Concurrent Leadership and Advocacy in the School Library

I’ve been reading about leadership and advocacy this week and I got to thinking about how these things in successful school library programs really are concurrent activities. As you behave as a leader in your school library, you become an ambassador for the school community and even the wider local community (or state). When people see enthusiastic programming and a positive welcoming environment, they are more likely to value the work that you do and less likely to offer your position up to the chopping block when budget cuts come around.

For example, I have a colleague who announced that she would be leaving the district at the end of the school year. She has been sharing ideas and resources with the entire district (through the mass email list) all year long. She hasn’t said as much, but I suspect her very visible efforts are a conscious way of demonstrating her and her program’s worth to the district. If the administration values her role, perhaps they won’t decide to have us go down a librarian due to attrition. Nothing is certain, but this kind of program advocacy doesn’t hurt—and the approach is to simply do exemplary work as an instructional leader.

In fact, my principal told me himself that [an instructional leader] was what he needed me to be in his school. I had been cautious in my interactions with staff as the new kid on the block, not wanting to step on toes or make a bad impression, and I told him that I didn’t want to tell anyone how to do their job (at least not while I’m still new). He encouraged me to push the staff to think critically and be someone who sees the big picture. If you are working hard side-by-side with other teachers, the respect and even loyalty is sure to follow.

I’ve actually had the opportunity to see my predecessor in action a few times at conferences. She’s a very dynamic person and dives right into the action. I understand a little better now the kind of leadership that she brings to the table, and to which my principal was alluding. She and I are very different in quite a few ways and I worried a lot at first that I was a disappointment to the staff as her replacement. It’s not that I am not just as dynamic or haven’t already had success in my new role. Some of my hesitation though is due to the humility I have toward the profession—I am not a seasoned veteran in the library and don’t even have my full license yet. It’s hard to proceed with confidence and, yes, leadership when you’re not sure if you’re even “doing it right”!

I have given myself permission to feel out the situation and scramble around in survival mode for now, but it can’t last for too long. Unfortunately, the attitude around the state is that school librarians are optional. A librarian friend of mine works in a district similar to mine that had someone leave and instead of rehiring a librarian, they reassigned a non-librarian teacher to be a tech integrator to fill the role (and my friend has to cover the missing duties). I met some librarians from Milwaukee Public Schools a few months ago—they have something like 12 librarians now for the entire district, covering something like 165 schools. They said that they basically go from school to school and select books. There are similar situations in Sheboygan and Menasha.

This isn’t just happening in Wisconsin—I read a newspaper article earlier this year about Philadelphia Public Schools going from 176 certified librarians in 1990 down to 11. One of the principals there fought back to restore the librarian position at the school saying, “The library was the center of the school program. I just don’t see a library as an extra,” which is amazing—but the advocacy and leadership necessary to preserve school libraries has to also come from the front lines, i.e. the librarians who convince the leaders, community and decision-makers that school libraries are, indeed, not extras.

The New Job

I’ve refrained from saying a lot, but the news is out. About three weeks ago, I resigned as a high school/middle school ESL teacher. About two weeks ago, I started as the high school library media specialist in a new district. Many have shared their congratulations, which is sweet, but congratulations have been hard for me to accept. While I ultimately have been looking forward to making this change eventually, I ethically have a problem with breaking a contract (that’s why it’s a contract, you know–because you make a commitment), but the circumstances were such that I did it anyway.

As I considered the possibility, I ultimately landed on a dating analogy about how sometimes you spend too much time with someone who is good enough, but ultimately you know it’s probably not what you want for yourself.

For the record, the political climate here in Wisconsin in regards to public education has made this an even more difficult–and expensive–feat. For example, the fine was five percent of my salary. Do the math in your own life; who has that kind of money to throw around? Not me. The adage that “if you don’t like it, find something else to do” is a pretty tall order. But trapped animal that I was in this situation, I chose my happiness. That is all I will say.

It has been wild trying to properly wrap up one job that I was deeply invested in and learn a new one at the same time. The position was empty for the first week of school (and the teacher prep-time the week before), so there was also a bit of catch up to do. It is also very peculiar to go into a job not as an expert, but as a rookie again. This is my first real experience in a school library. (So far, I am so thankful for everything I’ve learned working with children’s literature at the CCBC! What a life-changer!)

So the new job… well, I find myself looking forward to going to work on Monday morning. (By Thursday and Friday morning, I feel exhausted as usual when I get up, but at least it’s not dread!) I was starting to forget that feeling! The school is a one-to-one school, actually the district grades 4-12 is one-to-one–this means that every student has their own school-issued Chromebook. (They lease every three years. Outside of that, I don’t know how they pay.) Every teacher has a MacBook Air and they teach on an A-B block (four periods that meet every other day). Also there is a homeroom/flex period for enrichment/support/remediation that teachers personally schedule the kids in. Every staff member–including the principal, counselor, librarian, etc. participates in the scheduling and teaching of the flex period.

A large part of my responsibilities now is to manage the flow of broken and repaired Chromebooks and our loaners. Lots of cracked screens and charger port problems (this is year 3 of the lease). A big perk I’m noticing about all the kids having a uniform device like a Chromebook is that we can pass along a lot of our messages to students through email or chat–thus eliminating the constant overhead announcements like “Will so-and-so please report to the attendance office? So-and-so to the attendance office” that kill your ears all day long. It is just so much calmer without that. Also, it is sooooooo cool to look around at students productively working on their devices–not just Facebook and YouTube.

My new school has a great reading culture going on, and it seems like a lot of kids approach me looking for “a good book” (dream come true!). I am also trying to wrap my head around the budget money I have available and getting some orders pushed through. I am also working on setting up a MinecraftEDU server because I have this tremendous pile of teenage boys who come in during “breakfast break” and sit on my library couches playing Minecraft on their respective personal mobile devices. What an opportunity! My principal is really hoping to re-work a back room in the library and have me create a Makerspace area in there too. What an even bigger opportunity!

Wish me luck, clarity and grace as I travel down this road. I feel like it was the right, err, a good, umm, a solid decision. I pray that I look back on this tumultuous August someday with affection and relief.

Much Ado About Me?!

Herb KohlOn a personal note, if you hadn’t heard, I was named one of 100 educators in the state of Wisconsin to be honored as a 2014 Kohl Excellence in Education fellow. (These are the teachers that are then considered for the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year Award… I actually met our winner at a Read On Wisconsin Advisory Committee meeting a few weeks back. She is an 8th grade language arts teacher from Baraboo and is far more worthy than me!)

Kohl FellowThe Kohl Award is a big deal and a big honor. They printed a wonderful article about me in the local newspaper last week. I am so very humbled!

WIABE awardAlso, back in April I was honored at the Wisconsin Association of Bilingual Education as one of 13 “Educators of the Year.” Talk about a humbling experience! I was presented with a beautiful glass award and congratulated by all sorts of bilingual educators and supporters.

Now, I am proud of the work I do, but when in such company, I definitely don’t feel worthy. I am a long ways from being qualified enough to be a licensed bilingual teacher. It was the second time I had attended this conference, and I was reminded of how far I have to go.

The reason I bring it up, though, is because it really made me think. If you have ever seen a bilingual or dual-language classroom, it is remarkable. These are people who are truly bilingual (whereas I am “good enough” with Spanish) working with little kids, teaching them to be fully biliterate. These are the people who NEED quality bilingual books and Spanish-language books to be published, because these children depend on them!

Bilingual Educators of the Year

Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/wisconsinassociationforbilingualeducation

One of my high school students was honored at the same conference yesterday for winning the essay contest at the high school level. I work with a lot of bilingual kids, but the bilterate piece (reading and writing, not just oral/aural proficiency) is much more elusive. His winning essay was about how he doesn’t feel like he is bilingual or biliterate yet but can see the value in it and wants to keep working on it. It’s easy to get swept up in the language of the dominant culture, and let heritage languages go.

Melvin got to read his essay in front of the group gathered at the Wisconsin Association for Bilingual Education on April 12, 2014. He did an amazing job. Here is a video of his “performance”:

It’s kids like him who deserve the recognition… I’m just along for the ride!

(P.S. One of my teacher friends is a big proponent of “Things come in 3s”… and she insists that I’ve got another thing coming. I’m hoping that if she’s right that the hail-damage to my car last week wasn’t it–I’d much prefer an engagement ring or winning the lottery. Heck, I’d even take some free tuition money!)

Herding cats

Well, life before cell phones was like herding cats too. I am not one of those Luddites who romanticizes the age before we all had laptops and cell phones. As a person who sometimes gets lost while driving (despite the GPS) or doesn’t always plan for getting stuck in traffic, I’ve found that the ability to communicate on the fly has saved me from critically annoying my near and dear.

Back when I was an undergrad, we were still in Web 1.0. It seemed like we mainly used it for email and instant messaging. I was a student worker in the School of Education at Marquette University, mostly as an office assistant and sometimes as a library assistant. Basically, we did the work that the full-time secretaries/executive assistants/professors didn’t have time for. Sometimes there were stacks of projects waiting in our wire basket, and sometimes there were notes that said, “See me. –Susan”. Sometimes, projects got claimed by another student worker on a previous shift and the professor didn’t want to take the time to re-train another student worker.

So on the days where there weren’t projects in the basket, you would stalk Susan or whoever at their office door, trying to catch them between appointments or meetings or whatever. And when you caught them, they typically didn’t have time for the interruption and only gave you part of the instructions and then you were back again in 15 minutes for more stalking or with a question. Of course, someone that busy typically isn’t very warm toward being interrupted, but what choice did you have? If you sat at the student worker desk and did your own homework too long you’d get reprimanded for that too!

A few years later, I got myself into a similar predicament as I moonlighted as a Technology Secretary for a school district right before I started grad school the first time. I had a zillion projects going on at the same time and no real sense of what was priority. When my classes started up, they got me a sub until they found someone full-time to replace me and it was just like my student worker experience all over again. I’m sure my sub looked at me like I was the worst cat-herder she’d ever met.

The description of the University of Houston Digital Services Department’s use of Google Calendar and Blogger in R. Nicole Westbrook’s article, “Online Management System: Wielding Web 2.0 Tools to Collaboratively Manage and Track Projects” would have been a god-send to my office worker experience!

Rather than interrupting staff work to get a worker started on a project each time someone arrives for a shift, supervisors can create all assignments for a day at one time and respond to questions posted on the blog at their convenience. Creating blog posts in advance also benefits students. With pre-posted assignments, students can immediately read their assignment for the day without waiting for supervisors who might be returning late from a meeting or might not be in the office at all that day. Managers also have the freedom to create a large volume of posts as far in advance as is convenient. Therefore, when supervisors travel, they can create posts before leaving town and then monitor status posts and questions remotely so that progress on projects can continue in their absence.

What a nice use of digital tools to keep everyone busy and on-task and communicating! I really would’ve appreciated the opportunity to have a blog to post questions/progress on, instead of stalking a professor’s door. That is exactly what I was looking for back then.

Westbrook described one weakness of Google Calendar:

Unfortunately, Google Calendar does not currently have an archive or export feature and shifts are only stored for a finite period of time before they are purged from the calendar permanently. Although UHDS staff does not have an ideal solution to this problem as of yet, an effort is made to conduct project reviews in a timely manner in order to capture shift information elsewhere before it is unavailable.

While Google Calendar may not export or archive (I don’t think), I’ve never seen it purge. I can still look at the first event I entered into my own Google calendar on August 30, 2006. But then again, this does not guarantee permanence and there are plenty of Web 2.0 services that have been discontinued without much notice and there you are, without a back-up.

Of course, I realize that being impressed with the use of Google apps as a inter-office communication tool probably means that my programming chops are pretty much non-existent. Drupal and WordPress were not even on my radar until I took this class. The last time I dappled with HTML was with Microsoft FrontPage 2003 and it seems that we’ve moved far beyond that. I think I could [maybe] figure out this content management system (CMS) stuff, given I had a meaningful project to use it on and an up-to-date tech guide like Jones and Farrington’s Using WordPress as a library content management system(I seriously was not kissing up, Kyle. You just happen to be the co-author and my instructor.)

When you are faced with a problem like the University of Michigan Libraries’ website, as described in K. J. Varnum’s introduction to “Drupal in Libraries,” published in The Tech Set, 2012 (p. 2-3):

There was no standardization between the HTML parts of the site and the dynamically generated portions–not even within the static pages or dynamic pages. This was the result of having different developers and authors building their own pieces of the site, independently, over the course of almost two decades… From the user perspective, the library’s site had dozens of graphic identities for different parts of the library, many of which bore little resemblance to the homepage. Constituent libraries, service points, departments, and information pages had radically different designs. There was almost no consistent navigation across the site; many pages did not link to the main library page. Those that did used different logos or graphics, and the links were placed on different parts of the webpage. This complicated user interface made it very difficult for a site visitor to move from one library to another or from a library to a particular resource. The site was an exercise in frustration for our users and our staff… We arrived at this state of affairs much of you may have: by allowing the web to grow organically over years without finding the time or energy to bring it together.

it seems pretty obvious that there has to be a better way. These CMSs are the way to go. Go figure, another tech tool has found a slick improvement to a tedious process. The question is, is it better to continue herding cats yourself or do you employ the professional cat-herder? At least the cat-herder knows how to manage the chaos. However, some of us may be appointed to be the professional cat-herder ourselves someday, so it’s probably in our interest to starting putting on the cat-herder gear now (i.e. mess around with WordPress and Drupal, in this example.)

Duchess of the Kohl Center

My first experience with badges was through iPhone apps like Foursquare and Yelp. In fact, my first check in was February 20, 2011, which was probably about a week after I got my iPhone. I was at the Kohl Center for a Badger men’s basketball game. I can’t say I use the apps a lot, but I would have to say that I’ve checked in more than a few times at the Kohl Center… I like watching basketball, what can I say?

At one point last season (2011-2012), I was named “Duchess of the Kohl Center.” (I think I’ve checked in like 10 or 11 times.) The best badge ever, as far as I am concerned. I wish I had a t-shirt. Too bad being Duchess doesn’t give me the power to keep the old people who sit behind us from talking about colonics and stuff…

Anyway, I don’t think I still possess the title anymore because I think other people can steal them from you if you don’t keep checking in and I don’t go to the Kohl Center in the summer. Technically, it’s probably not even a badge either, but a mayorship or something. Whatever, though, I figure it’s like being President–they have to keep calling you “President” even after your term is up, right?

Needless to say, my experience with badges so far has been pretty silly. I knew a guy once whose mom made his Cub Scout Den change his baby brother’s diapers to earn their “Diaper Duty” badge (High-five to his mom!) At least that badge actually acknowledged a real accomplishment. My Foursquare badge “I’m on a boat” wasn’t exactly hard–I drove my car onto a ferry and then waited.

Deep down, we all like to show off our accomplishments. Badges on a sash, medals on a Varsity Letterman’s jacket, patches and pins on a military uniform. With the exception of the military honors though, these types of recognition mean nothing to job world. So when I read about badges as an alternative assessment tool, I was blown away. I’m sold. As it turns out, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have known what they were doing all along! Maybe that cooking badge you earned as a scout doesn’t seem like much, but I bet for an aspiring chef, it might be quite a big deal to earn a badge for making a perfect crème brulée with a torch. In fact, a crème brulée badge might be currency someday for jobs in a high-scale restaurant.

Standards-based assessment has been all the rage in K-12 public schools lately, especially with the Common Core Standards coming down the road. It’s a major paradigm shift for a lot of teachers to change their grading scales and philosophies from “points” to “competencies.” It’s not because teachers really believe that 84% actually reflects the amount of mastery a student has made–for a lot of teachers, it’s more a question of how to enter a competency into the computer gradebook and have it still spit out a B+. Unfortunately, it is still expected that we use GPAs as a factor in college admissions or scholarships. Sometimes, I’ve felt like it’s futile to even try to change to a standards-based assessment system when higher-ed is going to insist that we boil a kid’s learning back down to a percentage anyway.

UC-Davis sees things differently, however. This year, they won an award for their development of digital “open badges” in the Digital Media and Learning Competition supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mozilla.

Students will be able to customize learning goals within the larger curricular framework, integrate continuing peer and faculty feedback about their progress toward achieving those goals, and tailor the way badges and the metadata within them are displayed to the outside world. Students won’t just earn badges—they’ll build them, in an act of continuous learning. (Carey)

As Kevin Carey puts it in his article,  “A Future Full of Badges,” from the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Compared with the new open badge systems, the standard college transcript looks like a sad and archaic thing.” He’s right–years later, when you look back at a college transcript, that A- you earned in English 271 doesn’t say anything about you, what you learned or what you can do.

I started digging a little bit to find out more about how organizations can get involved and start implementing badges. Mozilla is really at the epicenter of the badges movement with their Open Badge Infrastructure, so that seemed like a logical place to start. It’s actually quite easy to create your virtual backpack as a learner who wants to start collecting and accepting badges. As someone who’s not very good at programming and customizing Open Source tools, like WordPress, the process of creating a badge seemed a bit over my head. I worry that unless I start working on that deficiency (Hey! Maybe there’s a badge out there I could earn…), I might not be very useful to a library as a tech-savvy young person after all.

Canton Public Library and Ann Arbor District Library‘s use of badges in their summer reading programs was incredible. (Thanks to Greg Landgraf for showcasing their programs in his article, “Summer Reading Levels Up!”) But again, I got to thinking, “Well, crap! Where on earth am I going to get the skill-set to help bring something like that to a library or school near me?!”

Librarygame is cool and seems to be ready-made (no skill-set necessary), but for something as experimental as the OBI movement, it seems a little risky to invest the money into quite yet–better to mess around with open source…

I continued my research though and came across a couple of points of light. BadgeStack is an open-source platform that organizations can use to launch a badge program. I actually think I can handle this one. I could at least play around with demo. I also ran into MouseSquad. It’s a 21st Century Skills Training system that prepares and supports students to establish their own technical support help desks in their schools. Basically, kids join and they can earn badges and receive the training they would need for a pretty meaningful project (all the while, they are stealthily being taught a bunch of information literacy!)

Now, this is something that I can advocate for–now! Standards-based assessment doesn’t look so daunting when it’s gamified. Yeah, yeah, there are arguments that gamification is really bad for motivation, but really, for a lot of students, once they hit high school, education is about playing the game and working the system. I like the idea of students pursuing their education by earning badges for achievements and skills that they deem valuable. Being Duchess of the Kohl Center might not be real useful, but Duchess of the Tech Support Desk could be!

Sink or swim.

When Brian Matthews of Virginia Tech started talking about vacuums and Roombas in his “Think Like a Startup” article, I felt like giving him a big high-five. Because if businesses (or libraries or schools or lots of other places) that want to be successful, this is exactly how to approach forward motion: it’s not just about building better features; it’s about new processes.

Matthews warns of all of the the ways that the traditional academic library could be dismantled by transferring and outsourcing services to other departments of a university. For example:

  • What if the Office of Research managed campuswide electronic database subscriptions and ondemand access to digital scholarly materials?
  • What if the majority of scholarly information becomes open? Libraries would no longer need to acquire and control access to materials.
  • What if local museums oversaw special collections and preservation? (p. 2)

Maybe I don’t love graduate-level academic research enough, but I didn’t really disagree. [Almost] all of his transfers of domain seemed reasonable to me… Yes, this probably confirms that I’m not really cut out to be an academic librarian in a university at this point (or else I would be more protective of them, maybe?). These are, however, examples of how libraries in general are going to be deemed obsolete and no longer valuable as institutions if the stakeholders don’t step forward to find their new roles.

It starts with attitude. And loving your academic library is not enough. You have to ADVOCATE for it.

Allow me to step up on my soap-box [again].

Last Saturday, I completed my first (and only) triathlon in Pardeeville, Wisconsin. It was a sprint triathlon, so don’t be too impressed: I’m no IronMan. The triathlon was purely a Bucket List thing for me. I HATE SWIMMING. Hate it. I don’t swim well. I would rather pick up dog poop. I hate it that much. Did I mention that I hate swimming? Because I really do hate it.

So in my triathlon, I had to swim a quarter-mile. I was a novice, which meant that I was slow and inexperienced when it comes to triathlons, so they basically give you a head start and don’t mix you in with all the rockstars. I guess, usually, they let the novices have about 10 minutes to get going in the water so they can watch attentively for struggling swimmers (like me) and try to protect them from being trampled (or whatever the word for a water stampede would be). The problem for me was that this time, the head start wasn’t really an actual head start, it was the normal three minute spacing they do between all of the age groups. So soon there were like a hundred strong, fast, young men churning toward me and I was faced with a choice: Panic or not? Sink or swim?

Sink-or-swim is more than just a clever saying, as I can attest. It’s real. And sinking is especially unpleasant in real life because you can die. Or be in agony for a couple minutes until some lifeguard hopefully pulls your panicked self out of the water.

By the way, I swam. It was scary and not pretty, but I made it. In our professional life there are so many strategies to handle a sink-or-swim situation, no matter if you work in a school or a library or a business. The choice is simple–you swim. Hard. You choose to work while you’re at work. You choose to perform your job with an eye for improvement and intentionality. Like Matthews said, you think like a start-up.

You do NOT just show up to collect your paycheck. You do NOT just go through the motions. Yes, I’m talking to you, the one standing by the door with your coat on a minute before closing time. What are we, in middle school, waiting for the bell to ring so that we can rush into the hallway and gossip–you know, where the “important” stuff is? I don’t care if you have a kid to pick up from daycare. Your lack of commitment shows. Yes, family comes first, fine, but other people with families still manage to be professionals and not middle-schoolers.

So contribute. Use your brain. Pay attention. Work together. BE FULLY PRESENT.

Can you tell that I am a Millennial? (I guess I was born on the cusp, but close enough…) I think my rants, which stem from the observation of colleagues early on in my career, are pretty typical of the frustrations that young professionals have been experiencing. Ty Kiisel, in his Forbes article, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme–Millennials in the Workplace” said:

For the most part, the millennial generation is responding to the workforce in the way we’ve trained them to—they question, they challenge and they want to do it better. Sure, sometimes it makes their older colleagues a little uncomfortable. We probably want the same level of respect we gave our bosses—back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. With that said, the challenge for business leaders today is harnessing the talent and drive of the younger workforce to create the products and technology that will change the world. As the times, and the workforce changes, we need to reconsider how we lead people and get work done along with it.

When it comes to libraries, as Lisa Kurt, William Kurt and Ann Medaille put it, “Those libraries that do not adapt to Millennials’ expectations about work and play may find that they are unable to retain talented young librarians” (p. 11).

There are a lot of people out there trying to encourage a giant wake-up call to libraries. I think it’s that movement called Library 2.0… We don’t really want libraries to fail and close. We do want to retain talented young librarians.

Motivated by their creative fervor, start-up librarians are an exuberant bunch. Nurture that exuberance. They are a pivotal asset to your library. Their ingenuity, resourcefulness, and experimental nature might be the key to unlocking the “next big thing” at your library. (Jones, K.)

Amen, Kyle Jones. I just think it’s sad that we have to say this kind of stuff out loud. Over and over. I guess there will be a certain point that we might look at a sinking library (or school or business or whatever) and we will have to just shrug our shoulders and say, “We tried to warn you. You could have listened. We were trying to help.”

Personally, I plan on swimming. Even if it’s hard sometimes and I hate it. It’s the best thing for me. And when it’s over, you look back and say, “Yeah! I did that! And I’m kind of proud of myself now too!”

We’ve got a bird problem

Yesterday, I got a proverbial bug up my hinder and decided to go check out the swallow’s nest that appeared this spring over the fresh-air intake vent for the furnace.

The vent has been clogged up with crud as of late too, so this is not a case of live and let live (the picture was taken after I cleaned it, btw). While I can calmly close the window in the wee hours of the morning when the swallows’ songs become ridiculously loud and I can no longer sleep, the vent cannot not stay clogged. As I was up there on the ladder, the entire swallow community rose up in anger and tried to dive-bomb me the entire time. Sort of made me want to knock the whole thing down, but I wasn’t sure this one contained eggs, like the “neighbor’s nest” did. (Can you see them peeking their little heads over the side?)

I climbed up there, thinking, “I can figure this out,” and discovered that I couldn’t tell if there were eggs inside, only infer, and what’s more, the crud built up on the vent was on the inside of the grate, so as I scraped/poked it off, it basically got sucked inside (yeah, I got yelled at on that one for not using the vacuum–lord only knows how I would’ve got the vacuum up there).

What does this have to do with libraries and digital tools, you ask? Well, quite simply, I just didn’t know how to handle it. This is how I feel about Twitter right now. Like the bird’s nest, I’ve had a presence there for awhile now. I actually have two accounts: @hennebe was created years ago when I thought Twitter would be used like status messages on facebook, just more succinct–and purely social; I created @MisGenes (if you speak Spanish, this “handle” is how I’m known among my Latino students–it’s a double-entendre and completely hilarious to me) for my teaching and then never did anything with it.

That brings up my first dilemma: What do I do about two accounts? I like both handles. I’ve used hennebe around the internet a lot, so it’s got that going for it, consistency-wise. That account is also more established with real-live connections I have with people I know, but who really have nothing to do with my professional life. I feel a little weird about moving on and tweeting about Library and possibly ESL stuff when this network of followers I have could care less. As for MisGenes, if I use it, I wouldn’t want to ditch the first established Twitter network I built, but really, who wants two accounts?

Basically, I can’t decide if I want to mix my professional and personal. I don’t know if I want to clutter my personal stuff with a zillion tweets by a professional LIS community and have to “shut the window” like I do with the neighborhood birds. Some people tweet 30 tweets a day (or so) and I may only be interested in one of those tweets here and there.

Then again, as Clay Shirky points out in Here Comes Everybody, even if I think the personal stuff is “among friends,” it’s really not, it’s out there and it just depends who’s listening.

The other problem is that I have simply never found a way to make Twitter work for me. I read what Donna Ekart says in her 2011 article, “Making Twitter work for you” (Computers in Libraries, 31(4). 34-35), and I think yeah, if I used hashtags more and did better searches, I could really take her advice. And then I get to Twitter, and I choke. I don’t know what hashtags to write or search for. And searching, yeah, who knows. I’ve been trying out HootSuiteTweetdeck and Seesmic and I almost feel worse.

Truthfully, I buy in to the value of the LIS Professional Commons. Kyle M. L. Jones and Michael Stephens sold me on it in ” The LIS professional commons and the online networked practitioner” in Defending professionalism: A resource for librarians, information specialists, knowledge managers, and archivists (pp. 151-161). When I am finally at the point where I can become a professional librarian, I want to be all of those things that they describe: connected and engaged, knowledgeable, skillful and innovated, full of potential for leadership. Michael Stephens says in his article, “Beyond the walled garden: LIS students in an era of participatory culture”:

It makes me happy to see students, especially those who have taken my classes, lauded in the professional networks for their contributions. When an author has commented on a student’s blog post or a notable library figure “retweets” a student’s Twitter post, these actions prove that everyone can be a part of the discussion. Value is present from all who participate. The notion that only professional librarians’ opinions matter, for example, loses strength as everyone contributes.

In my small little world of Southern Wisconsin, I just don’t know that many people here that would engage me at the level that the global LIS Professional Commons would. If that’s what I want, that’s where I will have to go. Only there can the newbie’s experience and insight be as highly respected. In real-life, it feels like you have to serve some time before you are allowed to jump right in and work for change.

To me, microblogging, a.k.a. Twittering, seems like a good link between real blogs. If you’re going to participate by consuming and sharing blogs, I would think it also makes sense to participate by writing them too. I had a VERY negative experience with blogs back in 2007 that involved a real-live confrontation and a lot of tears, so I’ve shied away from blogs, especially ones that aren’t like journals with pictures you’ve taken yourself. Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli point out in “Becoming a networked learner” in Personal Learning Networks (pp. 33-57): “So make sure what you share isn’t going to get you in trouble. You never know who will see it.” They continue to explain that while prudence is wise, it’s also a great opportunity to put yourself out there because “you never know who will see it”–there might be an opportunity waiting for you because of your participation.

During my years of hesitance, however, I’ve missed a few opportunities to learn about trends in blogging like WordPress. I feel like I’m late to the party. I also have no idea to get WordPress to do what I want it to do. I am stepping back into the light with both Twitter and blogs and hoping that things work out. I’m kind of tired of the birds crapping in my hair.

Oh yeah, introductions…

This morning, I am sitting on the terrace at Memorial Union waiting for class to begin. Not because I’m an early bird, but because I got a ride this morning and that’s how things went. It is a beautiful morning though, so I shan’t complain.

A little more about me, for those who are interested. I am beginning my studies in LIS this summer, as I concurrently take a Children’s Literature course and a Digital Tools, Trends and Debates course. They overlap for about three weeks, so for a little while, I’ve got a ton of reading to to. Good thing I like to read, right?

I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in Library Science, but I always let myself (or others) talk me out of it. *You’re in the middle of a program, just finish it. You don’t need a second Master’s. There are no jobs! Especially now that everything is online. You wouldn’t like the politics (HA! You think I don’t know about politics–I’m a Wisconsin schoolteacher!). You’re too old to start a third career.* I could go on and on. But forget it, long story short, I’m doing it. It’s what I want and you only have one life!

I didn’t figure this out and get decisive until this February and it was too late for me to be admitted for fall at that point. So instead, I am a “special student” until [hopefully] fall of 2013. Special, indeed!

Since I am a schoolteacher (I teach high school English as a Second Language), it makes the most sense for me to pursue my certification as a Library Media Specialist (school libraries). I also wouldn’t mind working in a public library someday if I decided I wanted out of K-12 land. I plan on keeping my job and working full-time, doing grad school part-time. That’s the plan at least.

You have no idea how exciting and refreshing this library stuff is for me! I always joke about how what I do (ESL) was a plan B for me and even though I do like it, it’s so cool to go after a dream!