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wmtc: upcycling with teens at the library

My summer youth programs have been going really well. Attendance has increased with each program – first 7, then 13, then 15 – and yesterday we hit the jackpot with 23 teens. We actually had to turn away three kids without tickets, as our program room was so packed with people and materials.

I wasn’t planning on blogging about individual programs, but there seems to be some interest. Plus, since I regularly Google for ideas for programs and displays, I’m happy to give back by adding to the ideas out there.

Upcycling was a huge hit! For those not familiar (Read more…)

wmtc: summer, teens, the library, and me

Yesterday was my first summer program at the library. Attendance was low, but very keen. An artist and activist (who happens to be a friend of mine from the war resisters movement) led a workshop I called “Comix that Save the World”. We explored the use of the comics form to express larger social concerns. It was so much fun, the teens were so into it, that I’m thinking of expanding it to an ongoing series, where kids could really develop something. The summer at Mississauga Central Library will be packed with programs for teens – sometimes as many as (Read more…)

wmtc: things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #14

One of our regular Readers’ Den customers approached me with her usual long list of movies. She researches movies online, prints out lists, and comes to the desk to see what we have in our collection. Anything we have, we place on hold for her. She’s a great customer, in terms of library use. She has an intellectual disability, and sometimes helping her can be a bit of a challenge.  This customer talks very fast, and a little too loudly. While you’re searching for one item, she’s rattling off the next few, so after placing each hold, you must (Read more…)

wmtc: memo to ruth graham: readers who try to shame other readers should be embarrassed at their narrow-mindedness

Ruth Graham, writing in Slate, says, “You should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.” How sad. If anyone should feel embarrassed, it’s Graham. She apparently writes this commentary without realizing how narrow-minded, outdated, and ignorant it makes her appear.

Then again, what can we expect from a person who describes a love scene by saying a young man “deflowers” his girlfriend? Perhaps Graham hasn’t noticed, but in the 21st Century, women are not passive objects; their first sexual experience is not imagined as a loss of innocence and delicacy. Hazel, the hero of The (Read more…)

wmtc: things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #13

A boy, maybe age 8, was confused about what he needed. He said he needed “chapter books about the human body,” which sounded to me like two things – books about the human body for a school project, and chapter books, meaning junior fiction that is not a picture book, not a series, and not a graphic novel. But he was convinced he needed “chapter books about the human body.” He would not be helped, casting aside everything I found for him, and getting increasingly frustrated.

Following him around the library (it’s a Sunday, so I’m working overtime, not (Read more…)

wmtc: youth books, children’s book edition #10, and the best part of my job

I thought readers’ advisory was the best part of my job, but that was before I began running our library’s teen book club.

Once a month, I spend an evening with a group of teens who choose to spend their evening at the library, talking about books. We hang out, eat snacks, talk about books, talk about life. Although I’ve never had an interest in book clubs for myself, facilitating these young people’s enjoyment of reading is a joy and a privilege.

The teens themselves come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Most are the first generation of their family born (Read more…)

wmtc: dispatches from ola 2014, part 3: hip-hop programming in the library

My final post about the OLA Super Conference sessions I attended saves the best for last. “Sub-Urban Beats: Hip-Hop Programming in the Library” thrilled me with possibilities. Even more exciting, it was co-presented by two librarians from the Mississauga Library System who are youth specialists, Erica Conly and James Dekens. They worked with Damon Pfaff, of the Now Creative Group and Marcel DaCosta, a street dancer, community artist, and arts educator whose performance name is Frost Flow. Frost Flow is part of the Mississauga hip-hop collective Ground Illusionz; you can see some of his work here on YouTube.

(Read more…)

wmtc: march break for teens at our library

I’ve just finished my first March Break (the Canadian equivalent of Spring Break in the US) in my new position as a youth librarian. It was exhilarating and a lot of work, but not nearly as exhausting as I imagined.

March Break was great for many reasons. One, I have great support from a senior librarian and manager who appreciate my efforts. Two, I am part of an amazing team of people who pitched in so I could devote myself more fully to programming, and who encouraged me daily. Three, so many amazing people lent their time and energy and (Read more…)

wmtc: freedom to read week 2014: celebrate your freedom to read

Image from Freedom to Read website

Freedom to Read Week 2014 runs from February 23 to March 1. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Freedom to Read Week in Canada.

Freedom to Read Week – called “Banned Books Week” in the United States – encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, a human right guaranteed to us under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For me, it is also a time to celebrate the library as a bulwark against censorship, and for library workers to reflect on our jobs in a broader political context.

(Read more…)

wmtc: dispatches from ola 2014, part 2: a year of tween programming

Tweens – older kids who are not yet teens – are among my favourite library customers. Tween books are my favourites to read, and a tween audience is my most natural writing voice.

Sadly, tweens are often underserved at libraries. Library programming often focuses on either pre-school kids or youth, usually defined as ages 12 and up. The 8-12 group is too old for baby stuff, but usually too young for the real teen scene. And libraries are often desperate for tween programming ideas.

To that end, two librarians from the Oshawa (Ontario) Public Library, Brianne Wilkins-Bester and Tiffany Balducci, (Read more…)

wmtc: dispatches from ola 2014, part 1: makerspaces, libraries, and me

Yesterday I attended one of the most exciting and inspiring sessions of the OLA Super Conference, one of three that I will write about. It was a presentation by two people from MakerKids, one of the world’s only makerspaces dedicated to and for young people – and lucky for us, it’s in Toronto.

Makerspaces… and MakerKids

In this previous post about attending “OLA” for the first time, I listed “Maker Culture in Action” as one of the sessions I wanted to attend. A reader asked what that meant, and a little discussion ensued: here. That was a good reminder (Read more…)

wmtc: i am really a librarian: in which i attend my first ola, and get paid for it, too

For the next three days, I’ll be attending the Ontario Library Association’s annual Superconference, always referred to simply as “OLA”. As the name implies, this is a gigantic conference covering issues related to all three types of libraries – public, academic, and special. You can see a program here. In library school, we were strongly encouraged to attend OLA. Students can volunteer to help run conference sessions in exchange for free attendance. I never did (honestly, I never even considered it), so now I attend my very first OLA, already a professional, and in place of three working days. (Read more…)

wmtc: things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #12

I’m enjoying my new position so much! Things are going really well so far. I’m preparing for teen book club, researching display ideas, and planning some (I hope) interesting programs. I’ll write about those as they happen.

So far I’m feeling well, too. I’m still adjusting to full-time work, but I’m not collapsing from it, either. Readers, you were right. Doing work that you love makes a huge difference. So does a more humane work environment. In the library, no one expects everything done yesterday, everyone understands the concept of a learning curve, and most people truly understand teamwork and (Read more…)

wmtc: i am a youth librarian. this is a good thing.

I am so excited about my new position! As I mentioned, I am now a librarian in the Mississauga Central Library’s “Readers’ Den” department. It is a full-time position, and lasts until July of this year. Right now it feels like my ideal job; I only wish it were permanent.

My main areas of responsibility involve youth services. I’ll be planning and delivering youth programming during school holidays, after school, and Saturdays, and I’ll facilitate the teen book club that meets monthly. I’ll be responsible for the library’s youth book displays, and will share responsibilities for purchasing ( (Read more…)

wmtc: i hate christmas 2013: christmas in the public library

My annual I Hate Christmas post is a mixed bag this year.

Last year, I found Christmas less awful than usual, thanks to the absence of both commercial TV and my law-firm job. Those changes are permanent (at least I hope they are!), so I may never need to hide from Christmas quite so much, ever again.

On the other hand, Christmas at the public library is a grand opportunity for alienation. The decorations, the displays of children’s Christmas books, the Christmas-themed storytimes… and everyone thinks it’s all hunky-dory, as long as we stick to Santa and ignore Jesus. (Read more…)

wmtc: in which my library career takes another step forward

I am very pleased to announce that I’ve landed my first full-time librarian gig! It’s a temporary position, for six months, in the “Readers’ Den” Department of the Mississauga Central Library. Readers’ Den takes in all the fiction, magazines, and movies, and very importantly, the Youth department, both teen fiction and teen programs. I’ll be working with teens again, something I love, I’ll be sharpening my readers’ advisory skills, and I’ll be able to work as a full-time librarian while I wait for a permanent position to post.

Please forgive my bragging, but I must tell you that I totally (Read more…)

wmtc: things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #11

Customer: “Hi, can I print from a USB here? My printer at home isn’t working.”

Me: [I explain how our printing works: you buy a card, it costs such and such, etc.]

Customer: “I just want to print from my USB.”

Me: [I explain how our printing works: you buy a card, it costs such and such, etc.]

Customer: “Someone said I could just come here and print.”

Me: [I explain how our printing works: you buy a card, it costs such and such, etc.]

Customer: “Can’t you just take my USB and print (Read more…)

wmtc: things i heard at the library # 10: weeding, the library’s not-so-dirty, not-so-little secret

Wmtc readers have told me that they like the inner-workings-of-the-library posts, so I’m going to let myself write those whenever an idea comes up. That means the “things I heard at…” category becomes less literal… not unlike the title of this blog.

Did you ever wonder how a library manages to keep its whole collection on the shelves, when new books are coming out all the time? Where do all the books go? How can it all fit?

The answer: it doesn’t. Space is finite, and the number of books in any collection, although also finite, is always expanding. (Read more…)

wmtc: please watch and share this beautiful video in defense of the toronto public library

wmtc: how to pursue something you don’t really want

Since the day I decided to go to graduate school and change my career(s), my mind has reeled with questions about the future. When will I be able to quit my horrible law-firm job? When will I get a professional position at the library? When I get it, will I succeed, and will I enjoy my new work? What place will writing still have in my life? Will my health suffer? Will I have enough energy for these new demands? And on and on. It didn’t feel worried or anxious, but I was incredibly impatient for my new future to (Read more…)

wmtc: my favourite customers and two-way readers’ advisory

The children’s library where I work services a huge age-range of young people and their caregivers, from birth up to around age 12. I enjoy the full range – helping parents understand the importance of reading to their children, helping kids find fun books to read, finding material for school projects and reports – all of it. But what I love best is connecting avid young readers – of the age group known as “tweens” – with books they enjoy.

Wikipedia defines the tween demographic as ages 10-12, but tweens may be 9-13, or may even be as young as (Read more…)

wmtc: the incredible shrinking life: a flood, a hotel room, a library

I’m always amazed how when personal upheaval strikes, whether tragedy or happy Big Life Change – your world shrinks down to a tiny little circle. We moved to Canada the day Hurricane Katrina struck, and days later, we were struggling to take in all we had missed. Since the flood four nights ago, the outside world has barely registered on my radar.

So, what has happened to the Laura and Allan Family since I posted those lovely sewage-filled photos?

The aftermath

The flood was Monday night. The Greater Toronto Area received a month’s worth of rainfall in the span of (Read more…)

wmtc: simon says, grumpy bird, and an evil witch: summer reading club begins

Summer is the busiest time of year in the Central Children’s Library. Actually, we are wildly busy any time school is out; the summer is just the most sustained period of busy-ness. Many of my colleagues have been preparing for summer programming since the end of March Break.

All through July and August, in libraries throughout Canada, kids will be participating in Summer Reading Club. The program uses incentives, activities, and fun programs to keep kids reading over the summer, which has been shown to improve their performance in school. It’s fun, and it’s free.

All Canadian libraries receive the (Read more…)

wmtc: things i heard at the library: an occasional series: # 9, or why this new librarian found the reference desk a little scary

In this post, I described doing reference as “a bit scary,” and Impudent Strumpet asked why.

I started to write an answer, ran out of time, then found myself on my first real shift at the reference desk!

During my training and orientation weeks, I did two half-shifts at the desk during non-busy hours – a second chair, so to speak, when there is normally only one person working. But this week I had my first proper evening shift, during peak hours.

It is also exam week for high schools, so every available space in the entire library is (Read more…)

wmtc: my life at the children’s library so far (plus happy birthday to me)

What a difference it makes when you enjoy going to work. What a difference when you don’t dread your job. Wow!

This is what I’ve done in my new position so far.

- I participated in the finale of Grade 4 Read To Succeed, in which the winning classes – the classes that read the most books in each branch library’s catchment area – attended an event at Mississauga City Hall. There were songs, games, prizes, and readings by two children’s authors. It was a bit weird for me, as I hadn’t been involved in the program, but great fun (Read more…)