The Training Not Given…

A post by Cynthia Lambert

In the past I have blogged about what surprised me when I first came to libraries.  Many people commented on the drunken patron—an unexpected customer service challenge if ever there was one.  One thing I expected, but three years later still have no idea how to deal with, are the mentally ill or chemically altered patrons.  I am not alone. 

When I get together socially with librarians both new and seasoned, often the talk of customer service turns into laments about the homeless, the mentally ill, drug addicts, and the unwashed.  No one it seems has any idea how to properly help and/or deal with these people.  Why is that?

A March, 2009 article in Public Libraries gives a list of 10 tips for dealing with the mentally ill, all of which suggest training.  In library school—only one class, a class on communication, even touched on the issue of mentally ill people at the library.   Of the four libraries I have worked in, not one gave me training, despite  mentally ill, homeless, and drug addicted patrons causing problems—some small, some very significant.  In fact, at one, most of the staff simply will not deal with the issue.  Rules in place against sleeping or pornography are ignored and management explicitly stated that maybe it is best to just let them sleep unless another patron complains.  

The San Francisco Public Library is trying something new to deal with the problem.  They have hired a full-time social worker.   While I think that is fantastic, the reality is that very few libraries have the money to hire adequate library staff these days, let alone getting into the business of health care.  So what is there for the rest of us? 

Other than a handful of articles, I have found no indication of a training program in place to help library staff identify and deal with the mentally ill or drug addicted.  I am sure there are many programs out there, I simply cannot find them.  I found programs for educators, for families, for children, for teens, and for law enforcement, but nothing for libraries and library professionals. 

The literature I did find is limited, suggests speaking to experts, and provides a list of ‘tips’.  Much of what I do know, I have learned informally on the job or from other librarians.  (For example, never yell, speak harshly, or seem upset–simply speak in a calm voice, speak clearly and in short sentences, show respect,  enforce the rules).

Librarians love training.  We love meetings.  How many offers of training on Twitter or Facebook have you seen in the past year?  Now think about how many you have received for dealing with drug addicts or the mentally ill?  How many hours have you spent in endless meetings discussing the best way to support e-books?  Now consider how many hours have been spent on dealing with difficult patrons in a safe and effective manner (and get management does not cut it given there lack of availability at night and on weekends).

So I ask you dear readers—please send me your training programs, your tips, your tricks, and your coping strategies for dealing with the mentally ill or drug addicted.  It is my goal to create an online professional directory of services, training, tips, and discussion to assist library professionals in dealing with the most needy and most challenging of patrons.

February 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm 9 comments

Name Change from Media Specialist to School Librarian- moving forward?

by April Bunn, Media Specialist, Teacher-Librarian, School Librarian

NAME CHANGE ALERT!

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL)  decided to change our job title. We’re going to be called School Librarians… again.

The board of directors voted for the change at  January’s  midwinter meeting in Boston. The response has been heated.

Response to the news:

What’s in a Name?, LearnCentralWebinar

Nancy White’s Calling All School Librarians!

Cathy Nelson’s Techno Tuesday

School Library Journal

Many feel this name change represents a loss in a long-standing battle with our image . University of Washington I School professor and school library advocate  Mike Eisenberg responds, “To me, it’s retro – conjuring black and white images of stereotypical 1950s librarians.”

My first response is one of fear.  Taking the words ” media specialist” out of my title will just give the powers that be (Board of Ed. or the state) more juice to eliminate my job. Public and academic libraries have held on to the traditional title without change through the years, so what’s the difference? In schools, we’re in a crises of unknown identity- Administration still doesn’t know exactly what we do.

“Branding” the Name and the Space

In New Jersey we are School Library Media Specialists- at least that’s what’s listed on our teaching certificates- but not necessarily the name listed in our outdated job descriptions and contracts. In other places the most common title is Teacher-Librarian. In a power-house packed webinar, called What’s in a Name?Mike Eisenberg encouraged us to find a consistent “brand” in what we do. Our librarians, our spaces, and our local and national organizations all have different names (i.e., Media Center, School Library, Information Center).  In the Garden State, we were ahead of ourselves when the Educational Media Association became the New Jersey Association of School Librarians in 2006, to match the national organization of AASL, and help people understand who we are. Maybe we just didn’t see that this change was always in our future?

Do we need the word “Teacher”?

As an elementary teacher, I would prefer to have “teacher” (Teacher-Librarian) in the title, but either way, it’s a “kinder and gentler” name for what I do- Media Specialist was always a foreign concept to young children.  It also coordinates much better with my colleagues in public and academic libraries.

What do we do?

The problem continues to be that the public doesn’t understand all that we do in a 21st Century learning environment. As a single-operator school librarian,  I wear every hat, from traditional storytelling and book searches to Web 2.0 infused lessons,  and I work every day to keep my program afloat and dynamic.

In an effort to include advocacy in this post, I looked for a good job description for our position. I like this one, by Sara Kelly Johns, President of AASL (and currently running for ALA President), describing our essential (and varied) role in the school-

Media Specialists:

  • work with educators to design and teach curriculum
  • create curriculum and promote an engaging learning experience tailored to the individual needs of students
  • evaluate and “produce” information through the active use of a broad range of tools, resources, and information technologies
  • provide access to materials in all formats, including up-to-date, high-quality, varied literature to develop and strengthen the love of reading
  • provide students, educators, and staff with instructional materials that reflect current information needs.

Budget Cuts  & Lost Jobs

If the state and school boards really understood what we do, they wouldn’t approve massive job eliminations during budget cuts, like the local situation in Woodbridge, where they eliminated all the elementary school librarians, serving 16 schools,  in a massive budget cut this year (by the way, in that article, they called them “librarians”).

If there is a person in the position of school librarian who is indispensible, making an impact (and showing it!) on student achievement, creating a culture of collaboration, and being a leader in the integration of 21st century skills – whether that person is called a school librarian, library media specialist, or teacher-librarian – they will survive this and any future budget crisis.

- Nancy White, on CASL’s blog

Advocacy tools:

I love my job, no matter what the name or the place is called. I pledge to continue to work as hard as I can to keep my board and community aware of what I am doing as Media Specialist, Librarian, or Teacher-Librarian in our Media Center, School Library, or Information Center.

School Libraries Work!-outstanding resource,  including research statistics on the impact of school libraries on student achievement.

NJASL Advocacy Wiki- great resource, including procedures and contacts divided into areas of concern

I hope we can save ourselves before it’s too late, and stop this nonsense of cutting positions that are essential in the 21st Century.

February 20, 2010 at 8:09 am

Ten TED Things to Think About

Posted by Tyler Rousseau

Sorry, I love a good alliteration.

I came across this article on my traditional morning tech-news search and thought it was a pretty decent article.  Originally posted at CNN, Richard Galant presents 10 ideas from TED2010 that he feels are worth special note.

Overall, I think he is right on the money with most of these choices, which have a somewhat humanistic tone to them.

-Money can’t buy happiness but it can relieve stress.

-You are what you eat.

-Many children die needless because we choose not to fund programs and distribute the monies poorly.

-People will spend what it takes to believe in a placebo.

-A ukulele is good for any occasion… especially when stopping a war.

I think what I liked about the choices are that they can easily promote discussion and even a little outcry.  Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think.

February 12, 2010 at 11:10 am 3 comments

Using Inkscape to make a text based portrait

Hi, all. I got an email recently from an attendee of my GIMP and Inkscape workshop (which I’ve had the pleasure to give on behalf of a few of New Jersey’s finest Library Consortiums). This attendee  asked how I had performed a particular effect in Inkscape during the workshop in which I use a bit of text as a brush in order to render a portrait. An example follows:

text based portrait

Text based portrait

Instead of writing out the answer in text (I myself am a visio-audio/experiential learner, and tend towards those kinds of solutions), I decided to use the question as a starting point for an entry in a daily project I’ve been working on at http://365sketches.wordpress.com, in which I’m trying to make a quick sketch a day in 2010 using free software to demonstrate the power of those tools.

You may want to check it out from time to time (or subscribe to the feed, if you’re into that kind of thing) to get ideas for how you can use free software like Inkscape to create interesting designs for your library’s fliers, posters, and other advertising materials and platforms.

If you’ve seen me talk on the topic of Best Practices in Design, you also know that I feel strongly that design, and tools like Inkscape, can change your life, your attitude, and your view of the world.

At any rate, I made the following screencast to demonstrate how I make images like the one above. Enjoy, and if you have questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]Author: John LeMasney

February 4, 2010 at 10:15 am 4 comments

Book Fairs and Bookmobiles inspire the reading spirit

by April Bunn

The tables are cleared, the mini-cash registers are closed and balanced, and the wheelable bookcases are packed and closed. The library looks  a bit empty after our PTO’s Scholastic Book Fair closed last week.

Book Fair picture

Don’t get me wrong, I am always relieved to get my circulation desk (also my personal desk) back and unpack when they leave. It is a challenge to move out of the place and teach my lessons on a cart, but overall Scholastic makes it pretty easy to “wow” the kids. They market with a theme, which this year was Destination Book Fair- reading around the world.

You should see it- the students arrive with books circled in the  flyer, chomping at the bit to get in the library and spend every cent of the money they’ve brought in envelopes and Ziploc baggies. It’s priceless to see the excitement in their eyes when they walk into the wonderland that the PTO members create with these book fairs twice a year.

Library transformed

Despite the economic conditions, the sales were good.  Of course, we quickly sold out of Jeff Kinney’s latest hit, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Also, it was great to have a parent purchase and donate the picture book, Dewey: There’s a cat in the Library! which I had on my wish list.

I didn’t have the experience of my library transforming into a Book Fair growing up- the bookmobile came to our school and impressed us. Can you remember visiting the bookmobile? Do you remember the buzz in the school when it arrived?

At my school, in suburban central New Jersey, we’d line up, a few students at a time, old-style bookmobileand head into the bookmobile to spend our money on a brand new book (I don’t remember buying the erasers,  silly pens and pointers, posters, and all the tchotchkes they widely sell now).

Bookmobiles are back in, apparantly, because in 2010, ALA is celebrating bookmobiles and their 100 years of service on National Bookmobile Day, Wednesday, April 14th,  during National Library Week.

Bookmobiles are more commonly used by libraries now, to reach out into the community, but the idea is the same. Drive up, open the doors, and let the excited patrons, young and old, enter the magical kingdom of books.

As librarians, we are lucky to have daily experiences with the joy of connecting people to new books.  I feel extra lucky working with children, because they give us such uninhibited delight when they find the “perfect” book.  Walking into a special place focused on books, whether it be a library, book store, book fair or bookmobile can be all we need to inspire our reading spirit.

Happy Holidays to all of you for keeping that spirit alive.

by April Bunn

December 4, 2009 at 6:19 pm 7 comments

Holiday Work…

Happy Thanksgiving

I am working tonight–until 9:00pm.

When I mentioned the time we are closing to many friends, almost all were negative about us staying open so late.  Fellow librarians were appalled.  I will admit, it could be easy to look at this as a hardship.  However, I don’t.  I am happy I am working tonight.

The reality is this–there are many people in the library tonight.  I know it will get slow as the night progresses, but even then, we will have people here. So far it has been a mix of regulars, visitors wanting to check e-mail, lots of phone calls for directions, phone numbers, and one caller asking for help finding a no-cook pie recipe (www.cooks.com has plenty of choices).  .

People have been making copies of documents for safekeeping while they travel.  Likewise, plenty of folks are grabbing that last-minute book for their trips.  As always, the DVDs are flying off the shelves.   My favorite person so far: the woman who is just trying to minimize the time she must spend with her in-laws.  I feel her pain–we swapped stories and both laughed.  I think I made a difference in her life, if only for a few minutes.

No one has been cranky (even when the copier was evil as it often is…).  No one has been mean.  In fact, the regulars are not even complaining about the ‘young kids who make noise’ as they normally do.  Almost every person says have a nice holiday or something similar.

Right now, most people seem to be busy and rushed–they have places to go.  As it gets later, I suspect it will be more people without places to go.  This, more than any other reason, is why I am happy we are open and I am working tonight.   I have the chance to make someone smile, laugh, or provide them with information they need.

I am thankful that I can be here if they need me.  I am thankful that in these economically turbulent times, I have a job.  So yes, I would much prefer to be home gearing up for tomorrow and getting ready to watch ‘Glee’, but I can not help but feel very happy tonight.  Happy to help.  Happy to serve.  Happy to listen.

Lately I have questioned the wisdom of my decision to become a librarian.  Tonight, I was given a very pleasant reminder that despite the difficulties, it was the right choice.  I know many of you will work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week.  It is hard to do, especially when the rest of the family is home doing something more interesting.  To each of you–and all the people who work the holidays, thank-you very much.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cynthia Lambert

November 25, 2009 at 6:42 pm 11 comments

Put Your Words in a Book!

YOUR WORDS IN A BOOK!

by Peter Bromberg (via: http://themwordblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/help-us-write-book-this-month-only.html)

This is National November Write Your Own Book Month and the New Jersey State Library is taking the challenge to write a book with 50,000 words in one month. They need your help to both write and to spread the word to EVERYONE you know – friends, family, customers, co-workers, hairdressers, teachers, students. Everyone has the potential to write something that might positively impact the life of a stranger with this book!

The plan:

The NJ State Library will compile a book with the collective wisdom of people sharing advice with another human being. Words of wisdom for a child, friend, politician, parent, teenager, adult, parent … The catch is, you have to text your advice and it can only be 140 characters or less. The text messages will be collected until there are 50,000 words of wisdom. The name of the book will be, H2H (Human to Human) wisdom in 140 characters- unless someone texts us a better title! NJSL will even publish it online so you can share it with your friends and families.

Three ways to submit your H2H words of wisdom:

  1. Text “H2H” to 51684, hit “space” and type your advice. Standard message charges apply. You’ll receive a message to let you know your submission has been accepted. NJSL will keep you updated about the book but we won’t send more than 1 message per week and you can stop the messages anytime you want by replying “Stop”.
  2. Tweet to: @h2hbook
  3. Write online: Follow this link

Your initials or first name will be attributed to your quote if you include them.  All entries must be submitted no later than November 30.

Guidelines:

  • No profanity
  • No personal references

While we would love to use all quotes that are submitted, we will be editing the final product and reserve the right to reject submissions.

Questions?

Send to Nancy Dowd: ndowd[at]njstatelib.org.

————————————————————————–

BTW, here’s my submission: “People are people. Everyone. Everywhere. Always. Remember this idea. Share it, spread it, grow it. In this way the world will be saved.”

Library Garden Post by Peter Bromberg

November 25, 2009 at 3:15 am 1 comment

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