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

What We’re Reading: January 2013

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.

After spending the last month of 2012 frantically reading all of the books that had been lingering on my physical and virtual shelves for months (and years in some cases), I’m devoting January 2013 to reading books being published in 2013. I’m currently enchanted with Level 2, the debut dystopian novel by Lenore Applehans (out January 15th). After that, I’m also hoping to dive into Me Before You by Jojo Meyers and The Midwife’s Tale by Samuel Thomas. –Carrie

This month, I found myself lingering over the delightful book Pinned by Sharon Flake. Pinned tells the stories of Autumn, a star wrestler but struggling student, and Adonis, a model student, and the year they spend circling around each other, learning more about each other and themselves. Autumn knows her way on a wrestling mat, can calculate what moves she needs to make to win on that mat, but when it comes to school, and particularly reading, she feels lost, that her brain just doesn’t work right. Adonis has always strived to be the best; born without legs, Adonis has sworn that it will never hold him back, and he is consistently the top of the class, the most sought after student. As they each deal with private troubles- failing at school for Autumn and overcoming a past trauma for Adonis- they slowly find understanding in each other. Both Autumn and Adonis are richly drawn and fully realized, with unique and distinctive voices, and their stories compelling. I found myself lingering over the pages, enjoying the richness of their voices, the truth of their stories. Truly, a delightful read, and I look forward to reading more of Sharon Flake’s engaging work. — Heather

During the holiday season, I spent a good deal of time entertaining at home with family, friends, and colleagues. I enjoy cooking very much, but what I really love is reading about food. When it comes to food writing, my go-to sources include The New Yorker and Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. However, when I need to get down to the practical business of roasting, sauteing, and baking, I troll my favorite recipe blogs, such as Smitten Kitchen or Lottie + Doof. And, of course, I browse my cookbook collection. One of my favorite new cookbooks is David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert (2012). Yes, the desserts are amazing–I’ve already put about half of them on the table– but also the writing is hilarious; he introduces each recipe with either droll humor or a bizarre anecdote. To ease the burden of cooking all day, the authors of Bistro Cooking at Home (2003) and The Newlywed Cookbook (2011) offer details about how to prepare some of their dishes in advance. Lastly, in 2013, if you find yourself making dinner for foodies or guests of Mediterranean origin, then I would recommend Simone Ortega’s The Book of Tapas (2010) or The Silver Spoon New Edition (2011), a classic! –Amy

Like Amy, I’ve spent a lot of time lately browsing cookbooks and trying out new recipes. Mostly I’ve been baking up a storm.  My two favorites are the cinnamon scrolls from Yvette van Boven’s Home Made and layered biscuits from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day.  When not cooking, I’ve been really enjoying Jeffrey Toobin’s The Oath. Toobin’s book focuses on the often contentious relationship between the Roberts court and Obama administration, and between competing ideas about how the Constitution should be interpreted and applied to the legal questions faced today. If you’ve read The Nine, you’re already familiar with Toobin’s accessible writing style and extensive knowledge of the Supreme Court, both of which are on display in The Oath. –Sarah

Over the holiday break, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s page-turner Flight Behavior. The main character, Dellarobia is a smart and young mother of two who doesn’t have the opportunities you want her to have. Her parents died young, she got pregnant in highschool which thwarted her chances at college, and propelled her into an early marriage to a man she never would have married otherwise. Now, the mother of a kindergartener and a toddler, Dellarobia feels trapped. When monarch butterflies migrate to the mountain near Dellarobia’s home in Tennessee instead of migrating to Mexico, her life changes. The novel is equal parts domestic drama and environmental drama. I found myself rooting for the butterflies and for Dellarobia. –Emily

Now tell us: what are you reading in the New Year?

Cramming

Final exam season is here. This year, the knowledge that I neither have to take exams nor grade them fills me with giddy delight. Time that I once spent with towering piles of blue books is now dedicated to perfecting my glögg recipe and sleeping. I do, however, empathize with stressed-out students. I don’t like to see students so frustrated that they literally hit their books, as I witnessed last week. There must be a better way.

Continue reading

What We’re Reading: December 2012

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.

As 2012 comes to a close, I’ve been frantically trying to read all of the books I’ve been meaning to read all year, particularly those I’ve purchased and those I’ve been on the library’s waiting list for months. I ended November with what turned out to be my favorite read of 2012 (so far): These Days Are Ours by Michelle Haimoff. It’s set in the spring of 2002 and follows Hailey, a recent college graduate trying to figure out what ‘normal’ is. It helps that Haimoff’s characters are the age I was in 2002, but this novel is smart, affecting, and an intimate portrait of both adulthood and post-9/11 New York City. Next up for me: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, which has been languishing on my Kindle for over a year and Colm Toibin’s newest, The Testament of Mary. –Carrie

This past month, I immersed myself into two very different books. The first was Gillian Flynn’s very dark and twisted Gone Girl. It was an unsettling account of a woman’s disappearance on her five-year wedding anniversary. Her husband is the main suspect and as well as the novel’s narrator and his story is interspersed with her diary entries.  Nothing and no one in this book is what it seems, and it is an exploration of the dark side of humanity. It was truly chilling. Following Gone Girl, I delved into the strange and complex world of Crewel by Gennifer Albin. Crewel is a world of Spinsters, women who have the power to weave the very fabric of reality around them. With their power, they control every aspect of life in Arras. It is considered a great honor to be chosen as a Spinster, yet Adelice Lewys wants nothing to do with that life- she spends her days in dread of being chosen. When the inevitable happens, and she is chosen as a Spinster, she discovers that her vague misgivings and suspicions barely scratch the surface of the twisted reality of life as a Spinster of Arras. Albin’s creates a world that is fascinating, engaging, and compelling, weaving together a truly engaging story.  –Heather

After a month spent with agricultural fiction (“Neighbour Rosicky,” O Pioneers!, A Thousand Acres, etc.) , I forced myself leave the farm so that I could read Andrew Solomon’s brilliant book, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. I go into raptures thinking about the originality, scope, and importance of the arguments posited by Solomon. This book is about so much, including reproduction, diversity, identity, and tolerance. It’s kind of a big deal. Best of all, there’s a book trailer on vimeo. –Amy

This month, I enjoyed Rachel Maddow’s Drift. While I expected the book to be well-written and entertaining, as well as thoroughly researched (after all, Maddow has PhD in Politics from Oxford), I didn’t expect to end up thinking so much about the role of privatization in military decision-making and how the balance of power among the three branches of the U.S. government has shifted over the past 30 years.  I’ve also gone back and reread some classics in International Relations, as well as Jack Snyder’s “One World, Rival Theories,” which offers a broad perspective on the major strands of IR theory, and more interestingly, makes some excellent arguments for the ways in which theory can illuminate real-world events.  On the fiction side, I gave into my weakness for books about record stores and music fans, and have Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue next on my list. –Sarah

I’m reading Tobias Wolff’s Vietnam War memoir In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War. It’s a welcomed addition to the well-trodden genre of the Vietnam War memoir. Wolff is unflinching and brutally honest as he recounts his time in Vietnam—a time when he’ll take desperate measures to watch the Thanksgiving Bonanza special on a color television. Wolff’s gallows humor pushes me through the most sobering moments of the book. I often find myself thinking about this book when I’m not reading it. I’ve also been reading lots of email this week from the fascinating RUSA-CODES discussion about genre fiction. –Emily  

Now tell us: what books are you squeezing in before the end of 2012?

‘Tis the Season for Lists, Awards, and Nominations

by Emily Hamstra

I always look forward to this time of year for many reasons–spending time with family and friends over the holidays, the end of a busy semester is approaching, and of course, lists and awards galore. I was delighted by this year’s National Book Award winners. Yesterday, The New York Times released the 100 Notable Books of 2012.

As you scour your favorite lists and anticipate your favorite award winners this year, I want to remind you to add RUSA’s lists and awards to your list of lists and award to watch. The RUSA awards are given out yearly to honor outstanding librarians, stellar books, and forward thinking publishers and editors. The RUSA awards are something that I look forward to. I always find the winners inspiring and encouraging, and I learn about exciting resources through the awardees.

The nominations for the RUSA awards are due December 15th. There certainly isn’t better way to honor your colleagues, someone who inspires you, or your favorite resource than by putting forward an award nomination! Do you know of a library or librarian who has developed a resource or guide to literature to meet the unique needs of patrons? If so, consider recommending them for the Gale Cengage Learning Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services Award. The winner of this award will receive $3,000. Where do you go to find a good book review? Do you have a favorite book reviewer or book blog you follow? If so, consider nominating an outstanding book reviewer, book review medium, or an organization for the Louis Shores Award. The winner will be recognized at the RUSA Awards Ceremony at the ALA Midwinter Conference. There are too many awards to mention them all, so read about all the awards on the RUSA Awards website.  

Something in Common

The new school year is well underway in my library district and the library has been humming with research papers and book reports since late August. New this year to our school districts, though, is the adaptation of the Common Core State Standards.

What is Common Core? It is an effort to create educational standards across the many states to ensure that all children are meeting the same set of educational requirements. According to Common Core’s website:

“The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce. “

Common Core is reshaping curriculums in schools across the country, and as the schools begin to adapt to this change, both school libraries and public libraries are, too.

In order to have a better understanding of Common Core and what materials and resources a library can provide to support the new standards, a vast variety of online resources have been created online.  here is a beginner’s list to some of the web’s most helpful sites, created with the help of my library’s excellent School Services Coordinator:

Is your library adapting to Common Core? If so, what resources do you recommend?

Still Just a Bill: US Congressional documents and why you might use them

by Sarah Elichko

today i am still just a bill

In the spirit of the election, I’d like to talk about a topic some librarians fear: government documents.

Between the labyrinthine structure of agencies and committees to the prospect of navigating a different call number system (Superintendent of Documents or SuDoc), this huge category of resources can be intimidating to approach. Yet if you’re ever looking for statistics, maps, arguments for or against a policy (e.g. welfare reform), high-quality research, or information about a proposed law, government documents are a great place to start. And don’t forget: most US, EU, UN, and other government documents are available for free.

Now, I’m a bit of a government documents geek and I don’t expect everyone to share my enthusiasm for the EPA’s environmental justice mapping tools and compiling legislative histories. But I think that almost any librarian will find some basic knowledge of government information useful in their daily work. Previously on Chasing Reference, Amy highlighted the amazing resource of the recently released 1940 US Census. Today, I’m going to focus on US Congressional Hearings, which which can give you and your patrons a window into the workings of Congress and the process by which laws are made.

We’ll look at three questions: what do Congressional hearings tell you? How can you find them? What about finding older and unpublished hearings?

Continue reading