Monday, March 31, 2008

Alas, no poster(s) for me

In January I sumbitted two poster session abstracts for ALA Annual in Anaheim; one session highlighted the library web site redesign process, the second session was submitted with a cohort and detailed our library chat service (start to finish with statistics). We were to learn our submission proposal fate on or before March 31st, today. Since in previous years I had acceptance email messages a week or so prior to the deadline, I was not overly surprised to receive the following late this afternoon:

"Thank you for submitting a poster session proposal for the 2008 American Library Association Conference in Anaheim, CA. The review panel has completed the review and selection process. It is with regret that we inform you your proposal, was not selected for presentation at the conference. This year the quality of the proposals was unusually high, and we received double the number of applications as we have spaces."

"We hope you will consider presenting your work in another forum or in a professional publication."

Unfortunately my presentation partner, lead contact for the second submission, received and forwarded the same message later in the afternoon. As a result, no presentations for me in Anaheim. I am not particulary looking forward to this CA conference (in fact I have yet to register), but presenting always makes it worthwhile.

There are other options for both of these session topics, the least of which is a state conference proposal due at the end of this week. I am more interested in writing about these topics than presenting them, so I may be looking around for additional publishing opportunities.

LaRue for Mayor

In LaRue for Mayor: Letters from the Campaign Trail, by author and illustrator Mark Teague, the lovable, crafty, misunderstood pup Ike LaRue returns for another letter writing crusade; and this time takes his "campaign" to the office of mayor. An afternoon in the park with a few friends and his owner results in an unfortunate accident sending Mrs. LaRue to the hospital ("Who knew that hot-dog carts were so unstable?"). Left to his own devices Ike forms a social club, befriending his rambunctious new mates, that soon runs amok. When former police chief Bugwort announces his candidacy for mayor and declares dogs in the city must be kept under control or banned from the city, Ike decides he has had enough and is soon running his own campaign for mayor.

Teague's trademark LaRue illustrations, bold, eye-catching color for reality juxtaposed with black and white renditions of LaRue's interpretation of the same and accompanying typed letters, fill each double page spread. Ike's typed letters overflow with snappy repartee, reporting to Mrs. LaRue what is happening during her period of recuperation and assuring her "Nothing will distract me from this important cause." Readers may guess where this installment will end, but following the campaign trail is definitely worth their time.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Evaluation Conference

Nestled snugly in among the hustle, bustle and relative craziness of last week, web page design meetings, an evening reference shift, and writing my yearly evaluation, was the actual evaluation conference itself. Even though I really had no serious misgivings about the conference, the formality of the process is always nerve wracking. My conference was scheduled for first thing Wednesday morning (yes, 8:00 am!).

Our evaluation form is simple in nature; Part A asks we evaluate our contributions to the library mission and vision over the last year and Part B asks for a listing of goals for the upcoming year. When faced with a blank evaluation form following the completion of my first year of work, I quickly broke Part A into two easy to use sub-parts, goals for the current year and statements of goals fulfilled. This enabled me to pick out the things from my yearly "to do" list that best suited the evaluation (something I still do). For the last five years I have used the same seven goals, tweaking them somewhat as the year necessitated. My yearly review generally runs between four to six pages (really). This year it was five pages, single-spaced with use of numbering, bullet points, and italics. The seven points I cover include:
  1. Being a team member
  2. Working with the college of education
  3. Resource center collection development
  4. Resource center web page
  5. Library web master
  6. Professional development
  7. Manage the resource center
Naturally these are stated in a more professional manner and are followed by the aforementioned bullet pointed information. For instance, no, I do not mention that I work and play well with others. I do, however, make note of specific instances when I collaborated with fellow librarians and support staff.

Every year I learn something new during my review conference and this year was no exception, unless you count the fact that I learned two thing. Following two years of describing in detail library web master duties as actually a second full time job, it was noted by my boss that he realizes how much work I do on the web page - and - that I was not hired to do the job. It will not get me any more money, but the recognition on his part is a step forward. The second thing I learned is no matter how open the communication lines are with my boss, there are always things that fall under the radar. Consequently, my ever present list and lengthy self-evaluation document serve a purpose. All things considered, though the evaluation process is time consuming and fraught with stress, it is a golden opportunity to update my resume, CV, and professional portfolio.

Bottom line? I am done for another year and patiently waiting for contract renewal.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

The much anticipated sequel has arrived; Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules was on the cart waiting in line for cataloging on Thursday evening. Intrepid hero Gregory Heffley has survived the summer as only he can, with an embarrassing incident his older brother Rodrick is holding over his head. Under the mistaken impression things can only get better Greg is looking forward to the new school year, even if he begins it with the task of ridding himself of last year's "cheese touch."

Following the same graphic novel and journal format, Rodrick Rules opens wide a window to Greg's school year laced with charmingly droll humor and self-centered growing teenage boy insights into life. Hail, hail, the gang's all here. Greg is living down his older brother's reputation with teachers and struggling with writing letters to a pen pal in France. Best friend Rowley has a new group of very young friends interested in magic. Brother Rodrick is at his finest doing nothing, practicing with his band, and being the bane of Greg's existence. And at the center of everything Greg's normal, dysfunctional, family continues to lead the way with humor (especially holiday's and a visit to Grandpa). Ending with the school talent show, Rodrick Rules delivers making the wait for this sequel worthwhile..

Diary of a Wimpy Kid web site includes information about and an interview with Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney and links to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Blog. Coming soon, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Playing with Pop-ups!

This is my second and final evening reference desk rotation for the spring term. As such this post is an "at lunch" posting even thought it is after 7:00 pm. After retrieving the second half of my foot long Subway sub special ($5 for a foot long, not a bad deal), I noticed a new cart of children's books sitting in the technical services area. Amongst the titles were three new pop-up books I ordered; two by David A. Carter because I was so enthralled with his recent book 600 Black Spots, and a third I just now noticed is also by Carter.

One Red Dot is part counting book and part pop-up art exhibit. Each page features bright paper sculptures, red, yellow, blue, white, and black, offering readers the opportunity to count to ten and find ... one red dot. Simple text, "One perplexing puzzle box and one red dot," accompanies each double page spread of engaging boxes, "wiggle-wobble widgets," and orbs. Readers are invited to pull tabs and twist the twirly gigs, while looking for the rarely obvious red dot within.

Blue 2 is part alphabet book, part hide-and-seek, and as with One Red Dot, definitely artistic in nature. Simple directional text, "Abundant Blossoms Collide and a hidden Blue 2," provides readers with clues to the "2" well camouflaged within each pop-up design. Pull tabs, sliding tags, wheels, and pyramids in what seems to be Carter's trademark brights are captivating. The Blue 2's are challenging, but great fun to share.

Devoid of exuberant colors, Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who Pop-Up! , with pop-ups by Carter, is faithful to both the original story and it's accompanying illustration color pallet. Pop-ups range from full page architectural renderings of Horton and Who-ville, complete with hockey playing Who-ville-ites and friends to multiple individual vignettes featuring tabs and ribbons to move characters along with action in the text. Each pop-up illustration has both depth and color suited to the mood of the story. Less exuberant than One Red Dot and Blue 2, Horton is no less stunning to read and enjoy. This is an enjoyable, interactive version of an old favorite.

Interested in pop-up books? Give any of these a try. Another of my favorites is The Christmas Alphabet, by Robert Sabuda.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

That sound you hear

Do you hear that? It is a faint sound, yet one that grows inexplicably louder as the clock unfailingly approaches 2 pm.

What is it? It is a heartfelt scream of frustration coming from deep within the bowels of the library. Oddly enough, it is very near my office.

The cause? A sad little librarian fortifying herself with chocolate (a Kit Kat bar, give me a break) before attending yet another web design meeting. This time it is a sub-committee charged with continuing discussion relating to the new library web page. And we are to meet twice a week!

If we could only do something instead of discuss it, chocolate and frustrated screaming would not be needed. Wanted, of course. Needed, not so much.

I am sure chocolate has latent abilities providing a modicum of tact to the person consuming it. I think it's in the caffeine. Really.

Wish me luck.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Good grief, six weeks

Writing my weekly resource center update this morning, crafting news and information for student workers and GA's, I noticed only six weeks remain of the Spring 2008 academic school year. How did that happen? Looking at the calendar, and gleefully counting Friday's, the last day of class is five weeks from Friday (and then finals). I am never quite sure which is more appropriate, excitment or fright knowing another term is coming to a close. I should have known it was soon, resource center signs were all there; an increase in activity books to shelve, requests for curriculum library space for textbook evaluations, filling the printer drawers several times a day, and constantly replacing the laminating machine rolls because file folder games and fraction bars are due.

With that in mind, it is no surprise I needed to rescue both the laminator and a student project after lunch this afternoon. Last term I puchased a new rolltop laminator for the resource center; a heavy-duty GBC HeatSeal Ultima 65 laminator, to be specific. It works a bit differently than our previous dinosaur with various safety precautions (though truthfully some are a bit annoying) in place. I do not have all the specifics, I was called in to trouble shoot the sad result, but today a student had her project stuck in the laminator. Trying to remove her games from the mouth of the beast, she and the GA determined their best course of action was to reverse the machine. Not always the best choice with a project that is being heat sealed, the resulting catasrophe saved her folder - but caused the film to roll around and around and around and around the heating element. A nightmare. While maintaining a constant heat to the machine (I love working with a hot machine), I did not want the film to cool on the roll, I was slowly able to work the laminated gift-wrap off the elements. Both the project and laminator were saved ... and I successfully talked the student down off of the ledge regarding the feasibility of her project being saved and sent through the laminator again (at no charge, I'm a nice librarian). I loaded new film on the still warm machine (ouch, ouch, ouch), sent through numerous test laminating sheets, and laminated the file folder games for the student myself.

Everyone left happy, but I managed to lose an hour and a half of time dedicated to completing my performance review. It's due tomorrow at 5:00 pm. My review conference is scheduled for 8 am (that's evil, who is awake enough for thinking then?) on Wednesday. At least I am first.

It's time for Dancing with the Stars!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In brief: Recreational reading

I have been seriously remiss concerning posting both juvenile book reviews and discussing recreational reading materials. With the focus at work on web pages and Meebo, I have not opened a new juvenile book in what seems like forever; this is something I hope to change in the upcoming weeks. A few titles have been added to my recreational reading shelf, three of them are:

First on the list is J.D. Robb's newest "In Death" entry, Strangers in Death. I know I complained profusely about not being able to get this title at the stupid Wal-Mart locally, they had shelves of Grisham, King, and Patterson but no J.D. Robb or Jayne Ann Krentz. Why? I was, however, able to purchase it easily at a Giant Eagle outside of Pittsburgh (thank you very much). Interested in learning more? There is a excerpt of Strangers in Death on the J.D. Robb website.

I have recently finished Linda Fairstein's newest Alexandra Cooper thriller, Killer Heat. I enjoyed this one much more than the previous title (I have yet to finish). Interested in more?

Check out Fairstein's web site; choose Killer Heat from the novel menu and listen to and/or read the first chapter. Additionally, there is a podcast where readers can listen to Fairstein discuss her novels and utilize a reading guide complete with discussion questions.

A few days ago I started reading Lady Killer, by Lisa Scottoline. This title returns to the all female Philadelphia law firm and features fan favorite Mary DiNunzio. I am having some trouble immersing myself with this title, but will be happy to see how Judy and Bennie are as I move along through the story. The first chapter of Lady Killer is available on Scottoline's web site.

I noticed this afternoon that a new Jonathan Kellerman novel has arrived for the library's recreational reading section. Still in the box and wrapper it is difficult to determine what the title may be, but if Amazon is to be believed it is Compulsion, an Alex Delaware novel.

Time will tell. More about these titles on another post ... if I remember!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Yearly performance reviews & job satisfaction

Appropriately enough, April 1st is the due date for annual performance review submission to the personnel office. Non-tenured academic faculty members, librarians are on a yearly contract renewal based upon performance. My boss subscribes to the self-evaluation model for performance reviews and as such I am required to submit documentation supporting goals from the previous year, a listing of accomplishments, and set goals for the next academic year. Sounds simple, right? Not so much.

An organized soul, though in all fairness anal is probably more fitting, I learned early in my career here to keep a detailed calendar (paper, believe it or not) and a document listing monthly activities. These items are irrefutable life saving measures when the inevitable email arrives scheduling our review conferences with the director. Now the challenge will be locating last year's review on my desktop and coordinating it into some semblance of order with my list. As with so many other ventures I am not looking for brilliance; I want to appear knowledgeable, confident, and have a positive impact on the library.

While pondering my performance review document, I found an article in the February 1, 2008 edition of Library Journal. Take this Job and Love It, by Andrew Richard Albanese, is part of the LJ series on job satisfaction.

"The survey, however, also amplifies some persistent challenges facing librarians, including keeping up with rapidly changing technology, stressed budgets, management and career advancement issues, campus politics, concern over their role in the academic enterprise, and, of course, low pay." (Albanese -- Library Journal, 2/1/08)

There were many interesting points raised within the article, several of which caught my attention. In particular issues regarding the MLS education:

"If there is one great irony in librarianship, it is this: librarians can't afford to get the MLS, and libraries can't afford to hire those with it." (Albanese -- Library Journal, 2/1/08)

I was in that position, still am for that matter as I have a year left on my student loan for my MLIS (from Pitt it is a master's in library and information science). Prior to getting my masters I was working in a public library making minimum wage. The only librarian on staff was the director, the rest of us were support staff. Caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, no promotion without a degree and not enough money in the current position to afford the degree, I chose the debt route and worked straight through getting the degree in one year. Now, at least, I can afford to pay for the degree that helped me get this job.

It is not something I regret, in fact this is without a doubt the best job I have ever had. But I do wonder about the status of librarians and librarianship in academics. The first article in this series, Great Work, Genuine Problems (10/1/07) is available on the LJ web site and it is reported the third article in the series will be/was published in March (wonder where our March Library Journal might be?).

Why I use spell check

Your Spelling is Good!

You got 9/10 correct.

Your spelling is generally pretty decent. You are prone to a few mistakes, but the mistakes you make are pretty forgivable.

Monday, March 17, 2008

While I was out

The odd thing about taking vacation time during spring break is there are still people on campus; offices were open, the library was open, and the IT department was not only open, but also updating unsuspecting vacationing librarian's computers. It's always a bit disconcerting to wander in to my office after a break or vacation and find an IT handout on top of my computer and a "call me if you have any problems" message attached.

A few weeks ago we were notified IT was going to begin migrating to Microsoft Active Directory. In all honesty I paid little heed to the notice other than to correctly file it so I would have the directions when it happened. As luck would have it, other than having to choose a new password (and one that was complex enough for the server), all went well. All I have to do is remember the password when logging into the system tomorrow.

What other fun things needed my attention? I waded through 300+ email messages (someday I will learn to sign off list serv when on vacation), remembered to send payroll through so my students get a check this week, talked to financial aid to find out why a student's federal work study monies were suddenly significantly less than detailed at the beginning of the academic year, and opened much snail mail that accumulated in my mail box. There was fun stuff as well! My Ellison Die order arrived, along with another Prestige Pro freebie machine (Ellison has great coupons & promotions), and I was able to try out the new items, take a picture, and post it on the resource center blog for all to see. This is always money well spent. In fact, three student lead tours came through the resource center this morning and each one mentioned the die cut machines.

I have heard rumors there were actual chat sessions via the new Meebo IM widget on the library web page. I put it on my resource center update for the students and will probably send info to some of my buddies in the college of education (especially since there will be students looking for help finding book reviews soon) to talk it up with more word-of-mouth advertising. Let's get this thing moving!

Now? Lunch is over and my GA just called to say the cash register is giving her fits, seems it does not want to calculate sales tax.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hypothetical spring break musings

Over the last few days, local newspapers and the Internet have been reporting the possibility, aka serious rumors, regarding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being made into two movies. Rumors, I might add, that seem to have been substantiated by the news release from Warner Brothers and everyone else; part one of Hallows will be released in 2010 with part two following the next year.

I'm not sure exactly when the sixth movie is due out (I could look, though I am more interested in the Pitt vs. Marquette basketball game right now), but would guess since they are currently filming Half Blood Prince it would be this summer or nearer the holidays.

In the meantime, here are a few links to Deathly Hallows information:

It's early yet, but Pitt is winning!

Update: later that evening ...

I could not let it rest. According to the Internet Movie Database, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is due in theaters November 21st. And ... Pitt is still winning.

Update: 3/18/08

From Library Journal - Book News: Rowling's Deathly Hallows Split into two Films

From RTE Entertainment: Final Harry Potter film to be split in two

"According to Warner Brothers, it is with the length of the novel and the complex storylines in mind that Rowling, the movies' producers and the studio decided they would need two parts to tell the story."

"Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry in the movie version, and his co-stars Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are all filming the sixth movie 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'. All three have confirmed that they will appear in the final films." --RTE Entertainment

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Testing IM over break

In the midst of all the snow excitement I forgot to mention library web page updates are currently in place for the new IM service, Ask Us. Before closing on Friday I tweaked the new IM page by adding the following note: "Navigating away from this IM page or closing your browser will effectively end your chat/IM session." While most students using the service will undoubtedly have multiple windows open, we felt it necessary to place this notice for those who may not. I added the IM service to our "what's new" page and then placed it prominently on the main library page. Allowing for the two hour staging server time, these changes were effectively in place by 5:00 pm on Friday and will be ready for a test run during spring break.

A quick check this evening shows all three pages reflect the changes made. My dial up connection is having issues with connecting to Meebo (sigh), so I'll have to email my partner in crime and have her check things on Monday morning. Another oddity? Using IE6 this evening our widget is a different color, does not reflect the change in name we instituted, and is basically nasty. Viewing the page with Mozilla there are no problems.

In addition to email, I left two offline Meebo messages. May as well use the technology!

Let the sun shine

Day two of the weekend snow event featured sunshine; after springing ahead I was awakened by the tell-tale sound of the back alley being plowed. The sun and noise were both welcome. It was became obvious I would have to locate my shiny new snow shovel, remove the snow pushed against the garage door holding my car hostage, and find the front sidewalk.

The alley and garage? Not so bad. For the first time since moving in, my neighbor had garaged his vehicle (I'm not bitter) and with little effort I was able to happily toss the snow into the alley to melt in the sunlight. As you can see by the first photo, the front sidewalk was another matter altogether; a foot of snow awaited. With the bright morning sun keeping me company, I shoveled out my door and down to my neighbors house. My other neighbor has a small dog, a shih tzu, that closely resembles my sister's first dog. Every morning at 5:30 am she sends it out to the back patio to "go potty." My back patio was a foot deep in snow and all I could think of was that poor thing sitting in the house with crossed legs. Praise be the snow was deep, but light.

I finished in time to see the opening play of NBC's hockey game of the week, the NHL on NBC, featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals. This was the second NBC game to feature the Pens (the first on New Year's Day). Next Sunday the Pens play the Philadelphia Flyers.

The second photo? Looking out one of my upstairs bedroom windows between the first and second period of said hockey game I noticed someone had not only shoveled their sidewalk, but had also a path to, and around, the front yard tree! Now that's ingenuity.

Let the sun shine!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spring break ... let it snow?

More lovely snow accumulations today were accompanied by cold temperatures (it's 7 degrees right now), poor visibility, and blizzard conditions. Since I have that family gene, I took a plethora of photographs - including one outside of my garage with a bright yellow ruler - that have already been loaded to my computer.

After talking with many members of my family today, two in Ohio and two in Pennsylvania, I seem to be the only looking out the front window at snow. The PA family branch members have less than an inch. The Ohio relatives, one south near Marietta and one actually more a Michigan relative (near Toledo), were reporting the same.

I told them to call me back when they had some snow. Please.

With level two and level three snow emergencies surrounding the area, tomorrow is destined to be a day for digging out. Out of state travel and driving plans are still on hold; tentatively scheduled for Monday morning after rush hour. A few minutes ago I actually heard cars on the front street. So either the snow emergency has been lifted or the county/city is actually getting to the street.

I really should take some time and read a few of the books I brought back from Midwinter ...

Friday, March 07, 2008

A view of Spring Break

Today students were gleefully departing campus for points unknown, probably somewhere south to beaches, warm water, and places that serve pretty drinks with umbrellas, to celebrate spring break. This is the sight in their rear-view mirrors; one more snow storm bashing the area with predictions of a foot of snow before it is finished tomorrow evening.

My own plans, though no less important, are much less exotic. A week of vacation time for a quick trip home will begin later than planned due to the outside festivities. Luckily I have plenty of food staples at home and will not need to fight for milk, bread, or toilet paper at the local market. Midwest weather is a funny thing in late February, early March. We have had more snow in the last three weeks than throughout most of the winter.

About now I wouldn't mind a tart green salt-rimmed beverage of my own.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

IM ready

Following extensive discussion and philosophical discourse regarding the necessity, use and feasibility of IM/chat services for academic library reference, we are now officially "live" with the library's new Ask Us! IM reference service. The updated help and chat page were sent to the staging server around 11:30 am; when I refreshed my browser at 1:30 pm, all was well. As soon as lunch is over, my partner in crime and I will do a widget test run, followed shortly by an email notification to all librarians complete with login reminders, web addresses, and information regarding basic statistics we would like to collect.

We have a soft marketing and word-of-mouth target strategy planned. Tomorrow, I have permission to add a "new" link to the main library page. It will then be featured on the "What's new" page and link to the existing help section of the library web site. The director also plans to place a blurb in the weekly student email that will highlight the new service. Additionally, next week is spring break. There will be ample opportunity for librarians to play with the technology and become more comfortable with it's use.

This is a major step for our library. Moving several librarians out of their safe areas, dragging them into a bit of library 2.0 technology, has been a challenge. I am crossing my fingers that students will utilize the service and prove it is a viable resource to offer.