Tuesday, December 11, 2012

If I Could Turn Back Time

Most adults say they'd never want to relive their high school years. It feels funny saying that considering where I work, but I think we all understand where the sentiment comes from. The teen years are a time of enormous change and development as you struggle to find your passion and identity. You survive by having good friends and something, a sport or hobby, that means everything to you.

For many of us that something was (often still is) reading. The transformative properties of literature are well documented. You can go anywhere, see anything, move about time and space and discover characters who feel more like friends than fiction. As a writer my main goal is to create characters people can relate to. When readers believe in and root for the characters, the reading experience reaches its zenith.

When I graduated from high school in blahblahblah19blahblah85blahblah the Young Adult book market had just started to take off. Children's Literature and Classics dominated the library back then. I was too old for Nancy Drew and too young for say, Jacqueline Susann. I devoured everything I could find from Paula Danzinger to Lois Duncan. There never was enough.

Well times have changed. If anything would tempt me to turn back time, it would be for the books. I can't believe the choices the kids have today. I don't think reading ever became unpopular, but if I had to pin-point when it became visibly popular again, I'd go with when the second or third Harry Potter came out. And it hasn't slowed down since.

The YA Holy Trinity of publishing success are the Harry Potter series, the Twilight series and, more recently, The Hunger Games trilogy. In between these are thousands of other series or single titles that cover everything from Greek heroes (Percy Jackson series), more wizards (Nickolas Flamel series), fallen angels (Hush, Hush and Fallen series) to engaging realistic fiction titles (by John Green, Sarah Dessen and Gordon Korman) and more dystopian societies than you can shake a stick at (Maze Runner trilogy, Matched trilogy and don't forget all the zombie apocalypse books). 

Maybe it's a good thing I didn't have this many choices when I was young; I never would have left the house. To focus on quantity isn't the right approach however. The quality of the writing and the complexity of the narratives can stand up to many adult novels. You certainly don't have to be a teen to enjoy these books, which is the good news.

The bad news? At my age, I lack the stamina to pull off a reading all-nighter. It will take years for me to catch up on all the hot titles our HHS students love.

Better get started!

***A big thank you to the students, parents and faculty who generously donated books in our Second Annual Amazon Book Drive. We received about 40 titles, many of which have already been checked out, returned and checked out again. We couldn't do what we do (and have as much fun doing it) without your support. ***

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No Tricks, Just A Treat

The King & Queen of Hearts  & Co. visit the LMC.

Yes Virginia, celebrating literature can be fun!

That's our story and we're sticking to it.

It's not that we don't have ample opportunities to dress up for fun at Horizon. Between Homecoming and Hoopcoming there are ten days for stepping out of your comfort zone and playing along. But there's something special about October 31.

As someone who reads and writes I have to stand up loud and proud for a day that at its heart celebrates the power of imagination. Whether you choose a costume inspired by a book, comic, movie, TV show or anime series, all of those worlds and characters began their life with the written word.

In today's world we're surrounded and obsessed with pixels and megabytes and all manner of digital increments that mean something to someone, somewhere. It's too soon to tell what type of legacy they'll have over time. The written word, however, has endured feast, famine, natural and man-made disasters and the digital revolution.

Lewis Carrol wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland back in 1865. Disney made the animated film in 1951 and Tim Burton gave the story his own spin in 2010. Alice-inspired comics and anime are popular outside of the US and England. For 147 years Mr. Carrol's mere words have inspired and entertained people all over the world. What could be more powerful than that?

So if you're not into costumes or dressing up don't worry, you can treat yourself to a good book anytime. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pigskin Princess #2- When Mom Goes To Football Practice

When I interviewed for my position on the coaching staff for Freshmen Football the biggest point I stressed was how I didn’t want the presence of a woman to change any aspect of the program, most especially for the players. As a mother of sons I felt strongly that boys need male-centered environments where they can act like boys. (In other words, farting out loud is always acceptable.)

I can safely say my gender hasn’t amounted to much in terms of change. There have been a few additions, like the word ma’am, and blinds for the coaches’ office inside the locker room. (Unfortunately the blinds don’t block out the smell.) On the field I am not much different from my male colleagues; I yell, I wear a whistle and I carry the play book.  Like them, I sweat, get tired and lose my voice. I’ve spent the better part of the season believing we were almost the same, except for one key difference- what happens at home.

It’s fair to say that my male colleagues don’t start laundry when they get home from Saturday morning practice. Nor are they responsible for meal planning for the people who remain at home while they’re coaching.  They’re not worrying about buying gifts for assorted relatives, signing school forms (for their own children) and packing school lunches. I doubt they’ll stress over holiday planning (it will be here before you know it) finding time for a mani/pedi or the affect of all that sun and sweat on their complexions.

Sometimes I look at my fellow coaches and I feel a bit envious because I suspect their wives have released them from a myriad of household responsibilities. That may or may not be true. While their responsibilities at home may differ from mine (let’s face it, I don’t do yard work) they, like me, have left a trail of undone, need-to-do and want-to-do tasks in their wake during football.

One area where I know the guys and I suffer equally is in family-life balance. There really is none during football season. We coach five evenings a week and on Saturday mornings. We arrive home exhausted, smelly and sometimes cranky, depending on what went down at practice. For me Game Day is a fourteen hour affair- eight hours of work , followed by the team meal, the production of players getting dressed in game attire, warm-ups, a possible bus ride, more warm-ups, the pre-game pep talk, the game, half time, the mid-game pep talk, the second half, the post-game talk and finally a bus ride back to school. I get home about 9:00 p.m. having left the house at 6:45 a.m.

Two weeks ago The Better Half was out of town on Game Day. I saw Son #2 for a total of ten minutes, five in the morning and five when I arrived home. His dinner was whatever the $8 cash I had in my wallet could buy him that night, since I had neither the time or energy to prepare something. In truth, he was likely thrilled to go grab fast food, he’s sixteen after all, but that’s not the point.

To his credit The Better Half has recalibrated  his expectations during football season. I don’t cook during the week anymore, but I am expected to supply the food needed so others can. I also don’t do dishes at night when I come home from practice. Sometimes The Better Half forgets my schedule and asks me out to dinner on Friday night. There is no going out to dinner on Friday night because after my team’s practice, I head to the varsity game. (Friday Night Lights baby!)

I didn’t become a female football coach to make a statement about gender roles. I did it because I love the game and working with kids.  My male colleagues and I have equally sacrificed to be on the field with our players. They may not be worried about the laundry, but I’ve learned they do worry about what’s suffering in their personal lives while they’re on the field.

Exhaustion, it seems, is an equal opportunity condition.

Is it all worth it? If you need to ask  you haven’t been paying attention.
Go Huskies!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beating the Books Blahs

 Have you ever looked inside your closet and thought you had nothing to wear even though the closet was full of items? You start trying on clothes and putting together outfits but nothing fits, looks right, feels right or makes you appear 10 lbs. lighter? At this point your body temperature begins to rise, signaling an imminent meltdown. Shouting occurs, perhaps a throwing of the offending garments across the room and most certainly the gnashing of teeth. It isn't pretty.

It might surprise you to know that the same thing happens to book lovers. While there's no official name for this malady, I like to call it Transition Trouble.  

Transition Trouble is a dangerous affliction that affects your ability to dive into a new book after recently finishing an engaging one. In my case, I read new novels from my favorite authors all summer and then became stuck in the middle of a second book in a trilogy that seemed to be limping along. I decided to take a break from it (something I rarely do) and discovered two new fiction titles that I had trouble putting down.

It's been about ten days since I finished that last book and now I'm the one limping along. Everything I pick up feels wrong. I even requested two books with Jane Austen themes from the public library, but unfortunately they both centered on Mansfield Park, my least favorite of her work.

I've discussed this problem with other book lovers and found that it happens to everyone at some point. And we all appear to have the same fix- the palette cleanser. This is a favorite book, reread many times, that serves to clear your head and settle anxiety (because now you're worried you'll never find another new book you want to read). My palette cleanser is Pride & Prejudice. I can open it to any page and immediately begin to relax. After two or three days I've calmed down enough to pick up something new.

So last night I grabbed my worn copy of P&P (I own several) and waited for it to work its magic on me.

And I waited.


I'm now in four-alarm crisis mode. I HAVE NO BOOKS!

Yes I realize this is a gross exaggeration considering I work in a library and own at least 1,500 books but believe me, I have no books right now. Nothing is appealing to me and I'm getting worried.

The first thing I did this morning was log into Amazon and look up the titles I'd read recently and loved. Amazon's "Customers Who Bought____ Also Bought ______" feature is a fabulous way to discover new authors.  I searched and searched, then opened a new tab for the Scottsdale Public Library. As I found potential good reads, I requested them from the library or, if they weren't available, added them to my Amazon cart. In the end I requested 8 titles, ordered 3 and will stop by the library on my way home from work today to pick up one book that was on shelf and waiting to go home with an avid reader.

I'd like to think that between 14 books coming my way in the next week, at least one of them can rescue me from this malaise.

Has this ever happened to you? What's your favorite palette cleanser? I might need some suggestions!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pigskin Princess: On Any Given Wednesday

When I joined the coaching staff of the Freshmen football team last spring (no that's not a typo) my mind immediately set to visions of the multitude of blogs such an experience would produce. I dreamed up a clever moniker (see above) and planned for a great photo of myself with a football and rhinestones for props.

Fast forward to today- Game Day #2 of the season.

I have not-

Blogged one sentence about coaching football.

Taken my fancy Pigskin Princess head shot.

Completely memorized the playbook. (So close!)

Avoided catching the Pigskin Plague- the cold bug that travels through the team in batches of four people.

Figured out how to make my hair last past two practices without needing to be washed again.
Regretted my decision to ask (I asked) to be part of Husky Football.

I have- 

A lot to learn about football.

And coaching. They are separate skills sets.

Wonderful coaching colleagues whose experience and talent amazes me every day.

Fantastic (and aromatic) players.

Fun watching the reaction from people when they learn I'm coaching boys' football.

Sweated through twice a week summer evening practices and now six days-a-week regular season practice without whining (even at home where it's safe to whine).

Learned that my gender is not a handicap at all, but my lack of experience  is.

So why? Why do this crazy, very ungirly, unwriterly, unlibrarian-like activity that takes up about twenty hours a week (without pay!)? Two words-


Wednesday is Game Day for Freshmen Football. Game Day is what we live for, work for and sweat for. It's our reward and, as we know, anything can happen on Game Day.

And in my case it already has- I'm part of the team. The players  probably aren't going to learn a lot about football from me this year. What I hope they do learn from me is this- believe in that crazy thing you've always wanted to do and seize the opportunity to become part of it.

Because anything can happen.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Out With the Old & In With the New- Students That Is!

I remember what a let down the first day of my senior year in high school was. Until I walked on campus that morning I hadn't realized how many of my good, dear friends graduated. The campus felt odd without them and I don't think I ever quite recovered; my senior year was my least favorite.

Such is the dilemma at the start of a new school year.  In the first weeks of school many of the grads visit campus to say goodbye before they leave for college, so we almost feel like they haven't left. But now, as the holiday weekend approaches and we're past the beginning of school it hits me that some of my favorite peeps aren't here anymore.

On of the great joys of working in the LMC is that 99% of the students who come in want to be here.  It's rare when we have an issue with a student beyond showing up without a pass or getting caught with an handful of food. Ms. Orest and I get to know the kids quite well and enjoy all the tidbits they share about their lives and activities.

The first few days without some of our regulars can be quite jarring because in their places are these new faces who don't seem to know anything about the LMC (yet). They need help with everything it seems- Where's the printer? How can I use a computer? What do you mean I can't eat my lunch in here-it's lunch!

When I'm just about ready to pull my hair out, one new freshmen will approach the circulation desk and utter the magic words, "Do you have (random book title)?"

And in an instant I'm not seeing a stranger but instead a fellow book lover.  

Our schedule in the LMC is so busy now I don't have time to lament over which students have graduated and left the building. I've memorized the faces and reading habits of many new students thus far. I have a wonderful young man who comes in every morning to check out a new book. I hope we can keep him well supplied during his HHS years!

I believe that those of us drawn to careers in education need the renewal that comes from the start of a school year. It's a new beginning, a fresh opportunity and a wonderful time to get to know some incredible students.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again!

Welcome to the 2012/2013 school year! We're back! With a new circulation desk and some fresh paint. Here I am at my new work station. Notice the ledge? No more backpacks knocking things down on me! Ms. Orest and I are thrilled with our new desk and looking forward to a great school year.

So, how did I spend my summer vacation?

Packing and unpacking- we moved to a new house. 

Reading- but only one of the 30 books I brought home from the LMC. Too many of my favorite authors had new releases out in June and July. I had a few days were I sat and read for hours, which is such a rare treat.

Sweating- at Freshman Football practice.  Yes, you read that correctly. I am a new volunteer coach for the Freshman Football team. I'll be blogging about that under the title Pigskin Princess, so watch for an update next week.

Collecting- goodies for the Library Media Center. My older son Conner and I went to the fun and fabulous San Diego Comic-Con in July. In addition to comic books, movies and TV shows there are TONS of books and authors. SciFi, Fantasy and YA titles are huge right now. I got to speak to Michael Grant, the author of the Gone series, and tell him how much my students love his work. I won books (the new YA series from mega SciFi author Orson Scott Card) for the LMC at the Simon and Schuster panel. In addition to all that fun, I nabbed posters, ARC copies of soon-to-be-released titles, buttons, stickers and a free T-shirt. Look for the Comic-Con display to be up early next week.

Waiting- for some great movies based on books to come out this fall. The last segment of the Twilight series will be out as well as the highly anticipated The Perks of Being a Wallflower and World War Z. And let's not forget the movie event of the century- the first (of three) films for The Hobbit. It will be epic! Best of all, we have all of these titles in the Media Center so you can read the book before you see the movie.

While it's tough to get back into the school routine (early mornings!) I except this school year to be great. Pop in and visit if you get the chance.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beginnings, Middles & Ends

Graduation was almost two weeks ago, but I'm still thinking about it. I had the privilege of being a line leader that evening and as you can tell by the Cheshire Cat grin on my face, I had a wonderful time.

During the school year our HHS students are quite preoccupied. They don't always know the date, the time or where the big giant printer they sent their document to is (right behind you dear). They talk while they text, text while they listen and listen while looking past your face at something in the background far more interesting. In short, they aren't always present mentally despite being physically present in the same space you're occupying with them. It's a bit frustrating at times, I won't lie.

On graduation night the clueless, disinterested and distracted must have stayed home because every graduate was in his or her moment. How do I best describe that? Joy? Bliss? Glee? Euphoria? All of the above? I've never seen the students so plugged into what was happening around them. And while there were plenty of smart phones about, they were mostly used for taking pictures. The kids were speaking to each other, to staff and sharing stories and excitement.  It was impossible not to become giddy yourself.

In our busy, multitasking age few of us take the time to stop and smell the roses or savor a moment. I felt encouraged that our students did that night.

One of the speakers told her fellow graduates that she hoped high school wasn't the best time of their lives. If ever there was a moment to be present in, I think this was this one. The speaker's point (wise beyond her years this young lady is) was that if you claim a period of time in your past as the best, how open will you be to discovering the other (and typically unexpected) opportunities that await you?

As I sat with my row of graduates, I heard these words and thought about how everyone in Husky Stadium that night was at the beginning, middle or end of something in their life- career, school, stage of family life or marriage. Transitions between the degrees of being are often the most difficult. In my own family life we are nearly at the end of the school years for our sons, in the middle of the teen years and at the beginning of a new life in a new house when we move later this month (don't worry, I'll still be here at HHS next year). This season of change is has definitely made for some sleepless nights, but how sad would it be to think all the best experiences in my life were behind me?

We can't go back in time, only forward. It's important to celebrate and if needed, grieve for days gone by, but never to be stuck in them. Ms. Orest and I will miss many 2012 graduates next year. Thankfully the incoming freshmen will beginning their HHS journey and I hope that for many of them that includes a fair amount of time in the Library Media Center!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Some Light Summer Reading

This is me. This is me with a box. This is me with the box filled with books to read over the summer.

This is me enjoying some light summer reading. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

A successful librarian is one who can recommend books to patrons. The best way to do that is to know your collection well. I truly wish I had enough time to read every book in the Library Media Center, but the thirty-five I'm taking home with me over break will be a good start.

Our avid readers here at HHS are very much like me. They have favored genres and authors, but are always happy to try something new. Here are a few of the titles I'm looking forward to-

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber- When Perry gets stuck taking a geeky foreign exchange student to prom, her secret spy mission takes the night in a direction he never imagined.

The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli- The story of Elisabetta, the young woman who inspired the Mona Lisa.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer- Part Cinderella, Part Cyborg. What's not to love there?

The Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald- Two college girls, one at Oxford and one at UC Santa Barbara, switch schools for a semester.

Hero by Perry Moore- When the family business is being a Super Hero, what choice do you have but to be one too?

How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain- I have no idea what this book is about, I just love the title.

I've also grabbed some Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen books, a few Dystopian dramas and of course at least one Zombie Apocalypse tale (I can't resist those).

In a way I envy teens. The Young Adult book market  is vastly different than when I was in high school. The choices are amazing, the narratives are smart and sophisticated and the characters are ones kids relate to.  There's never been a better time to have your nose stuck in a book!

Happy Reading this summer!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Going Digital Without Getting Dizzy

I spent the weekend at the Missouri Writer's Guild Conference and had a wonderful time. As both Library Support Staff and an emerging writer, I've followed the rise of digital books with equal measures of interest and unease.

One session of the conference I enjoyed was Jane Friedman's on the impact of Google, FaceBook, Amazon and Apple on a writer's career. It's important to remember that whatever happens to writers will eventually affect a library. Digital lending (and its pricing) is a hot topic between libraries and publishers right now. The rise of e-readers (Kindle and Nook) and Tablets (iPad and Android offerings) is pushing demand for digital materials to own or rent.

Jane said one thing that surprised me. Apparently, pundits are divided on whether tablets are here to stay. Looking at tech use here on the HHS campus, tablets are the least owned personal devices our students have. The iPads are popular at lunch and get used everyday, but few kids own one. I see e-readers now and then, but the number one device students own is a smartphone, followed by a laptop. Reading on either of those devices, while possible, isn't always desirable. In my own life, I rarely use my iPad, I prefer a real book or my laptop for long projects.

What does this all have to do with us in the Media Center? Will the district ever go digital?

Public libraries will always adopt new technologies before school libraries, their infrastructure is better designed for change and so are their patrons. Patron demand weights heavily on planning and implementing new policies. At this point in time, we aren't seeing a heavy demand for digital books from students. Until tablets or e-readers are as commonly owned as a mobile phone or home computers I don't expect that to change. Our resources are best used acquiring new fiction and updating systems and software the kids use here in the Media Center.

It often feels like the digital revolution is moving so fast it's hard to keep up. Yes and no. It is here, it will stay, but the speed at which you adopt to it is yours to set. In many ways it's never been a better time to be a writer and a reader. Some things to keep in mind-

1- The more options authors have for releasing material, the more choices (often at lower price points) readers have.
2- Most platforms support digital lending or downloads to every device on the market, which also keeps choice and pricing options in the hands of consumers.
3- Device options keep getting better.
4- Support for your devices is strong. Most public libraries offer free classes on digital lending.
5- Pick your pace. I started with a Kindle app on my iPhone and have graduated to both Nook and Kindle apps on my iPad. You don't necessarily have purchase a new device to try e-books.
6- We're watching! Here in the LMC, we're following all the trends and information and deciding how best to keep up, run from or adopt the latest services or devices that help our students. Feel free to ask us questions.
7- Print books will be around for a long time. There will be fewer to buy, but the medium will not become extinct.

I'm curious to know what devices you use. Have you bought something new in the last six months? Thinking about a change? Let me know about it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

National Library Week

Believe it or not this week is National Library Week. Librarians across the country are being showered with praise, thanks and gifts (we are quite fond of chocolate here in the LMC). And while we had every opportunity to purchase posters advertising National Library Week, or promote it through web and daily announcements, Ms. Orest and I are just too darn busy to stop and celebrate. She's preparing for presentations next week, students had AIMS testing this week and of course it took me several days of deep concentration to come up with today's blog post topic.

See what I mean?

I have a strong suspicion that very few school libraries are celebrating.  Like us, they have too much going on. That isn't to say public libraries coast through the day, but in general adult patrons are more independent. The idea behind National Library Week isn't merely to show appreciation for  dedicated staff (though I can certainly get behind that!) but to also highlight all the services libraries provide to patrons.

In short, the public needs to know what we do all day.

Homework Help- Finding students research books or websites. Print and formatting assistance for English papers (those are very long days for us as everyone waits until the last minute to print their paper here at school). Technology and Library education presentations- how to use the library and our equipment.

Hostess with the Mostest!- Classes come into the LMC almost every day, some times multiple ones from different departments on the same day. Occasionally we double book due to high demand.  Classes will use laptops for a variety of tasks (the foreign language classes conjugate verbs on a special website). Sometimes the LMC is so popular we have to send people away.

Hand holding- Not literally, but everyday there is a crisis of some kind- document won't print, file won't open, BFF stopped speaking to someone. The LMC is an area of respite for many students. They study, they hang out with friends, they play on the Wii (not during class time) and they share their lives with us. We get updates on sports, college acceptance, prom status and much more.

Hand it over- Books that is. Finding books the kids need still, even in the digital age, occupies a nice chunk of time here in the LMC.

An official National Library Week celebration would have been nice, but we do get ample thanks and appreciation every day from students and staff.

But not much chocolate.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Fever Hits HHS

There were a few times last week where I thought I was on the set on AMC's zombie drama Walking Dead. No one, it seemed, was quite ready to be back on campus after Spring Break. I don't recall feeling that way after Winter Break in January. Perhaps because leaving the busyness of the holiday season felt like such a relief!

This week has been better. Now that I work on a high school campus I've learned something I didn't know before- senioritis is contagious! The warm weather has all us distracted and daydreaming about our summer plans. Spring also brings college notification letters. It's been both exciting and difficult to see our HHS seniors get a yes or a no from the campus they've dreamed of attending.

Prom is on the horizon and the expectancy for it is building. We had one romantic prom proposal in the Media Center already. (She said yes.)

And while the school year is coming to an end, the seniors are on the edge of a new beginning and I find the energy swirling around so infectious! Life is a series of stops and starts, journeys and destinations, rewards and challenges. I don't think you can be around these kids and not reflect on new possibilities in your own life.

For me here in the Media Center, I've been thinking about how much Ms. Orest and I have accomplished this year, our first together, and what we hope to do more of in the next school year.  The perception of the library as a dead zone has changed and the kids are figuring out all the new things they can do here. We are busy as ever as we head toward the end of school and some days I'm exhausted.

So if I stop talking about books in favor of brains, proceed with caution.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Rabid. Famished. Feral.

Anticipation for the first film based on Suzanne Collins' incredible trilogy has reached critical mass. Libraries across the country are struggling to meet demand for the books (including the Horizon Library Media Center) while watercooler conversations are singularly focused on the series. No matter your age, chances are you've heard about the series and have considered reading it or lost a weekend while you did (that's what happened to me).

We haven't seen anything like this since the Harry Potter days.

What? What about the Twilight series? How could I skip mentioning it? Easy- for all its popularity (and controversy) Twilight never crossed gender lines. The frantic TwiHard fans often seen on the news consisted of teen/tween girls and their cougar moms. None of the rare Y chromosome folks ever wanted to be captured on film.

Like the Harry Potter books, the Hunger Games series grabbed the interest of kids, teens and adults of both sexes. How does an author mange that? Good writing helps of course, which J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins demonstrated, but it's more than that. In both series the kids (teens really) are the heroes but they are surrounded by adults who are presented as flawed, fabulous and occasionally fatal. The honest depiction of adults on each side of the good/evil axis draws readers of all ages and genders in. The adults don't sugar coat and patronize the kids, nor do they rescue  them. They aid, support or interfere depending on their desires, but the kids ultimately have to do the hard work to achieve their reward or survival.

Harry Potter and Katniss appeal equally to girls and boys which, in my opinion is the true feat the authors achieved. Readers want and need a character they can believe in and root for as a protagonist. As a writer myself, I've heard a lot about how I'm supposed to convey a universal truth about the human experience. What could be more universal than having a character who has less than those around him or her, who wants more than life has offered so far and is who is willing to risk anything for the greater good?

Our boy readers here at Horizon have loved The Hunger Games, perhaps a bit more than Harry Potter since hand-to-hand combat is generally more exciting to read than a wizards' duel. A few have expressed that it felt odd at first to be in a girls' head, but they got over it quickly.

The adult readers here on campus are all drawn to the fast pace of the books and the cruelty of the regime that runs the Hunger Games. For parents it's difficult to imagine a world where you're required to enter your children in a game til the death as tribute to the government.

What's most exciting to me about the success and excitement surrounding the books and upcoming film is that we're all talking- kids and adults. Kids to adults, adults to kids, everyone to anyone who will listen.

Communication is the key to sustaining relationships and succeeding in life. Great stories (even fictional ones) have the ability to connect us not only to our imagination, but to each other. If you haven't read  The Hunger Games yet, I encourage you to. For those of you who have, I'll see you in line at the midnight premiere!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Talking Shh.....

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week we had AIMS testing in the morning. The sophomores came in to test and the rest of the students came in later. For us in the LMC, that meant a quiet morning and I have to say, I liked it.

It used to be that silence was golden in a library. The enforcement of that rule created the stereotype for the librarian as a curmudgeon. When I worked for the Scottsdale Public Library in 2004, it was adjusting to the noise of the 21st. Century- cell phones. I saw staff struggling to accept the new octave level. Over time as cell phone use increased and expanded into smart phone use, noise seemed to be less of an issue because the new threat was Starbucks cups.

Here at HHS a similar transformation has occurred. Before school, during lunch and after school, the LMC is fairly noisy. When classes come in, we encourage them to talk and move around. Occasionally we have to ask a group to turn their volume down, but that's rare. Noise isn't too much of a problem, but pace is. When we get busy, Ms. Orest and I can barely keep up.

The LMC is open for forty hours a week- non-stop you see. We have no prep time, no down time, no days off where we're closed for inventory. It's a good thing to be such a vital part of day-to-day campus and we adore our students, but those two quiet mornings this week brought me back in time to my own childhood library memories. The library was always a calm, peaceful place for me.

I'm not sure anyone would call the LMC calm or peaceful but I wouldn't have a it any other way. I feel recharged from our quiet mornings this week, which is good since we are booked for classes almost every day leading up to Spring Break.

I don't get to Shh... students very often but that's not a bad thing. No curmudgeons here!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Let There Be Books!

Our first ever Horizon Scholastic Book Fair was held February 9-14 here in the Media Center. On Monday, February 13, we moved the fair down to the gym lobby for the shopping convenience of our parents who attended Parent/Teacher conferences that evening. I'm happy to report that the event was a great success for us.

Why a book fair? Why now?

The real real question is, why not? As I've reported, we have avid readers here at Horizon. Given the economic situation in the district and the country, funding for new materials is challenging. A book fair is a great way to provide a service to our school community and earn free books for the library. Scholastic makes it easy to participate as well. In fact, Scholastic went above and beyond to work with us. Not only did they support our mission, to offer great books to our students, with fundraising as a secondary goal, they customized the books in the cases for our community. Our Scholastic team- Paige, Kristy and Rhonda, answered my questions, offered tips and advice and encouraged our efforts from start to finish.

Here's a brief look at the impact of the Book Fair-

Big Smiles- The typical response of students when they saw the Book Fair was one of elation. I heard some squeals, a few "Oh Boys!" and more than a handful of kids jumped up and down. Both girls and boys responded that way. Almost everyone reminisced about the book fairs they attended in grade school. Everyone has asked if it will be back next year. (Yes!)

Lookie-Loos- Foot traffic in the Media Center increased because of the Book Fair. I saw many first timers in the LMC, both as students and staff. One of our goals is to increase awareness that we are here. The Book Fair provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase what the LMC has to offer. The perception today is that kids don't read and libraries are an antiquated institutions. While I don't agree with that at all, I do believe it's part of my job to change that perception. The visibility the Book Fair brought to the LMC was invaluable.

Let's Talk About- Books, favorite authors and series oh my! The students loved lingering through the book cases and discussing all the titles. They would talk to me, their friends and other shoppers with enthusiasm.  One of the main reasons I wanted the fair was for this kind of free exchange with my student patrons. There are dozens of sites I can go on to research what teenagers want to read, but those are a poor substitute for a live book experience. I witnessed first hand the choices the kids made, which authors they sought first and whom they didn't. I took notes on genre trends (realistic fiction is a welcome respite from the intensity of all the dsytopian fare). When it came time to pick titles for the LMC, I knew exactly which ones would be gobbled up by the students. Only through browsing with real books can this kind of interaction occur. 

Houston, We Have Readers!- Our Book Fair customers were evenly divided between boys and girls. This didn't surprise me since I check books out to our students all day, but I want to point this statistic out to those who insist that boys mainly play video games. In fact, the boy gaming crowd who uses the Wii before/after school and during lunch are all among my regular readers. Also split almost evenly, the purchases of realistic and genre fiction, with fantasy/dystopian slightly ahead of the realistic titles.

What Now?- In terms of sales by traditional Scholastic standards, our sales were meager. However, through Scholastic's generous reward and incentive program we earned about forty-five new books for the LMC. Ms. Orest and I consider the Book Fair a huge success and we're thrilled that Scholastic is willing to work with us again next year.

What I want everyone to take away from our Book Fair Experience is this- reading is alive and well here on the Horizon campus and if you host a Scholastic Book Fair, they will come!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All Dressed Up With Somewhere To Go!

Last Friday I attended a Library conference on Young Adult Literature thanks to a generous grant from PAWS, our wonderful parent organization.

I spent an entire day discussing books, participating in book activities and buying new books for the Media Center. The conference centered on new 2012 titles and 2011 paperback releases. I was able to learn more about some of the books currently in our collection that I haven't read yet and make a wish list (one of my favorite tasks) for our Spring order.

Most adults agree that they'd never want to go back in time to their high school years, but as a reader I sure wish I was a teen again. The Young Adult market is exploding right now and the titles, themes and subjects are vast and varied. Paranormal (like the Twilight series) and Dystopian (like The Hunger Games) are still the big trends in the YA market, but I was pleased to see many books about families, relationships and non-apocalyptic events (not that I don't love a good zombie apocalypse novel).

Here's a sneak peek at some titles I'll be purchasing for our students-

Doggirl- by Robin Brande (who hails from Tucson)- Riley is a 9th grader who prefers her dogs over people until she meets a young man involved with the drama department. It's like Glee meets Animal Planet.

Trapped- by Michael Northrope- A group of teens get trapped on their high school campus in a blizzard. High stakes survival at its best!

Running Dream- by Wendelin Van Draanen- Star runner Jessica is in an accident that leaves her body forever altered when her leg is amputated. This is the story of how her friends from the track team help her to accept and enjoy her new life.

Since our big Fall book order arrived three weeks ago, books have been flying off our shelves. Please don't let anyone try and convince you that libraries aren't relevant to today's teens. Our Horizon students have figured out that fresh, new fiction is on campus and they often will check here before heading to Barnes and Noble or the public library. As our collection continues to grow (thanks to your support) I'm able to say "yes we have that" more often than ever before.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Digital vs. Real Books- Can't We All Just Get Along?

I read an article today about a library system in Illinois that is considering moving to a 95/5 ratio of digital-to-print materials. This isn't something that will happen overnight, but if funding decisions are made with that goal in mind, patrons will be affected.

I firmly believe that any library that wants to stay relevant must participate in providing digital materials to its patrons. Unfortunately, digital lending is complicated. Publishers are limiting content available for digital lending (they haven't quite figured out how to turn a profit on e-books) and libraries are not institutions able to make quick changes in policy or spending habits.

There are two models of e-lending now. In most public library systems, patrons use their own device and download materials to it from the library. These downloads will expire within the lending period. In public schools (K-12, I don't have a context for what universities are doing) the schools are lending devices with the e-books preloaded on them. (Please see Ms. Orest's blog post about our iPads here at Horizon for more details.)

As I've mentioned before, I still don't own an e-reader device or tablet. At this point I'm waiting to see if Apple chooses to make a smaller iPad with a lower price point before I make a purchase. And even once I own a device, I imagine that I'll primarily use it for travel. I still enjoy holding a book in my hand.

The problem I'm having of late isn't with the rise of e-books and the devices they're read on, it's with advertising them as a replacement for hard copy. I refuse to believe that the world would be a better place with only digital materials. But that doesn't mean a library shouldn't carefully consider how it will grow a useful digital collection.

This year in the Media Center we've been primarily focused on the Fiction Collection. We'll begin work on updating our Non-Fiction collection soon and you can bet we'll consider digital materials in our plans. Because the world of science and research is ever evolving and changing, having digital materials in certain subject areas makes sense.

As our economy continues to struggle, our funding will be limited. Consumers are limited as well, which effects the sale of all devices. If the goal of a library is to provide access to information to its patrons, then it's also our responsibility to maintain a meaningful collection in all formats.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Truth About Our Fiction Collection

There are people who love to read and there are people who love books as much as they love to read. I am one of those people who loves being in the physical presence of books. I like see to see them, touch them and take comfort in knowing that they're there. The rise of e-books hasn't changed that for me. I'm not a hater of e-books, but I don't use them. That's right, this 21st. Century Media Tech doesn't own a tablet or e-reader device, but I do have a Kindle app on my iPhone.

One of the first things I did when I arrived in the Horizon Media Center was assess the fiction collection. And while there were lots of books, I wasn't thrilled with what I saw. Most of the collection consisted of dated materials and titles seemingly more appropriate for an adult collection (by that I mean 1980's spy thrillers, murder mysteries and historical tomes over 1,200 pages long). The classics, science fiction and fantasy were well represented however.

Have you heard of the 80/20 principal? If you applied it to kitchen gadgets it would go like this, you use 20% of your gadgets 80% of the time. In our fiction collection, about 20% felt relevant to our student patrons while the other 80% took up space and made it difficult for students to find the newer YA books. So I spent the first semester going through the fiction collection, book-by-book. I weeded out the old to make room for the new and reorganized the geography of the books to make it easier for students to find the stories they're most interested in. Though we have less on our shelves, I can't help but feel like the Media Center has more to offer our student patrons than before.

Here's a peek at some of the Extreme Makeover improvements-

1. Separate shelves for the Classics and Contemporary Fiction
       The Classics are now housed right across from the Biography section. This is where you'll find Steinbeck, Hemingway and my personal favorite, Faulkner. The Contemporary collection houses Fantasy, Science Fiction and all our current YA titles.

2. Manga and Graphic Novels are in the house!
      We've expanded our Manga collection to include more titles and added a few Graphic Novel titles (including some Shakespeare) as well. All of these books are on their own shelves at the end of the Contemporary Fiction section, right after Z. Following the good advice of the Head of Cataloging in the Scottsdale Public Library system, I created new call numbers for this section. Students no longer need to search through Non-Fiction to find these popular titles.

3. Labels-We're Name Dropping!
     Looking for a specific genre? Check the spine of the book. All our genre books are now labeled  accordingly- Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Sports and New.

4. But Wait- There's More!
     Between our successful book drive and our Fall Follett order (due to arrive any day now) we'll have about 200 new titles on the shelves (90% fiction, 10% Non-Fiction). The wishlist for our Spring order has been started and we're always looking for recommendations.

For a book lover and avid reader like me, 2012 is starting off in the best way possible. The most important thing I do here in the Media Center is put a book in a student's hand. The idea behind all the changes to the fiction collection was to help students be better able to find the books they want themselves and to discover things they hadn't noticed before.

E-books are great, but there's no substitute for walking through the stacks and seeing what catches your eye. Please stop by and take a look, we'd love to hear your feedback on the changes.