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Final Project February 19, 2009

Posted by swegene1 in Final Project, General.
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Originally, I had planned on starting a new blog for my final project, but upon consideration I thought it would be appropriate to host the work for my final project on my blog here, as it is a location dedicated to my professional work and was founded to share my ideas on literacy and particularly in libraries. One of the most important directions that literacy in libraries is headed is towards promoting the skills needed to use the electronic tools that more and more libraries are adopting and investing so much time and money on adding to their websites’. So, I will be using this blog to track the process of my project, to present my conclusions, and host the tools I plan on creating to help resolve some of the accessibility issues I’m discovering.


For my final project for my Master’s in Library Science degree, I am reviewing the electronic presences of four libraries in order to determine to what degree they provide assistance to children, teachers, and parents in using the various digital tools they offer. All of the libraries reviewed provide a variety of services for patrons on their websites, ranging from the OPAC (online public access catalog), subscription databases, downloadable e-books and audio books, RSS, as well as other Library 2.0 type technologies. The degree to which these tools are accessible varies depending on the website and the service. Some tools are difficult to access because they are buried in the website, while others lack clear directions in how to use the service. However, the largest barrier to use of most libraries’ electronic services is that they lack sufficient explanation to illustrate why someone would want to use the service through a clear description of what can be achieved through its use and the audience it is directed towards.


In my next posts, I will introduce the four libraries I am reviewing and then talk about some of the services they offer.


What to say? May 7, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in General, Library.
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Sometimes situations develop and there are almost no words to respond. And yet, they can not be passed by with out comment. These are the moments that I wish I was a poet, an artist, or a diplomat. Being none of these things, I can only share my thoughts and some research I’ve done on the situation.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 lists the areas in which employers cannot discriminate based on, in their treatment of employees and job applicants.  It seems like the civil rights movement that spurred the passing of this law was a long time ago, and that the issues of segregation are long past. Politicians would claim we have moved beyond racism, but while we may have advanced to the point where we have laws, emotions and thoughts are hard to legislate. These may translate into words, which can create awkward and unpleasant situations.

When there is so much talk about Islamic terrorists and danger from fundamentalists, the issue of religious discrimination is frequently associated with these alarming stories, but when other stories about other religions make the news, it is possible that negative news stories can related to poor treatment at the work place. After the sex abuse scandal involving Catholic priests, some Catholic men might have felt pressured to defend themselves when they wanted to work with children.

But when a story is in the news about a religion not affiliated with your own, and you still receive negative comments that are generalized to include your entire state of origin it is difficult to know what to say. Is there an appropriate way to respond to a comment that the scenery might be nice but not the people, when you grew up in that place and all your family still lives there? Especially if this is a potential employer during an interview?

Perhaps that is the time to realize that even if they were to offer you the job, in spite of their negative view of your religion and state of origin, you do not want to work with someone who feels that way. Even if they never act on it, the workplace environment will be intolerable, a continuation of the negative atmosphere at the job interview. The law might step in and say that they can’t not give a job to someone because of their religion, but they can’t make me want to work with someone who will judge me based on a religion I don’t even belong to, and erroneous ideas about my background. If I am willing to do the research to prepare myself for a job interview, they should at least consider doing some research before they make snap judgments about my state and supposed religion.

Challenges of At-Risk Youth May 5, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in General, Library.
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Over the last five days or so, I’ve been reading as much as I possibly can about the struggles and needs of at-risk youth in some of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods. My research has taken me in two directions–one has been to read scholarly and anecdotal articles and books about the specific educational and developmental crises the youth are facing, and the other has been to read juvenile fiction that recounts their tragedies and triumphs.

Some of what I read was not particularly new, coming together to paint a grim picture, but also a hopeful one. The stark reality is that poverty, according to the Children’s Defense Fund in 2001, is one of the largest factors for family stress and relates directly to failure at school. The stresses that children face at home are huge, as a result of economic status and of the consequences that result from that, such as poor nutrition, unstable family lives, less access to mental health care, and frequent absence of stable male role models. These factors are added to a culture that does not put a priority on education and particularly on school.

One of the saddest aspects of this situation is its self-perpetuating nature, both as parents who had poor experiences with school perpetuate this attitude, and as student’s failures or perceived failures leave them with strong negative feelings towards school as a whole. Students, who experience failures early on in their education, frequently do not feel that they are capable of succeeding. They may have negative perceptions of themselves, school, or both. Without the basic foundation of reading skills and mathematical skills, students find school increasingly challenging. In particular, students who fall behind in reading skills, may never be able to make up the reading practice that students who have been reading all along.

Furthermore, many of these children are left unsupervised in the after school hours, the period in which they are at the greatest risk of committing or falling victim to violent crime. A fair number of these children are in turn responsible for the care of even younger children during this time period, which means they have no motivation to work on school assignments.

While this is a grim picture, there is hope! Public libraries have long been locations for latchkey students to spend the after-school hours, frequently in undirected activities with friends. Now, however, libraries are starting Homework Help Centers (HHC) to provide a location dedicated to school work, with staff and volunteers trained to assist at-risk children. These centers provide many advantages beyond a few math pointers. HHC help participants develop self-confidence, connection with the community, ability to solve problems in their lives and in school, a greater ability to cope with the world, and an improved self-control through learning to make decisions and delaying gratification. Also, participants have models in volunteers and coordinators of adult behavior and academic success, that are frequently more acceptable then teachers and the school.

Always Learning! May 2, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in Alphabet, General, Ready to Read.
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One of the things that I love the most about working in a library is that I am constantly learning–every single day I discover something new about how to do my job, about children and how to help them, and about the world around me and my place in it. Some weeks I feel this learning experience more then others, and some days I have to chalk up as learning experiences.

Sometimes learning is fun and surprising, sometimes it is awkward and embarrassing, and other times it takes you to new places within yourself and the world. This week I’ve had the chance to experience all three types of education.

Fun came this week as we put on an early literacy activity involving letters and lacing after storytime. Parents and caregivers who were sure that the activity would be too difficult were astounded to discover that their children were able and excited about working the string through the holes. Even the very young children had fun pulling string through holes once it was fed through a bit, and they particularly enjoyed playing with the letters on a string. My volunteen assistant surprised me by helping some of the children make the letters into necklaces! No wrong ways to do the craft, just fun, and surprising discoveries.

While I enjoy learning, there are some experiences that I appreciate more in retrospect. This second is one of those. Last Saturday morning was quiet, and a very sweet older lady came into the library with her daughter and granddaughter. She was effusive in her praise of the staff and the library, and claimed to be a long time regular, who my coworker said brought in delicious brownies. She asked some intrusive questions, which I felt pressured into answering, though I knew I didn’t need to. I helped her find a Magic Treehouse book for her granddaughter, and discussed children’s literature connected with her stated interest in Early American History. She expressed a huge interest, and wanted to know if I could get a few titles for her to show the ladies in her multiple historical societies. I enjoy making bibliographies, and so I said I was happy, and she left me with her address and phone information.

It didn’t take long for me to finish, a couple of hours spent on it while on the desk answering other questions, and coming in and out. But I didn’t have time to call her until the next week when I came back to work. When I did, she wanted me to spell my name and my boss’ names so she could write a note. My co-worker was sure I was going to be written up, and I was fairly uncomfortable. It only got worse when she came in to pick up the bibliography. She had written a poem for me, and wanted to read it to me, along with showing me pictures of the group she would be using the bibliography for. She read it to me–the whole event took less then 10min, but it was potentially the most awkward experience of my library career.

For all of this, it has been a learning experience, and shortly after she had left I was able to put the lesson to use when she called to continue to praise the bibliography and I had to politely excuse myself from the conversation so I could resume my duties. I look forward to putting this skill at breaking away from even nice, well-meaning, ladies to good use in the future.

The final learning experience I’ve had this week has been one of discovery about the world around me. I have long had an interest in working with at-risk children in areas of economic challenge–and this week I began to study this area in greater depth. I’m certainly going to be posting more about this, as I’m reading many fascinating articles and books on the subject. Visiting one of the branches in the area in a challenged area has provided me front line experience, and an amazingly informative tour of the services and issues confronted by the branch and particularly the youth of this area.

Libraries–Helping Children! April 25, 2008

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Right now I work in two different libraries and am attending Library Science school–this keeps me very busy, but never too busy to share my enthusiasm with everyone I encounter. I’m particularly excited about my two jobs in Youth Services, and the literacy activities I’ve been presenting. I spend large portions of my time sharing with other library employees and anyone willing to stand still long enough to hear my latest plans for encouraging literacy and anecdotes from my latest projects.

Part of this is advocacy–as the more I’m able to communicate the importance of what I’m doing the more likely other librarians are to continue it after I leave and the more likely it is to reach more children. But it is also that I just really, really enjoy what I do!  Today a co-worker asked what I was doing, and I started to explain how what I was working on was going to help the children do the activity better.  She stopped me in the middle to say: “Just say you are helping children–it is shorter, and it is pretty much always true!”

So here I am, full of enthusiasm, and ready to share my love of libraries, children, reading, and my commitment to fostering literacy and life-long learning!