Embracing being an “expert”

What do you think of when you hear the term “expert?” Maybe it conjures images of a computer technician, a wizened professor, or someone wearing a lab coat.

According to Merriam Webster, an expert is someone “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.”

Notice it doesn’t say anything about age, gender, or having to wear any kind of regalia. So in that case, I’m an expert!

I’ve been a member of the American Library Association since beginning library school in 2008 and for the past year or so the organization has adopted the theme of  Libraries Transform and have called on members to state their area of expertise.

At this time I would say that my main areas of professional expertise (“training and experience”) are teaching students how to search and manipulate results within EBSCOhost databases and assisting students with their research in our children’s and youth collection. I’m still very much a student in the areas of academic assessment, open education resources, and a whole lot more – but I’m learning!

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You might have heard about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule from his book Outliers, in which he claims this is the “magic number of greatness.” However, in this online article, Rob Nightingale from Make Use Of  debunks Gladwell’s theory (and takes a closer look at the research upon which Gladwell stated this philosophy) and looks at other important characteristics and traits of how we can be an expert.

This, no doubt, includes how teaching is a tactic to faster learning. But boy howdy – if I made $1 for every time I taught EBSCOhost or lead a student through the process of finding the perfect children’s book for their assignment…well, I would probably be the wealthiest librarian west of the Mississippi!

Part of me still balks at the connotation of how being an expert might come across as having “arrived” or “knowing it all,” when I obviously have not and do not. And while I desire to be a lifelong learner in so many areas, on this last day of the Fall semester it gives me a bit of satisfaction that I can be proud of what I have learned, and how it is my goal and ongoing responsibility to share this knowledge with others.


In what area(s) would you consider yourself an expert? Or in what arena would you like to strive towards being known as an expert?

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Read: November 2017

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Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

After finishing Anne of Green Gables on Audible, I wanted to try my public library’s Overdrive audio book selection. I downloaded the app, searched for available Newbery winners, and selected this 2012 medal recipient. Easy!

Narrated by the author, this semi-autobiographical story of Jack Gantos’ childhood is a fictitious glimpse of a child’s life in the post WWII 1950s with quirky characters, two parents with differing styles of love and discipline, the care taken to write a quality obituary, a neat (and true) connection to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Book read via: Overdrive audio

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The Encore by Charity Tillemann-Dick

Sixteen years ago I was a vocal music education major in my junior of college and after an extended period of having difficulty producing sound, I was placed on vocal rest by my ear, nose, and throat doctor. The diagnosis of a cyst on one of my vocal chords was the culprit, which I combated with vocal rest, consistent hydration, a modified diet, and medication to combat acid reflux. After approximately 3 months, I was able to begin singing again – a praise for which I continue to give thanks to God Almighty.

Thus when I came across Charity Tillemann-Dick’s story of undergoing a double lung transplant as a young opera singer, I immediately empathized with a fellow soprano and was intrigued to read her account of overcoming a much more serious and life-threatening hurdle.

I flew through this memoir over a weekend and found her story approachable, honest, and filled with faith, hope, and the desire to truly live and be thankful for each personal and musical achievement. Even for those who have not studied classical music or medicine, her story is relatable and entirely inspirational.

Her 2010 TED Med speech/performance gives a condensed synopsis of at least part of her story. Watch her TED Talk here.

Book read via: my academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

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84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

This has been on my TBR list for ages and after receiving it from ILL, I was astonished how slim an epistolary novel this was – only 71 pages! Had the adjustment back to standard time not thrown my internal clock for a loop, I could have easily read the whole thing in a day.

This collection of real letters exchanged over several decades between Hanff, an avid reader and writer in New York City, and the employees of Marks & Co. antiquarian booksellers at 84, Charing Cross Road in London, was as endearing as I hoped this book would be.

Book read via: my academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

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Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

The recipient of the 1984 Newbery medal, this is an outstanding example of the timelessness of well-written children’s books that includes themes of reading and writing, the difficult impact divorce has on the life of a child, and the longing to be understood, listened to, and loved.

After reading 84, Charing Cross Road and Dear Mr. Henshaw, I started thinking about other epistolary novels I’ve read and enjoyed, which led me to blog about other books in this style of writing. Read this blog post here.

Listen to Ms. Cleary’s Newbery acceptance speech here.

Read more about my Newbery Reading Project here. 

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library

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You’re a Genius All the Time by Jack Kerouac

Currently the shelf organization of our main collection allows me to walk out of my office and see this immediately outside my door. I’ve often walked by it, meaning to pick it up for a quick read, and I finally did so on a recent Friday afternoon.

This slim volume contains brief but deep phrases and ideas about the process writing from one of America’s most famous beat poets. My favorite was, “No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language & knowledge”

Book read via: my academic library

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Camino Island by John Grisham

I read The Innocent Man by John Grisham in April of 2016, but prior to that, Skipping Christmas in 2002 was been the last time I read anything by him newly published. (The Firm remains my favorite of Grisham’s writing.)

I’ve been aware of his more recent publications, but when I heard this book’s premise of a heist planned to steal original F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton (academic library!), a black market book seller (book store!) and an inquisitive writer (author!) seeking inspiration in Camino Island, Florida, I couldn’t help but request it from the library!

This was a fun read and reminded me why John Grisham (and other authors like him) are so popular – they draw readers in with an intriguing story, likable characters, short and easily digestible chapters, and a tidy conclusion at the end.

Book read via: public library

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In This Moment by Karen Kingsbury

While this is listed as a part of the Baxter family saga, the Baxters and Flanigans are only supporting characters in this newest release from Karen Kingsbury.

The key story revolves around a new character, a Christian high school principal whose students are exhibiting increasingly troubling and dangerous behavior. As a way of providing an alternative, he forms an after school Bible club which results in lives changed…but also a religious freedom lawsuit. Thus themes of standing up for religious liberty are heavily woven throughout Kingsbury’s latest installment.

My thanks to NetGalley for access to the digital ARC. https://www.netgalley.com/

 

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Refugee by Alan Gratz

A highlight of my fall semester is helping out at our Scholastic Book Fair fundraiser, where a portion of the proceeds go to enhance and support our academic library’s youth collection. When I saw Refugee was included, of which I had heard good reviews, it piqued my interest into a very timely topic and I bought a copy for myself.

Told from three children’s perspectives, each of whom face exile from their homeland: Josef – a boy who is Jewish during Hitler’s oppressive rise in 1930s Germany, Isabel – a girl from Cuba fleeing during Castro’s reign in the 1990s, and Mahmoud – a boy from Syria facing modern-day atrocities.

This would spur wonderful conversation for middle and high school readers, yet due to the intense nature of these three stories, I wouldn’t recommend this for sensitive or younger readers without guidance or an adult reading partner.

Book read via: personal library


I’ve just received several festive Christmas novellas from various library sources and am looking forward to these enhancing my already festive Christmas mood! (Look for a blog post about that soon.) Are you also getting ready to read seasonally? Feel free to leave comments and suggestions below.

 

Learn: Fall 2017

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout this fall.

  1. Bigger is sometimes better
    Did you know they make triple size cotton balls? My current eyeliner is a bit pesky to remove at night and these giant cotton balls have made my evening routine so much easier!
  2. Sometimes upheaval is necessary
    When we bought our home we knew we would want to start updating the look of things down the road. And now that we’ve been in the house 4+ years, we’re now firmly “down the road” and are taking baby steps to bring said changes to pass.

    In October we picked out new paint colors, Pratt and Lambert lambswool and china white, and tackled painting the walls (lambswool) and cabinets (china white) in our laundry room as a test area. We loved these colors in our friends’ home and also love the end result in our small trial space, but like most good things in life, a little cleaning, purging, and patience had to be expected, too.

  3. Sometimes a good thing isn’t the right thing
    Over the past few years I’ve heard glowing reviews about Tieks ballet flats from various bloggers and celebrities. Even though they are rather expensive, the quality of craftsmanship and comfort has been routinely applauded.

    Typically I wear either a size US 5 or 5 1/2, but Tieks only come in whole sizes, so I ordered a cute green pair of size 5 shoes. They arrived, I tried them on and thought, “Hmm, they are comfortable but they feel a little tight around my toes.” I investigated their return policy and saw they would also send another pair in a different size to compare the two, so I ordered a size 6.

    I must admit, I was disappointed when the size 6 was too big compared to the size 5 that was too small. It’s really hard to fit my tiny feet, so I wasn’t at all surprised with this discovery, and appreciated the kind customer service representative that helped me return both with free shipping and a full refund.

  4. Time and effort over time pays off 
    While I’ve played piano since I was 6 years old, I’m always thankful when I’m re-reminded of the gift of this ongoing skill I’ve maintained.

    Over Thanksgiving weekend, our church pianist (and my friend) took an impromptu family getaway on Saturday and texted me that morning asking if I could fill in for her the next day for Sunday morning services. I told her to enjoy her time and I would gladly cover for her.

    That afternoon I looked over the order of worship via our church’s online scheduling software, realized I knew all the songs, and was therefore able to sight-read the piano arrangements the next morning while enjoy worshiping with my fingers and in my heart (and without too many glaring mistakes, thankfully).

  5. 7 and 5
    Our nephew and niece are now 7 and 5 and these are such fun ages to be around! Hearing about their lives in 2nd grade and Kindergarten was a real joy over Thanksgiving and The Optometrist and I are excited about being more diligent to be a part of their lives, school, and church activities.
  6. Positive stress is still stress
    As Christmas approaches, I’m determined to not get sick this year (especially since I’ve already had enough with fall allergies over the past few weeks)! The past two years have found me missing out on social, civic, and church Christmas festivities because of “the crud,” and I’ve realized this is because I not only over-extend myself, but I become consumed with too much positive stress.

    My university’s human resources department recently sent an e-newsletter about managing holiday stress in which I was reminded to set realistic expectations and priorities – i.e. it’s okay to say no to attending ALL the Christmas events and parties. Thus, in the coming weeks of December I’ve already begun writing REST in giant letters in my calendar to not schedule anything else when a week begins to look full.

    The gentle reminder from my sweet momma, over a number of years, always rings true, “If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else is going to do it for you.”


    What have you learned this fall? Are you making sure you take time to care for your mind, body, and spirit with the Christmas season now upon us? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

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Artemis by Andy Weir

For fans of The Martian, you will be excited to see Andy Weir revisit a space theme with his sophomore release. Set decades into the future, Artemis is a thriving industrial and tourist city on the Moon.

However, this sophomore release is a departure from The Martian in a few notable ways: we are greeted by lead female character Jazz Bashara and there is far less technical language in comparison to The Martian. Because of these two components I personally found this novel to be a more engaging read with the snarky, take-no-prisoners, owns her own mistakes heroine, along with a more understandable and approachable level of futuristic, scientific technology.

Through Jazz’s first-person perspective we get to know the history of this lunar city, her love for it, her loyalties to her job and her people in Artemis, her longings for a better way of life, and just how smart she is. The plot thickens when her (somewhat self- serving) business savvy leads to a domino effect of consequences when she discovers interconnected Artemisian secrets, industrial monopolies, and the role she will have to play in order to preserve the way of life for the people living in the Moon’s only habitable location.

I would have liked to have had a few more details explained in regards to her connections with friends and family back on Earth, but overall, I found this to be a fast-paced read that takes place in a very believable celestial city.

My thanks to NetGalley for access to the digital ARC. https://www.netgalley.com/ 

5 Favorite Epistolary Novels

As the weekend dawns, let’s take a look at five of my favorite epistolary novels. Happy reading weekend, bookish friends!

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Dracula by Bram Stoker

During the last semester of my Masters in Library Science program I was enrolled in a reader’s advisory class in which we read a lot of books in various genres, one of which had to be a horror novel.

More recently I’ve discovered I am a highly sensitive person, thus am hesitant about scary premises, but even in 2010 I opted for a classic approach to this assignment. Upon picking up Dracula, I wasn’t expecting this Gothic classic to be told in a series of letters! It was creepy, mysterious, and compelling, but didn’t give me bad dreams at night!

Published in 1897, this novel is now in the public domain and the above link is a free electronic version via Project Gutenberg. Print copies are still easily available too, if you prefer a more tactile reading experience.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 

While it’s been a number of years since reading this sweet series of correspondence between a woman living in London and a small community on a French island, I think fondly think of the enjoyment I received in reading this story set during World War II.

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Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

I received this as a gift from The Optometrist for Christmas last year and chose to read it a bit later, in July. Centered around the phrase “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” the story grows progressively more interesting as letters of the alphabet are banned from being used in written or verbal speech. Read it and you’ll learn why!

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84, Charing Cross Road  by Helene Hanff

I forget how I heard about this epistolary novel, but it was on my ever-growing “wish list” (I would like to read it without buying it). Having reached a slight lull in my reading decisions, I freely requested it through my academic library’s InterLibrary Loan department.

This slim novella could easily be read in a day, or leisurely over a weekend, and was a lighthearted but heartfelt series of real letters between Helene Hanff and the employees of Marks & Co. booksellers found at 84, Charing Cross Road in London.

This little gem was also the catalyst for this blog post!

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Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

I remember reading this as a little girl while visiting my grandparents, but retained nothing about the plot 25+ years later. The story centers around Leigh Botts, a little boy who writes many letters to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw, and thus grows as an author himself. It goes without saying that Beverly Cleary knew a thing or two about this topic, having received countless letters from young readers throughout her lifetime.

Upon re-familiarizing myself with this as a part of my Newbery Reading Project, and an example of an epistolary children’s book, I was reminded how well-written children’s books can endure across generations of readers. Even though children are obviously well acquainted with technology and are now more likely to e-mail an author, the themes of inspiration, imagination, dedication to reading and writing, children whose parents are divorced, a longing for friendship, love, and a desire to be known are all timeless.

A surprise came in remembering Paul O. Zelinsky illustrated this book. I loved the episode of Reading Rainbow when Zelinsky’s Caldecott winning version of Rumpelstiltskin is included! Watch the full Reading Rainbow on YouTube episode here.


Are there other epistolary novels you’ve enjoyed and would recommend? Please feel free to share in the comments below!

A Very Hermione Halloween

I’ve never really been one of those people who was enamored by dressing up for Halloween. I’m a big wienie when it comes to scary things and the idea of wearing a costume to work isn’t my idea of professional behavior.

In fact, it’s been five years since I dressed up with several library colleagues as Waldo.

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However, this year, I’ve been inspired by one of my favorite literary heroines.

Hermione Granger.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/1169942/hermione-granger-and-the-chamber-of-secret-cash-emma-watson-used-offshore-firm-to-buy-3m-home/

Image source

I’m convinced if she hadn’t have been such a loyal friend to Harry and a brave member of Dumbledore’s Army, she would have been one awesome librarian.HermioneLibrary
From Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Since Halloween has fallen in the middle of a workweek, I still wanted to look professional (as aforementioned) – a priority since I taught a face-to-face class and later lead a live video chat with an online class today.

My outfit came together very smoothly and all the garments I wore came from my existing wardrobe. I bought just a few extra accessories, but more about that in a moment.


Skirt: Banana Republic Factory, similar here
Shirt: Ann Taylor Loft Factory, similar here
Sweater: Talbots, similar here
Tights: Target, similar here
Shoes: Naturalizer, similar here
Bag: Gryffindor tote bought during my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Robe: Bachelor’s degree graduation gown
Magical Cat: Sylvester (not Crookshanks) – he opted to stay home today rather than come to campus with me

My two accessories were this inexpensive Hogwarts tie (the child’s size fit me perfectly) and a semi-homemade wand.

After a weekend trip to Hobby Lobby to transform Clover bamboo knitting needles, The Optometrist handily stripped the finish, stained the wood, used his Dremel tool to engrave a swirly design, painted the engravings gold, and sealed it with a light coat of polyurethane. (Yes, I have the coolest husband who supports my nerdiness.)


In my tote bag (because Gryffindor is my house, too), I carried copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, since these would have likely been books found in Hermione’s personal library.

My full Hermione transformation!


Have you dressed up for Halloween today? If so, has a literary character inspired you, too? Please share in the comments!

 

 

Read: October 2017

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Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

This new release from the author of Graceling was one I had been anticipating for the fall, but it did not live up to the fondness I had in reading her debut novel many years ago.

The basic premise is that Jane, a young woman mourning over the death of her explorer aunt, fulfills a promise made to her aunt and accepts an invitation to a gala at Tu Reviens, a castle on a secluded island owned by a wealthy friend’s family. I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book as Jane gets to know the other gala guests and residents of the house and begins to suspect things aren’t as they seem.

But then, the plot intentionally starts to shift and Jane is able to choose her own adventure. Once this happens, as a reader, I found it hard to remember details of plot lines, especially before things shift at the start of the next chapter. I would have also liked a bit more connection between these scenarios and an overall sense of closure at the end of the book, which didn’t happen.

My thanks to NetGalley for access to the digital ARC. https://www.netgalley.com/ 

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Artemis by Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s sophomore release with a female lead character (huzzah!), set on the moon, is available November 14. Look for my book review in just a couple of weeks!

My thanks to NetGalley for access to the digital ARC. https://www.netgalley.com/ 

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The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

My original inspiration to read this came from Everyday Reading at Janssen’s high recommendation. Then I read about Madeleine’s Newbery project on Top Shelf Text, so I have revisited my goal of diligently reading more Newbery award-winners and am excited about this project!

Set in the late 1960s during the Vietnam War, 7th grader Holling Hoodhood is convinced his teacher hates him. As the school year progresses, he begins to better understand himself, his teacher, his believably quirky family members, the impact of war in his school and community, along with an unexpected appreciation for Shakespeare.

A great, more contemporary partner book would be Summerlost by Ally Condie.

This is a terrific coming-of-age middle grade novel, very deserving of its Newbery honor.

Book read via: public library

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Coraline was my first Gaiman book and The Ocean at the End of the Lane was one I thoroughly enjoyed a few years ago. I would also say I’ve read about 30% of American Gods and would still like to finish it, maybe as an audio book.

Knowing Gaiman is a masterfully spooky storyteller, I was a bit hesitant to read this 2009 Newbery-award winner. While there definitely were some moments I felt nervous for how things were going to turn out for protagonist Nobody “Bod” Owens, and while steeped with murder and death, there were many moments filled with gentleness, kindness, and caring.

While reading, I felt like these were a continuation of stories with some chapters containing a mini-adventure as Bod grows and learns about the dead and the living. In the post script, Gaiman shares how portions of the book were pieced together over time (the sensation I experienced), but there is still great continuity in the writing and execution of this middle grade novel, perfect for Halloween.

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library
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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I first heard about this YA debut via the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide in the Thought-Provoking Stories category. Since then I have heard it mentioned many times as a tour de force centered around the topic of police brutality in an African American community.

In my quest to read more diverse books as of late, this has probably stretched me the most as I’ve begun to better understand the injustices many African Americans face in low-income areas. Although this is a work of fiction, the killing of innocent young people and the cyclical reality of drugs and gangs in so many neighborhoods was brutally honest and eye-opening.

Book read via: public library

Anne

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I have owned a paperback copy of Anne of Green Gables for probably two decades and have meant, year after year, to read this childhood classic. I also have a framed Litograph of the text of Anne in my library office. Yet, when I discovered Rachel McAdams’ narration, I bought the corresponding e-book just to take advantage of the Audible deal. After finishing Echo last month, I was ready to dive into another great audio book and this one did not disappoint!

Now I can say I finally understand the hype for Anne (my husband was astonished I had never read this beloved series, while he was very familiar with the miniseries) and, as Anne would say, I would now consider her a “kindred spirit.” I have absolutely fallen in love with this smart and spunky heroine and her fantastic “scope of imagination.”

Thankfully my public library has other audio books in the Anne series available via Overdrive, so I’m excited I can continue to listen to Anne’s subsequent adventures.

Book read via: Audible

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Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Looking back on previous blog posts, about every couple of months I pick up the next installment of the Chief Inspector Gamache series, with this being the 6th. I love how Penny often sets her stores in real places, with this story centering around the Winter Carnival in Québec City. To help give my imagination a boost, I often performed image searches online to see what locations like the Literary and Historical Society (Lit and His) and the Château Frontenac look like in real life.

I was also able to learn a little Canadian history, particularly about Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Québec City and the historical figure around whom this mystery centers.

When a prominent Champlain scholar is found dead while the Chief Inspector is visiting Québec, grieving the loss of one of his recently deceased agents, he can’t help but get involved to catch the murderer. All the while the Chief Inspector has tasked his 2nd in command, Agent Beauvior, to oversee a secret investigation in Three Pines; re-interviewing and re-examining evidence from the previous book in the series The Brutal Telling.

There were so many intriguing plot lines and cozy settings, I didn’t want to see this one end!

Book read via: public library


Fall is the perfect time for cozy reading, so please share what you’re enjoying or anticipating reading during this season!