Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Death of the eReader!

Finally, I win the argument! All my techie Geeks friends can now bow to my enormously large ego and tell me that "Mrs. Nowc, Librarian at Large, was right as always." Now, normally I do not gloat like this in a public forum. I'm a pretty humble person if I may say so myself. However, after reading an article in MaximumPC (Jan 11), I was validated about my views of the eReader. It seems that the esteemed periodical, MaximumPC has identified twelve pieces of technology that are on the way out. As in will be extinct soon. One of the first pieces of technology to be named by the editors is the Kindle and its ilks. My heart raced, as I began to think that my precious hard copies of books will be spared an untimely death! Excuse me while I get a hankie to dry my tears.

Now I know my techie geek friends are all laughing at me as I get emotional over the topic but hear me out as I try to drown out their chuckles. Let me begin by reminding techies that the eReader can only preform one simple task. Technology is all about convenience and when thinking about an eReader one is reminded of a PDA. Remember those? The Personal Digital Assistant has been replaced by cell phones that can do everything except chew your food for you. With the introduction of the iPad, the ease of having it all in one place is too tempting. As a matter of fact, experts are predicting that the iPad will indeed take over the eReader market.

In every decade there are fads. Pet Rocks, Rubic Cube, PDA, iPods and the list goes continues to the beginning of time. Kindle was lucky enough to come along with a new gadget that struck a cord with consumers. Once other companies started to produce their own version of "Kindle", the "newness" of the technology faded. Sure it cool to be able to say you have your "entire library with you" when you go on trip. Practically, unlike an iPod, where having all your music with you is an advantage, carrying an entire personal library of books is not needed when reading one book. One hard copy of a tome is all this avid reader needs.

The ease of using a print copy of any title will always be appealing. It's like all things that are old and comfortable. Sometimes the simple things are the ones that are hardest to give up. They are also the ones that don't die off quickly. Don't get me wrong, it would be woefully ignorant of me to believe that digital forms of books will disappear off the face of the earth if Amazon and Sony stopped production of eReaders. It just seems to me that technology has a way with creating something one day and the next day there is something better to take it's place.

Now that I've had my "I told you so" moment, I can go back to reading my old worn out copy of Doctor Zhivago. One thing that does concern me is that computers are becoming more compact, faster and hold more data. My worry is that it will also be easier to lose! However, that is a topic for another day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thinking of Summer In The Cold Cold Winter!

One of the perks of in the job description of most Children's Librarians is Summer Reading Programs. As professional librarians, who also are part educators, part entertainers and event coordinators, planning for the "big" summer programs begins well before summer. As a matter of fact, in January most of the programs have been scheduled or at the very least sketched out. If your library is using "One World, One Story" from Collaborative Summer Reading Program, (CSRP), there is so much to do in the way of stories, activities, craft that the list can go on forever. This is a unique opportunity to explore the world with young patrons without going to0 far from home. When starting to plan for Summer Reading programs, three sheets of paper are open in the calendar book to keep a list of books, films, and songs that would go well with the theme. Since Michigan is very dreary right now with snow, cold and ice, films seemed to be a nice place to start the ideas rolling for this summer.

The movies selected for this list are all family friendly. The stories are well told, range from really old black and white movies to animated hits from the 1990's. Why such old films? First, they are oldies but may have been forgotten goodies. Second, it's fun to watch a black and white movie with a child who has no concept of how movies began. It gives them an appreciation for how far technology has come in a short amount of time. Third it is the perfect opportunity to introduce children to timeless classics. Get the DVD ready, these films will help with forgetting that Jack Frost will be hanging around for a couple of months.

!. Thief of Bagdad with Douglas Fairbanks (1924) Yes, it's an oldie. Way before my time at least but Fairbanks does a remarkable job in bringing the Arabian tales to life. Older children may be more inclined to give this movie a try than younger children. Having said that, it may be a good time to bring grandparents into the viewing audience. They can share their memories of old movie theaters and film stars that were big in their day.

2. Heidi with Shirley Temple (1937) It seems that there was nothing that Shirley Temple could not do as a child star. From singing, to dancing to crying on cue. She could make everyone believe that happy endings happen all the time. Even in real life. Based on the book of the same title, this film blends together the story and the beautiful scenery of the Swiss Alps perfectly. It's a sweet film and a nice introduction to Shirley Temple films.

3. Saludos Amigos / Three Caballeros Walt Disney Video Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pedro the little plane travel to South America "Saludos Amigos" (1942) and "The Three Caballeros" (1945). The two movies are available on a single DVD. These films brings together live action, animation, and South American music with clever humor to tickle the funny bones. Not well known, but fun to watch all the same.

4. Around The world In Eighty Days with David Niven (1956) Based on the novel by Jules Verne, this movie takes viewers to exotic locals like Europe, Japan, India and the familiar places like the United States. The premise of this movie is that Phileas Fogg made a bet that he can circle the globe in eighty days. Remember this is in 1872 when technology was not what it is today. It was nearly impossible. Accompanied by his valet, Passepartout, and the wandering Princess Aouda, Fogg races to win the bet. Is he able to do it in 80 days? Only one way to find out!

5. Sound of Music with Julie Andrews (1965) The music in this film is timeless. The story is set during World War II in beautiful Austria, where the Von Trapp family welcome the young Maria into their hearts and home. No matter how old the movie is, it still gets audiences to sing along to "My Favorite Things" and "Do Re Mi".

6. An American Tale (1986) This animated film tells the story of Fivel, a Russian mouse who is separated from his family when they travel to America for a better life. Sound familiar? It should the film captures the fears and joys of coming to America in search of a better life. This film is not a Disney film and it may have inspired the creators of Pixar to believe that not all animation has come form Disney.

7 A Far Off Place with Reese Witherspoon (1993) Two teens face disaster and danger in the African Desert. In the process they learn about their capacity for survival and goodness. The film highlights the beautiful and exotic locales of Zimbabwe and Namibia. As a Disney film, it does have it's predictable moments but it is much to violent for younger audiences. View this film with children in sixth grade and up.

8. Mulan with Ming-Na Wen(1998) Based on a Chinese fable about a young girl disguising herself as a man to help her family and her country. Our heroine, Mulan decides to challenge society's expectations,and proves that women do not always have to be rescued by a man. There are times when men need to be rescued by women. Great film for girls in need of a confidence boost.

9. Madeline with Frances McDormand (1998) If you loved the books as a child you will love the movie! Madeline's school, which is also her home, is being sold! Madeline, in her witty, whimsical ways finds the solution to saving the school. The movie would not be complete without Parisian backdrops. Ah, makes one think of Springtime in Paris!

10. Ratatouille (2007) Pixar hits a home run in this animation which depicts the streets of Paris in extraordinary details, while introducing audiences to wonderfully memorable characters. The adorable French rodent, Remy has a passion for cooking and the belief in himself to follow his dreams. A feel good movie that would have made Julia Child proud.

Any one of these movies are sure to inspire Children Librarians to get started planning for One World, One Story. Remember, any library that choses to show a movie must obtain a Public Performance License. In my humble opinion, it's well worth the expense to show the films. it's movie night at my house tonight, think I'll grab The Sound of Music and sing along with Ms Andrews. That should chase away the winter chills.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Economic Hardships at Home and at the Library

There is no denying that everyone is facing challenging times. As a librarian who serves young ones the economic crisis hits home in more ways than one. Parents, who only two or three years ago, visited the library during the evening are now coming in the mornings or afternoons. These same adults are now taking advantage of the career resources in the library, hoping this will lead to new opportunities. As a part time children's librarian, it is easy for me to relate to their situations. Library budgets are getting tighter, which means materials and staff hours are victims of the "necessary" cuts. However, for the children it is not so easy for them to understand why Mom and Dad are worried all the time. They see having Mom and Dad around all day long as a bonus. Which in some cases it is but the harsh reality is that paychecks are needed to sustain a household.

It has been become a "mission", for lack of a better word, to help parents discuss unemployment and tough economic time with their children. There are so many other resources out there on how to talk to children about Internet safety, bullying, and even sex education. All good topics, but when a family is struggling to make ends meet, other topics become important. For example, money management, security and becoming resourceful. In searching for books that would help parents discuss this topic, it was important to find resources that not only help children understand their situation but also emotionally support the parents who are trying so hard to make their children's lives "normal". It was equally important to find books that parents and children could read together.

This list is meant to be shared with friends, family and library patrons. The books listed here are not the end all be all about the topic. If there is a title or two that was missed, please feel free to send them to: As new titles come in, I'll post them to the blog. A full bibliographic handout, which includes summaries of the titles and publishing information is available.

Ramona and Her Father Beverly Cleary
The Gold Watch Bernice Myers
Everything You Need to Know When A Parent Is Out of Work Stephanie St. Pierre
Finding A Job For Daddy Evelyn Maslac
Twilight in Grace Falls Natalie Honeycatt
The Babe and I David A. Adler
The Effects of Job Loss On the Family Michele Alpern
What I Believe: A Novel Norma Fox Mazer
Trading Places Claudia Mills
When Times Are Tough by Yanitzia Canetti
Let's Work It Out: What To Do When Your Family Has to Cut Costs Rachel Lynette

Monday, January 17, 2011

Newbery Winners 2011 A Big Surprise!

Who even thought that a new author would snag the Newbery this Year? It's a little bit of a let down, not only because Jennifer Holm once again took Honor, but because this was a book no one had heard about. When the winners were announced, I asked several of my fellow Children Librarian's friends if they had heard of the book, Moon over Manifest. Not one could even remember reading a review of the book. Of course, this does not mean that the title is not worthy, it just means that now we will all be placing the book on hold and reading it as soon as we can. The last few years, the choices for the Newbery has been interesting to say the least. If one observation could be made of the recent winners, and three top winners this year is that the main characters are orphaned, more or less. One can argue that children's literature has a rich history of abandoned children (Boxcar Children, for example) and that this observation is a moot point. That may be true but still I wonder if children's literature could use a new twist and shake up just to make things interesting.

Three of Newbery and honor winners all shared a common thread which is the main character were all female, and all had a mother who either abandoned them, could not care for them properly or a mixture of both. All female characters were resilient despite their circumstances. In Holm's book, Turtle in Paradise, tells the story of a young girl whose mother is always looking for a better life that will happen just like it does on the silver screen. Turtle knows better. Happy endings rarely happen in real life and if they did, well more than likely it wouldn't happen for her and her mother. Holm does a wonderful job of painting a vivid picture of life in the Keys, and how Turtle adjusts to her new surroundings with strength and wit she never knew she had.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Carlos, was sure to be the top winner this year. The buzz about the book last January was enough for some to think that it was a done deal. Apparently not. This story is set in 1968 with Delphine, along with her twin sisters, travel from Brooklyn to Oakland,California to visit Cecile, the mother who had abandoned them years before. So many problems with this scenario that where to begin is very difficult to determine. The book itself was written well, but while reading the book the question that kept needing to be asked was how could a mother feel that a movement is more important than her children. Granted Civil Rights movement was an important time in our Nation's history and children should understand the frustrations, struggles and obstacles that African Americans faced daily. However, having said that, there is something worrisome about a mother choosing to make a movement more important than her children. Call me crazy. Would have loved to learn more about Big Ma, meeting her was too brief and something tells me that she would have been the warm, nurturing, no nonsensce grandmother everyone would invite into their homes.

Moon Over Manifest by new comer Clare Vanderpool, is similar to Turtle in Paradise since they both take place during the Depression years. This story of an eleven year old girl named Abelene is sent to live with her father's old friend, in Manifest, Kansas. As stated previously, I have not read the book yet. Yet, it seems startling to me that the top three books all have children who were abandoned in one way or another. Heartwarming to know that all the characters have strength within themselves to get through their situation. Yet at the same time, it is hard not to feel some sadness that these girls do not have a warm stable home life. For once it would be nice to see a Newbery book winner where the main characters have both parents around. A little outdated? No, because two parent families still exist.

Marquie Perus' Heart of a Samuri also won Newbery Honor. If this were Sesame Street, everyone would be singing which one of these is not like the others. The setting is radically different from the other three and the main character is a 14 year old boy and set in the 19th century. I have not read this one either. However, this book sounds like it would be perfect for Summer Reading Programs, "One World, One Story". With this in mind, stay tuned for a part two of Newbery 2011 award discussions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011: The Year Of The Library

In 2010, budget cuts and closings were the stark realities that many libraries faced. If that was not enough to depress a career librarian, the endless mantra from the public, from Jay Leno to your Average Joe, on how insignificant libraries are in today’s society wasn’t cheery to hear either., a website which chronicles libraries that have closed or are facing permanent closings, paints a dismal picture of what libraries are facing across America. It’s not a pretty picture. Having said that, it seems that it is time to change the picture and start looking forward to protect and preserve libraries in the future. To borrow a line from the 80’s rock group Styx I declare that libraries are “Not Dead Yet”. Looking forward to 2011, here are ten ways to make this year the Year of the Library.

1. The Silence Clause Does not Apply Anymore

For too long libraries have been the silent partners in communities, schools, universities and businesses. It seems that everyone knows where the library is but no one realizes its contribution. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why the public just assumes that closing a library would bring no harm. Libraries bring value in ways that are not tangible. We can’t feel the success of a student, but know in the long term, a well educated student serves his/her community well. Likewise in business libraries, resources help strengthen business plans which can lead to economic prosperity not only for the company but the for the local economy. Again, the contribution is not seen until the plans have come to positive fruition. No longer should libraries act the part of the silent partner. Let everyone know where the library is, when the library is open, what the library can do for them, why and how the library exists.

2. The Declaration of Independence For Public Libraries

Many librarians will argue with this point, but it is still worth exploring and discussing. Libraries must find new avenues to be funded. In too many cases, local and state governments have pulled the rug out from under the libraries by either cutting the library’s budget or eliminating them all together. With partnerships like that, who needs enemies? It is time to investigate a balance of private and public funding. Privatized libraries are not necessarily bad, if done correctly. The library should always belong to the people, however, using business ideals of profits instead of non-profit government, libraries may stand a chance to survive during any economic conditions. If libraries survive, so will librarians.

3. Would you like a T-shirt with that?

“If you can’t afford a billboard, a body will do just fine.” That strange quote came from a friend whose business was just getting off the ground and he was looking for cheap way to advertise. Get people to wear a pin, t-shirt, or a bag to carry around promoting libraries. Of course this costs money so do what poor libraries have done for years: beg businesses for sponsorships. Many businesses, even in tough economies, would be willing to donate to a worthy “public” cause because it shows they are giving back to the community. It’s a win win situation. What would really cause a librarian to get chills running up and down her spine would be for library t-shirts to hit the mainstream and everywhere you look, someone is wearing a “sign” that says “Libraries Rock!” A pipe dream? Maybe, but if Fonzie (aka Henry Winkler, to all the younger librarians out there) could get people excited about library cards, there’s a possibility that library t-shirts are not such a bad idea. People just need to be sold on the idea.

4. Web 2.0 claim it, use it, and own it. Lead the pack to Web 3.0

The rise of social media has proven that marketing is everything when it comes to getting noticed in today’s world. Libraries who are not on Facebook or Twitter are not only missing out on cheap marketing, but also proving critics of library’s point that libraries are archaic. If librarians are seen as leaders in using the effective tools of the Internet, it will be that much easier to move forward and pave the way for the changes coming with with Web 3.0. Why not have a virtual story time, where baby and mom can interact with classmates when they can’t be there in person due to a cold? Why not sponsor a book talk with the author of the latest YA novel through Skypes? The possibilities are endless. If this is to be the year of the library, this is a great way to make headlines and catch people’s attention.

5. Friends in Low Places? Nope Not Here!

It never hurts to have friends in high places. When the opportunity arises, invite political leaders, on the local, state and national level, to your library. Remind them that libraries are bi-partisan, provide equal opportunity to access to information and promotes a society that is informed and engaged. Benjamin Franklin obviously understood this when he helped open the first public library in Philadelphia. Granted, at that time it was fee based, but the concept of anyone who wanted to learn more about a given subject was granted the opportunity to do so at the library. It’s a very democratic idea, and one that should be reminded to government officials on a regular basis.

6. Make the Front Page Or At Least On the Second Page

Newspapers are still a good source for local news and information. Contact the newspaper’s to remind them of the wonderful programs available at the library. If editors claim they don’t have enough staff to cover the “library”. Offer to write a weekly column for the newspaper that chronicles all the activities at the library. Don’t forget to add what is going on in other libraries besides your own. Working collaboratively is an effecient use of time and resources. The outcome of this may be that there will be someone who begins to think, “Wow, I didn’t know the library did that!”.

7. The Perks of Having A Library Card

How many stores do you go into now that have a “card” which entitles discounts, freebies, and other perks just for buying their products? Granted a library card can’t offer “discounts” on checking out books or using the computers. However, why not ask business owners to reward their customers for having a library card? For example, an ice cream shop could offer a child size ice cream cone to children getting their first library card.

8. Go Where the Action Is

One of the positives of Web 2.0, is that people don’t view the world by boundaries. No longer are we enclosed by four walls and a door. The world is at our fingertips but it is also for us to define in ways that works for us. Going to the bookstore use to be just about books. Now, there is a cafe inside to invite people to talk, have coffee and read their latest purchase. Bookstores on occasion will go out to community events in an effort to lure customers to buy thier books and latter coming to visit their stores. The suggestion is not to become like bookstores, but rather to take the show on the road. Go to the shopping malls, the coffee houses or even the local park. What do you do once you are there? It can be as simple as dropping off business cards that have the library’s name, email and phone number or reading a story to children at the local McDonald’s. (This is not a far fetched idea. I’ve done that and it worked pretty well.) Once the positive association is made in the “world”, people will remember and come to visit the library.

9. A “Fair” To Remember

If the library has the room, remind non profits and schools that you have community space that they can use. For example, a local senior center or home for the aged will promote the art work of their seniors Local businesses and employment agencies can hold job fairs at the library. Partner with these organization and hold the art fair at the library in order to get more viewers for the art. Science Fair projects are great to way to partner with the local school districts to promote the best and the brightest ideas from the students. Besides, where did the information for the projects come from? The library. Why not use this opportunity to remind patrons of the value of this timeless institute.

10. Most Valuable Resource -- Children

Most Marketing experts will tell you that puppy dogs, kittens, and children are wonderful for ad campaigns because of the cuteness factor. It’s a kin to daring someone to say “No” to such an adorable face knowing full well it is a difficult thing to do. With that in mind, if this is to be the year of the Library, make it all about the children. Let them speak for you when you need ot convey why the library is wonderful and needed. Bookmark Art contests are popular among many libraries in an effort to promote reading and libraries. Social media has made it easy for even teens to create, share and post videos. Why not invite them to create a video that shows what the library means to them. Its the perfect opportunity to teach children the importance of speaking up for a worthwhile cause.

The bottom line is that libraries need to be open for so many reasons. If every Librarian, library advocate or patron would use just one of these reasons as a starting point for conversation, our nation's libraries will be on the road to better days. With passionate determination, speaking up when needed and using creative ideas to draw support for the libraries big things can happen. Let's make it happen. Let's make this year, the year of the library.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

An Open Letter to Michigan's Governor Elect Rick Snyder

An Open Letter to Governor-elect Rick Snyder,

Dear Governor Snyder,

First and foremost congratulations on your successful campaign and appointment as Michigan’s next governor. This is an opportunity for our state to renew and “reinvent” itself in order to survive and strive in the years to come. It is an important turning point in our beloved state’s history. It is with sincerity that I wish you much success in your endeavors as our Governor.

In the days ahead, there will be many decisions to be made. Some will be popular and meet with approval. While others will be very hard to accept and will be met with outcry. Having stated the obvious in general terms, there is an area of particular concern and interest to myself and my colleagues. The libraries in Michigan are suffering tremendous cut backs which are causing many libraries to cut staff, hours and services. In the wake of these cut backs, there is news that State aid to libraries will be cut yet again, leaving many libraries in a tighter pinch than in 2009. While it is with a clear understanding that budgets must be balanced, it is disturbing that libraries, which provide education and economic stability to their communities are now facing budgets that will barely keep their doors open. In a great state like Michigan, which has the best library systems around, this is a travesty.

There are no easy answers to balancing budgets, however, there should be room for discussion on how to make a bad situation better. Shutting library doors to save money does nothing to sustain a community. Libraries are vitally important to providing services, information and community support when economic times are hard. Where else can people find a place to use a computer to find a job? Where can children find a safe place to read and study when the resources at school or home are not available? What makes a society free and successful is the flow of information to every citizen. An educated society is a safe, sound and prosperous one. Isn’t that what every Michigander deserves?

As a professional in libraries for over twenty-five years, I have witnessed many changes in libraries. However, one element has never changed. Information is a valuable commodity. People need it, use it and share it. Along with my peers, library advocates and fellow citizens, I urge you and your administration to seek a better solution to the state’s economic woes than to cut off funding for libraries. It could be argued that libraries are an “extra” luxury the state can not afford to support, but no one can point to how it helps a state to shut down the libraries. What benefits can be gained from this action? To answer my own questions: none. The resources and support that are uniquely provided by the library are not provided any where else in our society. However, grants for the arts, state parks, state gambling such as the lottery, are all frivolous, yet they continue to have a place in our state’s government.

Again, congratulations on your election. It is my hope that in the days ahead, you will be open to working along side librarians and library advocates to support our state and local libraries.