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Selecting nominees for the Forest of Reading : getting involved one book at a time

30 Oct

Forest of reading Being on the selection committee of a literary prize is something that has always interested me. Perhaps what appealed to me was the power trip of having my opinion count for so much (pretentious? Yes, I know). The best way to remove pretension from book awards is having them be truly chosen by readers of a larger audience. The Ontario Library Association has an excellent example of a readers’ choice Book Award for young people called “the Forest of Reading”.  The Forest of Reading is broken down into different categories (the names of different tress) in terms of reading level and features Canadian authors.

Last February when I was attending the OLA’s SuperConference, I kept running into Céline Marcoux-Hamade, the head of French Services at the Toronto Public Library (probably my dream job!). She was impressed with my involvement in the conference (I think her words were that I was young and energetic) and so she invited me to join the selection committee for the French categories of the Forest of Reading. The French books are read by French Immersion and Francophone children alike and there is Le Prix Peuplier (Picture books), le Prix Tamarac Express (easy novels) and le Prix Tamarac (novels). Our job on the selection committee was to read during the spring all of the recently published books submitted by publishers (over a hundred titles) and then collectively determine which books would become the final ten nominated finalists for each category. It is now in the fall and winter that children all over the province will read the 10 nominated titles in order to vote on their favourite title. Province-wide, the votes are tallied up and the winner is determined in the spring.

I was ecstatic at the prospect of reading so many new children’s literature titles. When I opened the first delivery of books, I was like a child at Christmas but as the months went on and the boxes kept coming, the books piled up and I definitely started questioning my commitment. At one point I had to rebel for a month and read only adult fiction. The committee members were spread across the province and it helped a lot that we were sharing our opinions on a forum on the OLA website. I was reassured when others shared my opinions on certain titles and surprised when others praised books that I thought were mediocre or dismissed titles that I had really enjoyed.  Through the whole process we were very focused on “What will the kids like?”. We were after all selecting books that would be read throughout the province by kids from kindergarten to grade 6. It was important that I read the books through the eyes of a child. Since I continue to love children’s literature and I work with kids every day, I thought that this would not be that challenging but sometimes I really needed to keep my adult expectations in check. In the end the 10 titles for the three French categories were selected and although I must admit that I do not agree 100% with some of the nominated titles (I think some “better” books got left off the lists) that is the result of working collaboratively with a committee.

Charlotte Partout I am excited to introduce these titles to the kids in my two libraries and to see all of my hard reading pay off when they get passionate about the book that should win and hopefully in the process they will become aware of Canadian authors who they can continue to read after the contest is over. I am already organizing a school visit for Mireille Messier, one of my favourite children’s authors, who visited my library in New Brunswick and whose book Partout Charlotte is nominated for the Prix Peuplier!

I strongly encourage those passionate about promoting reading to get involved in a selection committee like the Forest of Reading. I recently went to a presentation presenting “new titles” and I found that I had already read them all!  For once in my life, I’m ahead of the curve!

Hiatus and comeback!

11 Feb

As my regular readers have noticed, I’ve taken a little hiatus from my blog. This essentially corresponded to the time I left my position as the director of the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library in New Brunswick last September. I was extremely proud of the work I did at the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library and my decision to leave my position was bitter-sweet. On the bitter side, I was leaving an incredible library full of wonderful people to whom I’d grown extremely attached (patrons, staff, volunteers, library board members). I was also sad to leave behind projects that I cared passionately about such as our new library building project and our continuous efforts to create new and rewarding community partnerships. However, on the bright side, my decision to leave was based on a very happy development in my personal life (my engagement) and so part of me was definitely excited to relocate to Toronto.

Since I needed to relocate to Toronto, I got back into the full-swing of applying for library positions. This was a difficult period because I am definitely a perfectionist when it comes to applications and every time that I spent hours toiling over an application only to never even get an interview, it was like I’d lost a small piece of myself. After a few months, people said that it was because I hadn’t yet found the “right job for me”. In the end, this turned out to be true as at the end of August once “the right job for me” was posted it took me only 2 weeks total to send in my application, be contacted for an interview, have an interview, and be offered the position.

I now work for a Francophone school board where I am in charge of the libraries in two schools (a K-6 school and a middle school). This is a fantastic job because I have always been passionate about children’s librarianship. Being in a school library allows me to do story-time, teach information literacy, provide reader advisory and research and order books that kids will get excited to read.

Each Canadian province has different standards for what qualifications are needed for working in school libraries. In Ontario, most school boards have teacher-librarians in their schools; this position requires a teaching degree paired with a few courses in librarianship. When I went for my interview, I was told that my school board has not had teacher-librarians for over a decade, now all of the school libraries are run by library technicians. A part of me has issues with calling myself a library technician even though it is officially my job title. Having obtained a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, I tend to say that I’m a professional librarian who works in a school library (I was told by a friend not to say that I am a School Librarian because technically I’m not). Rather than feel limited by my job title, I use my professional knowledge and skills everyday to strive to ensure that I am creating the most positive library experience possible for these kids. Most of the kids at my schools are from recent immigrant families to Canada. The parents are often struggling to make a life for their family in Toronto and do not have the money to buy books nor do they visit regularly the public library with their children. Consequently, the library experience that I provide for these kids becomes their only exposure to libraries. I am very motivated by my goal to help kids discover a passion for reading that will translate into a life-long pursuit of learning whether they attend post-secondary education or not.

Last week, I attended the Saturday sessions of the OLA (Ontario Library Association) Super Conference in Toronto. This experience was extremely positive and encouraged me to get back into blogging because I realized how much amazing knowledge librarians share when they get together. The biblioblogosphere is an incredible place and I want to get back into the swing of things! (That and my dad kept asking me when I was going to post something new).

I have always been grateful to everyone who comments on my blog posts. So what do you think of the importance of job titles? How would you feel about taking on a non-professional position as long as you got to do something you love?

CLA Election Time – let your voice be heard!

2 Oct

CLA logo
Voting has officially begun for the new Canadian Library Association Executive Council! There has been a lot of discussion in the past year regarding the future of the CLA and now is the time to let your voice be heard by casting a vote for the new Executive Council
This spring, when I attended the CLA conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the mood was one of optimism and change. However, my friends and I couldn’t help but notice the generational divide among the attendees and contemplate its effect on the overall organizational structure of the CLA. We observed that most of the attendees were either baby-boomers or relatively young librarians (from their mid-twenties to early thirties). We couldn’t help but wonder “Where are all the librarians in-between?” The leadership positions at the CLA were almost all occupied by veteran librarians (the baby-boomer bunch) and although it makes sense that us optimistic young librarians can make valuable contributions to the CLA, it’s possible that those librarians in-between have become jaded over time because of the quasi “old-boys’ club” atmosphere that seemed prevalent at times at the conference. My friends and I discussed our concern that over time we might also lose interest in our national association if we felt disconnected to those representing us on the Executive Council. Although Dr. Ken Haycock became president of the CLA when he was only 29, that was over thirty years ago in 1978 and I certainly cannot see the CLA voting for anyone in their twenties in the current climate.
It is no secret that with experience comes wisdom but in the workplace librarians are being called upon earlier and earlier in their careers to take on leadership positions. So then why not take on leadership positions within the Canadian Library Association? Under the current conditions of libraries being threatened left and right, being involved in our national association allows librarians to stand strong together, regardless of age, and advocate for libraries. It is both up to the veteran librarians to facilitate the transfer of leadership within the CLA and for the younger and in-between librarians to speak up.
There are lots of opportunities to become involved in the CLA; it’s simply a matter of getting your act together and applying when the occasion presents itself. In the past week, the CLA has sent out calls for proposals and posters for the next conference and a call for volunteers for committees. If you are feeling motivated, I encourage you to check out these opportunities. Even if it might be too late for you to become CLA president at 29 like Dr. Ken Haycock, everyone has to start somewhere and these are great ways to become involved and gain experience within the CLA. If you are still somewhat skeptical about getting involved in a professional association the very least you can do is go and vote! The candidates for all of the positions look like they would bring a creative and fresh perspective to the various Executive positions. So read their descriptions and get involved in the CLA by voting for a Executive Council that represents you!

Are library conferences worth it? CLA 2011 proved totally affirmative!

30 May

In the past few years, Canadian librarians have been made aware of the financial troubles of the Canadian Library Association. Membership has been on the decline and the very future of the association’s existence has been questioned. When I was a MLIS student at McGill’s School of Information Studies, student memberships were inexpensive and I was consequently the member of three different library associations including the CLA. However, when one becomes a professional the membership fees jump in price and they can be rather expensive especially when I am paying them out of my own pocket (as opposed to the fees being covered by my library institution which is the case for many lucky librarians). I have consequently had to be more selective of what associations I join. I kept my membership with CLA because I believe strongly in the benefits of a national library association. However, since I was dishing out my own money to become a member of CLA and to attend the conferences it was very important that the annual conference last week in Halifax be “worth it”.

As for my experience at CLA 2011, I can only vouch for the specific sessions that I attended and the awesome people that I hung out with. My conference experience might have greatly differed from someone else’s but I personally feel that the past week was totally worth it!

Since I started as a library director, there have been so many things that I have found challenging. Everyone has moments when they say to themselves “they never taught me that in library school” and I feel that this is probably even more the case for managers and directors.
Luckily for me, there seemed to be an abundance of sessions that spoke directly to the information needs of managers and directors. One of the most useful sessions that I attended was Performance Metrics: Helping Boards Understand Library Statistics presented by John Shepherd, a university accounting instructor, and Allan Wilson, the Chief Librarian of the Prince George Public Library and the 2011 recipient of the CLA/Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship. I loved this session because the information it offered was so practical. John Shepherd got into the nitty gritty of how to better design statistical charts and Allan Wilson provided great ideas on establishing meaningful metrics that will communicate more effectively the value of the public library to the community, the library board, and the municipality. This session actually succeeded in transforming my perception of statistics and performance metrics and made statistics seem almost fun.
This conference was also fantastic in terms of catching up with friends and meeting new people.  At first I was intimidated by what appeared to be an older demographic of librarians who all seemed to know each other.  Then I realized that this “old boys club” (there seemed to be a surprising number of baby boomer men at this conference) was the result of decades of the same people attending conferences together. In many cases, the older librarians had probably even attended library school together “back in the day”. This thought inspired me to think that my friends and I will one day also rule the CLA conferences. There are so many dynamic young librarians who have only just begun their professional careers in the past few years. We are still testing the waters of what it means to be professional librarians and attending the CLA conference definitely helped to establish a foundation for our new professional identities. We all seemed to value the importance of coming together to share stories and advice on being librarians. We had a lot of fun together and it reinforced my opinion that librarianship is full of interesting and dynamic people.

CLA 2011 in Halifax was totally worth it and I am looking forward to continuing to be active in the CLA throughout my career.
Are you a member of a library association? Do you think that it is worth it?

Longing to be a leader

21 Feb

Becoming the director of a public library straight out of a MLIS program can be extremely daunting. I have fairly high expectations of what a library director should be accomplishing at their library and in their community but the past month especially I have felt particularly overwhelmed trying to live up to these expectations. Perhaps because it is February and February is known to be the most depressing month of the year, I find myself getting discouraged more easily and reacting more sensitively when faced with my own professional shortcomings.

One of the areas that I am particularly struggling with is the concept of leadership. In the past, I have definitely never considered myself to be a leader. No one can question that I am very dedicated to my library and that I work hard but do I have innovative ideas? Do I have the creative approach to motivate others to work towards a common goal?

Prior to starting a MLIS, my formal leadership experiences were limited to being a camp counsellor and I certainly had no experience as a manager. During the one SIS management course at McGill University, we spoke a lot about management and leadership. However, there is a huge difference between discussing these matters using theoretical examples and being faced with real life situations. Unfortunately, real people do not always react the way that you thought they would when doing a case study!

Luckily, in the fall of 2010, I applied and was accepted to attend the 2011 edition of the Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute. NELI, as it is often called, is a leadership training institute in Canada that is designed specifically to assist in the development of future leaders in the library and information profession. Even after a few months of learning that my nomination was accepted, I am still incredibly stoked to be participating in this highly reputed institute! I know librarians who have attended in the past and they all agree that it is a truly transforming week professionally and personally. Yet I feel that it could not come soon enough…

In the meantime, I am still trying to find ways to improve my theoretical baggage on management and leadership in hopes that some of it will transfer over to real life situations. I have discovered an interesting conference PowerPoint Presentation entitled Creating Leaders put together by Daniel Phelan who conducted an interesting survey of NELI participants and who also provides a recap of some key leadership theory. I would be extremely open to any other suggestions you know of have of resources that might help me provide my library and my employees with the leadership that I know they deserve!

4th Annual Web 2.You

16 Jan

My experiences co-organizing Web 2.You at McGill University in 2009 and again in 2010 were definitely pinnacle moments during my MLIS degree. Not only did I gain incredible experience in event planning and management. I especially got to meet some very awesome librarians! Before beginning my MLIS I had never thought of the possible existence of librarian superstars.  Luckily thanks to the inspired library school student I was quickly introduced to the world of the biblioblogosphere when I started in McGill’s MLIS program and through Web 2.You I got to meet some of the most well-known and influential modern librarian thinkers like Michael Stephens, Stephen Abram, Jenica Rogers, and Michael Porter. Not only did I get to hear them speak from the heart about important issues but after the conferences I got to hang out with them over supper! Both years provided me with such fantastic memories.

In fact, now that Michael Porter (keynote speaker ,Web 2.You 2010) has been elected to the ALA Executive Board, I can officially say that I’ve been to supper with an ALA Executive Board member. How cool is that?  All thanks to my involvement in Web 2.You!

Although I can’t attend Web 2.You 2011 due to distance, I am still thrilled to see the incredible line-up of speakers that my former co-organizer Adrienne Smith has rallied together for this year’s event.  By scoring Jason Puckett as a keynote speaker as well as several other well-known and respected specialists in the field of information, the proud tradition of Web 2.You will continue to bring innovative minds and new ideas to library school students and information professionals in the Montreal area. I strongly encourage anyone in the Montreal area to attend this event. Registration and information about the speakers is available on the Web 2.You 2011 wiki.

Smiles in Libraries

4 Sep

I’ll admit that I usually scan quite quickly through my copy of the CLA’s Feliciter magazine when it comes in the mail. This week when I received my latest issue and saw that it was completely dedicated to images from the CLA 2010 conference in Edmonton I assumed that it would quickly be put aside. Although I was disappointed to miss the CLA conference this year because it conflicted with our McGill School of Information Studies graduation ceremony, I wasn’t necessarily excited to look through the photos of all the smiling librarians who did get to attend. However, instead of tossing the magazine aside, I found myself extremely interested in the reports written by the library school students who summarized the highlights of various conference sessions.

The reports were all extremely well written and I felt that the students from the different Canadian library school programs all succeeded in capturing the interesting points from their sessions. I was especially motivated to read University of Toronto iSchool’s Kate Perch’s article on the session “Hot Topic: International Librarianship –CLA’s Role in IFLA”. As many of you know, I am extremely interested in international librarianship and since I dream of one day getting involved in IFLA, the title of this session particularly grabbed my attention. In this article, Kate Perch quotes a discussion question from this session “How many smiles do libraries create every day?”.  I LOVE this question! Since my blog is already full of my geeky proclamations of how passionate I am about libraries and librarianship then there is no harm in admitting that since reading this quote a few days ago, I have become obsessed with this question. Seriously, I have been extra observant of all of our users to see if they are leaving the library with a smile on their faces. I am starting to think that in addition to ticking off  on a page the number of reference questions we receive for our library statistics, we should also be keeping a record of how many smiles we see in the library on a daily basis. This relates somewhat to Alvin Schrader’s talk « Getting Beyond Library Statistics: Challenges in Capturing Library Meaning and Telling the Whole Story of Library Value » at the ABQLA’s 2010 conference in May. Schrader’s presentation also got me thinking of better ways to understand the value of libraries in the lives of our users and a smile is certainly an indisputable visual display of someone’s satisfaction. Are you conscious of the smiles of users in your library? Is there a formal way of calculating smiles that could be included in official reports? Let me know what you think and I’d like to thank Kate Petch for publishing this great article that has got me so pumped!