Friday, August 29, 2008

Running the gauntlet

Not as harsh as the post title suggests (see The Phrase Finder), this was a long, stressful, and yet somehow exciting first week. I feel a definite sense of accomplishment. My resource center schedule now includes two graduate assistants and eight student workers, seven of them new hires that will require training. As the applications literally poured into the resource center, I was able to hire a freshman, three sophomores, a junior, and two seniors. The level of library experience displayed by the newbies varies significantly. However, I am pleased as early indications are I have a nice group of students. An added bonus? The coverage for the resource center is superior. Once I am able to accomplish a bit of basic training, I should be able to devote time to completing the library web page.

Yes, the library web page - always a task uppermost in my mind.

Technology remains an issue, but the students are adapting well to the new system and it's many vagaries and annoyances.

The library closed an hour early today in honor of the holiday weekend. Traditionally celebrated to honor the working man (and women!), this weekend has become the summer's last hurrah. Happy Labor Day!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Overheard: choosing a library book

It is always interesting listening to students in the stacks looking for books. Sometimes there are incoherent muttering because the book has been mis-shelved. Often there charming expletives when the book is in the catalog, but the patron did not check to see if it was available (or on reserves). More often than not students bring a friend and it's a tag team event with accompanying diatribe (often increasingly vocal) about a professor sending them on an impossible mission. Leaving my office on the way to lunch this afternoon I heard an interesting theory on choosing a book, I believe it was on the topic of philosophy.

Student one: "I need to pick one, it probably should be old."
Reply from student two: "Just grab it off the shelf, if it smells bad it's old enough."

Monday, August 25, 2008

You should be dancing … yeah!

I missed the official announcement on Good Morning America this morning, a quick search at lunch after three people asked me what I thought of the new season's stars garnered the cast list posted below. I have to admit there are several new cast members I have never heard of before today, but there you go (smile). No big surprise to see another ABC soap star on the list, nor a several athletes, a Disney channel star, or singer/musicians; it's a formula that works for DWTS. Anyway, in alphabetical order (I am a librarian after all):

Lance Bass
Toni Braxton
Brooke Burke
Rocco DiSpirito
Maurice Greene
Kim Kardashian
Cloris Leachman
Cody Linley
Susan Lucci
Misty May-Treanor
Ted McGinley
Jeffrey Ross
Warren Sapp

A few random thoughts ... Should I be concerned so many of the stars had only Wikipedia sites? Should we worry about someone dropping Cloris Leachman (bless her heart)? Does Susan Lucci remind anyone but me of Jane Semore? Time will tell.

Until then, here's more on DWTS: You should be dancing (yeah)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ready or not

Friday has come and gone; things are as ready as I could make them for the students return.

In the resource center, scheduling was not nearly the headache anticipated. Only one student contacted me with a problem and it was quickly resolved. The first week of school routinely brings students to the library looking for work-study positions. I am anticipating the opportunity to hire at least two more students. Now all I have to do is stop the circulation desk from saying there are no library jobs available!

With the exception of reserving a computer lab for week one introductions and a few expected quirks, my course is ready. Every student enrolled (all 145 of them) received an email welcome with general information, contacts, and web links. Luckily only one email came back with a basic "does not exist" message. The new GA needs to be added to the course software on Monday as for some unknown reason she does not exist in the great realm of technology; an easy fix if someone will answer the phone. Even a course welcome blog post, reiterating the email message, was successfully connected to the course calendar!

Signs for the library door are in place, library and resource center hours have moved from the staging server to the live page, and a blog post announcing fall hours information is scheduled for tomorrow morning. I did not finish my planned children's book collection list (still need to go through the newest SLJ) and place the book order, but this week is soon enough.

There is a palpable sense of purpose on campus reserved for the first day. Students are arriving overflowing with emotion; excitement for a new adventure, elation seeing friends, fear of the unknown, a bit of confusion with the whole process, and an underlying joy for the new school year. Not something that can or should be ignored, it can only be reveled. It makes the stress of the previous week worthwhile. Welcome back!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The endless week

These last few days have been an endless loop of tasks to be done. Until now I did not fully realize how much time the library web page project had taken from my summer. Yes I whined about my loss of time, consistently and quite eloquently in some cases, but as this week progressed the number of things I would have traditionally already accomplished grew longer.

Added to that, I have spent four days whining about my work load.

Luckily things have a way of coming together if I just work hard and persevere. One GA turned down a job offer, my second offer was accepted this afternoon.

Scheduling for the semester will commence tomorrow ... and I even had another applicant in this afternoon interested in one of the remaining job openings.

Blog posts have been completed for both the resource center and library, web pages are ready for the start of the new academic year, and marketing tools are in place for library and classroom visits.

My favorite tech from IT was in the library this afternoon working on my floor's computers. She promised they will be ready for Monday morning. I believe her, she's never let me down.

Tomorrow excited freshman will be moving in to the dorms. We will all be ecstatic the new term is about to begin. It is literally a blank page waiting for great things to be written.

No power, no post

My first clue should have been the garage door opener not working; I smacked the button with bit of relish, tried again (twice) and gave fleeting thought to going to the nearest store for a new battery. Instead I parked the car and went in through my front door, an actual first for me as I usually use the garage and back door, to open the garage from the inside. It was then I noticed my phone and answering machine were dark, as were the vcr, microwave, stove clock, and my refridgerator was suspiciously silent.

Several phone calls and estimated time repairs later, it was midnight and I still had no power. I rummaged through drawers and located a battery operated alarm clock, opened the windows (praise be it was a wonderfully cool evening), and finished reading a book by candle light and flash light. What a shame I could not do laundry or run the sweeper (tee-hee).

Unfortunately, it meant I could not watch Project Runway or Shear Genius either. In retrospect, I am glad it was Wednesday evening and not Tuesday evening, I would have missed a new Eureka - Episode: I Do Over.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Freeing my mind

Today I did a lot of annoying to-do lists tasks working with the oft motivating theory that if I finish all of the little things I have to do I will have cleared my mind to move forward with what I should be doing (free your mind, and the rest will follow). Plus, if I finish the pesky detail items I will have no choice but to do the big important tasks and projects.

What? Things like schedules for my students and GA's and setting up grading for the new term.

So, today I did the fall hour schedule for the library web page and the resource center web page. They are basically the same, but there are times when I must close and the library remains open. Doing this process once at the beginning of the year in calendar format makes the year run a bit more smoothly. Of course, I had to do both of the hours pages twice, once for the live web and once for the new web page. I still need to finish up the second copy of the library hours.

I laminated the resource center marketing book marks (will punch holes and attach to our cool new pens) and the course book marks. Both have the new library logo as well as a listing of library web page and resource center web page links. I am really pleased with this little project and hope it works well. My first class visit is next Friday and I hope to get into classrooms next week. Of course I did not cut out the book marks after laminating; a nice chore for my student workers on Monday.

I went through my most recent months of Choice reviews and ordered education books. I have the newest copy of Booklist and School Library Journal to peruse after making the schedules on Friday. I have to wait until Friday because .....

I offered the GA position on Tuesday, even with an inkling she would probably not accept the offer. When the feeling came to fruition on Wednesday, I was able to offer the position to another applicant and must wait for an acceptance on Thursday before doing schedules.

Lets see, I posted a big ole pile of juvenile books to the resource center blog. And to wrap things up, I chose a group of posters from ALA graphics I hope to purchase for the resource center. My unending need to "beautify" this dated space conintues. The collage looks great, but I do not think it should take over the entire floor. Hence, the poster option. I'll need to check pricing for poster frames and consider how much of a chunk it will take from my budget - and then determine if the cost is worth the end result.

My morning feeds

Truth be told I like green or brown colored "sunglasses," but I suppose blue works. I have succombed to yet one more blogthings quiz. This one I am willing to share (some over the last few weeks, not so much).

You See the World Through
Blue Colored Glasses

You live your life with tranquility. You have faith that things will work themselves out with time.

You judge all your interactions through the lens of hope. You try to get all the facts before forming your opinion.

You face challenges with wisdom. You know that all bad things pass, and you have the confidence to see problems through.

You see love as the utmost expression of trust. Your relationships tend to be peaceful and stable.

At your worst, you can be cool, melancholy, and detached. You sometimes have to step back from emotionally charged situations.

You are at your happiest when you are able to reflect and relax.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Panel preparations

Instead of posting about the throngs of shiny, happy, people in the resource center today creating bulletin boards, laminating, color printing, and making a joyful noise, something that would be fulfilling but self-indulgent, I decided to share the Mock Caldecott selections for the fall 08 panel. It is always fun to select books for this session. My goals are to not only choose books with different styles of illustrations as well as varied artistic mediums, but also to make sure they meet Caldecott criteria and are recently purchased juvenile titles that have yet to circulate. This group of picture books includes fiction and non-fiction titles; the selection has award winning illustrators and artists that are new ... at least new to me.

Mock Caldecott Book List:
Alphabetical by author last name & illustrator

Billingsley, Franny & Karas, G. Brian [illus]
Big Bad Bunny

Cyrus, Kurt
Tadpole Rex

Diaz, David
De Colores = Bright with Colors

Field, Eugene W. & Potter, Giselle [illus]
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Fleming, Denise
Buster Goes to Cowboy Camp

Garland, Michael
Americana Adventure

Giovanni, Nikki & Raschka, Chris [illus]
The Grasshopper's Song: An Aesop's Fable Revisited

Haseley, Dennis & Young, Ed [illus]
Twenty Heartbeats

Jackson, Alison & Pedersen, Janet [illus]
Thea's Tree

Lehman, Barbara

Lyon, George Ella & Gammell, Stephen [illus]
My Friend, the Starfinder

Parker, Robert Andrew
Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum

Shea, Bob & Smith, Lane [illus]
Big Plans

Shulevitz, Uri
How I Learned Geography

Wells, Rosemary
Otto Runs for President

Winter, Jonah & Widener, Terry [illus]
Steel Town

Naturally the list is peppered with a few personal favorites, that is only to be expected since I have autonomy over the selection! One title that caught my attention quickly was Trainstop. A second title I enjoyed was Big Plans. The best part is listening to the students discuss and evaluate their selections, they always find something intriguing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday, Monday (one day down)

I am never quite sure which type of accumulated mail is worse, snail mail, email, or voice mail; but today I had a large dose of each waiting patiently for my undivided attention. They were all doomed ... today was the first day of the last week of summer break (aka Monday) and no single form of communication receives undivided attention. The first wave of students have arrived, all of the sports teams, many football players in the library today, and the resident assistants, creating bulletin boards and laminating in between meetings, are now on campus. Continuing the countdown, freshmen arrive Saturday and everyone else moves into the dorms Sunday.

Today I scheduled library and resource center tours for children's literature classes, found eight more books to use with the Mock Caldecott session that will most likely scheduled sometime after Labor Day, and began a fun project geared toward beautification. Really. I have a hideous wall outside the resource center that was previously used for projecting transparencies. It is an unsightly combination of pencil marks, fingerprints, and residual tape pulls. Requests have been made to paint it (sigh), but after two years I have come to the belated and obvious conclusion it will not be happening any time soon. I have decided to create a picture book cover wall collage.

As new picture books arrive and are processed, often we take off the book cover. I use these on bulletin boards to highlight new books and ultimately discard them. My plan is to laminate selected covers, protecting them from aforementioned pencil marks and graffiti, and affixing them to the wall updating my unsightly space. Discussing the concept with an artistic member of the serials staff, she mentioned I should consider incorporating foam board (putting covers on it as well) to create some visual depth and interest to the project. A very cool idea I am hoping to incorporate. I envision the collage as a fluid art project; once the wall is full I will be able to change out covers making it continuously new. With a growing list of things needing my immediate attention this week, the last thing I should have been doing today was starting this project. But after gaining permission, I was excited to proceed and am thrilled with the progess thus far.

Alas was unable to spend the entire day luxuriating in my artistic side. I interviewed a graduate assistant candidate for my course, solved a potentially horrific problem with a paniced phone call (my course disappeared), and made a few last minute changes to the course adding a section on educational video evaluation, using YouTube, Teacher Tube, and Google Video, to an internet assignment. All I have to do tomorrow is create the grade book, verify students have been loaded, check my course rosters, and create email welcomes for each student enrolled in the course. Oh, and hopefully hire one of the graduate assistant candidates.

On the list for tomorrow I have to schedule GA's and Student workers; place help wanted signs in the resource center for next week; finish the Mock Caldecott book selection; work on the Mock Caldecott web page; create, print, laminate and affix informational book marks or "business cards" to the new resource center pens for tours; nag the boss and reference team for the fall library hours schedule; and attend various meetings. I might even get a chance to order supplies, select picture books for the juvenile collection, and peruse reviews for the education collection.

Other than that, tomorrow is smooth sailing. Piece of cake.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Next year for the Half-Blood Prince

Even with strictly enforced time away from the computer during vacation, the news regarding Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie release date managed to infiltrate my little world away. Seems as if the Warner Brother's Batman movie made enough money for the fiscal year 2008 and they need a guaranteed cash cow for 2009. Unfortunately for Potter movie fans their favorite boy wizard was named the sacrificial lamb; the release date has been pushed from November 2008 to July 2009.

Half-Blood Prince Release Pushed Back
Hollywood Reporter- 8/14/08

"In a surprise move, Warner Bros. has moved the release date of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" from Nov. 21 to July 17. Warners president Alan Horn blame last winter's 100-day WGA strike in large part for the shift, suggesting all the major studios have been hurt in the development of new tentpole films for next summer."

Half-Blood Prince Release Date Pushed Back to Summer
MTV Movie News

"Horn added that "like every other studio," Warner Bros. was still "feeling the repercussions of the writers' strike," which had affected scripts for other films, and changed "the competitive landscape for 2009." Because of this, the studio felt next summer was a "new window of opportunity" for the franchise. The film's producer, David Heyman, concurred, saying that this would allow them to "reach the widest possible audience.""

There is already a grass-roots online-effort underway petitioning Warner Brothers to use the oringinal release date. As of this evening, there are 452 signatures affixed to the web page.

Change the Half-Blood Prince Release Date Back to November 21, 2008

To: Warner Brother's Studios
"Harry Potter fandom is angered to discover that the Half-Blood Prince release date has been moved back nearly a year even after production has been completed to simply make more money in the summer vs a release in the fall. The first release date was November 21, 2008 and has now been moved back to July 17, 2009. As a fan base we need to fix this problem so please sign and let WB know we mean business."

Interested in more information?
Don't forget ...
Random musings? I do not particularly care about the writers strike and studio issues, it was a problem of their own making. I can say I wonder about the quality of the movies WB may have in their house planned for release in 2009. Is it not odd they do not have enough faith in the films slated for release next year and as a result HP is being delayed.

I can only begin to imagine the domino effect this decision will have on retailers merchandising for Halloween (costumes) or Christmas (toys, action figures, DVD's, and books). My dad has been looking for HP accessories for his train layout (he has two different Hogwarts train sets). I recently purchased the Weasley Car (it came with Harry and Ron, very cute) and the Knights Bus for him and we were waiting until November to expand the search since we believed more would be available in conjunction with the movie release. Now it seems I was lucky to get the two pieces.

Guess two books I read over summer vacation?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Blog Holiday: Summer is kaput

It's here, my last week of vacation before the start of the fall term. I am headed to the 'burgh tomorrow for a birthday party, back-to-school shopping, and a bit of genealogy research. The Kennywood photo is from a sunny day in June, but appropriate as the summer went by just as quickly as the Phantom's Revenge.

Redding up

If you ever had any doubts I am from Pittsburgh, the title of this post should clarify things greatly as it is a bit of Pittsburghese. I rarely use the term "red up" without remembering a college room mate asking me why I wanted to paint the room red. Sure I use gum bands with regularity, but I refuse to say younz. Trust me.

Today was clean my office and resource center day of piles before vacation. Upon return, I have one week before the students arrive. During that week I need to interview, hire and train a graduate assistant, hire and train at least four student workers, prepare the resource center, and create work schedules for GA's and students. To make those tasks less daunting, today I finished my "before school" technology related to-do list ... and got rid of those piles.

Now I know that the university web master will update the library template so the links are external as opposed to internal. I will then be able to apply said template to library web pages that may live on other servers; the catalog and library faculty web pages, including my course pages, reside in different locations. Everything will look pretty together when the page goes live later this term.

I emailed furiously throughout the late afternoon contacting authors submitting articles for a special issue of a journal I am editing, setting up interviews with graduate assistants, verifying student workers who had applied early for job openings still wanted to work and had federal work study hours, updated the web committee team members, and assured another course facilitator she could look at my stuff to update her information. Everything in my in-box was answered and anyone on my list was checked.

I'll not mention the amount of inter-library gossip I indulged in during the late afternoon. Best to leave some things alone.

With one last glance inside the resource center to assure myself the roll-top laminator was unplugged, I gleefully locked the doors and left the library.

If only I had checked out a book.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Dumb luck? Okay

Yesterday I determined the remaining three days of this week would be sufficient to transfer my course from the old management system platform to the new one (Angel). The plan? I do love a great step-by-step plan. Prepare by saving and exporting existing course information to a zip file and at a later date simply un-zip, copy, and paste my way to completion. To finalize the plan, a cherry on top of my personal sundae, I would have sufficient time to update assignment tutorials for the course and my student workers, prepare updates and tweak the course web page, and create lovely new handouts for class visits.

It would have been great had I only zipped the most recent files.

Still liking that plan? Not so much.

This morning I was resigned to entering text for each assignment when, on a whim, I decided to see if I could ... perhaps ... log in to the old course management system. The system was to be off line beginning July 1st, the first day of our current academic fiscal year. A message on distance learning portal link claimed the old system was gone, anyone wanting to create course materials had to request set up with the new. But, the link was still live. I checked. My login still worked. I waited and waited and waited and waited for the system to load. Viola! Spring 2008's course materials were at my fingertips. I gleefully spent the day copying and pasting and updating and chortling to myself.

As of the end of today's work day, I had only two short pages to create and two items to be transferred by a qualified IT person (a-hem).

Happy, happy, joy, joy.

Some day's dumb luck wins.

I'll take it.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Cruel (cruel) summer

Two weeks from this coming Monday, August 25th to be precise, is the first day of the fall 2008 semester. Like many teachers, I am helplessly looking back over the summer months wondering how it got away from me. My "to do" list is as long now as it was in May. Among other things, my regularly scheduled summer weeding projects of checking activity books, curriculum textbooks, materials kits, and adjusting the shelves on the back half of the juvenile collection, remains untouched. The one thing I had high hopes of completing, the thing I put everything else on the back burner for, is far from done. Yes, I am referring to the library web site -- still screaming "get me content" -- on the inside.

This afternoon the song Cruel Summer by Bananarama kept running through my head. It was one of those things, like the smurf song (la, la, la la la la, la, la la, la laaa), it just refused to go away.

Soooo, here's the video link to YouTube - Cruel Summer, Bananarama. At least I refrained from posting yet another embedded video here.

My summer has been a technology challenge of web site building, learning a new "2.0 content management and information sharing system designed specifically for library's" - LibGuides, and moving my course over to Angel Learning Management System recently adopted by the university. Don't get me wrong, these are great tools for the library and I am thrilled to be using them. But right now I'm 2.0 tired of my computer, hence the sparing posts through the summer months.

I have, with no exaggeration, spent entire eight-hour days that have rolled into weeks, and possibly months, building the new web site from scratch; learning how to use Dreamweaver templates, creating spry widget menus, and managing the web committee with sometimes less tact than I should have displayed. These have been great tools for me to learn and the end will be worthwhile. Progress has been made, but the site will not debut at the beginning of this fall term.

LibGuides is great; you should have seen the line of interested librarians for their booth at ALA. The system is pretty much idiot proof, it's a drop, drag, click environment, with a wonderfully professional end product. Currently, librarians are responsible for content in their liaison area. I took a short break, a breather really, from web site work and in the last several days have created several guides. Yep, it's fun. Check out a listing of libraries, public and academic, using LibGuides. As to Angel, I started that today. It is replacing our previous course management system WebCT / Blackboard. Seems straightforward, time will tell.

On that note, time to chill out with Project Runway ("make it work") and then Shear Genius (my attention is wandering with the same old hair each week). Yesterday was another new episode of Eureka! And the new cast for Dancing with the Stars is to be announced at the end of the month. Rumor has it that a few of the names have been leaked ... gasp!