Scrabble Banner

Library GamesI absolutely love this Scrabble banner tutorial: http://sarahhearts.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/scrabble-banner.pdf 

I used it for our inaugural library game night in October 2014, and I have also used it for our campus’ Fall Festival, and our library game night this past spring 2015. I just keep it in a manila folder, so it doesn’t get tangled.

A few words on the tutorial. Our color printer at work is extremely old and not very powerful, so what I did was print it out in black and white on regular computer paper, and then I ran the letters I needed through the copy machine onto kraft cardstock I got at the local Wal-Mart, which is the closest store to campus. I had twine at home. The only other supplies you need are scissors or a paper cutter and a single hole punch.

It came out super cute. What do you think? I am going to make a “welcome” banner for the library window facing out to the hallway (we’re a room in the Student Services building, so the hall is hot real estate) for the first week back to school.

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Reuse, Recycle, Share

I usually just browse American Libraries magazine. A lot of what’s in there isn’t always relevant for me, but sometimes there are things of note. In the January/February issue, Meredith Farkas wrote a piece called “Reuse, Recycle, Share.” She writes, “We spend a lot of energy trying to create things from scratch when, frequently, another library may have already done something very similar.” As the only full-time faculty librarian on duty at my campus during the daytime, I definitely don’t have the time to come up with fantastic new ideas or create refined tools, so I am always looking for things like instructional videos or handouts college libraries have made and licensed through Creative Commons. (It took me a long time to realize that borrowing ideas didn’t mean I wasn’t creative; see Brain Pickings’ post, “Austin Kleon on 10 Things Every Creative Person Should Remember But We Often Forget.”) One of my favorite librarian groups that is generous with their ideas and templates is ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach interest group.

Earlier this summer, outreach librarian Stacy Taylor posted a great display she did with emojis. It is the perfect addition to my new display idea, Major Idea. Last semester, I weeded four shelves worth of reference items that were outdated, so it created a little, slightly awkward opening for display space. I needed it to more purposeful, so I came up with an idea that will highlight a topic/subject that relates to a major/degree the college offers (how about Renaissance art featuring this image, some books, print outs of some e-book covers, a database recommendation, and maybe some info on art history majors nearby…?) I will have to test it out, but I had planned to kick off with psychology, so how perfect would emoji books be as a fun addition? The old, naive me would have re-created this idea from scratch, but the starting-on-my-third year me asked if she had some kind of ready-made document, and Stacy kindly sent me her titles and emojis via Google Docs, and I downloaded that puppy. I am so grateful for the time Stacy’s document will be saving me!

My thought is that we will be switching out the Major Idea area every two weeks, but I will be asking for help from the student workers, staff, and the two part-time evening librarians to take a turn, so that we all get to be creative, contribute, and learn more about our resources while researching ideas, books, and databases. I also wrote some preliminary guidelines, which include promoting an e-book or two and subject databases, as well as an explanation about the purpose, and that asking for help is perfectly okay. I realize not everyone is as comfortable with displays as I am, but I definitely need more help to get things rolling now. I will be kicking off as an example, which is sort of not the best since I want people to feel free in their creativity, but I am the only one who will be around before school starts to get that part of the Library ready.

As I write, I’m looking at my monthly display calendar, and it’s a little overwhelming, but with help from fellow library staff and librarian friends sharing fantastic ideas, we can make it happen together.

Should vs. Must

Should vs. Must

I really like the Brain Pickings website. Maria Popova’s writing has helped me a lot, and I always look forward to reading new posts.

One post that really is a good read is called “The Crossroads of Should and Must: An Intelligent Illustrated Field Guide to Finding Your Bliss,” which is about Elle Luna’s book The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. I haven’t read the book yet, but I added it to my to be read list. Here is the crux of it–we can choose between should and must. Luna explains:

Should is how other people want us to live our lives. It’s all of the expectations that others layer upon us.

Sometimes, Shoulds are small, seemingly innocuous, and easily accommodated. “You should listen to that song,” for example. At other times, Shoulds are highly influential systems of thought that pressure and, at their most destructive, coerce us to live our lives differently.

Must is when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own — and this allows us to cultivate our full potential as individuals.

I have a friend who, when I say the words, “I should…,” will say “By whose authority?” I kind of hate it, but it is a good way to remind me of the difference and to be conscious of my choices.

Here’s Popova’s post on “How to Find Your Bliss: Joseph Campbell on What it Takes to Have a Fulfilling Life.”

Get a Life in Which You are Generous

“Get a Life in Which You Are Generous”

In May, the TED-Ed blog had a post called “10 Inspiring Commencement Speeches About Creativity and Courage.” The post features little blurbs from the speeches, but you can read the speeches in their entirety, which I haven’t yet, by clicking on the names of the speakers.

Here are some of the blurbs that stick out to me:

-From Maya Angelou: “Speak to people you don’t know. Say good morning, good morning. You have no idea what you may have done for someone. She may have just hung up the phone from having a nurse say, ‘Miss Jones, the doctor wants you to come back in, he’s not satisfied with these X-rays.’ You don’t know.”

I think about this when I am in contact with customer service people. I think about this when I am helping students at the library, too. We don’t know all of their stories, but to quote our retired library media technician, “Each one has a story.”

If you’re looking for something specific you can do in this regard, a newer friend of mine who teaches third grade says one positive thing to five people a day.

-From Shonda Rimes: “Focus on something outside yourself.”

My service to the community has definitely suffered during the last year or two. While I don’t talk about it much, my faith is important to me, but I have been passive about it the last year or two, so I think there’s a correlation there. It might just honestly be my struggle to adapt to the commuter life.

-From Anna Quindlen: “Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous.”

I’m definitely learning how to “best treasure my connection to others.” I have a friend with chronic illness who has written about the time she spent on academics before becoming very ill. (She was the graduate assistant at the Writing Center when I was an undergraduate, and we were both hired full-time at the community college district at the same time.) I have never told her how much that post hit home. It really made me re-evaluate myself, how obsessive my career has become. She writes:

Part of that drive was never ever taking time off and I neglected my friends, family, hobbies, myself. I could never just slow down and enjoy life. I’m still learning this lesson but I’m getting there. I’ve had to reevaluate my values also. My value doesn’t reside only in work and achievement. I look at my husband napping on our couch spooning our cat and that fills me with bliss. I watch crappy tv with my parents and know that time is valuable. I play board games with friends and destroy them (with love and tenderness). We taunt each other and ridicule each other’s mothers, and it’s brilliant. When I make hard choices to protect my health, I see value. It’s cliché, but I learned a good, difficult lesson the last two years that was invaluable: focusing just on a career is a zero-sum game. I am already surrounded by what fulfills me.

I definitely started to view things like family, friends, and exercise as “things to focus on when I am not busy,” which meant I wasn’t investing in these important things. I am going out a little more, spending time with friends and family. I am not great at it, but I am trying to change my habits.

I really like Quindlen’s idea about writing a letter to people. Earlier this summer, I sent a card via snail mail to a friend of mine who has been having a rough time. It cheered her up. While there was a time in my life that I really enjoyed making cards, I now have a ready-supply of blank note cards handy, mostly for thank you cards, but I think I will go on a monthly card-writing campaign now. I can commit to 12 cards.

How do you live generously? Is it something you struggle with?

I’m off to celebrate my sister who is another year older today. We’re not really doing anything special, but regular life is special. ❤

Coloring Party and Other Ideas for Finals

Coloring Party and Other Ideas for Finals

During finals this year, I had coloring pages available. I only printed a few out the first day (some design I could download for free online), and the next day, one of the student assistants said I needed to print out way more because “people really like them.”

I have noticed an upswing in talk about the relaxing powers of coloring lately. Even NPR and Quartz have chimed in, and I think I remember seeing something on Huffington Post. It’s rare that I go to the local Barnes and Noble (I am a library user, after all), but I went a couple of days ago and was so surprised by all of the coloring books on display.

Long live coloring! I will still be offering coloring pages during finals, but I think in addition to my once a term game day/night, we need to have a craft and coloring party, too. I will definitely be talking to our student workers about it in August.

While I can’t remember where I downloaded the mandala image I used during this past academic year, there is a Facebook page, Coloring Pages for Adults, that offers free, downloadable pages to color. With back to school sales around the corner, now is also a good time to buy colored pencils and sharpeners. We have electric sharpeners in the library, but for a bigger event, we’d be in the Student Lounge, so we’d need little sharpeners. Right now, I can tell you for a fact that Target has a 12-pack of Crayola colored pencils for 97 cents.

I know there are some academic libraries with the big bucks and staff for massages, pet therapy, and coffee and cookies, etc., but even the smallest of libraries like mine can do something to help students de-stress during exam season. Puzzles and games are a great idea if you have the space. Our game night, for example, doesn’t happen in the Library because we are only two thousand square feet. Another option for small libraries might be to provide a crossword puzzle or word search. Origami supplies are not that expensive and don’t require a lot of room. We had Origami Yoda for Star Wars Day in May. I just put up paper and instructions by the checkout desk. I also do Starbursts “for a burst of energy” and mini Crunch Bars for “crunch time” near the doors. I do purchase those on my own because I only have a couple of hundred dollars I can use for the library from the college, and candy adds up so quickly.

Be creative, and, as I’ve learned, don’t get down because you can’t bring puppies or kitties to campus.

Small Font Purpose

While I was planning the idea of blogging to help me through work while on a road trip though the southwest at the end of May/beginning of June, I came across a New York Times article called “The Small, Happy Life.” It’s had me thinking for over a month now. What really hits home is the following:

Terence J. Tollaksen wrote that his purpose became clearer once he began to recognize the “decision trap”: “This trap is an amazingly consistent phenomena whereby ‘big’ decisions turn out to have much less impact on a life as a whole than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.”

Tollaksen continues, “I have always admired those goal-oriented, stubborn, successful, determined individuals; they make things happen, and the world would be lost without them.” But, he explains, he has always had a “small font purpose.”

Salsa, Spanish, and Small Towns

Spanish, Salsa, and Small Towns

I live and work in different counties, and I find it difficult to stay connected to the community where I live and the community where I work, *Los Banos. As the community college librarian in LB, I do feel guilty, but my husband and I bought a great house in a great neighborhood four months before I was offered a full-time position in our hometown. I do what I can in LB outside of work, mostly with the public library.

This spring, the woman who volunteered for Spanish story time had many health issues and decided to take a break. All the story time programs are volunteer-run, which is very different from the early literacy skills-based training I received during my first regular part-time library job as a bilingual Spanish/English library assistant in the children’s department of the Stanislaus County Library. In May, I got together with the supervisory library assistant at the local branch of the Merced County Library and some Friends of the Los Banos Library members to talk about starting a bilingual Spanish/English program on Saturdays. I volunteered to do two bilingual programs this summer.

I did the first program in mid-June, and it had been two years since I had last done a story time program. It wasn’t full-blown with music and dances, but I did incorporate sitting and standing fingerplays. It was a magical experience. The supervisor said it also looked like I was really enjoying it, and I really was all smiles. Since Merced County Library’s summer reading program is music-inspired this year, I focused on music, song, and dance. The supervisor started the program with a reading of Farmer Joe and the Music Show. I picked up with Salsa, Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure, and De Colores. I chose these because they support diversity, specifically showing people of color; introduce kids to new music styles they might not have heard before (jazz and salsa); and Salsa and De Colores are both bilingual, so I could decide which language to read in, etc.

In my planning I completely forgot to choose a clip of salsa music, but thanks to smartphones, it was pretty easy to pull up music on YouTube. I also showed a clip of salsa dancing courtesy of one of those dancing shows because, you know, if it’s on TV, it’s got to have some kind of standard.  After I read De Colores in Spanish, I also looked up José-Luis Orozco singing “De Colores,” and we all sang as I re-read (sang) the book along to the video of Orozco. Now the big secret about me is that I do enjoy singing, but I clamp down when it comes to singing in public. But story time is just different. I remember being really unsure when I was asked to apply for the bilingual story time position at one of my former employers, but doing story time really helped me break out of my shyness a little more.

For fingerplays, we did Pulgarcito (Where is Thumbkin?), the Bee Hive, and Ábranlas, Ciérrenlas (Open, Shut Them). I think the parents were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t just all reading and sitting. I also mentioned that singing helps kids hear different sounds, and that this will help them when it’s time for them to learn how to read. (Phonological awareness–I’m legit, people.)

I also brought in a book of children’s poetry I have used before, but I ended up not using it. If you’re a bilingual children’s librarian or library assistant, parent, or teacher, you  might want to check out Alma Flor Ada’s Todo es Canción. You’ll be sure to find something no matter what theme, and the poems are all short and sweet.

While I was there, I also saw the library sub for the college library, Willie, who is one of my favorite people. She has so much kindness and also keeps it real. She also takes classes at the college. I took her to lunch at Wendy’s, and all the people working were our college students. That’s what it’s like to work in a smaller town.

After dropping Willie off back at the public library, I went downtown to Sweet as Cake Bakery to buy cupcakes for a cousin who just had a baby a few weeks earlier and checked out a home interior store, The Country Duck. The store had donated to the public library’s Small Works of Art Sale fundraiser in October (I won that gift basket, and I  never win stuff), and they also had a booth out at LB’s Tomato Festival that my husband and I went to earlier that same month.

I left LB in such a good mood, I’m not even kidding. Volunteering gives me my children’s library services fix and a chance to strengthen my relationship to the town.

If you commute to work, how do you connect to your commuter community?

*It’s really Los Baños, but because the town doesn’t have the tilde listed on its government documentation, we aren’t allowed to write it as it’s pronounced per the college board. It’s a pretty dicey issue in the community, and while I’m not in agreement, I did change all of the college library information and documentation to reflect the anglicized version. And, yeah, I guess we shouldn’t be “changing” the name if its officially “something else.” With racial and ethnic tension all over the news in our country, this banning of the tilde just doesn’t sit well with me.