Setting Goals for the New Year

January 1st has come and gone, but I’ve chosen to take this time that I have off from school to reflect on what I accomplished this past year and decide what I would like to focus on in the upcoming year. Here are some goals I am going to set, both professionally and personally, for this year.

Professional goals:

  1. Attend the American Library Association Conference.
  2. Find a fulfilling summer internship.
  3. Further develop my leadership and management skills through workshops, reading, and classes.
  4. Maintain this blog more regularly.
  5. Hone my skills at program planning and execution via my current internship at a major library.

Personal goals:

  1. Improve my knowledge of current affairs (I’ve gotten a bit lazy since I left journalism school).
  2. Travel more – visit at least one state I’ve never been to before and hopefully one new country.
  3. Recommit to reading in my spare time during the school year.
  4. Go on more dates with my partner (not just dinner at Taco Bell).
  5. Reconnect with friends with whom I have lost touch or only irregularly talk.
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Book Tastes Tag!

Borrowing this from Giovanna at Book Coma Blog! I wasn’t tagged either but I thought it would be fun to throw it back to my middle school years when all I would do was take those silly quizzes on my “notes” on Facebook and publicly embarrass myself for years to come. Hopefully this one isn’t quite that bad. Here we go!

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HARDBACK OR PAPERBACK?

Paperback. They’re lighter, fit better in my purse or backpack, and easier to maneuver (usually). Unless the book is really big and hard to keep open because of all its pages. Like I probably would have preferred to read Game of Thrones in hardback. But generally, I prefer paperback.

HARRY POTTER OR LORD OF THE RINGS?

Harry Potter one hundred percent. To be fair I haven’t read or seen Lord of the Rings (I know, I’m sorry everyone) but I tried to watch the first movie and just could not get into it. I have a hard time getting into fantasy and I think HP was easier for me because it had elements of the real, familiar world in it.

STEPHEN KING OR RL STINE?

Stephen King. I never really gave R. L. Stine a fair shot though, because the covers of his books scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid.

SCI-FI OR FANTASY?

Hm… Probably fantasy. It really depends on the plot of the book.

READING INDOORS OR OUTDOORS?

Generally, indoors. I always think I love reading outdoors but then I get out there and I can’t get comfortable and the wind is blowing my pages around and I get cold and then hot and it’s just much better to read inside. Unless I’m at the beach, which is my favorite place to read.

TWILIGHT OR 50 SHADES OF GREY?

Twilight! I vividly remember sobbing in the middle of my study hall one day because of the plot of one of the books (maybe Eclipse?) I don’t think I’ll read them again, and I can’t say much for Stephanie Meyer’s prose but they were definitely addictive!

SHOPPING ONLINE OR LOCAL?

Local. Most of the books I end up reading are just ones I’ve plucked off the shelves and want to read immediately. And honestly, I never buy books anymore, I almost always borrow them from the library!

THE GREAT GATSBY OR THE CATCHER IN THE RYE?

Haven’t read either in so long… probably The Great Gatsby? I love the 1920s as a cultural setting.

FICTION OR NON-FICTION?

Fiction. I occasionally read non-fiction but fiction is my favorite.

BOOKMARKS OR DOG-EARING?

Bookmarks. I used to dog-ear but now I’ve learned the error of my ways. And I have more bookmarks right now than books!

DR. SEUSS OR ROALD DAHL?

Roald Dahl. Matilda was my childhood. I loved Dr. Seuss as well, but he just couldn’t grab me the way that Dahl’s books did.

E-BOOK OR AUDIOBOOK?

Audiobooks. I used to have a hard time listening to them and paying attention properly, but they’ve really grown on me now that I commute so much!

Social justice and the value of inclusion

I’ve been reflecting on this a lot recently for a few reasons. First: I’ve been taking a diversity and inclusion class and we had to make our first reflective essay assignment this week. Second: I listened to the wonderful, beautiful, terribly saddening “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates on my commute this week, a memoir which is all about the experience of growing up black and poor in America. And third: I stupidly and frustratingly got into a Facebook comment argument this week about the importance of medical professionals to be educated on transgender issues (for the record, I strongly advocated for the fact that they *should* be knowledgeable in that subject, as professionals who provide a vital service to the public, and was kind of shocked that anyone would so strongly think differently about that).

This combination of factors this week has just really hammered in for me the importance of creating a safe space in the library where everyone feels welcome and accepted. In his book, Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about how he would spend every day at the library at Howard, reading and researching books upon books about black people all around the world in history, in art, in literature. I want people to be able to go to any library in the country, not just one at a historically black college or university, and find information about people who look like them, act like them, sound like them, have the same beliefs as them, whatever any of those end up being. I want people to go into the library and read or learn about someone who’s totally *different* from anything they’ve experienced in life. Over all, I want people to go into a library and feel safe and respected and included. It’s so important.

Sometimes, especially in my past job, it is easy to get caught up in the every day and forget about this larger mission. I wanted to write this post because I wanted to remember this and other lessons I took away from this week, and come back to it when I realize I’m not doing enough to serve others.

My review of Coates’ book will come later this month when I do my book round-up, but I wanted to take a moment now and recommend it to anyone and everyone who wants to get a better sense about what it can be like to be black in America, especially those who live in the Maryland/DC area and can identify some of the places Coates’ lived. It was eye-opening and heart-wrenching and wonderfully written and should I think be required reading for any modern American.

A few gifs to sum up my life as a grad student so far

Discussing the true definition of the word “information”:

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Talking about diversity all the time: 

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Trying to survive on a grad student budget:

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Turning in my first assignment:

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Trying to talk about past experiences in class when my professor is my former boss:

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Trying to meet new people: 

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Work-life-school balance:

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But at the end of the day:

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(But really, I am enjoying my time so much and I really am learning a lot.)

Back to school jams

I am currently sitting in a kind of sad little cubby hole in the Hornbake Library basement on the University of Maryland campus waiting patiently for my very first ever in-person Library Science class! (I actually unofficially started yesterday by diving in on my online coursework, but today is the first official, scheduled day).

So, though it’s still summer, and still scorching outside, I thought I’d riff off the Top Ten Tuesday theme for this week and instead focus on ten tunes that help me get in the back-to-school vibe. I am a very passionate music lover and I don’t often get to express that in this blog so I figured why not! Some of these ore more literal, some are more about the vibe of fall.

1. “We Are Gonna Be Friends” (cover) – Conor Oberst and First Aid Kit 
A quintissential back to school song, thought I’d change it up with this slightly cheerier Conor Oberst and First Aid Kit cover.

2. “September” – Earth, Wind and Fire
Yes, I know, the cliche hit for weddings everywhere but this is generally one of my go-to feel good songs and is perfect for fall (because like, September, but also, it feels like new beginnings to me, which is what fall is all about.)

3. “Ramble On” – Led Zeppelin
“Leaves are falling all around/it’s time I was on my way…”

4. “Campus” – Vampire Weekend
A pretty obvious choice. This song is just dripping with college references.

5. “Blowing in the Wind” – Bob Dylan

6. “Be Good” by Waxahatchee
I don’t exactly know what it is about this song that reminds me of fall except that I really became obsessed with it during the fall two years ago.

7. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” (Cover) – Streetlight Manifesto
I love the original and I love this version.

8. “Seventy times 7” – Brand New
“Back in school they never told us what we needed to know…”

9. “Somebody That I Used to Know” – Elliott Smith

10. “Poison Oak” – Bright Eyes

 

 

An update! And an explanation

I know, I know… This blog has been a little off-track to say the least recently. I’ve had a lot going on, between an impending vacation, an apartment move and…. preparing for a new job!

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This Saturday, I’ll be leaving my job at the library. Starting August 17, I will become a graduate assistant for the Design | Cultures and Creativity Honors program at the University of Maryland.

It was a hard choice to leave my job at the library. I love working with people every day and all the little ways I am able to see myself affecting their lives. I love my little group of dedicated story time regulars. And most of all, I love my library family dearly. When I came back from my vacation yesterday and was greeted warmly by each and every one of them, I felt the loss of this job transition acutely. I have certainly enjoyed my time spent there and am thankful for all I learned that even made it possible for me to take this opportunity.

That said, I am immensely excited to move forward to this new position, where I will still be able to work closely with people, though an entirely different demographic than I am used to. I will be doing a ton of different things in this new job – helping with classes, leading discussions and work groups, planning events, working with a maker space (!!!).

More than that, I am so pumped to finally be starting my master’s program at the end of this month (and only a little terrified).

I’m not sure what this is all going to mean for the future of the blog. I’ll probably keep on with my monthly book round-ups but I think I will probably be a lot less regular with my in-between posts. I will have a lot on my plate and unfortunately this might become a last priority.

Anyway, we’ll see how it all goes!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Facts About Me

I decided to do another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish this week!

  1. I have filled my life with references to my favorite band, Brand New (whom I am going to see tonight!)  These references include my cat, Moshi, and my tattoo.

     

  2. I studied French for a total of 9 years (6 in high school, 3 in college as a French minor) but I don’t consider myself fluent.
  3.  I have one younger sister and I proudly admit she is cooler than me in almost every way. We hope to get matching tattoos together soon.
  4. I was born and raised just outside of Philadelphia and proudly say “water ice” (instead of Italian ice) and “budging” in line (instead of cutting). I don’t say “wooder” though.
  5. I am obsessed with anything buffalo and anything with cheese. Buffalo chicken pizza and buffalo chicken mac and cheese = the dream.
  6. I am dying to visit Wales, where my grandmother on my dad’s side is from. I hope to travel a lot after grad school, and Germany is also a top priority on my list.
  7. I was probably born to be a librarian and didn’t realize it because I was always a natural collector of media. I had a very extensive collection of Babysitter’s Club Books (almost 100, including the Kristy’s Little Sister series) and also was very obsessive about growing my CD collection. I also kept all my old tests, papers and projects. I think I got it from my dad, who has a floor-to-ceiling bookcase full of CDs in his room. My dad used to call me a junior hoarder because of my reluctance to let anything go, which I have learned to ease up on as I have gotten older/learned more about the principles of archiving.
  8. I despise anything horror-related, especially scary movies, but my favorite season was always fall and my favorite holiday growing up was always Halloween.
  9. I do not have the ability to stay awake during any movie, especially if I can’t be doing something else at the same time, like at a movie theater. I once chugged a Monster energy drink before seeing The Dark Knight Rises in theaters and *still* fell asleep during the climax.
  10. I found libraries in the middle of my sophomore year, when I realized I really couldn’t see myself as a journalist after college, and I have never looked back since.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Reasons I Love Lemony Snicket

This week I decided to be a part of The Broke and the Bookish‘s Top Ten Tuesday weekly blog challenge, and the theme this week is “Ten Reasons I Love X.”

I’m choosing to do: Ten Reasons I Love Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket). 

Handler is one of my all-time favorite authors, and here are ten reasons why:

  1. A Series of Unfortunate Events
    Handler/Snicket is not afraid of getting dark, broaching difficult topics, and generally challenging young readers, and nowhere is that more apparent than in his most well-known 13-book series. I loved the -*~aesthetic~*- of this series and the general trademark goofiness and multi-layered humor that is omnipresent throughout.
  2. His vocabulary
    I learned and witnessed more complex words from the Series of Unfortunate Events than  I have in probably any book or series since. What I liked best was that Snicket would use the word and then define it in a way that did not make you feel stupid for not knowing it (“a word which here means…”).
  3. His quotability
    His quotes range from deeply insightful to quietly hilarious, often a combination of both. Some of my favorite Snicket quotes (most from his delightful book of wisdom titled Horseradish (Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid).

    “It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”

    and

    “A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.”

  4. His subtle cultural references
    One of my favorites:

    “The verdict of the High Court was to take the expression literally,” said the manager. “So everyone except the judges must cover their eyes before the trial can begin.”

    Scalia,” Sunny said. She meant something like, “It doesn’t seem like the literal interpretation makes any sense,” but her siblings did not think it was wise to translate.

  5. The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity
  6. This personal essay on the “Righteous Anger of Girls”
  7. That time when I met him at DCPL and “Lemony” ran out of the room screaming in the middle of his presentation and “Daniel” reappeared to sign books. And then he mocked me for writing notes on my hand and told me he wanted to introduce me to this fancy new invention called “paper,” which he said is like a collection of tree skin that you can write on.

    #LemonySnicket, moments before running, shrieking, from the room at his #politicsandprose book talk at the #mlklibrary

    A photo posted by Kelsey 🌈 (@kelseybeckett) on Oct 17, 2013 at 4:18pm PDT

     –

  8.  His tendency to darkness in general, in all of his novels from A Series of Unfortunate Events, to his picture books like The Dark, to his range of adult novels, including We Were Pirates.
  9. The Mystery of Beatrice
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  10. His $1 million contribution to Planned Parenthood last year.

 

Handler is a very noble man indeed, and as a librarian and lover of literature, I can’t help but admire a hilarious, wise and clever author who has managed to have a significant impact on both my childhood and my nascent adulthood thus far. I am looking forward to seeing what else he comes out with!

I’m a terrapin! (again…)

After a long, time-consuming process, I’m finally able to make the announcement I’ve wanted to be able to make since I first decided to become a librarian around 2013: I’m going to grad school!

Beginning in the fall, (maybe even this summer, if I am approved for financial aid) I will be returning to my alma mater, University of Maryland, to complete my master’s in library science. For those who may not be aware, a master’s in library science is required by most library systems in order for someone to be considered a full-fledged librarian (which means different things and different responsibilities at different libraries, I am currently considered a library associate.) Thus, this is a major step on my path toward ruling the (library) world and I am very excited to begin.

A few things I’ve learned from this process:

  1. It’s hard to make the smart decision. When I began thinking about grad school, I was dying to go to University of Washington or UCLA. I wanted a change of scenery, a new challenge, and I knew that both schools have well-recognized library schools. But, when it came down to it, UMD was the best decision, both financially and in terms of what I’m actually looking for in a school. We have excellent career resources, are extremely well-connected, and alumni tend to have great success after achieving their degree. It didn’t make any sense to travel far when I had an excellent program calling my name in my own backyard, and can continue to work while I take classes.
  2. Applying to grad school is a lot harder than applying to undergrad. I was emailing former professors, bosses and classmates left and right trying to make the right connections, get the necessary information and just generally figure out what in the world I was supposed to be doing. Then there’s the matter of finding an assistantship once you’re admitted, and finding financial aid… it’s a long process, still ongoing even as I create this post.
  3. It’s good to wait a bit! When I first graduated from undergrad I went through serious withdrawal. I signed up for Duolingo and Khan Academy and so many other websites so that I could keep testing myself and quizzing myself and just learning. Heck, I started this blog because I missed having regular writing assignments. I really wanted to start applying to school and get back into it. But I waited a year and a half and, while that doesn’t seem like a long time, I learned a lot about myself, gained a ton more skills, and will be going into my degree actually knowing what I’m getting into, having a better sense of self, and likely leaving a more desirable candidate because I’ll have both real-world and academic experience under my belt.

I’m excited to finally get started and I’ll definitely try to keep updating this blog regularly along the way!

What can we do?

Today’s post is going to be one of the more serious ones I have written so far.

Sunday night, I had the distinct privilege of attending “Making a Murderer’s Dean Strang and Jerry Buting: A Conversation on Justice.” Like many across the nation this past winter, I was enraptured by the Netflix series Making a Murderer, fascinated by the many twists and turns of the story of Steven Avery, the man who was sent to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, released, and then sent back under suspicious circumstances after a shocking murder investigation. Though Strang and Buting didn’t get into the juicy details of the case, as I had hoped, they gave me so much more – a deeper understanding of the flaws of our criminal justice system – and caused me to reflect a bit more about the roles our libraries can and do play in helping right systemic wrongs.

We have a prison library within my library system. Though the security measures in place have prevented me from visiting it firsthand, I hope and believe that the library is making a positive difference for at least a few inmates who may use it as a space to improve their situation, pass their time productively, or possibly even study the law to help get themselves freed, as I have heard Avery is doing at his prison library in Wisconsin. I am glad that the inmates have the powerful tool of information at their disposal.

But involvement with the criminal justice system starts long before a prison sentence. I remember when I first heard about Black Lives Matter, sometime in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death. I heard black parents talk about the conversation they have to have with their children when they reach a certain age, to teach them how to talk to a police officer so they don’t get killed. I was stunned. I am privileged enough to have never had to have that conversation with my family, my safety as a white woman in the hands of police officers never a question. The presentation I saw Sunday night brought back my memory of that moment of realization, but also reminded me just how vulnerable so many Americans are in the criminal justice system simply for being uneducated, or poor, or underprivileged.

I think of what libraries could do to prevent people, and especially young people, from ever getting to the prison in the first place. To me, the saddest part of Making a Murderer is not what happened to Stephen Avery, but what happened to Brendan Dassey. Dassey, a juvenile with very low IQ, was subjected to intense, misleading questioning by two professionals which led him to admit to a crime I’m almost 100% positive he did not commit. Never was Dassey granted his right of having his lawyer and legal guardian present or even told that he had that right. Never was he told he had the right to remain silent and abstain from self-incrimination. He was even at the mercy of the court just to be granted a lawyer who wasn’t actively working against him.  He was manipulated repeatedly, tried as an adult, and has spent his life in a jail cell ever since. From Strang and Buting, I learned that police often pluck juveniles out of school for questioning without their parents, and that many are trapped by lying and manipulative questioning tactics that they are simply not smart or mature enough to outmaneuver. Stunningly, these practices are mostly legal.

There are so many things libraries can and already do to help. Simply providing a space for teens to go after school so they don’t end up on the street causing trouble. Helping build upon their education so they have a means for success. Trying to develop that important link to their community so kids don’t get lost in the cracks. Providing legal resources to help get them understand their rights. I remember one of the most impressive programs I saw at Atlanta Public Library was a “Know Your Rights” workshop for kids, recognizing that it is never too early to start talking about this stuff, sadly never too soon to realize that not everyone will be working in your best interest.

I know there are many systemic problems within the criminal justice system that go far beyond what one person, one library or one community can do. But I think the library is an excellent place to start. Every day I work with young people, many of whom are part of the most vulnerable populations in this country. I hope they know the library is a place they can go for resources in a time of crisis but more than that, I hope the library can lead the charge in educating and preventing the crisis from ever happening.