Welcome to this latest attempt to connect librarians from west-central Wisconsin with each other! Please send in content (booklists, ideas, photos, etc.), and comment on posts so we can help each other. If you were using feedmyinbox to get new posts sent to you before, you'll need to switch to another service (blogtrottr works like feedmyinbox, googlereader is a good blog-reader to try).

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Meet a Librarian--Becky Arenivar

Becky Arenivar is the Program Librarian at the Prescott Public Library.  She is one of IFLS's trainers for The Wakanheza Project, she's running for the board of directors for the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association, and she's a smart, funny, and very committed librarian!

What made you decide to go to library school?
I truly had a moment of enlightment when I was volunteering in a school library. As I was shelving books in the 910s, I suddenly remembered a long-forgotten childhood dream of being a librarian. This “aha” moment also included the realization that I could get paid for what I was then doing as a volunteer. It was 4-1/2 more years before I started back to college, and another 8 years before I finished my MLIS. Although the path was long, I never doubted that it was the right one for me.

How did your experience at school and your experience at your job in Prescott inform each other?
The first thing I recognized in library school was that I am at heart a public librarian. The public service that is at the core of public librarianship gives me a huge amount of personal satisfaction. But it is easy to allow the day-to-day and minute-to-minute needs of patrons, staff and the library to monopolize my time and resources, so that I feel as if I'm bouncing from one crisis or event to the next. This is where my library science education comes in handy, reminding me to step back, take a look at the big picture and at long-term effects and goals, and make sure my decisions and actions are grounded in the philosophy and principles of librarianship. The second thing I recognized is that I love being part of the community of librarians and library staff. We are dedicated, collaborative, service-oriented people, but we also know how to throw an awesome zombie apocalypse party. The sharing and enthusiasm that is embedded in this vocational community inspires and motivates me, and gives me practical help. Library school fostered this sense of belonging and mutual support and I find it immensely helpful in my daily work to be able to connect with and rely on the creativity and knowledge of other people with similar goals.

What have you found to be the most interesting or pressing issues in librarianship?
As the needs of our communities are expanding and multiplying, we are being required to make do with less—less money, less staff and less time. Although the collaboration and sharing that librarians do so well will help us find ways to meet new needs without abandoning traditional formats and services beloved by our patrons, the pace at which we must learn, innovate and transform ourselves and our libraries, threatens to erode the very principles that have underlied librarians' well-deserved reputation for thoughtful decision-making and careful stewardship of resources. The increasing need to persuade loyal and grateful patrons that their advocacy and action are needed to maintain the security of the very library they are grateful for puts librarians and staff in a position that many of us never anticipated and that is not always comfortable for us.

What are you excited about (in your job and in life)?
  • Summer Reading! No, really, I am enthused about our new Teen Summer Reading Program, with separate materials for teens (no more kiddie bags sporting cutesy animals), a separate reward program with (hopefully) teen appeal, and 2 (count 'em – two) events for teens only. Time will tell whether my planning and outreach will result in more teen participation, but it's fun to be creative, try out new ideas, and see what happens.
  • This is an exciting time for me as a parent and an individual, too. My kids are growing up, exploring the world on their own, and turning into really interesting adults. This has left me time and energy to explore new activities, too. I started doing yoga a couple of years ago, and love the daily practice and the focus on mind/body connection. So much of my work and personal time is spent getting things done, and yoga allows me to just be, even if it's for only 20 minutes a day.

Do you have an addition to the Gallery of Terrible Programs?
I got really excited about Money Smart Week in 2012, and put together a program where reps from local banks came to share information on specific financial topics. They also brought lots of useful financial literacy materials for attendees. Unfortunately, we had abysmal attendance, and I felt so apologetic towards the wonderful reps who came prepared to help people feel more empowered about finances and money. This was a good, if painful, lesson in “know your community.” I still strongly believe that promoting financial literacy is an important job for libraries, including my library, but my next steps into this will be taken with more information on what our community wants and how they want it delivered.

What's a book you read or listened to that you really liked? Why?
I'm a manga fan, and my favorite current read is Library Wars: Love and War by Kiiro Yumi. I first read manga as an assignment for a library class on materials for teens, and fell in love with shojo (romance/comedy) manga. Library Wars is a shojo manga with a little bit of shonen (action) mixed in. Set in a futuristic Japan, LW tells the story of Iku Kasahara, a young woman who joins the Library Defense Forces to help fight government-sponsored censorship. Shelve a few books, help someone find some information, then go kick the stuffing out of goons from the Media Betterment Committee? Just another day in the life of an LDF librarian. And there's a love story, too? I am so there!

If you had 20 more hours a week, how would you spend them?
1) Take the time to step back and look at the big picture more often; 2) Find and apply for grants; 3) Participate more in professional organizations; 4) Take more training workshops and webinars.

What's something that you found especially fun for a program?
We do trivia hunts at every Summer Reading Program event. I felt the need for a literacy activity, but I don't start events with a story, since people tend to trickle into our events, not arrive promptly at the starting time. Our in-house events are comprised of crafts and activities presented cafeteria-style at stations, so it was important to find a literacy activity that fit into this structure. The Trivia Hunt has become a popular activity with kids, and I enjoy coming up with a set of 7-8 questions and answers based on the event's theme. Last week, we did Friendly Monsters for our Bump in the Night event, and for Going Batty, I learned about the 7 bats native to Wisconsin. The Q&As are printed in large type, pasted onto construction paper, then posted around the room for kids to find. Kids pick up a scavenger hunt form on which they can fill in the answers. It's fun to see older kids helping their younger siblings with reading the questions and answers, or families doing them together. My teen volunteers are quite creative about where they post the answers, including wearing them on their backs. I can't imagine having an activity program without a trivia hunt anymore.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Recipes with a Comic Twist

Cole Zrostlik, youth services librarian at both St. Croix Falls and Milltown, has received an Ezra Jack Keats mini-grant for the St. Croix Falls Public Library.  The Ezra Jack Keats mini-grants are $500 grants for projects that "foster creative expression, working together, and interaction with a diverse community."

Cole will use the money for supplies and publicity for a series of workshops this fall for kids (and other community members) to create a comic book cookbook.  Each person will create a graphic recipe.  Cole came up with this idea because when she's had comics classes in the past, kids are often stymied by coming up with a plot.  By creating comic-recipes, they won't have to think so much about plot, but more about other important elements of comics--order, sequencing, and developing visual literacy skills.

Cole is hoping to have an art show at the end of the workshop series, and then to create a recipe book to sell and also a zine for contributors.  The recipe book might include some non-graphic recipes, too--it seems like a much more exciting format for a community recipe book, and Cole is hoping to get a variety of people in the community involved with the project.  As for the funds, Cole says she has $700 in her budget for her entire summer library program, so $500 for this project will be wonderful and luxurious.

If you are mystified about what a comic recipe might look like, check out this one, which Cole created for her brother, who, after a month of living on his own had lost 17 pounds because he didn't know how to cook!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A librarian in our midst has published a novel for young people!   As one who has lots of ideas floating around in my head for a novel, but who lacks the discipline to actually get many of those ideas down on paper, I'm extra-impressed that Caroline Akervik, a media specialist at Lakeshore School in Eau Claire, has written and published a book.  Here's a plot summary:

A rogue. An outlaw. An unlikely hero. Viking is the sole offspring of a savage and vicious mare. The colt is the pride of the stable until his dam kills a groom in her stall. Viking is a painful reminder of the tragedy, and so he is sold off.

The black colt has a coarse face and a mean curl to his nostrils, but he is beautifully proportioned with magnificent gates. With his teeth and thick weapon of a tail, Viking brutalizes everyone who handles him and humiliates the best trainers in the world until Anne O’Neil from the United States tries him.

The first time she rides him, she declares that she will not buy him if he was the last apple in the barrel. The second time, she rides him with a different philosophy, as if he is as sensitive as one of her Thoroughbreds, and she is amazed by the results. Kindness and sugar turn out to be the keys to Viking’s heart. Viking and Anne become rising stars until a cruel and brutal trainer seeks to crush his spirit.

A Horse Named Viking follows the life journey of an incredible, unforgettable horse.
Caroline Akervik is an elementary media specialist in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. This is her first Young Adult novel, though she has had two romance novels as well as several short stories published under the pen name Isabelle Kane. 

Interested in purchasing?  Interested in asking Caroline to your library for a presentation and/or book signing?  You can try contacting her at:  akervika @ ameritech.net

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Home-grown Programs

I had a great talk with Mary Davis from the Hudson Area Joint Library yesterday.  Last year, they had a disappointing turnout for the expensive performers they hired, and this year she decided to hire fewer performers and look to volunteers to provide special programs.  Attendance hasn't grown, but those attending are still thrilled.  What's more, she's creating connections with people in the community who have a deeper relationship with the library now.  Here is a sampling of her volunteer programs, many of which seem reproducible in your town:

  • A grandmother who speaks French is offering a class for K-3rd graders once a week--24 kids come once a week for class.
  • Destination Imagination Teams (talk to your local school if you don't know what this great problem-solving program is) are coming in to talk about successes and challenges, along with an inventor from 3-M.
  • The Rotary Club worked with Mary to put together a session about following career dreams:  Rotary members are fulfilling club requirements by participating.  A Physical Therapist, the Police Chief (who watched Starsky and Hutch as a kid and wanted to be a police officer ever since), and two artists are talking about their inspiration, and how they got to do their current jobs.
  • Geology and Paleontology professors who live in Hudson did engaging presentations on fossils and rocks.  The kids couldn't get enough of them!
Way to go Mary, for Dreaming Big about the ways your community members can engage with the kids at your library!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why WLA?

I was recently asked to contribute a list of names of folks who might be a good fit for the Youth Services Section board of the Wisconsin Library Association.  Well--you all know that this region boasts an unusually large number of fabulous librarians who are engaged, smart, hard-working and generous.  It was easy to come up with a nice long list of names.

But then I found out that not very many of the people I recommended are WLA members--so they couldn't run.  I'm sometimes shy about urging people to join things, but it occurred to me that it might be useful for me to give you a list of reasons I am a member of WLA (and YSS).
  • The Wisconsin Library Association is responsible for creating 2 great conferences that are relevant for me as a public librarian.  Lots of chances to get inspired, commiserate, learn new things, make connections...and WLA provides the resources, planning and people-power that go into these conferences.  They wouldn't happen without members.
  • The Wisconsin Library Association helps people in our profession organize to advocate for libraries.  I like supporting an organization that helps promote libraries to the public and lawmakers alike. 
  • I care a lot about youth services in libraries.  Being a member of the Youth Services Section assures that this area of service continues to be a priority for my state organization.
  • The Youth Services Section has a great blog, a book award, and lots of wonderful people to get to know.  The section is working on creating more opportunities to get involved, and it can be very rejuvenating to make connections with folks from a broader arena.
  • I like that there is a sliding scale for membership dues.  If you are working for less money than you should have to, you don't have to pay as much to join! 
  • If you are a member for WLA, that means you are open to some great opportunities.  There are some  lucrative and prestigious awards and scholarships that you can only receive if you are a member. Want to have your voice heard about what books should be distinguished, what kind of programs should be offered at conferences, what direction our legislative agenda should go?  You can only be a part of the committees that decide these things as a WLA member.
  • WeLead is a great program that allows WLA members to apply to be paired with a mentor.  You can develop a relationship with another librarian in a similar position to get more involved in the organization, develop as a librarian, and get conference fees paid for...If you have been around for a while, you can also serve as a mentor yourself, another great opportunity.
If you have any questions about WLA, how to join, how to find out more about the ways to get involved once you do join, please let me know.