I am the Academic Technology Coordinator at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, CT. Prior to that, I was the head of teen, technology, and reference services at the Darien Library in Darien, CT. I started my library career as a school librarian at a small boarding school in Western Massachusetts.

The Amazing Power of Facebook

I’ve been on Facebook for a little while now–maybe three years? When I was at my last job, in a school library, I didn’t friend any of my students, because there was too much personal information on my Facebook page…and it would be, I think, crossing a line. But I use it to keep in touch with friends. It’s probably the number one way I communicate with people these days, and I also use it as my photo management tool.

So now that I’m here in my new position, in my new community, I decided to use Facebook as a way to reach out to teens. I set up my new Facebook account at the end of the summer, with one picture and some rudimentary information on it, like my name, where I work, and some innocuous “personal information” that I thought might appeal to teens. (My favorite TV shows, for example–and this isn’t made up, they really are my favorites: Gossip Girl, House, Friday Night Lights, Project Runway, The Office.)

I also set up a fan page for my library. For information on how to create a fan page on FB, read this.

And I waited.

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Spore in the Library

I bought Spore last week. And it’s safe to say that it’s the coolest game I’ve ever played. I’m not a big gamer, but I do like simulation games–Sim City, Civilization, The Sims, MySims–because you can’t die and there’s no clear mission to the game; you just create things and try to control the world you’re in. (MySims is a little different: you do have goals that you have to meet to advance, but you still can’t die.)

You might know about Spore, because it’s been pretty hyped, but for the uninformed, here’s the basic breakdown. Continue reading

Milking the YA lit Symposium For All It’s Worth

I’m excited to go to YALSA’s first-ever YA Literature Symposium for a number of reasons (including getting to see my friends, and sneaking a trip to the country music hall of fame), but one of the most important is that this is the first conference I’ll attend as an official representative of my library. In the past, I’ve been a bit of a follower at conferences. I went to my first ALA midwinter this past January, and I wasn’t yet in my current position as a teen librarian, so I got to tag along a lot and learn the ropes. I went to Computers in Libraries (CiL) this spring, but talk about a conference where everyone knows each other and knows the drill–I was a definite newbie. (I don’t mean to say that I felt left out; the people I met were super nice and I even made some new friends.)

This time, it will be different…and I have the business cards to prove it.

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Starting From Scratch (Sort Of)

I’ve officially started my new job, heading up a brand-new teen department. While the children’s department has been serving teens here for a while now, this is the first time that my library has had a separate teen librarian with a separate budget and all that. So, I’m starting from the beginning, pretty much. To make things a bit more complicated, we’re moving into a new library in January. Right now, we don’t have a real space for teens, but we will in the new building.

There’s a lot to think about (hello, understatement). I’ve got my budget, so now I have to figure out how to spend it. The teen collection here is pretty good — but there are a lot of aging titles that need to be evaluated (some of them are still circulating like crazy), and there are some worn copies that need to be replaced. We also have a sizeable graphic novel collection (mostly manga) that I am totally unfamiliar with. The kids at my last library weren’t asking graphic novels and I never got around to educating myself.

And then there’s the non-book stuff. Continue reading

Computers in Libraries, Part 1 — Mobile Trends, Marketing Using 2.0 Tools

I went to my first Computers in Libraries conference this week. It’s going to take more than one post to mention all the cool things I learned.

But first, let me say that CiL is a really fun conference. It felt a lot more low-key than ALA mid-winter to me; maybe that was because everyone who was there was pretty like-minded about technology and just excited to be talking about what’s new and innovative. Or maybe it was because I’m starting to feel less left out of things: I got to meet many friendly library professionals from all over the place. I’m definitely starting to feel like a genuine member of the greater library community (and I made some new Twitter friends).

CiL basically consists of three days of presentations, and each day is broken into five tracks. You can stick with the presentations in your track for the whole day, or you can bounce around, which is what I did. I tried to balance my schedule between sessions that I knew would apply specifically to my job and sessions that were about information that I thought I should know about as a new public librarian. For example, I attended “From WoePAC to WowPAC,” a double session on OPACs, since I know nothing about them beyond the very basics. I also tried to check out anything I could find about marketing, since that’s a major component of what I’ll be doing in building a new teen program from the ground up.

So here’s some information I got from some of the most useful and fascinating sessions.

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Visiting other libraries

As part of my so-called research & development plan for preparing to start a new teen department this summer, I traveled to Charlotte this past weekend to visit the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. I visited both Virtual Village and ImaginOn.–especially The Loft and Tech Central/Studio i.

There were a couple of reasons for visiting. One, of course, was to see all of the cool, cutting-edge things that PLCMC is doing for teens. The other was to take a look at basic, traditional teen services at their best. I was fortunate to be able to hang out with some super-friendly librarians and Loft staffers who were willing to answer my annoying questions about programming, the collection, staffing, you name it. I also got to play around with Teen Second Life, make a bracelet out of cut-up computer motherboards, and see hilarious teen-created animated films that had been shot in front of Studio i’s fantastic blue screen.

I collected all of the literature I could about PLCMC teen programs, including calendars and flyers. This is a great way to get a sense of what’s really happening in a library.

Back in my hotel room, I made a HUGE list of some of the things I’d learned. Here’s a sampling:

  • use laptops instead of desktops — eliminate wires whenever possible
  • make things portable — put them on wheels, have traveling kits
  • displays that teens can create — chalk boards? white boards? magnetic letters?
  • staff training — staff have to have time to play with stuff in order to learn how to use it
  • get expert to consult on software, etc. (for movie creation, animation, music making)
  • offer workshops and classes — freeware (picnik, Picassa, flickr, etc) and others
  • self-serve kiosks with information about how to use the library (maybe use touch-screen technology?)
  • use teen interns to manage computing areas
  • create myspace or facebook page with links to other online presences — flickr, youtube (figure out what social networking the kids in the community are using)

If you’re starting a new program, starting out as a new teen librarian, or looking for a shot in the arm, I highly recommend visiting another library. I was lucky to be able to go to Charlotte, but you can also check out local libraries that are doing a great job with teens. Everyone I met at PLCMC was so open about things they were happy they’d done, things they would have done differently, things they were still working on…and it got my mind racing.

I really appreciate the people of PLCMC’s hospitality and friendliness. If you’re reading this — thank you!

Reflections on midwinter from a conference newbie

So, I’ve never been to an ALA conference before. The only conference I’ve attended previously was the Massachusetts School Library Association conference in Sturbridge, where I felt pretty out-of-place because I always went by myself and never really knew anybody. I was afraid that since midwinter is all about association meetings, I wouldn’t have much to do…but I was wrong. It turned out to be a very productive weekend. I also have to say that day one of my trip to midwinter was a heck of a lot easier to navigate than attending MSLA. I was awed by the scale of the conference, but not intimidated.

On Friday, I spent the afternoon in meetings with my future employers, but the morning was taken up by the YALSA advocacy institute and lunch, where I was able to catch up with Simmons friends and meet some great librarians. The morning session was useful for me, since I’ll be starting from scratch as a teen librarian in a new library. I loved our table’s discussion of how to get teens involved in a TAG–the best suggestion, I think, was asking them to take over the library’s MySpace page. It seemed like there were a few other new teen librarians (or teen librarians new to their libraries) there. For a nice overview of what was covered throughout the whole institute, check out TRMite’s earlier post.

At lunch, Linda Braun and Elaine Meyers gave us some dynamic, concrete ideas about how to advocate for teens. Linda focused on web 2.0 outreach, covering Twitter, Facebook, and Google Calendar, which I’m not using and totally want to play with now. Elaine blew me away with her presentation, talking about the wonderful teens that visit the Phoenix Library and the ways they’re expressing themselves and contributing to the community. I hope that someday I can feel like I’m making a difference as much as Elaine must. I’ll blog separately about this presentation later.

After lunch, I went into meetings, and wasn’t really a part of the conference anymore. I was supposed to attend the YALSA happy hour, but I crashed and didn’t make it; I didn’t make the gaming extravaganza either (bad Sarah!).

Saturday was totally given over to YALSA. I got to the all-committee meeting after sitting in the convention center for a minute, checking my email and watching people play Guitar Hero 3 in the demonstration booth. The best people to watch were a father and son—the father groaned at one point about his son making them play along to Kiss.

The all-committee meeting was one of those events that I am not good at being a part of. It felt a little like walking into the high school cafeteria and not knowing anyone. I’d imagined it as an auditorium full of people where we were all listening to speakers; instead, it’s a room full of tables for all the different committees. So, if you’re not on a committee, you’re supposed to sit off to the side and observe. The point is for non-committee members to meet people and learn more about committees. I’m glad I was able to attend this meeting and hear about the internal workings of YALSA and their fundraising efforts, but it was difficult for me, as someone who hasn’t been involved in YALSA before, to sit alone at a side table.

Eventually, Cara Kinsey, a teen librarian from the NYPL, took pity on me and introduced me to both Paula Brehm-Heeger and Sarah Cornish Debraski, who gave me her card so that I could email her regarding committee assignments. And then Linda came along to ask Paula if I could attend the YALSA strategic planning meeting later on that afternoon. So ultimately, the all-committee meeting was a success, even though I’m a giant wimp.

I had a great lunch with friends at a vegetarian Indian restaurant, which is exactly the kind of place I’m missing living in the suburbs. And then it was off to the strategic planning meeting, which was run by a consultant and attended by members of the executive board and other important people in YALSA. I honestly felt pretty honored to be there, as cheesy as that may sound, because I got to meet some pretty cool people. I was nervous about taking part in the breakout sessions where we talked about YALSA’s goals and objectives over the coming years, but I was lucky to be in a group run by Amy Alessio and she really made me feel like a viable contributor to the discussion.

It was really neat to see the leaders of YALSA at work, and to get some insight into their vision for the organization. I was in the group discussing continual learning opportunities, and I’d like to spend some time later on blogging about some of the great opportunities that are out there for teen librarians to keep on top of what’s new in young adult services.

My attendance at this meeting was unexpected, so after all of my nervous anticipation, I never got the time to visit the exhibition hall. It’s probably just as well, since I find the experience terrifying (and so does everyone else I talk to!) and my budget is nearly gone anyway. But I’ll have to force myself into this sometime—maybe with a friend (read: buffer).

Unfortunately, the threat of looming snow forced me to skip out on Sunday’s activities and head home to Massachusetts. But despite that, I left the conference feeling like I’d accomplished a lot. I got to meet some wonderful people and get my name out there, so that I can become more involved in the organization as time goes by. Up til now, my participation has been limited to reading the listservs…very infrequently. And now I feel prepared to join a committee. It’s a very exciting first step towards becoming a more active member of YALSA. I’m thrilled to have gone to midwinter.