Sunday, November 24, 2013

The library as refuge

Henry Rollins seems to be following me through every stage in my life. First, in middle school, the moment I spied an incredibly tall eighth grader with spiked hair and a "Black Flag Roach Motel" t-shirt was the moment that I realized that the age of ELO and bland suburban innocence was over.
When I was a rock critic, I was sent to review one of his stand-up routines (I was unimpressed).

These days, I'm viewing Rollins as one of the reasons to love Los Angeles. His KCRW radio show is the best thing on air and I am both shocked and relieved that it's still on.

Now, in this LA Weekly column, he pops up as a passionate supporter of libraries and librarians.

No longer tethered to a space, a library is still a sacred haven for certain kids -- the ones who don't fit in, are bullied, and are seeking a sign that, one day, things will be different.

Here's Rollins on his own experience:

"I preferred books over people. They didn't beat me up or take my bike. There was something very empowering about walking into the building, past all the adults, and realizing that I could pull down any book I wanted to and just start reading. I don't know why but it was a huge deal to me."

I know why -- the library is an offering of what is out there in the world, and it's a chance for confused, alienated kids to take that piece of the outside world and bring it in. It's a chance to have a choice about what they experience.

In the conversations about why libraries matter, the idea of the place as a safe haven or sacred space for kids who need one the most rarely comes up because we have moved beyond the limitations of brick and mortar. The kids in the library know that, quite often, it's still a library's most important role.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Amish approach to technology

This NPR story about the Amish and technological advances aired a while ago, but it keeps coming back to me again and again when I talk to people about technology and how it impacts our culture. So the Amish aren't necessarily anti-tech, but they think long and hard about how technology might impact the community and the culture? What a concept. Maybe we should rethink our slavish approach to tech changes.

Diane Ravitch says schools need librarians!

Sometimes Diane Ravitch sounds like the only voice of reason rising out of heated debate over public education. Recently, I interviewed Ravitch for Salon about charters, vouchers, Big Data, Teach for America and her new book, Reign of Error.

Here's one section of the interview that didn't make it into the Salon piece -- Ravitch on school librarians:

DMO: Since I am a public school librarian, I do have to ask about libraries. A lot of people have lost faith in libraries and they say that everybody can just Google everything anyway and so we don't need libraries. You do think we need librarians, and I'm wondering why?

Diane Ravitch: Well, I've always been a supporter of librarians and libraries because I think that libraries are the place where you learn how to use information. You learn how to use information in the classroom, but librarians are skilled — and much more so than when I was in school — in teaching you how to access information and provide tremendous resources.

I love the idea that you can go into a library and I have to say I still like books, no matter how much technology I use, no matter how many times I go to the Internet. I think that some of the most important learning experiences for me personally came from browsing in the library and finding unexpected things, and you don't find too many unexpected things on the Internet – you find what you look for. In the library, you can find things you didn't know you were looking for.

I think libraries are important because librarians are skilled in technology – they don't just file books away, they teach kids how to use the technology and how to use it responsibly.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gen X's midlife meltdown

The reason for the long absence? This Salon article: Generation X gets really old: How do slackers have a midlife crisis? The piece is an examination of the elements -- some economic, some cultural -- that make Xers at midlife different from other recent generations. The state of X? We just can't get a break, can we? Maybe we can make an example of ourselves.

I'll be on WBEZ in Chicago tomorrow morning at 10:20 Central Time talking about the story.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Three out of four ain't bad

These days, there's a great deal of anxiously hunching over laptops because of a master's degree deadline that is rapidly approaching. Let's just say that the culminating assignment for an MLIS degree is no joke.

A tiny bit of reviewing in an actual newspaper was accomplished over the past couple of months, though. Ally Condie's final book in the Matched trilogy didn't thrill (go to the article here) but it wasn't nearly the slog of the second book of the series. Prodigy, the second book in Marie Lu's Legend series, was as solid as the first book. How often does that happen? (Check out my Prodigy review here).

Recently read and loved: Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (hard to read but unforgettable) and Spellbinder by Helen Stringer (taking a bit from the Harry Potter playlist, but great fun nonetheless).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A very YA new year

At the top of DMO's must-read list.
Dig Me Out rang in the new year at a very cool Los Angeles party with a pack of writers who love YA books. Ones that came up in conversation: Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone (feel they blew the cover on this one -- kids don't dig the image -- but hear it's amazing), Marie Lu's gripping Legend series, the Matched trilogy, and John Stephens' The Emerald Atlas.

On top of adult book conversations were Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue and Cheryl Strayed's memoir. Working on Prodigy now, but the others are on the top of DMO's resolution list.

In library news, the New York Times came out with a discussion about the value of libraries. Hearing others argue about the value of you chosen career feels like someone taking apart your psyche while you sit idly by and listen, but these conversations matter.

Here's a link to the New York Times' "Room for Debate" forum, with school librarian Buffy Hamilton representing.