Webcomics

Ok. Everyone is preparing for ALA, but I have something I also want to share with you, the fine readers of YALSA Blog: Comics.

I recently created a pathfinder for Comics for one of my classes, which helped motivate me to write this post.

Webcomics started in the late 90’s with Sluggy Freelance, PVP, Penny Arcade, Its Walky, Mac Hall, and Megatokyo. These comics and many others made this style popular. Now there are over 6,000 comics online. These aren’t the regular newspapers cartoons either. Many had taken the infinite space available on the web and used it for stunning effect. One example is Once Upon a Table’s 500th Strip. The comics generally deal with topics relevant to gamers, and college students. Many use a more Manga art style. Since it is easy to read a comic you miss, many of these comics are serial. For more webcomic history read T. Campbell’s History of Webcomics.

It’s important to know about webcomics, because many are now being translated to graphic novels. For the more serialized comics, it is easier to read in a book format, because turning a page is faster than loading a webpage. Just like video games, these are culturally significant. Many deal with modern issues in a fantasy setting, and most of the artists keep a blog on the main page, where they can communicate with the readers. Two of the biggest holidays in webcomics is April Fools and Halloween. These two days artist do anything and everything they can think of to confuse the readers, from dressing the characters in others clothing/drawing different styles to posting fake legal papers on the blog.

Dominic Deegan

One of the more popular comics is Dominic Deegan. The creator, Mookie, now updates everyday with color Sundays. A year ago he left his day time job, to focus primarily on the comic, and increased from a M-F schedule. He rarely misses an update without posting notice on the main page. Sometimes when he’s at a conference he will post filler art or have a fellow artist fill in.

Dominic Deegan has a very active fan community, but that’s true for most webcomics. For two years the comic was hosted on Keenspot, with free forums. The comic is hosted on a different server now, but the forums are still active. Every day fans will stay up until the wee hours of the morning to catch the comic, and be the first one to start the thread about it. Also the forums are used to have contests related to the comic. I hosted a trivia contest once, and There is a very popular caption contest(one entry). For complete oddness there is a word continuation thread that is active off and on. The forums are also used for general chatter. When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released people posted their progress in the book, and held discussions about the ending.

On Mookie’s site he has a link to a new comic that is just staring, and an entire page dedicated to the fan art. The fan art ranges from re-drawn characters, to colored strips, to new comics featuring the characters or the creator.

Dominic Deegan is a special webcomic, because in addition to using many puns, Mookie focuses on telling a story. Each year he hosts a panel at Anime Boston titled Writing Unique Heroes & Memorable Villains. His first storylines deal with a lonely Seer, who lives with his talking cat in the town Lynn’s Brook. He works as the towns seer answering those important questions of “Where are my house keys?”, “Why does it hurt every time I touch my face, arm, and leg?” by the townspeople, and the most important question “When will I be feed?” by the cat.
Soon Dominic has his door ripped off (literally) by a knight, and cursed with “Fish Falls on your head every time you smoke” curse. From there his adventures progressed, as the creator dealt with more controversial topics including rape.

posted by Jami Schwarzwalder

The future of Music

In one of my classes this week we are talking about MP3s. One of my classmates pointed me to a Canadian broadcast, The End. They create three 22 minute segments about the future of Radio, TV, and Print.

As I was watching the segment about Radio, I realized another reason we shouldn’t block MySpace. We are keeping Teens from discovering music. Why would a library provide teens with headphones, and then block the music they want to listen to?

When I was in middle school we listened to the radio, in high school songs on the Internet, college downloaded music, and now I have playlists created in Itunes as well as loaded onto my iPod. In the past I have used various mediums to obtain my music, and one of the ways I have discovered new music was at the library. It is easy to pick up a new CD when I am unable to buy it. I know many individuals that use the library to upload songs to keep on their computer.

The format of audio has changed from CDs. Just as there are patrons that still want Records have an authentic listening experience there will be many patrons that still prefer tapes, and CDs. It is our job to make sure that the teens are not forgotten.

Now if you have never set up an account with Yahoo Music, Pandora, or Rhaspody, now is you chance. Also check out the Myspace page of a band you, or your teens like. Maybe we can get some ideas for programs, collections, and even services.

Posted by Jami Schwarzwalder

MySpace and other changes

I admire those librarians who have a willingness to try something new, but I wanted to tell them:
don’t hesitate to use good ideas. If you don’t ask now, you risk the possibility of worrying about it for sometime. I think it would be better to ask now, explain all the good reasons, and be told no, than to hope for months, doing projects to lead up to its approval, and then be let down after the anticipation.

If your library says no to MySpace, then you can offer to do something less intimidating projects such as start a blog on blogger, which in comparison maybe something the library is willing to do now.

If you want support you can point your library to some of the many Myspace library pages that have over 100 friends. Authors, Teens, College Students, Librarians, and other professionals are on Myspace. If your patrons use it, then why not have a presence there. You could ask the patrons, and use their quotes to convince the administration.

I know change can be scary, but if we do nothing for fear it won’t be accepted, we miss the chance to change things in the future. Talking to your administrators will make them think about how the library needs to change in the future. You would plant a seed for future change, and that could be worth everything.

Lay the groundwork today to have what you want in the future. If you have a well thought out and appropriate reason, then any good administration will help you find a way to meet the needs you observe.

We cannot be silent for our patrons. We may be the only one expressing their interests, especially when we work with teens.

Posted by Jami Schwarzwalder

Avatars and Self Image

In today’s society technology allows us to assume different pseudonyms. I think that librarians can sometimes be weary of this because it can be very unfamiliar, so I have composite an animated gif, that displays all of the different images I use to label myself.

Avatars
First I have my favorite webcomic- Dominic Deegan. I have been reading it for years, and become an active participant on the forums. I don’t really wear t-shirts but I have one from Mookie (the creator). Web comics are a part of my day. The first thing I do every morning is check the updates. (some nights I’ve stayed up until 3 am to catch it) In addition to reading the comic I am part of the online community of fans on the forums. We have interesting conversations and activities, the most recent being a caption contest, and before that I held a trivia contest. I will never meet my friends from the forum but to me they are the avatars and the screennames. Its how I would address them in public and online.

Second I have my name. In all definitions this is also a representation of me. When I publish, fill out a form, or introducing myself, I am representing who I am with random syllables and letters essentially. It is one of the conventions we accept in all cultures, some change to reflect the person while others are given with an ideal in mind(whether the memory of a loved one or story character, or a verb/noun that represents something wanted for the child)

Third is a picture of my husband and I. He has his arms around me in a loving embrace. The picture was taken at our anniversary. I am smiling (something I tend to do frequently).

Fourth is the word “is”. Such a powerful word. Is can link words together to describe poetically, hatefully, or simply. It can be anywhere, but it is the word that links all the other words of a sentence.

Avatars

Eiseldora Next we have my gnome. Isn’t she cute? My husband drooled and waited for almost a year to get World of Warcraft, and guess what happens. I take it over after my finals on Christmas break to create a level 33 fire mage in about 17 days. I am an officer in the “Little League” Guild, and caretaker of noobs. My two best friends are Zwws a Chinese grad student from Canada, and Ihalfaman a Australian master’s student who programs computers. This may seem odd to people who don’t play but for me its a whole different world where I can meet people, work together to finish goals, and have fun. The lag is terrible, but I kept returning because I love what I can be there. I think this is a big appeal to teens.

Next we have Eiseldora II. I loved playing World of Warcraft so much that I kept the name for Second Life. I joined after hearing the announcement that there was going to be a library in the game. I wanted to be able to go in and see what the plans were. I started out with a normal looking avatar, but I didn’t like it. I tried to get dark blue hair with two little buns like my gnome, but while playing I found I could add any texture to my hair, so I did. I thought the Flag looked very funny so I took it as far as I could go-spikes, length, volume. Now I look like a crazed Yu-gi-oh, but I like the expression of creativity involved.

Salafy is a Naroom Magi who specializes in regenerating creatures. She is excellent with baby furoks(another avatar I use often), eebits, and rabbage. She is from the 2i game Magi-Nation. A CCG that is now sold to a different company that is taking it in a different direction. The game was more than just collecting card and making decks. I was a member of a league when I was dating my husband. I made many friends, and was able to mentor a 12 year old girl. I would spend weeks building deck, and succeeded in getting a killer combination with Ninx and a Ritual Spear. My husband loved the story’s written about the cards, and the fan base who lived on insiider. Like Dominic Deegan I have a t-shirt with Salafy on the back.

Avatars

Next I placed my username. The one I use most often is kittykat813. I have since I first used the Internet. I love cats, and I wanted something unique and nice sounding. 813 stands for my birthday-August 13th. About a year and a half ago I started to do publish my professional work on the net. I was taking an independent study reading children’s literature which I abbreviated childlit and 2004 for the year. I liked it and the account I used so I’ve been childlit2004, childlit, and childlit513, ironic since I want to be a teen librarian. The 513 stands for my anniversary May 13th.

Now you can see my adorable cat-Frisky. She has been with me since I was in 7th grade. She is very vocal, and precious. I used to write stories about her and to her. She is a great listener, and still loves to play. My whole life she has competed for my attention from books. Now she is content because my husband loves her as much as I do. (He is the only male she has ever even liked) I used pictures of her for my first avatars. She was something that was important to me, and didn’t really identify me.

The smiley face represents many things to me. The eyes are the way my friend Tracy would write smilies. Smiles also represent instant messengers. I have been using ICQ for 8 years. I met a good friend who had the same username, school, and age as my husband. Smilies also represent for me happiness and joy, something I like to enjoy often.

Lastly we have a book. Books have helped me my entire life. When my mother was ill I escaped into books, when I was sad I would write books, when I went to 8th grade I found a profound joy in reading books, in college I found a joy in sharing books, now I enjoy listening to books while I play. I am a library science student, and love technology, but its books that I will always credit for helping me through my life.

This has been a rather lengthy divulge into my online life. I know most people don’t see deep into avatars, and there is no real reason to. Its just that for a whole generation we identify with these self made images that show the world who we are, what we care about, and what we want to do. I encourage librarians to make an avatar or a username that represents them and use it online when doing virtual reference, blogging, or as links on your library’s webpage.

Posted by Jami Schwarzwalder

Literacy

In one of my classes today we were talking about literacy statistics from the D. C. Literacy Clearinghouse. We were all shocked to find out that the number of adults with low-literacy abilities are quite high. In 1996, Approximately twenty-five of American Adults could not read well enough to address an envelop correctly. Forty-three percent of adults that are at the lowest level of literacy proficiency live in poverty, while only four percent of individuals with strong literacy skills are considered poor. The Ohio Literacy Resource Center reported that fifty percent of the nation’s chronically unemployed are not functionally literate.

What does this mean for young adult librarians? First we must recognized that individuals in the library, reading material is a good thing. It doesn’t matter that the girls are reading what we would consider trash, and the boys are going through car magazines. I remember high school English as being the most boring thing on earth, because all of the assigned reading was classics that didn’t even use the English I spoke everyday with my friends. I loved reading the YA novels that were in my high school media center, along with children’s books, chick lit, and comics. I would have people judge me for not really enjoying the classics, and now I look back and see I was the one who was right. Reading is reading.

Another thing we must realize, especially those just entering the profession and still in school, is that the people that walk in you door may not be able to read, and it may be extremely embarrassing to tell another adult that. We can’t assume that writing down a call number or directions will meet the patrons needs. It can be hard to remember sometimes that a college education isn’t normal, in fact a high school diploma may not even be the norm. The national average for high school drop out rates is one in three. That means that those teens that may be in the library causing you problems maybe the same adult that doesn’t know how to help their child in 10-20 years with homework, because they can’t read the materials. Engaging them somehow, and working with them may be a better idea than judging them for being teens (socializing, exploring different interests, and pushing the limits).

I think the library should be an inviting place for these teens to come and feel free to find themselves. It doesn’t matter if they are reading novels, or even reading at all, because the message you send when you let them have the space, and access to the information could tell them “You have a chance to make something of yourself. You are welcome in the library as you, and can use any of the information here how you want. You can even find pleasure by reading, which you may not find at school.” Who knows they could be not reading at the library because they have to read all day for school and they don’t have the time, but when they do have the time there the books will be right in reach.

Lastly I wanted to point out that all of the studies about literacy and child performance state that low literacy is a cycle. It affects parents who have to work extra jobs to make ends met when they don’t have the skills to have a higher paying job. The attitude that school is hard, and there is no help gets passed on to the children. Low literacy is also associated with poor health, since the parents can’t understand the medical advice given, or read the labels on the medicine. The most effective way to increase a child’s performance is to increase the education level of the parent’s. As librarians we can be human with our patrons, show them that we aren’t different from them. To break the cycle a child needs someone to go to for help with homework and encouragement. Middle school tends to be the place where poorly educated parents are no longer able to help their child and I think many libraries have great programs to help both students and adults, but it is important that we encourage it as acceptable.

You can make a difference in lives, but the impact you make maybe so small you may not realize it. Sharing your passion for reading with both parents and teens, as well as you willingness to help, openness to the teens suggestions, and commitment to creating great programs and selecting quality and popular titles, can make the difference between an illiterate adult who reads at a fifth grade or below level, and a college graduate. It is the connections with people that help make the library dynamic, so please make connections, and remember on the bad days you are doing good things.

Rantings by Jami Schwarzwalder
Statistics from D. C. Literacy Clearinghouse

Online Classes

As society progresses towards a more technically advanced work environment, you can guarantee that you will encounter an online class whether for professional development, or for completing classes towards a Masters or PHD degree.

Online classes allow participants to connect with people that generally share similar interests, responsibilities, and even sometimes time in life.
When you register for an online class you are choosing a subject that for some reason interested you, and many of the other participants will have done the same. Remember this when you are nervous and apprehensive, and even overwhelmed.

You get out of an online class what you put in to it.
The same can be said of a face to face class. The only difference between an Online class and a face to face class is the technology and the participants.

Here are some strategies for getting the most out of an online class

  1. Communicate-Don’t wait until you have read all of the assignments to start conversing with your classmates. Post your reactions, questions, and connections when they happen so that you can share with your classmates. Remember if you stay silent you are cheating your classmates out of hearing a different perspective, and experiences
  2. Plan Ahead-Set aside a time when you will focus on your class. Treat it as if you were sitting in a face to face class. Don’t schedule anything during this time, and even consider going somewhere like the library to escape the duties of home
  3. Don’t procrastinate-It is so easy in an online class to wait until the end of the week or the day before an assignment is due to start working. As I hope you can remember from your face to face classes this doesn’t result in your best work.
  4. Have Fun-Unless this class is part of a required curriculum you signed up for a reason. That reason may be that you were interested in the subject, or you are going to make a program and needed more information. Either way you owe it to yourself to enjoy your time immersed in this topic. Feel free to share any connections you make with this topic to your encounters. We ask young students to share connections made when reading a book, why wouldn’t we want that from adults.
  5. Participate– The amazing part of online classes is that it really is the students that make the class successful. Boring Face to Face classes generally involved a lecturer standing for an hour re-stating what you read in your textbook, with no real acknowledgement that there are people in the room. The lively fun classes were ones that the teacher had students talk to one another about what they had read, or thought about a certain subject. Each group would most certainly go on many tangents, but when they were drawn back together the students would respond on topic about what they had discussed. Going off topic is part of discussions, so don’t be afraid that you don’t fit the mold. An online class is similar to your group discussion only you have a longer time to discuss, and more people in your group.

Online classes are great opportunities, and if you do more than just read you will have a chance to learn more. The teacher and the other classmates will respond to you. You will be able to have some of your questions answered, and most likely be comforted that you are not the only one who has those questions.

Lastly, Remember you will be interacting in the same way that teens interact with their peers. Teens use IM and in-game chat (chat), Forums(Discussion Boards), Blogs, and podcasts to communicate ideas. The topics they discuss range from political to pleasure, depending on the person. Being a digital native does not mean that these technologies are only for you, it means that technology doesn’t intimidate you. In online classes there will be glitches, but if the participants are flexible you can move past the glitches and into learning.

posted by Jami Schwarzwalder

Importance of Conferences

Its the beginning of March, and even though I’m in college I’m not looking forward to my Spring Break. I’m looking forward to going to Boston for PLA.

Why, you may ask. Well its because at PLA I have the opportunity to meet with other librarians, see new places, and absorb a wealth of information from professionals all over the United States. The presenters are not paid to attend these conferences, but rather come to share what they have learned so that others may experience similar positive results. For me PLA is a breeding ground for great ideas, and who wouldn’t be excited about being involved in that.

I am halfway through my Library Science program, and attended both National and local conferences. The difference is astounding. At the national conference I was able to attend sessions of librarians who wrote articles, books, and blog; I was surrounded by dozens of authors of books I had read; and was able to leave with my suitcase full of ARCs, 5 bags full of “goodies”, and a head full of ideas.

I would recommend attending a national conference to everyone, but especially current Library Science students, and new librarians. While a student, ALA offers an excellent benefit of discounted conference admission and membership fees. If interested in working in a library you can not afford to pass this up.

Working with young adults requires a library that stays on the cutting edge of librarianship, which can still be two to three years behind the lives of the young adults. Attending conferences, participating in online classes, pushing yourself and your library to try new things, and sharing ideas with colleagues will keep our young adult departments meeting the needs of these important patrons long into the future.

posted by Jami Schwarzwalder