The Highs and Lows of Teen Tech Week

04/03/2014 § 9 Comments

If you work in teen services you are probably already elbow deep in programming, but for the rest here is a reminder: it is almost Teen Tech Week! Next week, March 9-15, libraries across the country will be celebrating YALSA’s “DIY @ your library” theme by providing programs on coding, knitting, music recording and everything in between. Unfortunately I do not (yet) work in a teen services department, but that does not mean I (or you) cannot join in on the celebration.


Miniature human face models made through 3D printer via S zillayali, Wikimedia Commons CC

As a young LIS professional it is easy to get absorbed in the biggest and shiniest trends: 3D printing! Tablets! Computer programming! It is even easier as a teen librarian-in-training to get overwhelmed by feeling the need to be an expert in all-the-things to land a job. Another common factor may be a limited budget and time; making programs like TTW seem out of reach.

In a previous post I shared resources on how technology can be used effectively in the classroom, but here I want to discuss how you do not need high-tech gear and excess funds to explore emerging technology trends.

First we need to step back and ask, “What is technology?”

When defining technology I initially think of computers, smart phones and gaming consoles — devices popular in the here and now. But what about cars, televisions, typewriters, pens… are these not classified as technology as well? By definition technology is “the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.” Breaking down TTW would mean YALSA is then taking a week to promote teens’ creativity and problem solving skills in a public service environment — and isn’t that what libraries should be about anyway?

From brainstorming with fellow colleagues in the real and virtual world, here are possible low and high-tech activities for TTW — or for your own personal creative downtime:

  1. DIY Crafts: Do not let the term “technology” scare you into thinking you need to dump out your wallet for a brand new 3D printer. Host a crochet-your-own phone cozy party or make jewelry from miscellaneous computer parts.
  2. Media literacy: Underneath all this talk about media and technology lies a very real issue needing to be discussed, most teens do not understand how mass media works or how to use technology wisely. TTW is a great time to facilitate a conversation by creating interactive media literacy lessons like analyzing photographs, creating media or watching a documentary.
  3. Gaming: If you already have a gaming system and videogames, plug it in and you are good to go. Otherwise, ask teens to bring in their favorite games to swap and play. For a more guided program see how you can use Minecraft as an educational tool.
  4. Learn to code: All you need is a computer, internet access and a program like Codecadmey, Code Year or Squeakland depending on the audience’s age and skill level.
  5. Visit a makerspace: Don’t have the tools to solder a portable USB charger kit? I bet your local makerspace does! These community centers invite people in to use their tools to the best of their imagination. Now plan a field trip to the nearest makerspace and create!

These are only a few options of how you can get involved in Teen Tech Week, but you can find more resources at TTW’s website in the forum discussions, event toolkits and free webinars.


How is your library celebrating Teen Tech Week? What low-tech/low-cost programs have you facilitated for patrons of any age?

Producing and Performing Skype Interviews

27/02/2014 § 5 Comments

Skype interviews are my favorite! Lo and behold my supplement to Brianna Marshall’s exceptional Phone Interview Strategies. The genesis of this post is when I presented a paper via Skype at the Graduate History Forum at UNC Charlotte in April 2013. It was a great experience! I’ve been Skyping ever since.

Talking on the phone can disorient me because I like to see people’s nonverbal cues and adjust my own communication accordingly. On the other hand, in-person interviews are strenuous situations in which your every move and word will be scrutinized and your ability to navigate unfamiliar physical and social spaces will be tested. But as fewer employers can afford to fly candidates around, Skype is displacing F2F interviews at all stages of candidacy. (So no pressure!)

With Skyping, you need not worry about traffic, handshakes, hard chairs, or what to order for lunch. Skype interviews place you in control of your environment and performance to a significant degree—and this is pressure of the productive sort.

My advice for acing your Skype interviews? Approach the entire process as if you were producing and performing a pivotal scene from a play or film.


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Hack Your Scholarship Essay

21/02/2014 § 1 Comment

If there’s one thing library students are familiar with, it’s writing. Research papers, discussion posts, slide presentations, blogs—you name it, and we’ve written it. But wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for writing papers? Fortunately for you, you can!

Scholarships are a great way to secure funding for tuition, conference travel, textbooks, software, and other school-related needs, but in order to earn these scholarships, you first have to conquer the scholarship essay. You will be hard-pressed to find a scholarship application that does not require an essay or personal statement of some sort, so it’s important to be prepared. And as a person who has written approximately 2.2 million of these essays in library school alone (and earned 2 scholarships in the process), I’m here to help you crack the code.

My system isn’t guaranteed (note the aforementioned ratio of scholarships applied for and scholarships earned), but it is definitely confidence-boosting. If nothing else, you’ll send in your application with the knowledge that you did your best and that you have the same chance of winning as everybody else, and that can be a victory all its own. Here are my tips:

  1. Follow the instructions. Take care to stay within the limits of word count and essay length, format the paper in the requested manner (APA, MLA, etc.), and submit the application on or before the due date. This tip seems simple, but a hastily put together paper with good ideas may not go over as well as a less interesting paper that follows all the rules. Also, if you mention in your paper that you’re organized and pay attention to details, and then you fail to follow any of the directions, what does that really say about you? Be conscious of the message you’re sending out. It’s not just what you say—it’s also how you say it.
  2. Write about something that interests you. Most of the essay topics are fairly open-ended, so there’s an opportunity to inject some of your own flavor. My favorite topic to research and write about is the digital divide, so I usually find a way to weave a discussion of accessibility and computer education into whatever prompt I’m given. I’m not advocating that you dump in a bunch of unrelated information about your passion for AACR2 and clowns—I’m simply saying that if you have an opportunity to discuss your relevant interests, you should go for it. Your passion will influence your tone, and the scholarship committee will be able to sense the honesty and sincerity of your words.
  3. Read essays from those who have won in the past. Often, organizations post an excerpt of the winning essay in a press release, and in some cases, the essay is published in its entirety in an academic journal or professional newsletter. Read it, and figure out what made it a winner. Is the writer’s tone enthusiastic and persuasive or scholarly and informative? How many sources did he or she use? Is the essay significantly below the word count, or does it meet it exactly? Something about this essay was right—it’s your job to figure out what, and to implement those same strategies in your own paper.
  4. Google the names of previous winners. This is mainly a confidence booster because it helps you realize that the people who have won in the past aren’t really that different from you. And then you’ll start to believe that you have what it takes to win, too. A lot of library students have an online presence via LinkedIn, Twitter, or personal blogs, so it’s relatively easy to take a peek at their résumés. I wouldn’t contact them one-on-one, especially if they’re complete strangers, but my logic is that people post résumés online so that others can read them, so what’s the harm in indulging?
  5. Get feedback. Whether it’s yelling into the next room to ask your sister if something makes sense or emailing a copy of the finished paper to your advisor, a second set of eyes and ears never hurt when writing an essay. Something that sounds clear to you may prove to be confusing to others, and since you won’t be there in person to explain your essay to the scholarship committee as they read it, it’s important to be sure that your essay makes sense to someone other than yourself.

Writing a scholarship essay can be scary—you’re putting yourself out there and saying, “Pick me, pick me!” But with practice (and a healthy dose of confidence), this process becomes easier and easier. And who knows, you may find yourself a few dollars richer in the process.

What do you think, fellow hackers? Do you have any tried and true rituals for acing the scholarship essay?


Full Time Work and an MLS: Will it Work for You?

20/02/2014 § 8 Comments

Like any graduate program, library school is a big time commitment.  Whether your program is online or in person, full time or part time, there’s just no way to get the education you need to be a librarian without putting in a significant chunk of your life.  But if time isn’t something you’ve got in spades, is it reasonable to think you can work full time and still do your degree?

My answer: very often yes, but it depends. Many of my classmates work, many are parents.  I have to travel once or twice a month for my full time job. Everybody has a life, and most MLS programs get that. That doesn’t mean that every MLS program is going to work with every full-time job though. So how do you go about answering this question for your own life? « Read the rest of this entry »

Language of Compassion: Multilingualism in the Library

17/02/2014 § 6 Comments

HeartbyhandPhoto credit: Wikimedia Commons

The month of February is most recognized as the time we celebrate our love. It’s a time when we speak the “language” of love as a means to show our devotion to that special someone. But what happens when the language we speak to express ourselves is not the same language expressed by others? How do we communicate to one another simple tasks that feel impossible when language becomes a barrier? What can we do as library professionals, to make expressing ourselves, not necessarily in the language of love, but of compassion for those whom English is their second language?

Quite simply, a lot. Let me share with you, my story…

English is my second language. When I was six-years-old my parents divorced and my mother decided to move our family – myself and my two younger sisters – to Florida from Puerto Rico. She believed that learning English would ensure our success as adults and decided that our new home would provide us with more linguistic opportunities than  in our home town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. I had begun my elementary schooling there, but would continue the remainder of my schooling in Central Florida. When I was a first grade student, I had a hard time comprehending English. I pronounced words such as “chair” and “chicken” with a “sh” sound, rather than a “ch” sound. And I could not understand why it matter that the way I spoke was incorrect to others. I struggled a lot and did poorly in my school work. I would eventually be sent to a school for foreign language speakers, and after three days of horrific experiences (I didn’t know where my class was or how to get lunch, I was yelled at by a peer and a teacher when I couldn’t understand instruction, and I was physically pulled and tugged at when I failed to understand directions).

After many nights of crying and pleading with my mom, I was “dis-enrolled” from that school and the next best option was to return to my elementary school and take ESOL classes. It proved to be very successful and my teacher was extremely patient with me and my peers. By the latter half of elementary school, I struggled less and my grades significantly improved. It was a tough part of my early childhood, but I learned first-hand what it was like to speak a language not commonly expressed by others while trying to integrate into a new environment. I also learned what it was like to be bullied, talked down to, thought less of, and isolated from others.

So can you imagine, for a moment, when someone who does not speak or understand spoken English very well, be it due to primarily speaking a foreign language or an impairment such as being deaf, what they must feel when they need to communicate with you?

Now can you imagine what it must be like if you could understand them, their feelings, as well as, their language?

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