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Fairfax County Needs Librarians!

It’s been a year since I last wrote a blog post, and I am breaking my silence for an issue that means a lot to me.

If you live in the Northern Virginia area, specifically Fairfax County, you may or may not be aware about changes that have been proposed to our county library system. These are potential major changes; originally it was planned to pilot said changes without any input from county residents. Granted, being a librarian, I am biased about the changes, but as a citizen, I am angry that I was not given an open opportunity to provide input.

First, you should know some facts about our libraries, provided by Fairfax, for those people who claim we don’t need libraries anymore, thanks to the internet:

  • Our system is pretty big. We have eight regional libraries, 14 community libraries, Access Services for people with disabilities, Fairfax County Archives, Public Services Support, and Library Administration. The number of locations we have access to dwarfs the neighboring counties of Arlington, Loudoun, and Prince William. For those Fairfax families who cannot afford the internet in their home (they exist!), they should have a library fairly close by.
  • In 2012, Fairfax had over 5.2 million visits to its branches. I cannot find any visit statistics for Arlington, but Loudoun had 1.7 million visits, and Prince William had 1.3. Obviously, our library locations in Fairfax are greatly depended upon.
  • Not all of those visits are just for internet access. In 2013, 13 million items were loaned out by Fairfax libraries. 13 million! Loudoun residents only checked out 6.4 million, and even less in Prince William with 3.7 million.

You can consult those fact pages for further information on specific levels of services provided to children and the elderly, electronic services, and work towards early literacy and English language learners. I’m not giving these statistics to make our neighboring county libraries look bad. I just want people to be aware of how much our county residents depend on our libraries.

There are proposals involving cutting positions, but the change that concerns me is to make it optional to have a masters in library/information science. To quote the Annandale, VA blog, “A new service model is in the works to focus on basic assistance rather than professional-level research for patrons.” By completing a masters program in library and/or information services, librarians know how to find information that the regular person might not. At school, my student aides can help a patron learn how to use the library catalog, but when the search for a subject like recombinant DNA is unsuccessful, the librarian will know the resources – both books and electronic databases – that will have that information. We can also do a reference interview to focus on what exactly the patron needs to know about recombinant DNA. The library secretary I worked with recently was someone who wanted to help the students, but when she couldn’t find something, she would send the students away thinking the school library did not have what they needed. Teachers in the school began to tell students to specifically ask to speak to me or our other librarian because they knew we were the information experts, not the library secretary. Yet, Fairfax library is thinking about not prioritizing the access to information experts for their patrons. The knowledge lost by not having that master degree would have a huge effect on the books purchased, the programs for your kids.

By having staff fill the dual role of reference and circulation, you may find yourself waiting in long lines to ask for research help while the person at the desk helps check books out, answers the phone, provides direction to the bathroom, and signs children up for the summer reading program. You might bring your children to a program that is led by someone who hates kids. That will be a positive experience for all involved!

You can read more about this at the Fairfax Times in an article published yesterday.

You can sign the petition against these changes.

The next board meeting is scheduled for September 11th at my own local branch, and I plan to attend.

Do you care about the libraries in Fairfax county? Add your name to the petition and spread the word!

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What’s your number?

I’m # 6,502 to sign the petition asking the Obama administration to ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.

An effective program should include highly qualified staff, and equitable access to resources that support and further develop learning in and outside of the classroom. This should result in a variety of resources: databases, internet access, tech tools to support projects as basic as word processing or more complex like editing a film or creating a robot. Magazines and periodicals that support classroom learning and student interests, and books in a variety of formats: fiction and non-fiction, hardcover and paperback, paper and electronic, words and graphic novels, dystopian and fantasy romance. People develop so much in the years 4 – 21 and having the ability to explore the world through books and other library information sources broadens their experience. I haven’t even touched on the social/creative outlets a lot of my students find in our library by playing chess, Apples to Apples, puzzles, and other games, or participating in book clubs or an open mic coffee-house.

My student library aides must take a mid-term, and one question I ask is what they have learned so far this year as an aide. The responses I get are sometimes what you would expect, “I’m learning how to be better organized,” or “I’m learning where to find books in the library.” But I also get answers that let me know the student really is growing while being a library aide. This week, one student wrote in their response that they are learning forgiveness this year as a library aide.  This person started out in a rough spot, and we have all moved past that spot and get along very well. It warms my heart to know that this student sees this. Another student wrote that they have a huge lack in social skills. Working in the library has helped this person develop social skills in dealing with fellow aides and library patrons. It has given them confidence in their senior year and it will be something they take with them after graduation.

My library aides are just a small part of my job as a school librarian. Education has a big focus on data right now, and I think there is a need for careful data collection and analysis to see what “Education” is doing right. After a while, though, data can become just a number, and some higher-ups lose sight of the individual attached to each piece of data. If something you do is hard to put into the terms of data, such as a library aide learning about forgiveness or social skills, that piece gets lost when looking at the firm data that makes up the big picture. It is impossible to connect these two student experiences to whether they pass their SOL tests or graduate on time because so many other measurable variables can be connected: teachers in the classroom, the curriculum, grades, test scores. I may know, without a doubt, that a student is graduating as a more developed person from our school because of the library, but no measurable/standardized test exists to prove it.

This is why when librarians ask for help in supporting our cause, it is a grass-roots movement. Signatures on a petition are our data that can be taken to President Obama. Each signature might represent a person who loves books and wants all children to have access to them whether rich or poor. Another signature is a person who remembers a librarian that changed their life for the better as a child, a teen, a college student, or even as an adult. One person might think of the stereotypical cranky librarian they have personally experienced, want better for children, and see the push for “effective school libraries” as a way to retire the cranky old and make sure they are replaced by the excited positive new (instead of not being replaced at all!).

So think about your opinion of school libraries: the positives and the negatives, the information they contain that reveals the past and opens the future, the hope that every student can become a reader if they just get introduced to the right book by someone who knows the book AND the student, the world of opportunities every student can access if the library has open doors and a knowledgable key master. I know it is annoying to create a username and password for the White House website, but if you agree with even a fraction of what I am saying, get over there and add your name to the petition.

Who knows, you might learn about other petitions you believe in and that account will continue to come in handy.

If you do add your name, come back and comment on this post to let me know what number you are.

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The Rally to Restore Sanity

This past Saturday, I headed in to Washington D.C. to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity.  I’m so glad I did!  Overall, it was a great day.

We were going to take the Metro, but the crowd was already atrocious at 9:30 am, so we decided to try driving in.  I think since everyone was on the Metro, driving was so easy.  We did not hit any traffic, and my husband used a Droid app to find a garage with parking available.  It was just off Pennsylvania and 12th.  By 10:10, we were walking the streets on D.C.

As we walked by the National Archives, it looked pretty quiet.  We decided to celebrate sanity, freedom, and the U.S. by popping in to peek at all the important documents.  We zipped right through security, gazed at the Magna Carta, and headed to the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.  There were other people there, but it was not a sizable crowd.  I imagine most people headed straight to the rally to find a spot or avoided coming in to D.C. at all.  We were able to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

While I have visited the documents before, seeing them on a day devoted to asking America to embrace sanity made me feel more patriotic.  I’m sure our founding fathers were considered crazy, and I know they must have resorted to shouting at times.  But they also managed thoughtful discourse and created the foundation of our country on paper.  They had to have had so many disagreements, but they worked together to find consensus.

After the Archives, we moved on to the rally.  The crowds had grown and the signs were starting to come out.

The guy holding the following sign was dressed as the Grim Reaper:

We found a spot but had to kill time before the official start at noon.

Then the Roots started….and played….and played…and none of us really care for the Roots, so we were pretty bored.  Someone near us had an adorable dog, though!

Then, the big surprise: the Mythbusters came out!  They were awesome!

They had the crowd do the Wave several times, timing it with men vs women, starting it in the front and back simultaneously to see it meet in the middle.  They had the crowd all jump at the same time to see how it registered.  The schedule had said the time slot would be a comedian but the Mythbusters were so much better.

Jon Stewart came on at 1 – yay!

I love him.

More pictures, like Father Guido Sarducci:

Sam Waterston read a poem by Stephen Colbert:

Stephen himself:

I quit taking pictures and just enjoyed the event. Jon’s speech at the end was my favorite part.  He was heartfelt, witty, and full of common sense.  At no point during the day did anyone advocate for a political party or particular politicians.  No one even reminded people to vote Tuesday.  It was a day focused on being decent human beings who get up every morning to work together to get through life the best way we know how, helping others to do the same.  I wish more people spoke out with this same message.

Some of my favorite signs that I was able to get pictures of:

It was a great day, with gorgeous weather, and I spent it with some of my favorite people.  There isn’t much more one can ask for.

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Thursday Tidbits 7/1/2010

I’m back from ALA and I think I have recovered! It was a great conference and I will write about it in the coming week. For now, to ease back in to the blogging habit, I thought I would do my old Thursday Tidbits to share stuff I am loving right now.

  • Are you watching The Fabulous Beekman Boys on Discovery’s Planet Green?  I am loving this show so much.  Two NYC guys who have been together for 10 years buy a farm out in the country.  They grow vegetables and care for 80 goats, some pigs and chickens, and one awesome llama named Polka Spot, with lots of help from Farmer John.  They also make and sell soap from their goat milk.  One of the guys, Josh, still maintains a job in NYC so he commutes every week, leaving Brent to work full-time at the farm.  The editing, of course, really plays up the fights and drama, but you can tell Brent and John love each other and the life they have built.  My favorite thing is that they have a goat cam in their barn, so you can go online to watch the goats (and Polka Spot!) whenever you want.  I admit to pretty much having it open on a browser tab at all times.  Goats are awesome.
  • BP’s Coffee Spill – very funny!  Less funny: an oil-soaked wave.
  • If you didn’t follow Jamie’s Seventeen Magazine Project while she was doing it, it is worth going back and reading her blog about it, and what she has done since.  The next time someone complains that all teens are getting less intelligent, show them this.
  • Why LOST fans should start watching Fringe, if they are not already.
  • A blind fox becomes a foster dad – very moving.
  • I embrace this 100% – Why I’ll Never Be an Adult (strong language, FYI).

That’s it for today.  Coming soon: ALA-related posts and pictures, MANY book thoughts, and why you should get your library involved with Wrestlemania this year!

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Thursday Tidbits 4/8/10

Tidbits!

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How soon till Little Brother?

I was listening to NPR this morning and heard a story about GoCrossCampus. It might be that I was half asleep when I heard it, but it sounded like the first step towards Harajuku Fun Madness. Am I alone in this?

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Update on Nic Sheff/Tweak

I previously wrote about Tweak and how much I enjoyed it. I found an article on CNN giving to update on Nic Sheff and the last year of his life. Sadly, he has relapsed twice, which shows how addiction is a constant struggle. While any relapse is terrible, I was relieved to read that it sounds like he didn’t go back to using meth again. Thankfully, he is currently sober and doing well. I appreciate his honesty and openness about his addiction and hope that he continues to do well and hopefully inspires others to reach out for help.

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