Talking about Race

Every year the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti join together for their community read programs. This year I am on the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Reads Outreach Committee. The committee is made up of librarians from the public libraries and local academic libraries, booksellers, individuals from area nonprofits, and community organizers. Our job is to market the community read, and to promote events related to the read. It takes a lot of people to create the list of potential books for the community read, the final list, and then market the read. Every year a non-fiction book is chosen for the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Read based on the theme of the University of Michigan’s winter theme semester. Piggybacking on the theme semester allows the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Reads program to share events with the University of Michigan. The theme semesters are broad themes that can be incorporated across the disciplines. Past themes have included language, astronomy, and water. This winter’s theme semester is race.

A selection committee narrowed down a long list of titles to three finalists; Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Paul Kivel’s Uprooting Racism: How White People can Work for Social Justice. The New Jim Crow was chosen as the 2013 Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti Read.

Continue reading

Advertisements

What We’re Reading

On the first Friday of each month, we share what we’re reading, which may include everything from magazines and blogs to novels and books for work or pleasure.

This month, I giggled my way through Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. This collection of essays is a delightful treat, full of love and laughter. Scottoline and Serritella, mother and daughter, write stories of everyday life that are charming, witty, and insightful. Their voices are warm, and reading them feels like you are sitting down and chatting with a good friend.  This is their fourth collaboration together, and each one is simply a joy!– Heather

A dear friend asked me to join her book club. In the past and for many good reasons, I have made it a rule to politely decline all invitations to join book clubs. For this woman, however, I will break rules, which is why I am now plodding through Arcadia by Lauren Groff. I badly want to love this novel, a lyrical tale told in three bumpy acts. Narrated by Bit, the first child born on a hippie commune in upstate New York, the story is two parts coming-of-age and one part dystopian fantasy. The prose is lush, but the characters don’t seem round to me. Nevertheless, I better finish it by Sunday! –Amy

One of my book clubs read God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy this month. It’s a heartbreaking novel. Each character in the novel has a deep love for someone, but the love is barred by tragedy. The story jumps from the present to the past, so you know the outcome of the tragedies before you know how the tragedies happen. It’s lovely and sad, with moments of childlike humor. During our discussion we listened to the BBC’s World Book Club interview with Arundhati Roy. This is a book that you need to talk about after reading. –Emily

Breaking the Ice: Attending a Non-Library Conference

by Carrie Dunham-LaGree

As a librarian, I wear a lot of proverbial hats. For the most part, though, I’m a librarian and a professor. Both of those roles have numerous sub-roles, but in their simplest terms, it’s what I do. I have both a title (Librarian for Digital Literacy and General Education) and a rank (Assistant Professor of Librarianship.) My job description outlines my credit-bearing teaching responsibilities: a three-credit first year seminar each fall and a three-credit information literacy course each spring. This teaching load separates me from most of my librarian peers: only three of us are responsible for teaching credit-bearing courses (although others have in the past and are certainly welcome to in the future.) My teaching load also separates me from most of the non-library faculty, as most teach three three-credit courses a semester. Most days, I feel like both a librarian and a professor. Some days I feel like ‘just a librarian.’ This weekend, I’ll be ‘just a professor.’

Continue reading

Mobile Apps for Children and Families

Back in late summer, my library offered an introductory program on Mobile Apps for our patrons. Because it was successful, and we received lots of positive feedback on it, a colleague and I decided to offer another mobile apps program for our patrons, this time with an emphasis on apps for children and families. There has been a marked interest from our patrons on finding fun and educational apps for children, and this program directly addressed this growing interest. Continue reading

What We’re Reading: February 2013

Like so many of you, I’m quite enamored with Downton Abbey. After watching the first two seasons during the semester break, only getting a new episode once a week has left me wanting more. I’ve found it with the delightful new young adult novel Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown. It’s the first in a series and follows the lives of three young women: sisters Rowena and Victoria, plus Prudence, who is like a sister to them. Prudence is the daughter of their governess, who died several years ago. The girls’ father mostly ignored class conventions, but when he dies, all three girls must go live with Rowena and Victoria’s uncle, who is a traditionalist. Rowena and Victoria insist Prudence must come with them, and thus Prudence shifts from sister and best friend to lady’s maid, where she feels like an outcast with both the upstairs and downstairs crowds. I rarely read young adult fiction, but this coming of age novel has the perfect background when England itself is at a fascinating time of change. If you’re looking for a fun, escapist tale in the style of Downton Abbey, Summerset Abbey is a good one. –Carrie

This month, I was delighted to read Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, the first book to ever receive both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award in 2000. Bud, Not Buddy whisks readers away to a Depression-era Michigan, soaked in the sound of the blues. We follow the adventures of Bud Caldwell, as he searches for Herman E. Calloway, bandleader of the Dusky Devastators of the Depression and the man who just might be his father. Bud’s journey is full of excitement and memorable characters, and Bud himself is a charming narrator, optimistic and imaginative. Christopher Paul Curtis’s writing is infused with warmth and life, creating a story that draws you in and makes you feel welcomed. Truly, it was a wonderful read! Reading this former Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Author Award winning book has left me eager to read this year’s newest selection of  books on the Youth Media Awards list  announced just this past week at ALA Midwinter. — Heather

James Woods’ New Yorker piece on the fiction of Elena Ferrante drove me into the stacks of my public libraries to track down her books. Elena Ferrante, a pseudonym adopted by an unknown contemporary Italian novelist, writes stories about the inner lives of women in crisis. Though the word has been ruined, I would describe her work as intense. In the novels that I read, The Days of Abandonment and Troubling Love (both translated by Ann Goldstein), I would describe the prose, narrative, and setting as claustrophobic and demanding. Time seems suspended, even warped, by dramas that dredge the grounds of second wave feminism. Ferrante’s most recent novel, My Brilliant Friend, is the first in a planned trilogy. –Amy

Lately, I’ve been working my way through David Foster Wallace’s essay collection Both Flesh and Not.  I never thought I would care so much about professional tennis as I did while reading Wallace’s essay about Roger Federer. I’m also reading Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods, a collection edited by Maria Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier. The pieces in this work grapple with the social justice and information issues that (among others) drew me to librarianship in the first place. If you have ever cringed at the uncritical use of the phrase “authoritative source” (or if you’d like to explore how Oscar Wilde’s aestheticism relates to enlivening library instruction), you will probably appreciate this book as much as I am. –Sarah

What our Patrons Value

by Emily Hamstra

Every time a new Pew Internet report comes out, I’m likely to stop everything I’m doing to read it. Yesterday, Pew Internet & American Life released the fascinating report Library Services in the Digital Age. The report is based on surveys and focus groups asking public library patrons what they value in library services, and how they use the library. The findings in this report greatly affect our daily work as we think about services that meet the needs of our patrons.

What captured my attention the most about this report is “main reasons patrons cite why their use [of library services] decreased.” 40% of patrons stated they “can get books, do research online and the internet is more convenient.” How many times have we all been asked about the role of our profession, collections, and spaces now that we can just “Google it”? We spend a lot of time as librarians building awesome electronic collections and services, enhancing our community’s access to quality resources from databases and downloadable ebooks to librarians through chat reference services. We often don’t have time to market these services to our patrons, teaching them how the library can enhance their digital lives. Many of our patrons might think finding information online is “more convenient” than using the library because they might not know what we have to offer. One participant in a focus group for the report says about the library, “they do so many fabulous things, [but] they have horrible marketing” (full report, pg. 38).

Continue reading

“What’s Up Doc?” or my January teaching adventure

by Carrie Dunham-LaGree

This week, Drake began its inaugural January term (J-term). For these three weeks, I’m embarking on the greatest teaching challenge of my career so far: teaching a 3-credit course over fourteen class days (rather than fourteen weeks.) I’ve developed a new information literacy course based around documentary film. As a believer in a catchy, yet informational title, I named it, “What’s Up Doc?”: An Information Literacy Exploration of Documentary Film. I teach from 11-3 five days a week for three weeks (excluding the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.)

The idea seemed obvious as soon as I thought of it: each day, watch a documentary. Then I only have a two-hour time block to fill, and I can do that! I designed the course around a broad scope of films. We then use the films as a vehicle to explore a variety of information resources, examine bias and think critically.

Continue reading