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!


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?


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.


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

Hermione Granger.


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!



Weekly Reader

The title of this blog post series pays homage to the beloved childhood informational news bulletin, Weekly Reader, as I highlight favorite finds from around the web.

Books & Literacy

Take a peek at the Children’s Book Week poster by Jocelyn McClurg (USA Today – January 19, 2017)

Looking ahead to May when Children’s Book Week takes place, what a visually eye-catching and kid-friendly way to promote literacy!

Meet the writers who still sell millions of books. Actually, hundreds of millions. by Karen Heller (The Washington Post – December 20, 2016)

A bit of insight into the success of literary household names.

Every book Barack Obama has recommended during his presidency by Ruth Kinane (Entertainment Weekly – January 18, 2017)

What a well-read President we’ve had! From this list I’ve read Brown Girl Dreaming,  All the Light We Cannot See, one of the books in the Junie B. Jones series, The Great Gatsby, Where the Wild Things Are, and the Harry Potter series. I am currently listening to H is for Hawk on Audible and want to read The Underground Railroad, Gilead (on my bookshelf), and Cutting for Stone (on my bookshelf).


Journey across Canada by train by Nancy Gupton (National Geographic – accessed January 14, 2017)

Beautiful, nostalgic, and romantic – what a trip of a lifetime this would be!

We the People

Watch Michelle Obama take a final stroll through the White House with First Dogs Sunny and Bo by Megan McCluskey (Time – January 18, 2017)

If you’ve ever moved before, you know how it’s never easy…even if you are the First Lady.

Pete Souza, Obama’s chief White House photographer, on making pictures for history by Mike Hofman and Alex Reside (GQ – January 19, 2017)

A candid interview with Souza reflecting on how he captured everyday and monumental Presidential moments over the past 8 years, his time also photographing President Reagan, and personal insight into the art of photography.


What encouraging, insightful, or fun information have you read this week?

Weekly Reader

The title of this blog post series pays homage to the beloved childhood informational news bulletin, Weekly Reader, as I highlight favorite finds from around the web.

Libraries & Literacy

Moving forward together by Julie B. Todaro, American Library Association (ALA) President (American Libraries – Jan/Feb. 2017)

On the importance of libraries serving our patrons,
We must continue to be inclusive beacons for meaningful and equitable public discourse, push for social justice, champion intellectual freedom, fight for equitable access to resources and services for our constituents, protect privacy, commit to diversity, and strive to ensure that we help build and sustain a literate constituency.

How data and information literacy could end fake news by Kalev Leetaru (Forbes – December 11, 2016)

Today we have access to all the world’s information, yet we take no advantage of that information to be more informed citizens of the world.

Through a series of tests, the authors found that at every level of education, from middle school to high school to college students, digital natives found themselves unable to perform even the most basic of tasks of recognizing a news article from a paid advertisement or recognizing an editorial from hard news reporting.  (Emphasis mine.)

Instead, to truly solve the issue of “fake news” we must blend technological assistance with teaching our citizens to be data literate consumers of the world around them.  

Yes, this is my role as a librarian!!!

Ghostwriter: The Most Literary 90’s Kids Show by Nick Ripatrazone (The Atlantic – August 4, 2016)
I loved this show on PBS! Maybe you did too!


Epiphany: In celebration of the journey by Ruth Haley Barton for Transforming Center
Moving beyond advent to being obedient where God is leading me – yes and amen.


National park honoring Underground Railroad heroine Harriet Tubman made official by Nicole Gaudiano (USA Today – January 10, 2017)
Wouldn’t this be a neat place to visit?

Social Justice

A new type of food pantry is sprouting in yards across America by Deborah Shaar (NPR – January 11, 2017)
Look out Little Free Libraries, neighborhood food pantries are joining you!


What encouraging, insightful, or fun information have you read this week?

Just another day…well, yes & no

As an academic librarian I have a 12-month contract, so while today is just another Monday reporting to the university, it’s also the first day of the fall semester.

Thinking back on previous first days of school, I’m reminded that today marks my seventh first day of school working in my current library, and if you count the three years I worked at a community college (pre-grad school), this totals a decade of first days of school working in higher education. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty proud of that!

Last year our Provost shared with the incoming freshmen how, regardless of their chosen major and future career aspirations, they would more than likely be working in a profession that served others. These words of wisdom have stuck with me, helping me realize this broader goal of serving others as an extension of my life-service to Christ is what motivates me to keep-on-keepin’-on. Seven years in, I’m thankful I remain excited to partner with faculty and learn alongside them, plus connect with their students as I teach them effective and transferable research skills. Even though I continue to do the same thing year in and year out, new professional and personal opportunities continually arise and keep me feeling vibrant and fresh.

It’s also good for me to remember today marks a milestone in the lives of many freshmen stepping foot on campus. Their first day of college signifies something more than just “it’s what I do after I graduate from high school,” since many come from very rural areas and are first generation college students. The pursuit of a college degree changes not only their lives, but alters the course of history for those generations to follow. How humbling that I get to play a small role in their academic journey and eventual achievement.

Today also marks the first day of school for our nephew who begins 1st grade! Our favorite little strawberry-blond boy is excited about this new year of school and his new teacher. He enters 1st grade reading like a champ (!!!) and we are all excited for the good things in store for him this year.

So regardless of age, here’s to a renewed commitment of serving, growing, and learning!


6 Recent Leadership Lessons

Throughout this calendar year I am serving as the chair of a statewide library organization. I’ve been a part of the group for about 5 years and it’s been a terrific way to meet fellow librarians, plus has served as a fun geography enhancement as I’ve tied together names, faces, and colleges/universities. So, when I volunteered to be the vice chair in 2015, I only thought it would look great on my annual report…but didn’t quite realize, until after the fact, that I had just volunteered myself to be the chair in 2016. So, there you go – lesson learned #1: always know the full scope of what you’re volunteering to do.

Lesson learned #2 – I never realized how much I appreciated communication and transparency until the previous chair stepped down and I assumed my role as chair in January. My predecessor is a great librarian and was a terrific chair woman, but her leadership style was very solitary. Not me! I’ve included my vice chair on so many details in order for her to not be in the dark about things like communicating with the group via the e-mail list serv, maintenance of social media accounts, and many, many details surrounding the annual summer conference.

Lesson learned #3 – surround yourself with good, hard working, responsible people. The success of last Friday’s annual conference was enhanced by the fact that I could ask individuals on the board to do something, and they did. While I stewed about a lot of little details, I knew I was taking care of my tasks, and they were taking care of theirs.

Lesson learned #4 – I don’t know how I could have planned a statewide conference without e-mail. How did people plan any kind of conference before the invention of e-mail? Seriously?! In addition to e-mail, the voice/video conferencing product Zoom was helpful in chatting with presenters beforehand to “meet” each other online before the actual face-to-face conference.

Lesson learned #5 – Google Drive is a gift that makes my life easier. Whether sharing documents and registration lists, or keeping track of call for proposals and registration forms with others, the Google cloud unifies the ability to easily access important information at work and home.

Lastly, lesson learned #6 – “Saying no isn’t an unnecessary rejection. It’s actually a necessary protection of our Best Yes answers.” ~ Lysa Terkeurst The Best Yes (p. 171) For my transportation to the conference (2 1/2 hours away), I was thankful to drive a university fleet vehicle. Originally I thought I would leave by 5:30 a.m. and invite local colleagues to ride with me so they wouldn’t have to spend their own gas money getting to and from the conference. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized if I drove by myself to the conference site the night before it began, I would arrive in enough time to help the local librarians prepare for the next morning, and get more/better sleep since I only had a 5 minute commute to our host campus. Saying “no” to helping 3 others allowed me to say “yes” to helping present my best self to all 47 attendees.

And who knows what other leadership opportunities God has in store in the months and years to come! For now, I’m thankful for His provision and the strength He gives me to serve Him while serving others.

6 great read-aloud picture books

Today we had a group of 2nd graders visit our academic library for story time. A handful of our librarians, professional staff, and student workers all pitched in to help with this outreach effort.

Our children’s/YA collection in the library is the second most (read: heavily) used, which primarily supports candidates in our robust teacher education program. Yet it’s rare when we have actual groups of school-aged children in the library, so today was a special treat.

During my stint as a school librarian aide I became quite familiar with story-time with our K-2 students. Even though I’m no longer a children’s librarian I’ve never quite outgrown children’s literature and one of the best parts of my job is overseeing our youth collection. Thus, over the years I’ve amassed a few favorites that are fun, interactive, and memorable for the reader and listener alike.

Many of these have corresponding coloring pages or worksheets from the author’s website, Pinterest, or a general Internet search, which is a great way to incorporate a more engaged and thorough lesson.


1.) The Gold Miner’s Daughter: A Melodramatic Fairy Tale by Jackie Mims Hopkins 

This unique story combines some snippets of classic fairy tales, a dastardly bad guy, and presents an interactive way for students to respond the story in melodramatic fashion. Students must keep watching the pages of the story to look out for familiar fairy tale characters, plus know when to insert their sound effects.

Reader interaction: This is a great choice for those who have trouble keeping quiet during story time, since it prompts guided and appropriate noise.


2.) Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

This 2011 Caldecott Honor book just begs for a dramatic reading! The little red chicken is so eager to listen to his bedtime stories and is so full of imagination…well, the book is called “interrupting chicken” for a reason, so you can guess what happens!


3.) Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian

One of our student workers discovered this in our youth collection when we hosted last year’s group of 2nd grade visitors. (It made a reappearance today!) There are some silly parts, some sweet parts, and a great take-away reminder of how we are better together than alone.


4.) Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC by June Sobol

A dear friend of mine used to teach 1st grade and was kind to include me as a guest reader in her classroom each year (see photo at the end of the post). I often came to read during the first few months of the school year and my Momma, a retired kindergarten teacher, reminded me how these kiddos are recent kindergarten graduates. Thus their attention spans are a little shorter and reinforcing the alphabet is never a bad idea.

Reader interaction: Every time the pirate  captain says “arrrrgh,” students can say it along with him and hold up a printed letter R. (See link above for ideas.)


5.) A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

In my opinion, this is probably best suited for older elementary students, 2nd – 3rd graders. The illustrations are big, round, colorful, inviting, and warm. And the theme of being okay with yourself is a lesson that kids of all ages can take to heart. For a classroom conversation, this website includes some great philsophical discussion ideas.

Reader interaction: For a fully narrated version, visit Storyline Online, a terrific website reminiscent of Reading Rainbow.


6.) We’re Going on a Bear Hunt retold by Michael Rosen

This version of the poem/story has been around for 25 years and is a modern-day classic. A father and his three children search for a bear and traverse different types of terrain on their quest, allowing for repetitive, onomatopoetic text. Intensity builds as they encounter said bear, have to hastily retrace their steps, and rush home to safety.

Reader interactions: Watch Michael Rosen perform and act out the story.

If you want to incorporate music, the story pairs terrifically with an audio recording of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” from Peer Gynt. The musical dynamics crescendo in volume and intensity as the story progresses.

What are some great read-aloud picture books you enjoy and recommend for elementary-aged students?