Stained by Cheryl Rainfield

July 5th I tweeted, “Best welcome home greeting. ARC copy of Stained by @CherylRainfield I’m jumping up & down with joy. Putting all others away #summerreading”, and I read with barely a pause.  As I finished the book I did so holding my breath.  There was no way I was going to be able to write a review.

The protagonist, Sarah Meadows, felt too personal.  She felt too real, and honestly that scared me a little.  So I sat on my copy of Stained and waited for the rawness of Sarah’s experience to evaporate.  I wanted to write an objective review.  Unfortunately the struggles, fears, and eventual victory I felt along with Sarah as she grew from an obsessively self-conscious teen to a confident young lady would not abate.

In Stained author Cheryl Rainfield uses a port-wine stain covering half of the face of a teenager to represent the feelings of inadequacy many of us experience.  Not every person with what society considers a blemish hates that which was given at birth, but many people suffer from the perception of blemishes that only matter within their own mind’s eye.  Rainfield captures the feelings of the latter type perfectly.

Plus in true Rainfield style she validates the abused and gives them a flawed survivor in Sarah Meadows.  She shows us that even if you’re scared, or imperfect, or ready to give up you can still be your own hero.  That validation of being a survivor and honoring all your flaws proved to be the scary aspect of the story to review. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for every book Rainfield writes because she knows the heart of a survivor.  Her stories provide the bibliotherapeutic opportunities that many authors cannot produce and many readers desperately need.  However, this honest voice of courage through adversity can be frightening because it forces survivors and those fortunate enough not to have faced a similar situation to examine themselves.  Am I strong enough to overcome abuse, bullying, self-hate, trust issues, etc?  In Sarah Meadows we learn yes we can be that strong.  We can be our own hero.


Creative Nonfiction

‘Creative Nonfiction’ is the new buzz word & market.  Question remains if libraries should create new display sections.  Most libraries I’ve visted file this genre in the fiction section.

Flutters of the Gut

Okay I’m just a day away from the beginning of the BAK (Biking Across Kansas) event. My stomach is fluttering. I’m still a little unsure of what it will be like to ride with hundreds of other cycle enthusiasts. However, I do feel fairly prepared.

My legs, lungs, and butt have been practicing for the big event. The only thing that isn’t quite ready is my mind which honestly is the worst thing not to have prepared. The body can do many things, but it can do very little if the mind doesn’t lead.

So in order to help keep my mind off any pain or panic, I have packed some light reading (as can be seen sitting atop my tent). I also have note pads and pens ready for a homework assignment from my writer’s group. If everything works out I’ll have an hour or two each day to just sit, think, and write. Of course I’ll always find time to read.

I’m sure after the first day I will be able to take a deep breath and begin to fall into a nice routine. However, until then my stomach will wrestle with a million little butterflies. Hopefully since my bicycle is glowing with anticipation it might be kind enough to help me settle those butterflies.


Reading the Right Book the Right Way


This picture came across Facebook the other day, and I thought, “how so like me”.

Sometimes I really struggle with reading. It’s not that I have trouble reading or the fact that I’m a meticulously slow reader even though both can be true depending upon the book I’m reading. Instead, I know I struggle at times because of the book itself. If I’m bored or disinterested a book can become a chore. Personally I hate chores. Reading is supposed to be a joy as well as informative. Of course there are times we have to read for required learning, but even then we should be able to find some joy in the process. So I try to locate complimenting reads. If one is a required bore I try to find an engaging companion. Something that will help me understand the importance of the boring concept that I have to learn. That something might be a book, article, video, or audio recording. Multimodal learning is okay. As a matter of fact it connects with what we already do in our everyday lives. Reading should be just that, a normal ordinary event.

So the next time you’re bored with a book try a companion.

A Future Librarian’s Manifesto

Manifesto:  a public declaration of intentions opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.  — as obtained from my Smartphone.


The definition for this manifesto is a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a MLIS grad student getting excited by the prospect of finishing up her library program.


Is the librarian relevant? 


Perceptions and Stereotypes:  What will this librarian look like in the future?


The role of librarian does not look as it did in the movie Ghostbusters when the three heroes explored the basement of the library only to meet the stern old shushing librarian wearing an unimpressive dress and bun who was just simply not interested in being social.  That librarian no longer exists.  Instead, today’s librarian looks like the average person walking down the street, attending business meetings, or dare I say hiking a trail.  These modern librarians can be bubbly, subdued, quirky, and well real people with real personalities.

My role as a librarian will also be a mixture of interesting personalities.  If there is a special event such as pajama day I may be seen wearing slippers.  When the students become interested in a theme I will play along no matter how silly it may seem. If the book of the week is a spooky story about ghosts I just may dress up as that librarian from Ghostbusters.   My library will be a place students will want visit because it will exude uniqueness and “nonstereotypicalness”.

My role as librarian will not be that of the shushing old maid who only believes in checking out books and assisting patrons with locating those books.  Instead, I hope to break the stereotype of book pusher and become something of a community activist for the intellect.  That librarian people of all ages can look to for help during a research hunt whether that hunt takes place within books, databases, the Internet, periodicals, or audio/visual resources.  I will also promote the use of the library as a place of messy collaboration where people can comfortably come together.  For those who need a soothing, quiet atmosphere they will not be ignored and I will ensure they receive equal opportunities for solitude.  Indeed the library should be hub, the center, and the community of learning for all students.

Building Leadership Through Interpersonal Relationships:  My role in establishing new leaders with old allies.

The only way this type of community can be made possible is through the efforts of many people.  The community includes children, parents, teachers, administration, business owners, community leaders, and authors.  Every library whether it be a public or a school library needs to stay relevant and this can only happen when others also believe in the value of the library.  That value can only be established through the collaborative effort of an innovative and visionary librarian, and my plan is to diligently work to build the bridges necessary to create trust.

A library should be a place where patrons can become active participants in the decision making of the collection.  The librarian can not imagine the needs of the students without first getting to know their interests, values, and aspirations.  That same librarian can not fully understand the educational needs of the community without collaborating with educators to develop curriculum and collection maps.  These efforts of understanding take communication.  As a librarian my goal is to work with the learning community to become the go to person of all learning.  My library will reflect the educational goals of the curriculum as well as the interests of the youth.

This goal can be accomplished by inviting students to become active members to curate and create the physical and virtual library space.  Students will be encouraged to compile and create book trailers and digital stories to add to the library Web site.  They will also be encouraged to help choose the books, periodicals, and resources for the physical realm.  In addition to ownership opportunities, students will be asked to become participatory partners in library programs such as the poetry slams, literature circles, and other activities they help develop.

Equally important to working with young people is for the librarian to work with those who help educate the young people.  As the librarian it will be my responsibility to stay up to date with the current educational standards and curriculum.  However, just knowing how to integrate library information skills with the standards and weaving it all together into the curriculum will not be enough to build a bridge of leadership between the librarian and educators.  The librarian also can not sit back and wait for that magical day when instructors suddenly realize our important role in helping educate children.  No, as a librarian it will be essential to step forward and offer to help create lessons, connect classrooms to authors, provide opportunities to introduce classrooms around the world via Web tools such as Skype, and assess effective practices between the classroom and the library.  In this way librarians can  not only become a partner and leader to the students and teachers, but the librarian can also help administrators see the important role a trained librarian can play in learning.

More than just a Reading Specialist when Assessment and Literacy are Connected to the Library and Student Achievement:  Becoming an accountable librarian who promotes reading at all levels of literacy.

With those pesky budget cuts that public and school libraries are facing, it is imperative for librarians to step up and show how their efforts impact the community as a whole.  All libraries are important.  The public library serves the community by providing many free services such as Internet access, air conditioning during the hot months, reading programs to encourage literacy for all ages, and community outreach opportunities such as tax services and rooms for group gatherings.  School libraries on the other hand have the responsibility to not only encourage reading opportunities for the youth, but these professional centers also connect what children are learning to the real world.  Another important aspect of the school library is that it helps young people and their families connect to the public library by demonstrating the importance of this iconic institution.

Unfortunately money talks and when budgets become tight the lack of money doesn’t whisper it screams “CUT!”   In order to lessen the potential damage the librarian must be cognizant of the library’s impact on learning and community enrichment.  This can only happen through documented assessment.  Evidence of student created wikis, Voki’s, book trailers, and other Web 2.0 creations posted on the library Web site would be an excellent way to help parents, other students, administrators, and the community as a whole see how the library works.  However, librarians should also know how to connect what students are learning not just to the literacy and information skills they teach but also to the standards their community schools follow.  Libraries are not stand alone kingdoms that people just acknowledge as permanent places to respect.  No, if the librarian becomes too complacent and condescending to see the vulnerability of the profession in this fast paced Google type society then the library will become a dinosaur.  By showing how we positively affect others through the process of summative and formative assessments such as portfolios, Glogs, and end of project exams of what students have learned, we will justify our positions as the information and literacy experts.

As a librarian it will be my responsibility to show how all the literacies (digital and print) impact learning.  Many moons ago I was trained in the pedagogy and now I have the additional training of connecting education to information and literacy skills.  I can look at a lesson and help connect a Web tool, locate an article in a database, and connect a book to that lesson to help enhance the learning experience.  These are powerful skills to possess and the neat aspect of librarianship is that I have a responsibility to teach other people these skills.  However, if I don’t know how to also show off my abilities by providing the assessment proof necessary in our society then all my efforts will be meaningless.

Digital Learning and Creating Digital Citizens:  It’s not just a physical library anymore!

The value of the library and the topic of assessment can be easily made available to anybody now due to the accessibility of the Internet.   A librarian’s impact on learning and the community can be broadcast to the entire interconnected world.  Truly this is an exciting time we live in and it will only become more interconnected.  Thankfully, librarians are trained to know how to not only navigate the print world but also the digital world.  If a student needs information about a particular planet the librarian can locate a book, Web site, or Smartphone app.  However, as exciting as this new world of digital technology and interconnectedness is there are also dangers.  Thankfully the librarian is trained in digital citizenry also.

As a librarian, my job will include teaching patrons how to become responsible digital users of information.  Since I understand the nine digital elements of ethics (digital access to all of my patrons, responsible electronic commerce skills, communication with compassion, multimodal literacy skills, etiquette, understanding of digital laws, rights and responsibilities of all users, knowing when to get off and how to be physically and psychologically safe, and cognizant how much information to share on the Internet), as a public servant I have a responsibility to share my knowledge to help digital natives and immigrants safely navigate this new virtual world.  However, I will not teach these values under the guise of the stern librarian.  Instead, I plan to have fun by using learning opportunities such as meme’s and mashups to help students understand how to ethically use several different tools on the net to create and show new learning.  When I say ethically I intend to help spread the word about preventing plagiarism, copyright violations, and cyberbullying to not only young people but to their parents, educators, and other community members.  As a librarian I will be expected to respect other people’s intellectual creations and freedoms.  I plan to live up to those expectations for both my professional reputation and personal well being.

Leading within the Profession and the Community:  Being a librarian doesn’t mean living with my head in the sand.

Librarianship is indeed under scrutiny.  I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I have been asked why I need to go to graduate school just to put books on a shelf or whether I know that libraries will become extinct due to the Internet.  My answer to both is that these are misconceptions.  The library and the librarian today are more important than ever.  People need our expertise to navigate the Information Age.  As Neil Gaiman would say, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.

Due to public opinion, if the misconceptions persist libraries could be in trouble.  This is why it is more important than ever to become active participants in the community as well as within the profession.  With reading and informational skills as our passions we should be promoting reader’s theater, poetry slams, book clubs, in person Web seminars, and virtual webinars.  Our presence should not be limited to the physical or virtual space of our own libraries either.  Instead, we should create floats for the city parade, encourage school and public libraries to work together, promote literacy on the Web as well as in public spaces, encourage a presence on city Web sites, and we need to get involved in community activities.  All the while assessing our successes and failures and sharing each with others in the profession.

There are numerous organizations and networks librarians can join for free or inexpensively.  The support we can lend one another is crucial.  Although I am not currently a working librarian I am a student within a library program.  During the two short years in my degree I have grown to depend upon my fellow students and professors for support.  Each day I log into Blackboard, read a post, click on a link, vent about an assignment, or Skype with a classmate I learn the importance of librarianship.  Plus, by belonging to an organization such as ALA or AASL we can lend our voices to the future of librarianship.   This alone should be the main reason for getting involved.

Wrapping it up…..

So my manifesto for the future of my library career is simple.  Long after I walk that MLIS graduation stage I will continue to learn, stay informed of library trends, share my passion for literacy and information, connect learning to the library, get involved with the community, encourage good citizenship digitally and physically, and support other librarians.  I will not be just a librarian.  I will answer the call to be a public servant to the intellect of my community.   Those who rely on the library deserve nothing less.

Reading and Meeting

I almost don’t know what to do with myself now that my college classes are over.  Well, that isn’t entirely true.  My house is almost clean, which is one example of what I’ve been able to do to fill my time.  Another time-filler involves reading.  Ah!  I’m finally getting back to the book I had to put on hold when the semester started, Third Wish by Robert Fulghum.  This type of book is not the genre I normally turn to, but I’m finding it enjoyable nonetheless.  It is a soothing lullaby story of how people’s lives come together, become entangled, unravel, and eventually embrace each other once again.  I’m about half way through the first volume.  Not too bad for just picking it up again yesterday and having read twice as much as I did when I originally put it down.  My husband tells me that I’m fast reader.  Not true!  I’m actually a slow reader.  I take my time to digest and enjoy a book.  I think it only appears that I’m reading fast when I find one I enjoy and can’t it down for hours at a time.  


The other time filler are my children.  Oh and how wonderful a time filler they are!  Last month they asked me if they could create a group.  A learning group centered on history.  Currently the kids are a part of the Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip Series.  Last month the series was so outstanding the kids suggested that we make this a group effort.  I thought it was a great idea and sent out a suggestion to others.  The response was not as large as I would have hoped, but the friendships built today were awesome.  The teens spent more time getting to know each other than they did talking about the Declaration of Independence, which is the topic of the next electronic field trip.  However, that’s okay, there’s time to study later online.  Because thanks to my LMIS training, I was able to quickly create a couple of wiki pages with links and activity suggestions for the teens in less than an hour.  Plus, send out invites to boot. 

I’m looking forward to my time off from school, but I’m also looking forward to seeing all creativity exhibited by these great teens over the next week, and of course finishing Third Wish and then tackling the stack of other books waiting for me to read.