by Stephen King (Nov 2011)
Receiving a horrific essay from a GED student with a traumatic past, high-school English teacher Jake Epping is enlisted by a friend to travel back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a mission for which he must befriend troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald.

Recommendations for Teens:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2006, Anniversary Edition Dec 2016)
When Clay Jenkins receives a box containing thirteen cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah, who committed suicide, he spends the night crisscrossing their town, listening to Hannah's voice recounting the events leading up to her death.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (Nov 2014)
When eighteen-year-old Marguerite Caine's father is killed, she must leap into different dimensions and versions of herself to catch her father's killer and avenge his murder.

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick (Mar 2012)
Finley, an unnaturally quiet boy who is the only white player on his high school's varsity basketball team, lives in a dismal Pennsylvania town that is ruled by the Irish mob. When his coach asks him to mentor a troubled African American student who has transferred there from an elite private school in California, he finds that they have a lot in common in spite of their apparent differences.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (Sep 2000)
In 1793 Philadelphia, sixteen-year-old Matilda Cook, separated from her sick mother, learns about perseverance and self-reliance when she is forced to cope with the horrors of a yellow fever epidemic.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (Jan 2011)
In rural Ohio, friendships and a beautiful girl prove distracting to a fifteen-year-old who has hidden on Earth for ten years waiting to develop the Legacies, or powers, he will need to rejoin the other six surviving Garde members and fight the Mogadorians who destroyed their planet, Lorien.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Sep 2015)
Offered a chance to participate in a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams, criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker recruits a team of talented associates to organize a plot that is threatened by their mutual enmity. 

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (Aug 2005)
When seventeen-year-old Ginny receives a packet of mysterious envelopes from her favorite aunt, she leaves New Jersey to criss-cross Europe on a sort of scavenger hunt that transforms her life.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (May 2017)
When one of five students in detention is found dead, his high-profile classmates - including a brainy intellectual, a popular beauty, a drug dealer on probation and an all-star athlete - are investigated and revealed to be the subjects of the victim's latest gossip postings.

Recommendations for Children:

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka (Oct 1989)
The wolf gives his own outlandish version of what really happened when he tangled with the three little pigs. 

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Jan 2012)
When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.

A story-poem about the activities of such unusual animals as the Nook, Womp, Yink, Yap, Gack and the Zeds.

The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone (Feb 2010)
Ruthie thinks nothing exciting will ever happen to her until her sixth-grade class visits the Art Institute of Chicago, where she and her best friend Jack discover a magic key that shrinks them to the size of gerbils and allows them to explore the Thorne Rooms - the collection of sixty-eight miniature rooms from various time periods and places - and discover their secrets.

How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague (Sep 2004)
Describes how a little dinosaur counts from one to ten, using the toys and other things around him.

High Five by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri (Apr 2019)
Animals present hand slapping skills to readers, just in time for the annual high five contest.

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass (Jan 2009)
After celebrating their first nine same-day birthdays together, Amanda and Leo, having fallen out of their tenth and not speaking to each other for the last year, prepare to celebrate their eleventh birthday separately but peculiar things begin to happen as the day of their birthday begins to repeat itself over and over again.

10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle (Jan 2010)
When a storm strikes a cargo ship, ten rubber ducks are tossed overboard and swept off in ten different directions. Based on a factual incident.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Process Art: The Journey, Not the Destination

Does your arts and crafts program need a makeover? There is absolutely value, for all ages, in following directions to create a piece with one's own hands that looks exactly like it's supposed to. There is also value in the act of creation, experimenting with new media, practicing with new tools, and not worrying about the end product. Enter process art.

What Is It, and Why Do It?

The idea with Process Art is to enjoy the act of creation of art, and not just focus on the end result. 

Many times, we get bogged down in the way things are "supposed to be," instead of discovering what they could be. You need to paint with a brush. Every snowman needs 3 circles of paper and one orange nose. Watercolor paintings are to be outlined and filled in, not mixed on the paper like acrylic paint. But... why?

Children often enjoy the act of creation, and then throw away the end product, and while this can rankle when you have painstakingly cut out dozens of small pieces to achieve perfect construction paper butterflies, only to see them in the trash, it's really because they were enjoying the creating, but didn't really care about the creation. Why not save yourself the frustration, but keep the same fun?

Process art is also wonderful for adults. Take coloring books, for example. You color them to relax and enjoy coloring, but most people won't treasure the pages once they're done. The end picture is not the point; the coloring is the point.

How To Get Started

If you're unsure of the concept of process art, you can start the way you generally do, and take away the rules. Instead of "we are making paper caterpillars and this is what they look like," tell your patrons, "we are making paper caterpillars. Here are the supplies," and see what they do. Some may be long and skinny, some may have 7 eyes, some may be every supply glued onto the paper in a very abstract sort of way.

Try working with consumable products - literally. Decorate cupcakes or cookies with any number of edible products. The end result is going to be eaten, anyway, so it doesn't matter what it looks like. The idea is to have fun making it.

With little ones, you can use any number of tactile art products. Why not try:
  • Paper cutting with safety scissors
  • Shaving cream on a table - let them make a huge mess and wash it away with water
  • Finger paint on a large piece of paper taped to the table - one group project means nobody takes it home, anyway
  • Setting out odds and ends from other projects and seeing what they create
  • Painting with marbles, toy cars, vegetables, or anything else that makes a unique impression
Painting with unique objects can be fun for older kids and adults, too, though you may want to phrase it more as "make your own unique wrapping paper" than "come play with paint," or you may not get an audience.

What Do You Think?

We'd love to hear about your own experience with process art! Let us know here in the comments, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

10 Meaningful Volunteer Roles in the Library

Library volunteers - we all get the requests, but what to do with them? There is just only so much dusting, weeding, children programming prep, and mending you can have them do. Below are some ideas that have been successful at other libraries, especially for teens and adults. Please keep in mind - some union contracts may not allow certain tasks to be performed by volunteers, so before you do anything, make sure you double check with your Director what you can and cannot have a volunteer do.

Window Artists

  If your volunteers are artistic, get them to work on your windows! All they need are brushes, tempera paint, and a dab of dish soap (just to make it easier to wash off afterwards). You could have them paint advertisements of upcoming events or you can do seasonal themes. Better yet – pick out a children’s picture book and ask them to paint an inspiration from it, then you can put the book on display.

Children's Room windows at the Marlborough Public Library. Teens painted their inspirations from The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 

Outreach Specialists

  Is there any library that does this enough? Find outgoing people who are willing to promote library services and resources at community events and festivals. They can even bring library card registration forms or a floating book collection, which we discussed a in a previous post.

Program Facilitators

   Tap into your volunteer’s passion. What kind of programs could they run at the library and you provide the advertising? Pikes Peak Library District has a manga artist run their anime meetings as well as teachers to run their ESL circles and teach foreign languages.  Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box! Alachua County Library District has local history aides staffed by volunteers.

Shelf Managers

   By far, this was the favorite position our teens enjoy at my previous library. We trained them to be shelf readers and they spent half their time making sure their section is in order and the other half of the time shifting books. If you have any pages, see if you can match your shelf mangers to a page and have the page supervise their work. I had the volunteers to turn the books backwards when they moved it and then the page would come and flip them around. When the volunteer mastered call numbers, they didn't have to flip the books anymore. (If people are unable to pass the shelf reading test, have them only focus on shifting books. There's always plenty of work to be done there.)

Library Photographers

   Train a few photographers to come in and take pictures of your big events or final products. We had included a photo release with our online registration so we could easily know ahead of time who we can photograph, and we also gave the photographers permission forms to hand out if needed. Make sure they download their favorite pictures on your computer BEFORE they leave, or you may never get them. This program was very beneficial for our social media and our website -- and all of our library photographers were teen volunteers. Note: Make sure you credit them for their work when you post them! They like to see their name attached to their pictures. Also, consider investing in a DSLR camera. The picture quality greatly increases, even if you just use the auto mode.

Photo Credit: MPL Photographer, Lauren Munday

Social Media Managers

   Social media can easily eat up a lot of anyone’s time, especially if you want to keep fresh content on it. There’s no reason why a librarian needs to manage these accounts 24/7. Volunteers can help post new information that may interest patrons (if you don’t want to give them direct access to your account, you can have them email you posts that you can just add to your account afterwards). Create a content guideline and find ways to divide up the work!

Collection Assistants

     Use volunteers to help you fine-tune your collection. Print out reports of missing books so they can double check they are not on the shelves and then you can delete them. Have them look up your series (fiction, manga, and graphic novels) and make a list of missing books for you to order. If you put stickers on your books (like Teen’s Top Ten), have them hunt them out and add them.

Technology Gurus

     Some libraries let volunteers work one-on-one with patrons. Other libraries tap into their skills to help keep up with their own computers like installing updates and reimaging laptops so all the junk is cleared off of them and they won't slow down. You know, the things that you know you should be doing, but never have time to do...

Library Marketers

    The more you market your programs, the more the community will know about them. A volunteer can easily post all of your events online like, your local newspapers, and most especially the local TV station. They could deliver fliers around the city/town. They can hand stacks of the library newsletters to local grocery stores and hair salons. They could write up press releases and news articles about successful programs which you can send to the local newspapers. They could even help create ads for your website and social media, if you like their artistic style (Remember Canva? It can do wonders, if you have the time!).

Find Your Passion and Turn It Into a Volunteer Opportunity

     South Brunswick Public Library has a puppeteer program where they teach teens how to do a show and then the teens perform for children at the library. Marlborough Public Library had a 4D Movie presentation of Frozen where teens engaged all of the five senses during the movie. Louisville Public Library has a Reading Buddies program that connect struggling young readers with teens to practice reading each semester. None of these are quick volunteer opportunities, but they give volunteers a chance to learn a new skill, be very creative, and provide a program to local patrons. It could be very rewarding!

Summer Bonus

Is your library buzzing with patrons unable to find their school's required summer reading books? Consider doing what Shrewsbury Public Library did and create teen greeters. They sit at table near the door with school book lists in hand. They are trained to find the books on the shelves and, if they are all checked out, they can help patrons request the book from another library. Summer chaos avoided!

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