Thursday, January 28, 2010

Job Hunting At The Library

It's in the news quite frequently, how the jobless are turning to their libraries for resources on finding jobs. Listening and reading some media reports, one would think this is something new. Who knew that the library could be so useful? Librarians knew. Savvy library uses know this too. This is no new phenomenon. However, others in the community are just finding
out about what their library has to offer. In almost every public library, there is a section devoted to careers. Some name it Career Resource Center, while others may call it Career Guidance Collection. Whatever the name, these books guide the job hunters in the search for employment. It can't be documented, but one book may have given birth to the career centers in libraries. Ever heard of the book "What color is your parachute?". The first edition of that book is from 1972. It began as a self-published book in 1970. From there it has taken on a life of it's own, not to mention the author Dick Bolles has become the "guru" to go to for career changers and job hunters. Thirty yeas later, the What Color is Your Parachute is considered the bible for job hunters and libraries are providing career information more than ever before.

A week ago, at a Career Ministries of Michigan program, resources for job hunters were discussed. Attendees of this program ranged from those who have been out of work for several months to those who are employed part time but seeking full-time assignment. In speaking with these job hunters it was clear that although the media has talked about libraries' resources, some have heard the message and not giving it a second thought. While others have not heard it at all. The question begs to be answered, why are people ignoring what is right in front of them? Perhaps its because they think they don't have time to go to the library. The news should flash another headline: Libraries open 24/7 via the internet. That might perk the interest of some to begin their search at home. Like it or not, the image of libraries for most people is a building full of books. Most haven't seen how libraries have evolved in the computer age. With this in mind the program focused not only on topics such as what resume books to purchase, but also valuable websites and databases through Michigan eLibrary ( With an unstable economy, just about everyone from job hunters to career coaches will find something of value in these resources.

It is a job of a librarian to teach others how to find information effectively. For job hunters, this is important because time is too precious to waste. In the following weeks, this blog will feature some of the best books and resources for job hunters. The hope is that it will spur librarians to promote them and job hunters and career coaches to use them. Career networking groups or coaches might want to hold their own session of using the library to find a job. Finding a librarian to present a workshop on this topic shouldn't be too hard. This librarian/blogger is willing to come out to spend time with groups of all sizes promoting the resources and providing a helping hand to guide through the maze of information.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Newbery Part II -- The Results!

This year's winner of Newbery was Rebeca Stead for her work When You Reach Me. It has quite a surprising twist to the plot that could not have been predicted by the reader. What was really a treat for me, since the book takes place in 1979 and I was around the same age as the main character in 1979, was that it seemed as though I time traveled back to that age and time. The 20,000 Pyramid, Dick Clark, and of course, A Wrinkle in Time. I loved that Newbery award winner too! It was nostalgic for me but it didn't get to quite the way other works have done in the past. Was it a good book? Yes. Did it deserve the medal? I'm not convinced.

The Newbery Award is given by a group of adults who feel that a piece of work is the best that American authors have offered for the year. I often wondered what would happen if children were the winner for the Newbery. What would have won this year? Diary of A Wimpy Kid? The Last Olympian? Maximum Ride? There are libraries and schools that will hold a Mock Newbery Award. Some of these have produced the same titles as the actual Newbery list while others were off the beaten path. For example, Anderson Book Shop ( held a mock Newbery award, which placed 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass as the winner. Neat book. However it did not even make the honors list let alone the top prize. Another mock winner was Where the Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin in Ocean county. This book did win the Newbery honors award. This got me thinking this little blog could pick the winners of the Newbery for next year. Are we up to the challenge?

Here is the first book on the list to consider for the 2011 Mrs. Nowc Librarian At Large Mock Newbery Awards. (It might be necessary to think of a shorter title!) One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia will be published January 26, 2010 and will be the first book to be reviewed as a contender for this blog's Newbery Mock Award. Grab a copy! Any comments on the book can be posted to this blog or at

Not to worry, teens can send their nomination for the 2011 Printz Mock Award, but that will be a discussion for next time.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Waiting For Newberry

It's the night before Newbery Awards will be announced, and I in my pj's is wondering what book will be selected this year. What message will the award committee be trying to send this year. In years past, the books that have been chosen were not top notch books, in my opinion. Not to bring up old news but when Patterson's book The Higher Power of Lucky was chosen in 2007, I felt it was lame and undeserving of the prize. The writing was not spectacular and the story way too depressing. Was there by any chance a suicide prevention group in the city? If there wasn't there should have been. How many support group could one little city have? Way too depressing, not even close to being believable. One of the runner up to the this book was Penny From Heaven by Holmes. I loved this book. It had a plot, it was nostalgic and it was perfect. That's probably why it didn't win. Who wants a normal story when there's a city on the edge of nowhere that has the power of disfuctional support groups?

In 2008, it came as a shock that Elijah of Buxton by Curtis came in as a runner up to a book that didn't even seem like it was on the radar. Curtis' book spoke volumes on the human spirit and the deep need in every soul to be free. How it came second to Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is still a mystery. In defense of the award committee, it is fair to say that Good Masters was different, and charming in it's own way. Definitely on the quirky side for a book that no child would really want to read, but still it is a teaching book. It's goal was to instruct readers on Medieval times with a little entertainment thrown into the mix.

The theme of the underdog or undermouse if you will, is one that will always capture the attention of award committees. Do not get me wrong, I love DiCamillo's books. Her stories are nothing short of imaginative rides that readers wish would never end. In 2004, The Tale of Despereaux won the honors and it was deserving of the prize. How could a reader not love a fairytale that has a tiny mouse act as the knight in shining armor? Not only that, but he loves to read! (Sometimes I wonder if author's have a hidden agenda to add libraries or librarians into their books in order to get us to read and promote their works. Hmm... conspiracy? Maybe, but that debate is for another day.)

Not convinced that quirky seems to win the day when it comes to the Newbery Awards? Last year's winner proves the theory beautifully. Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is off the beaten track. So off the track that a reader could say it's from the "other side" of life. The title threw this librarian off her game, and so much of me wanted to judge the book by it's cover. It came as a pleasant surprise that it was an enjoyable read. Sure it has the disfunctional family aspect. (When a child is raised by ghosts, can one really say they have a normal family life?) Having said that, it was quite imaginative and without being sappy, touching. Is it really possible to shed a tear over a ghost story? Well, it can happen if you hate goodbye scenes.

With a new decade, will the Newbery Award go to a book that will not fit the quirky mold? Will it be given to a writer who pens a story about "normal" life issues? Like Peck, Curtis or Holmes? Well, we shall see soon enough! Hopefully, it will not be a disappointing quirky choice!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Multiculturalism - Kinder and Gentler

There are certain lessons in life that can not be taught through books or school. These lessons are taught by life. For example, a child can be given a book about other children in India. In this book, the story illustrates how the children live, eat and go to school. Will the child reading the book feel empathy for the children of India? Will the child immediately love the culture of India? Perhaps, it is possible that it will happen, but that response comes from the child. In other words, the child has not learned to have the desire to understand other cultures. Instead, what the book may have done, is helped the child fulfill the desire to learn more about the world. A librarian, teacher even parent can not teach someone to have compassion, understanding, or even love. That is one of the major flaws of Multiculturalism. It’s main objective is to provide an avenue where children can develop mutual respect for other cultures. Nobel idea, but it is deeply troubling that educators believe that this can be taught.
Children’s stories have always been used as tools to teach morals of right and wrong. Grimms’ fairy tales, Aseop fables and other folk tales have done wonderful jobs though out the centuries. Perhaps that is why readers don’t mind when a writer retells the stories with new pictures or from a different perspective. The morals in these stories are timeless. Some things in life never change. There will always be greed, liars, mistreated heroes and heroines that forewarn what happens when one chooses to good or evil. Why does this not work for Multiculturalism as well? All too often, the writers of these books are hitting the reader over the head and demanding that the reader not only see all the differences but accepts them too. Some children are swayed by this but others will simply disregard the message. As stated previously, compassion can not be taught. Respect can not be taught either, it has to be earned.
For those librarians and teachers out there who cling to the assumption that multiculturalism enriches the curriculum, might I suggest taking a different approach to the matter at hand. Exposing children to other cultures is a worthwhile endeavor when it is pointed out that we are more alike than we are different. For example, Mem Fox’s Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes is a delightful book that reminds every mom and child that no matter where you are born in the world, everybody’s mommy counts the ten little fingers and ten little toes. Of course, this is teaching the baby from the get go that there are differences but how wonderful that the outside differences may be different but the behavior of human beings are similar. That is for the babies, but there are worthwhile picture books that don’t beat up the reader into accepting other cultures. Some of my favorite books depict the families behaving just like any family children may know from their neighborhoods or their own family. This is not such a bad thing, is it? Wouldn’t it be much better if children saw themselves in the books and thought, “Oh, that reminds me of my mom and dad.” If the goal of multiculturalism is to embrace another culture and accept it. than why point out the differences? Why not remind readers that each one of us walks on the same earth, but sometimes to a different beat but most of the time to the same beat that harmonizes with the world’s song.? Okay, before we all break out singing “Kumbaya”, let’s examine the books that explores different cultures without hitting a reader over the head and actually teaches a lesson that is teachable.

Mama Provi and The Pot of Rice by Sylvia Rosa-Casnova.
Great book that reminds the reader that each culture has it’s own special way of cooking. Mama Provi specialty dish comes from her home land of Puerto Rico and it is called arroz con pollo. Lucy, Mama Provi’s granddaughter, is sick with the chicken pox. To cheer up her granddaughter, Mama Provi makes her special dish and takes it to Lucy. Along the way, Mama Provi meets her neighbors who have their own special “ethnic” foods, and asks them if they would like to trade a little of their food for a bowl for arroz con pollo. By the time Mama Provi reaches Lucy, she not only has food that represents the Puerto Rican culture, but from the cultures of all their neighbors.

Kitchen Dance by Maurie Manning
This book is so wonderfully warm and vibrant. Hispanic parents are cleaning up after dinner, while the children should be in bed sleeping. Not a chance! When the children hear a commotion coming from the kitchen, they’ve got to find out what’s going on. Dancing! That’s what mom and dad are doing, instead of doing their chores. So not to be left out, the children begin to dance too! Gently, Mom and Dad let the little ones know it’s time for them to return to bed. However, the warmth of that kitchen lingers with the reader as the story comes to a close.

Zuzu’s Wishing Cake by Linda Michelin
Zuzu has a new neighbor and she doesn’t quite know how to make friends with the little boy. After several attempts at making gifts for her new friend she finally realizes the best way to show friendship is a wishing cake. Zuzu’s red hair stands out against the little boy’s ebony hair and dark skin. The reader never sees the boy’s mother, except briefly when Zuzu mention’s that the boy’s mother speaks in a language she does not understand. She also wears a sari, which indicates the new neighbors are from India. This book is an excellent example of how not to hit a reader over the head with multiculturalism. It gives plenty of hints that the new neighbor is from another country without being so obvious. It is almost as if the culture didn’t matter because all Zuzu really wants is a a friend.

Grandparent’s Song by Shelia Hamanaka
Celebrates how a child can come from a family tree full of different cultures. Each person in her family tree shares a physical traits with her, but also cultures that makes her family unique and blended. This is a wonderful opportunity to discuss with children how each of our families’ have their own song.

Picnic in October by Eve Bunting.
An oldie but a goodie. Eve Bunting is a well known children’s author who is one of my favorite. This book is not one of her more well known titles, but it is a treasure! The story is about an Italian family who make an annual visit in October to wish the Statue of Liberty a Happy Birthday. On that particular day, the family notices another immgrant family who remind them of what is was like to come to a new country, trying to learn the language and staring a new life. For me, it’s a wonderful reminder of my own Italian family. However, this story could be told from any ethnic point of view and still ring true. America is the home of some many wonderful cultures. Yet, we are all the same.

This short list of books is just the beginning of many books that provide the tools of learning about other cultures without being in the reader’s face. The term Multiculturalism has to be removed from our lexicon as librarians and educators. Perhaps if we focus on what brings people together, family, love and hope, than it wouldn’t be necessary to force children to accept other cultures. They might just begin to look at others as being just like themselves.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A New Lifeline for Libraries?

The reality of our economy in 2010 is sobering if not depressing. Too many businesses have failed. Unemployment is up. Foreclosures are up across the country. With the litany of all the bad news out there, some public libraries are facing the crisis of closing their doors for good. Just when people need the resources the most. Public libraries have been at the mercy of government budgets for years. Always, it seems, the last on the list to receive the funds needed to manage the department. Whether it be on the local or state level, the amount of dollars spent to continue library services is never enough. Creatively finding a money windfall is about the only way to survive in this economy. Where does this windfall exist?
Libraries are seen as the nonessential item on the budget line because it is seen as “entertainment”, “free” or “internet”. All three of these words cause headaches if not heartaches for librarians and library advocates. If the library is entertainment, than in most people’s mind it is an “extra.” In hard times, no one has disposable cash for fun. That should be doubly true of government spending. If the library services are free, than why are taxpayers asked to approve a mileage to keep the library running? Free is equivalent to saying ZERO. Any agency, business or person should not want to be connected to the number zero under any circumstances. It is makes it too convenient to reason that if it is free, than it is easy to toss out. The Internet carries its own baggage of problems, ranging from information overload to social networking and games. The rise in internet access at home has contributed to the notion that children can complete their homework at home. Who needs the library when the world is at your fingertips? Simple question, but one that is rarely answered well by librarians and their advocates.
Gaining support for public libraries should begin with clearly defining the role it plays in the community. Trying to be everything to everyone will never work. General Motors went that route by providing so many different product lines. When times were bad, supporting the various product lines became too costly. Libraries should stick to what they do best: research and development. Traditionally libraries were established as places of self-learning. With all the new ways to use technology to gather information, libraries can continue this tradition in exciting ways by promoting the types of services public libraries provide in a business terms. Every company has a Research and Development department which is dedicated to helping the company move forward, and have a jump ahead on future trends that will help them succeed. Using this principal for libraries, it is educating the community to be better users of information to advance themselves and in turn strengthening the community as an ideal place to work and live. Beatrice Priestly pointed out in Library Administration Management, (Summer 2008) “by helping persons to become educated and develop skills, the library serves to generate human resource to the community.” To take it a step further, engaging even the youngest of the community in the day to day activities of the library is considered an act of developing future citizens who not only are information savvy but understands the value of the library. There still remans the problem of cash strapped city and state governments that are failing to meet other financial demands. There has to be a better solution.
The economic crisis can be the opportunity to seek ways to manage libraries in a private business model. Local and state government continually have too much on their plates in the form of doling out the dough. Budget meetings seem to be similar to thawing a quarter on the table to see which department can scramble to get it first and watching the hilarity of forty different departments falling all over themselves and colleagues just to get that one shiny quarter. Public libraries have already begun to rely in part to “soft” money such as grants to aid them in fulfilling some services. It has become a necessity since budgets are tight even in good times. If this is the case than why aren’t more libraries considering the private/public option of library management? The need to move beyond the traditional government funded libraries and create an effective way to stay open to serve the community. In privatizing the library, everyone benefits. The oppostions to privatizing libraries range from that it will hurt the community it is intended to server to hurting the library profession as a whole. If we were to look at libraries from a business perspective the idea of hurting the community has no merits. Frankly, any business person knows that if they don’t know the community they are in, then they are doomed to failure. If the privatized libraries were run by library professionals, the integrity of the library service and profession is preserved. Looking at the current situation it is important to ask how productive is it to run a library on less money, part-time librarians and shorter hours? Library managers are already at the point where they don’t serve the community well because of the fact they have to do more with less. The reality is that the focus on how to manage and fund a library must change from government model to a private business model. It is either do this or libraries become extinct.
It is a shame when any community loses its library due to lack of funding or intreats. It is sadder still when librarians as professionals hold themselves back by not looking for “new” avenues to support the future success of libraries. In the meantime, it is important as professionals in the field to support the libraries who dependent on milage's passing to stay open. Taking on the responsibility of library advocate can be soothing to a librarian’s soul. However, at the end of the day it is important to remember when the budgets are in the red, it’s time to find another lifeline in order to survive.