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Posts Tagged ‘reader’s advisory’

Here is an analysis of John Green’s novel Looking for Alaska, which won the Printz award for excellence in young adult literature.

SPOILER ALERT!

John Green’s novel Looking for Alaska tells the story of Miles Halter, a shy teenager who transfers to Culver Creek Boarding School for his junior year of high school, in search of the “Great Perhaps” (2007, 5).  His roommate, Chip “the Colonel” Martin, takes Miles under his wing, nicknames him Pudge, and introduces him to smoking, drinking, pranks, and Alaska Young.  Alaska is beautiful, witty, moody, and self-destructive, and Pudge is fascinated with her.  When some of the weekday warriors drag Pudge out of his bed, mummify him in duct tape and throw him in the lake (25), the Colonel vows to have revenge (29).  The weekday warriors dunked Pudge and peed in the Colonel’s shoes (29) because they believe that the Colonel ratted out Paul and Marya (37), two students who were expelled the previous year for drinking, smoking pot and having sex (23).  Alaska later admits to telling on Paul and Marya to avoid being expelled for sneaking off campus in the middle of the night and being in possession of alcohol (73).  Alaska, Pudge and the Colonel exact their revenge on the weekday warriors by putting blue hair dye in the weekday warriors’ shampoo and hair gel bottles and sending out fake progress reports to the weekday warriors’ parents, indicating that they were failing (109).  One night, after getting drunk with the Colonel and briefly making out with Pudge, Alaska breaks down crying (129-132), drives off campus and dies in a car wreck (139).  Alaska’s friends are riddled with guilt and grief and obsessed with finding out where she was driving with white flowers in her car in the middle of the night (163).  At last, they determine that Alaska was crying because she had forgotten the anniversary of her mother’s death, and Alaska was driving to put flowers on her mother’s grave (211).  Alaska’s friends must come to terms with their guilt and grief and accept that they will never know if the wreck was an accident or suicide.

 There are several themes in the novel Looking for Alaska.  One theme is that there is more to life and more to any person than can be experienced or known.  Pudge reads biographies and memorizes people’s last words to try to understand what kind of people they were.  He looks for meaning in the facts and the words that are recorded after a person dies.  Alaska fascinates Pudge because he does not “get” her, he cannot figure her out, but Alaska says, “‘You never get me.  That’s the whole point’” (54).  Alaska knows that people are complex beyond anyone’s ability to understand.  Pudge is devastated that he will never know Alaska’s last words (142), and that he would never know Alaska as he wanted to (212).  He feels like someone who has lost his glasses and is told that there are no more glasses in the world, and he will “just have to do without” (144).  Seeing represents knowing, and Pudge will never know the world through the filter of Alaska ever again.  Ultimately, Pudge realizes that “we are greater than the sum of our parts,” and because energy can never be created nor destroyed, “that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail” (220-221).  Another theme is that the labyrinth of suffering need not imprison us forever.  Alaska is incapacitated by her human failures and collapses “into the enigma of herself” (219).  But Pudge recognizes that “she did not need to fold into herself and self-destruct” (220).  Alaska never forgives herself for her mother’s death, and her guilt holds her captive.  By forgiving himself for his part in Alaska’s death, Pudge finds hope, which lifts him out of the labyrinth of guilt and grief, so that he can catch a distant glimpse of the Great Perhaps.

The first person narration, authentic teen language and countdown to the climactic event of Alaska’s death lend compelling realism and suspense to the novel’s narrative style.  The story is told through first-person narration from Pudge’s perspective.  Readers are drawn in by Pudge’s introspective, often humorous outlook and the intensity of his feelings.  The language laced with expletives used by Alaska and the Colonel provides authenticity to the impression of teen life.  The literary and historical references challenge readers, and the unfamiliarity of these references give readers the sense of not understanding everything, just as Pudge does not understand everything about Culver Creek and Alaska.  The countdown to Alaska’s death provides suspense and provokes curiosity, as the reader wonders where the story is heading.  Green notes that people view the most important moment in their lives as a “dividing line between what we were and what we are now” (238).  Alaska’s death serves as a dividing line in the lives of Pudge and his friends, marking a moment in which their lives were irrevocably changed.  Green’s style gives immediacy and gravity to the story.

The Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama offers a setting removed from the influences of parents, where Pudge and his friends can be responsible for their own choices and actions.  The woods, the smoke hole and the barn offer hideouts from Mr. Starnes where the friends can smoke, drink and plan pranks (101-103).  The freedom and lack of supervision that Pudge and his friends enjoy seems at times unrealistic.  It seems unlikely that underage boys and girls would be allowed to spend so much time together alone and unsupervised (126, 128, 131).  The trailer park (91) where the Colonel grew up helps to explain his hatred of the weekday warriors (13), the rich, spoiled students who attend Culver Creek.  The setting of the Deep South does not seem particularly critical to the story.  The story could have been set almost anywhere in rural America where lakes and woods can be found.

The mode of Looking for Alaska includes elements of comedy, romance and tragedy, but the story cannot be completely encapsulated by any one of these terms.  The powerful realism and poignancy of the novel stems from its mingling of comedy, irony, romance and tragedy, just as these elements are found in real life.  More than anything, Green’s novel is a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story.  Alaska is unable to leave the tragedy of her mother’s death behind her, and so she is unable to come of age and move on with her life.  Instead she smokes, drinks, and drives too fast until she self-destructs.  The paper Pudge writes at the novel’s end (219-221) indicates that Pudge is able to come to terms with Alaska’s death.  His ability to rise above the tragedy and find hope demonstrates his coming-of-age.

The novel’s plot, theme, style, setting and mode work together to formulate a powerful piece of literature.  Readers are drawn in by Pudge’s emotions and reflections.  The way information is withheld, such as the nature of the Barn Night prank (99), entices the reader to keep turning the pages.  The countdown to the unknown, critical event of Alaska’s death builds suspense, and the literary references of the labyrinth (19) and Frost’s poem (10) foreshadow Pudge and the Colonel’s subsequent struggle to rise above the tragedy.  The setting provides the removal from parental influence, so that Alaska, Pudge and the Colonel are responsible for their own struggles, failures and achievements.  These literary elements combine to create a coming-of-age story that will appeal to anyone who has ever struggled to escape a labyrinth, whether that labyrinth is grief, guilt, adolescence or high school.  This ability to appeal to such a wide audience justifies the novel’s placement on the Printz Award list.

Work Cited: 

Green, John.  2007.  Looking for Alaska.  New York: Speak.

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Here is an analysis of Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

SPOILER ALERT!

The theme of Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak is explicitly expressed through imagery, plot and character development.  The theme of the novel is silence, struggling towards self-expression.  Melinda Sordino was raped in the summer before her freshman year of high school (1999, 135).  She is silenced by fear and shame, unable to tell anyone about what happened to her.  Throughout the story, Anderson uses imagery of being silenced, choked and gagged to describe Melinda’s character.  She bites and chews her lips until they bleed (5, 17).  She tries to speak, but the words will not come out (25).  Her “throat squeezes shut,” cutting off her explanations (28).  Pulling her lower lip in between her teeth, Melinda wishes she could swallow herself (39).  She imagines her lips are stitched together (46).  Her throat is perpetually sore, and when she wakes up in the morning, her jaws are clenched so tight it gives her a headache (50).  Melinda thinks her mouth looks like it “belongs to someone else,” someone she does not know (17).  She takes her mirror down from her bedroom wall and hides it in her closet (17).  Melinda does not recognize herself after being raped, and she is in denial of her identity now that it has been shaped by trauma.  In the bathroom after school, Melinda washes her face until she imagines “there is nothing left of it, no eyes, no nose, no mouth” (45).  She wants to wash away the trauma and her sense of being a victim, but she can’t.

Melinda’s classmates blame her for breaking up their party by calling the police, which resulted in at least one student being arrested and others getting in trouble (28).  Although her friends do not know what happened to Melinda at the party, their blame and anger makes her feel that she was wrong to call for help.  Melinda’s parents did not know she attended the party; she was supposed to be spending the night at her friend Rachel’s house (133).  Melinda struggles with the sense that her rape is partly her own fault because she went to the party.  Anderson emphasizes Melinda’s silence in her interchanges with teachers, students and her parents by writing one-sided conversations, where Melinda’s parts are preceded with “Me:” and followed by nothing but a blank space on the page (9, 21, 61, 88).  Melinda tells herself, “Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say” (9).  Her friends have their own conceptions of what happened at the party.  They already dislike her for calling the cops, and Melinda believes that her friends do not want to hear her explanations.  Besides, talking about what happened requires reliving the trauma, confronting the trauma and admitting it really happened to her.

At the beginning of the book, Melinda and her parents primarily communicate through notes on the kitchen counter (14).  Melinda explains, “I write when I need school supplies or a ride to the mall.  They write what time they’ll be home from work and if I should thaw anything.  What else is there to say?” (14).  The theme of obstructed communication is also expressed through the character of Melinda’s Spanish teacher, who tries to speak only Spanish to her students and is never understood (13-14).  These elements contribute to the theme of being silenced, unable to communicate complex thoughts and feelings.

Melinda wants to sleep most of the time, but she has trouble sleeping at home.  She lingers for hours in a “halfway place, a rest stop on the road to sleep” where she does not have to close her eyes but can “just stay safe under the covers and breathe” (16).  Many individuals who suffer from depression and post traumatic stress disorder have sleeping disorders, such as insomnia or hypersomnia.  Sleep blots out the pain of living as a social outcast and the awareness of what happened to her, but nightmares can force her to relive the terror.

Melinda feels that her identity as a victim is glaringly apparent.  She describes herself as “a wounded zebra” and her social studies teacher, Mr. Neck, as a predator, “hired to coach a blood sport” (5).  When her parents find out about her failing grades, Melinda describes the scene as dinner theater, “with Dad doing his Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation and Mom playing Glenn Close in one of her psycho roles” (35).  Meanwhile, Melinda plays the role of “the Victim” (35).  Melinda does not want to be defined as a victim, but she feels trapped in this role by Mr. Neck, her parents and IT.

Anderson draws attention to the duality of surface appearances and the reality underneath.  Melinda wonders how the cheerleaders can sleep with the football team and then be reborn as “virginal goddesses” the next day (29).  Even the Sordino’s couch has unspoken secrets.  Melinda turns the messy side of the cushions up while she eats dinner on the couch, then flips them over “to show their pretty white cheeks” before her parents come home (15).  Melinda’s school is also having an identity crisis as their mascot is changed from Trojans to Devils to Tigers to Hornets.  These details reflect Melinda’s facade of silent placidity while something dark and painful boils beneath the surface.

Art class helps Melinda begin to confront her trauma and begin to heal.  Melinda is excited by her art assignment to make her subject “say something, express an emotion, speak to every person who looks at it” (12).  Melinda is desperate to express herself, and art provides an outlet for her pain.  She starts painting watercolors of trees that have been struck by lightning, so they appear nearly, but not completely dead (30-31).  These paintings show Melinda’s first efforts to express her feelings about her trauma and the damage that her spirit has suffered.  She has difficulty drawing a healthy, normal tree (32), probably because she is unable to imagine feeling normal ever again.  By the end of Anderson’s novel, Melinda is able to draw a beautiful, breathing tree in which “one of the lower branches is sick” (196).  She hopes that the branch drops soon, so the sickness does not kill the tree (196).  Her tree is a metaphor for her own survival as she accepts and lets go of her trauma and moves on with her life.  By finally speaking her secret, she transforms herself from a victim into a survivor.

Work Cited: 

Anderson, Laurie Halse.  1999.  Speak.  New York: Puffin Books.

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Here is my analysis of Francesca Lia Block’s novel Weetzie Bat.  This is an excerpt of an assignment I completed for my Books & Materials for Young Adults class. 

Caveat Lector: SPOILER ALERT!

Weetzie Bat Analysis

            Francesca Lia Block styled her novel Weetzie Bat in the form of an urban fairy tale, but the challenges her teen protagonists face are very real.  Weetzie’s traditional family is broken, but she takes action to create a nontraditional family that can withstand the shocks and jolts of life.  In spite of the playful language, funny names and magical setting, Block explores a number of thorny issues, including divorce, substance abuse and death.  Nonetheless, Weetzie and her friends face these challenges with the stoic bravery of fairy tale heroes and fight for their happy ending.

            Block’s novel tells the story of Weetzie Bat, her friend Dirk, his significant other Duck, and Weetzie’s significant other My Secret Agent Lover Man.  The novel begins with friends Weetzie and Dirk, who want happy, lasting relationships but seem to be dating all the wrong boys.  Dirk’s grandmother Fifi gives Weetzie a golden lamp that happens to contain a genie (1998, 17-18).  Weetzie wishes for a Duck for Dirk, My Secret Agent Lover Man for herself, and a house in which they can live happily ever after (19).  One by one, Weetzie’s wishes begin to come true.  Dirk falls in love with a man named Duck (22), Weetzie falls in love with a man named My Secret Agent Lover Man (26), and Fifi dies and leaves her house to Dirk and Weetzie (20).  They all move in together, but everyone does not live happily ever, at least not immediately.  Weetzie wants a baby, but My Secret Agent Lover Man does not (33).  Weetzie, Dirk and Duck decide to have a baby together, but when My Secret Agent Lover Man finds out Weetzie is pregnant, he gets angry and leaves (38).  My Secret Agent Lover Man comes back after the baby is born, but Weetzie’s nontraditional family faces a series of other crises: a witch’s curse, a witch baby, Weetzie’s father’s death, and Duck’s disappearance.  By the end of the book, the witch’s curse is broken, the witch baby is integrated into the family, and Duck is found again.  Block implies that this family may not live happily ever after, but that they can choose to live happily, nonetheless.

            The plot and style of Block’s novel present the story in the form of a fairy tale.  The characters face a series of challenges and conflicts that become steadily more difficult to manage, some of which are magical and some of which are realistic.  Nilsen and Donelson categorize Weetzie Bat as a realistic spoof (2009, 24), while Block describes her books as “urban fairy tales” (2009, 82).  The magical elements of the story, the genie (1998, 18) and the witch’s curse (43), provide a lens of whimsy and fantasy through which to view real problems.  Finding and maintaining healthy relationships, finding a place to live, coping with the death of caregivers, and coping with the repercussions of infidelity all represent real problems that young adults face.  The adults are largely absent from the plot, leaving the young adults to struggle through these challenges with only their friends for support.  Weetzie’s father Charlie and Dirk’s grandmother Fifi make brief appearances, like fairy godparents, to leave the youth a house or drop a word of advice.  Block does not allow her characters to dwell on the deaths of Fifi and Charles for long, but keeps the action of the story moving at a steady clip.  This stylistic feature reflects the perspective of many young adults, who live in the now and maintain a forward-looking focus.  Ultimately, Weetzie and her friends must make their own choices and be the architects of their own happiness.

            Weetzie’s story unfolds in the integral setting of Los Angeles, with punk culture and Hollywood lending a surreal and magical element to the atmosphere.  Weetzie finds L.A. and Venice exciting, colorful and larger than life, which supports the fairy tale atmosphere of the story.  She hated high school because none of her peers seemed to appreciate the magic of L.A., except for Dirk (3).  To Weetzie, the fantasy land of L.A. seems like an ideal place to build her fantasy family.  But Charlie cannot embrace the fantasy of L.A., because it reminds him of Weetzie’s mother, Brandy-Lynn.  Charlie says that everything in L.A. is “illusion, imitation, a mirage.  Pagodas and palaces and skies, blondes and stars…  It’s like having a good dream.  You know you are going to wake up” (58).  Weetzie and Charlie’s different perceptions of L.A. highlight the idealism of teens and the jaded pragmatism of adults.  Weetzie and her friends learn that darkness sometimes lurks beneath the brightly-colored façade of life, but Weetzie accepts the darkness with the light and does not allow herself to feel cheated by appearances.

            As is typical in young adult literature, the primary protagonists are all young adults, although we are never given definite ages.  Weetzie and Dirk are in high school at the opening of the book (3), but Block does not clearly state how much time passes in the course of the story.  This detail also supports the dreamlike, fairy tale quality of the story.  Weetzie makes her own clothes, and Dirk and Weetzie both experiment with outfits, accessories and make-up (4-5) because they are still trying to invent themselves.  Duck is “a small, blonde surfer” with freckles on his nose, and Duck and Dirk fall in love at first sight (22).  Duck’s character is less developed at the beginning of the story: Block only explains that he goes to the beach everyday, and sometimes sleeps at the beach in order to catch the “most radical waves” at dawn (22).  However, Duck’s character is revealed more at the end of the story when Duck runs away.  Duck is frightened by his friend’s illness (63) and tries to hide from his fear among the distractions of the San Francisco club scene (67).  But Dirk finds Duck and helps him recommit to life despite his fear (67-69).  My Secret Agent Lover Man wears “a slouchy hat and a trench coat” (27), and makes movies like Weetzie’s father.  Weetzie’s love for her father is mirrored in her love for My Secret Agent Lover Man.  Weetzie’s parents are supporting characters who actually provide very little support or guidance in Weetzie’s life.  Charlie and Brandy-Lynn have been broken by their relationship, and they serve as foils for Weetzie and My Secret Agent Lover Man, and for Dirk and Duck.  Weetzie and her friends refuse to give up on their love for each other.

            Weetzie Bat is written in a romantic mode, with instances of irony and comedy thrown into the mix.  Protagonists Weetzie and Dirk must run the gauntlet of looking for love in L.A.’s punk scene, but divine intervention in the form of a genie rewards their efforts with true love.  Yet, while traditional romances ended with the hero finding true love, Block’s characters find love early in the story and must struggle to hold onto it.  Weetzie and her friends support each other through relationship problems, grief and fear of death, and their compassion and loyalty helps them hold their unique family together.  Elements of comedy include Weetzie’s reaction to the genie (18) and the rubber chicken incident (6).  Irony is embodied in the character of Weetzie’s mother, who is incapable of fulfilling her parental role and must instead be mothered by Weetzie (61).  Brandy-Lynn and Charlie love each other, but they seem unable or unwilling to make their relationship work.  But irony cannot suppress the power of love in this story.  According to the romantic model, Weetzie and her friends are rewarded with happiness and love at the end of the story. 

            Block’s tone evidences sincere affection for her characters and a desire for them to be happy and hopeful.  Block’s use of unusual names for her characters and their pets contributes to the sense of humor and whimsy in the story.  Her characters are unlike any characters in any other book, and their names reflect their unique identities.  Weetzie and her friends face serious difficulties in the course of the story, including divorce, death, infidelity, substance abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases.  Yet Block arms her characters with unquenchable optimism, and demonstrates that life can go on in spite of tragedy if the characters hold fast to their loved ones.

           The primary themes in Weetzie Bat include families and empowering the disenfranchised, with secondary themes of substance abuse and death.  Weetzie dresses in a feathered headdress and fringed clothing, explaining that she empathizes with the plight of the Native Americans (4).  As a young adult, Weetzie identifies with the Native Americans because of their disenfranchisement.  Teens do not possess the power and respect that adults command, although Weetzie seems mostly unfettered by her parents and left to her own devices.  At least, Block provides no evidence that Weetzie’s parents try to stop her from drinking and sleeping around.  Weetzie wishes that her parents’ romance had lasted (14), and feels powerless to reunite her broken family.  Therefore, Weetzie tries to take command of her happiness by making her magic wishes for true love, a home and a happily ever after (19).  While her parents wallow in passive regret, Weetzie rejects feelings of powerlessness and takes an active role in building a happy family for herself.

          Weetzie comes from a broken family with divorced parents, and Dirk’s parents are dead before the story begins.  Dirk lives with his grandmother, Fifi, who also dies early in the story (20).  Weetzie’s mother is emotionally absent, and while Weetzie’s father is emotionally invested in Weetzie, he lives on the opposite coast in New York City (15).  When Charlie dies of a drug overdose (59), Weetzie loses the parent who had the most positive influence on her life.  Weetzie and Dirk seek to create their own family, which, though nontraditional, appears to succeed where Weetzie’s traditional family has failed.  When Weetzie, Dirk and Duck decide to have a baby together, they plan to love the baby “more than any of their parents had ever loved them” (35).  Charlie admits that Weetzie was an accident (14).  Weetzie and her friends set out to prove that families that are made and nurtured with love and care can be successful, no matter what the components of that family may be.  The recurring movie making motif underlines the way in which Weetzie and her friends begin by role-playing in life, trying to find happiness by assuming roles in a reinvented family.

          The theme of the destructive nature of substance abuse is played out in the lives of Weetzie’s parents.  Brandy-Lynn criticizes Charlie for abusing substances while she downs cocktails and says she needs a Valium (15).  The irony of Brandy-Lynn’s behavior implies that some adults do not behave in a logical manner, and their interpretation of reality is skewed.  Block frequently uses the word “fake” to describe elements of Brandy-Lynn’s appearance.  When Charlie first saw her, she had bleach-blonde hair and was “sparkling with fake jewels” (14).  She wears mules with “fake fruit over the toes” (14) and paints her fingernails (15, 58).  These details reinforce the perception that some adults, especially substance abusers, are not trustworthy.

          The lives of Weetzie and her friends are touched repeatedly by death, yet the characters remain remarkably untouched by death at the same time.  Dirk’s grandmother Fifi dies (20), but she leaves Dirk and Weetzie her house, allowing them to start building a family.  Charlie dies of a drug overdose, but Weetzie’s friends support her in her grief (59).  Weetzie responds by trying to mother her mother, and Weetzie and her friends dedicate their latest movie to her father’s memory (61).  Duck is frightened by his friend’s illness, presumably AIDS, and runs away (63).  But Dirk finds him and refuses to let him hide from life or death.  Weetzie and her friends manage to find a happy ending because they respond to each visitation of death by embracing and celebrating life.

          Although some literary critics might identify homosexuality as a theme because of Dirk and Duck’s relationship, I believe that Block treats homosexuality as a nonissue.  Other than Dirk’s initial hesitance to tell Weetzie he is gay (7), the characters do not appear to worry about or struggle with the notion of homosexuality.  Weetzie says Dirk’s sexual orientation “doesn’t matter one bit” (7).  Block does not mention any instances in which Duck or Dirk are persecuted for their orientation.  Homosexual relationships are simply represented as another kind of love, no greater or lesser than heterosexual relationships.

          Weetzie Bat is told from a third-person point of view, but not an omniscient point of view.  The point of view primarily follows Weetzie’s actions, and the reader is granted access to her thoughts.  When Duck runs away, the point of view shifts briefly to follow Dirk’s thoughts and actions, although maintaining the distance of a third-person perspective.  When Dirk and Duck return home, the point of view returns to focus on Weetzie.  This perspective reinforces that Block is telling Weetzie’s story, but Weetzie’s family is not whole unless Dirk, Duck, My Secret Agent Lover Man, Cherokee, Witch Baby, and all the dogs are present and accounted for.  Weetzie Bat is about how Weetzie rejected her powerless role and fought for and won her happy family.

Bibliography

Block, Francesca Lia.  1998.  Weetzie Bat, in Dangerous Angels.  New York: HarperCollins.

Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Kenneth L. Donelson.  2009.  Literature for Today’s Young Adults. 8th ed.  Boston: Pearson Education.

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One of my goals for my internship at Hardesty Library is to develop a project that demonstrates many of the principles and skills I’ve learned through my LIS classes and my internship.  I want a showcase piece that I can include as the keystone of my portfolio.

Mr. Escobar asked me to develop plans for three possible projects: a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C.  The object lesson of this exercise is to understand that your first plan doesn’t always work out the way you expected: sometimes you get partway through a project or study and realize it’s not actually feasible.  Sometimes you can’t get administrative support or funding for your Plan A.  This is why you should always have a backup plan or two up your sleeve.

I asked Buddy, the head of the Hardesty Children’s Department, what the children’s department needed—what would he like to investigate if he had time, or what projects he had on the backburner.  He said the children’s department really needs more pathfinders for books on holidays and frequently-asked-for subjects like pirates, princesses and hamsters.  (Apparently the book The World According to Humphrey has made hamsters all the rage!)  I thought developing pathfinders sounded like fun, so I started brainstorming.

Here are the project plans I developed:

Plan A: Children’s Pathfinders

Goal:  Assist children and parents to locate books of interest on popular and frequently requested subjects, including educational, informational and recreational resources.

Objectives:

  1. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking popular genres of library materials, including scary stories, mysteries, adventure stories, animal stories, funny stories, fantasy stories, historical fiction and sports stories.
  2. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking books similar to popular series, such as the Junie B. Jones and American Girls series.
  3. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking award-winning children’s books beyond the well-known Newberry and Sequoyah award-winners.
  4. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking popular subjects, including pirates, princesses, hamsters, holidays, and tree and animal track identification resources.
  5. Provide ready-made lists of library resources for parents and children seeking specific formats of library materials, such as manga and books with movie tie-ins.
  6. Make pathfinder information available in both print and online format to expand access to librarians and customers.

Activities:

  1. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for the 14 categories listed on the children’s website under Books and Reading/ Find a Good Book/ If You Like… (http://kids.tulsalibrary.org/books/like.htm).
  2. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for award-winning children’s books, including those awarded the Zarrow Award for Young Readers’ Literature and the Pura Belpré Award.
  3. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for subjects frequently assigned for school research, including tree identification and animal tracks identification resources.
  4. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for popular subjects and formats frequently requested by children, including pirates, princesses, hamsters, juvenile manga, and books with movie tie-ins
  5. Create paper pathfinder bookmarks for holiday books and media, including Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Ramadan.
  6. Include URLs to quality websites for additional resources where applicable.
  7. Create template for website layout of these pathfinders, with links to printable pathfinders.
  8. Distribute sample pathfinders and collect customer feedback via brief interviews.

Budget:

Design of Pathfinders
            2 Staff Hours @ $15/hour X 29 Pathfinders = $870
Paper
            3 Reams @ $4 per ream = $12
Printing
            $0.03 per Sheet X 1,500 Sheets = $45
TOTAL: $972

 

Plan B: Survey of Children 

Goal:  Increase awareness and usage of Books and Reading resources on children’s TCCL website (http://kids.tulsalibrary.org/books/).

Objectives:

  1. Survey children to assess knowledge of Books and Reading resources on the children’s TCCL website and assess children’s comfort using these resources.
  2. Use survey findings to inform possible redesign of this portion on the website.
  3. Use survey findings to inform marketing tactics for Books and Reading resources.

Activities:

  1. Design anonymous, child-friendly surveys with simple words and no more than five questions.  Include at least one open-ended question, where children can suggest ways to make the Books and Reading resources easier to use.
  2. Create parental consent forms.
  3. Request approval of surveys through IRB.
  4. After receiving parental consent, administer surveys to children between ages 7 and 11.  Read questions aloud if requested.  Assure participants that there are no wrong answers.
  5. Analyze results.

Budget:

Creation of Surveys and Consent Forms
            4 Staff Hours @ $15/hour = $60
Paper
            6 Reams @ $4 per ream = $24
Printing
            $0.03 per Sheet X 3,000 Sheets = $90
Analysis of Survey Results
            10 Staff Hours @ $15/hour = $150
TOTAL: $324

  

Plan C : Children’s Book Talk

Goal:  Increase children’s and parents’ awareness of various genres of children’s literature and tools for locating items of interest.

Objectives:

  1. Cultivate children’s and parents’ interest in various genres of children’s literature
  2. Teach children and parents where to find and how to use tools for locating library materials in these and other categories.

Activities:

  1. Provide snacks, themed to tie in with books where possible.
  2. Create displays of three books for several genres, such as horror, adventure, mystery and humor.
  3. Introduce each genre, noting appeal factors.
  4. Introduce each displayed book briefly (approx. 2 minutes) with descriptions designed to hook the audience.
  5. Introduce paper pathfinders for each genre.
  6. Show location of these and other pathfinders on children’s TCCL website by projecting website on a screen or wall and demonstrating navigation to Books and Reading resources.
  7. Invite questions from children and parents.
  8. Try to limit program to 30 minutes or less, not including Q&A.

Budget:

Planning for Book Talk
            9 Staff Hours @ $15/hour = $135
Paper
            50 Sheets @ $0.01 per sheet = $0.50
Printing
            $0.03 per Sheet X 50 Sheets = $1.50
Snacks = $15
TOTAL: $152

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Whew!  This semester has been like being tied by the ankle to a runaway llama so far…  Which is why I’m so woefully behind on updating this blog.  So here’s an essay I wrote about my aspirations for the profession:

My long-term career goal is to serve as a public librarian, specifically in the areas of reference, readers’ services and children’s librarianship.  As the field of library and information services continues to expand at an exponential rate, it is clear that serving as a librarian means being a perpetual student.  Through my career, I aspire to be knowledgable of the unique and changing needs of child library users and to sythesize theories of child and adolescent learning as I develop library services for this population.  I will strive to stay informed about current practices, trends, and standards in the field by reading journals, attending professional meetings and conferences, and discussing current issues with colleagues.  Following listservs and the blogs of colleagues will also assist to expand my awareness of new developments in the field.  My duty as a public librarian is to be aware of new resources available in all formats so that I can quickly guide customers to the information and resources most likely to meet their needs.

Librarians are called to serve not only as stewards, but also as advocates.  I intend to advocate for customers’ right to read and access materials and to provide for diverse information needs through ethical collection development.  It is vitally important to foster a welcoming and comfortable library environment by ensuring that collection organization and arrangement facilitates access for all potential customers, including those with special needs.  I will make every effort to connect children with the resources they need by encouraging browsing and questions, and enabling them to use the library effectively.  Perhaps one of the best ways to engage children in the library is to consider the children’s opinions and requests in the development and evaluation of library services.  I will promote library resources by providing bibliographies, book talks, displays, electronic documents, and other tools.  I will promote children’s services through storytelling, book discussions, puppet shows and a variety of other programming.  By networking with other local agencies, I will provide outreach to underserved populations to promote literacy and reduce the digital divide.

I have some experience working in library settings as well as experience with research and records management through my work as grants coordinator for The Salvation Army.  My grant experience taught me how to locate funding opportunities for varied services and manage multiple deadlines.  Working as a shelver and circulation clerk for the Tulsa City-County Library between 1998 and 2003 allowed me to become familiar with the library OPAC and the Dewey Decimal System of organizing resources.  The majority of my time was spent ordering and shelving returned library resources, checking library resources in and out for customers, creating and updating customer records, issuing library cards, processing fines for late items, and placing hold requests for customers.  Yet these activities taught me the importance of customer service in every role in order to cultivate a welcoming and accessible library environment.

Libraries are forums for information and ideas provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people.  It is the mission of the library to challenge censorship and provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues.  Libraries should promote free expression and free access to ideas in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.  I feel strongly protective of our first amendment rights and the freedom to share information.  In my opinion, education and the stewardship of information are among the noblest of professions.  Through my career as a public librarian, I will endeavor to perpetuate knowledge and education by promoting the accessibility of information for all people and encouraging and assisting others in their information quests.

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In chapter 5 of Lesk’s Understanding Digital Libraries, Lesk mentions that in cataloging systems such as the Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress, each book can be placed in only one catagory “since the shelf location is determined by the class number” (p. 121).  Even if a library has multiple copies of a book, collocation is important because users will be annoyed if they have to look in multiple places for a certain book.

We were talking about collection organization in my Readers Advisory class, as far as the pros and cons of separating or integrating genre fiction from/with the general fiction.  Customers who never browse in certain sections, like the sci-fi/fantasy section, are more likely to expand their reading horizons and check out a previously untried genre when the books are intershelved.  However, other readers who want to browse in a specific genre are frustrated when they have to search for their desired genre among other genres.  Several Tulsa Public Libraries are intershelving westerns with general fiction.  It seems that I read about users being frustrated with this arrangement in another library system–I wonder what Tulsa’s customers think about this intershelving?

It strikes me that a benefit of digital libraries is that one resource can be accessed under a number of subject headings, and the location of the information package online is less likely to hinder access.  A link to a western mystery story can be placed under westerns and under mysteries.  The story is never checked out (unless perhaps it’s an ebook with limited access), so users do not have to look in multiple places; it’s always in both places.  This may seem exceedingly obvious, but it hadn’t occured to me until the Lesk chapter, our Readers Advisory discussion, and the difficulty of my latest library search triangulated in my brain.

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My Readers Advisory class is so much fun!  You’ve got to love a class where novels are part of the required reading.  I never realized how spoiled I was as an English major, just reading novels all the time, until I had to face my first semester of grad school, which was completely devoid of fiction!

I have to admit, I wasn’t too enthused about having to read a romance novel as part of our genre studies.  I mean, I only made it to book six in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series before the romance drove me off.  All the sex was getting in the way of my vampire story, dang it!

Nevertheless, I’m learning to rethink my scorn of the romance genre–it never hurts to reanalyze the validity of your prejudices.  I’m learning about the appeal elements in various genres so I can offer customers suggestions for books they may like.  Romance fans are looking for a romantic fantasy, a fairy tale love story for the escapism, vicarious enjoyment of the emotional relationship, and the happy ending.  I have to admit that escapism has been a major motive for my reading habits.  If my guilty pleasures are the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, it isn’t really fair for me to disparage other readers’ appreciation for escapist literature.

For my romance study, I read Honor Bound by Sandra Brown.  I have to admit, I tore through the book in about two days.  It wasn’t terribly suspenseful, but just enough to keep me turning the pages, wondering what would happen next.  Which doesn’t make much sense to me because at the end of the book I had to say I didn’t care for it much.  The characters were too flat, too idealized for my personal tastes, but I have to understand that some readers are looking for an idealized fairy tale story.  Some people want a knight in shining armor and a happily ever after, even if I can’t buy into that stuff.

I guess the thing that always turned me off from Romances is the gender stereotypes, the woman that has to be rescued by the handsome hero, the hostage who falls in love with her kidnapper.  blech.  It seemed to me that these stories painted unrealistic pictures of relationships and reinforced gender stereotypes.  I hated to think of young women reading these stories and buying into the misogyny.  But Dr. Van Fleet suggested that these romance novels could actually be empowering to women–these novels encourage female readers to carve out some time for themselves in their busy schedules.  These books give women permission to enjoy a little escapism, to preserve a personal time and space for themselves.

And then I thought, aren’t I being rather misogynistic, thinking that women need to be protected from the lie of romance novels?  I’m assuming that women cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy.  Who am I to tell anyone what they can and cannot read?  I certainly don’t want anyone dictating what I read.  If I believe in the freedom to read–and I do–I have to quit judging readers and start serving them!

The Romance Writers of America report that over 64 million Americans read at least one romance novel in the past year.  These readers are part of my service community.  I don’t have love romances, but I do need to respect the reading needs of my customers.

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