Thursday, September 24, 2015

Balancing the Books

In my six weeks as a new librarian, I’ve flipped our orientation, presented said orientation during district-wide PD, drafted a mock-up of an info literacy Blackboard course, created new “Writing and Research in a Digital Age” lessons for seniors, delivered blended learning PD to  teachers, shamelessly applied for hundreds of software licenses with ConnectED and Nearpod, designed a do-join-us-next-year Prezi presentation for my Academy, joined my school’s Blended Learning PLC, became an (appointed-assumed?) school ambassador for that same focus, redesigned our library's website, and collaborated several times with the new digital design teacher who is yet vacillating between survival and disillusionment. (Good sir, I get it.)

And yet…I haven’t read a single young adult novel. To be fair, I’ve only just begun reading again (i.e., after a recent five-week hiatus). New librarian, remember? Riiight. (And that tidbit totally debunks the myth that all we do at work is lounge and read books all day.) In what I like to call “real life,” I typically read two to three books per week, since my unplugged plasma TV’s job is simply to take up 42 inches of space in my super small studio. Sans cable, what else is there to do but read? But when I seized the opportunity to rediscover reading (that was Labor Day weekend, by the way), YA lit definitely was not on my agenda. To be perfectly honest, good lit wasn’t even on the agenda.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had students ask me for book recommendations: Can you recommend books by black women authors? She was not amused when I provided a list of authors’ names, rather than titles. Oops. Do you have anything similar to Looking for Alaska? Ah, summer-reading-inspired questions. What about mystery books? Umm…try the spine labels that have the mini magnifying glasses? Maybe a sci-fi series? Oh, more than one book? Dude, you just smirked at my ineptitude. Wait, you haven’t read (insert-totally-obscure-YA-lit-title)? Sigh, and no. Are you a real librarian? Okay, ouch.

Prior to becoming a librarian, I was an English teacher and reading specialist, where I taught the classics or worked to get students to the point where they could, at least, begin to understand them…(respectively). The last young adult novel I read probably was Nikki Grimes’ Bronx Masquerade. Or maybe it was Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. The audiobook so counts. Either way, it was a couple of years ago. With that aha moment in tow, I digitally trotted to NetGalley to request ARC after ARC of YA lit, in an effort to redeem myself in the judgmental eyes (kidding) of my students. Fortunately, publishers felt my desperation all the way through Wi-Fi. And, I mean, if I read a title before it even hits the shelves, that gives me more credibility with the kids, right? Too, I finally downloaded  Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, which is sort of cheat reading, since it’s “required” for Battle of the Books. (I’m writing the questions for that one, after all.) But I realize that I have to start somewhere (and start yesterday) in my adventure into the Through-the-Looking-Glass wonderland of YA lit. While technology is part of what we do, as 21st century librarians, it’s certainly not all we should be doing in 2015. So for the kid who strolls into our library at 6:50 a.m. tomorrow, with great expectations for book recommendations, I’ll be ready.

J. Greer
MNPS Librarian

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