OPAC Interview

I’ve written several posts about my recent DC trip with 4 — honestly, we had a great time. One of the things we did on our trip was have lunch with a dear friend. She used to be the math teacher on my team when I taught in Fairfax County, VA; she’s also a fellow Pittsburgh native (Go Steelers!); AND, she is now a school librarian.

I’ve spent a good bit of time processing the library program at my uni with her — and asking so many questions about her role at her school library. Technically, she was hired as a MS librarian but because she works in a secondary school, she works with both lower and upper secondary grades. Incidentally, the state of Virginia has a law in place that mandates schools have X number of librarians per XXX student population. Isn’t that wonderful!? During 4’s and my visit to DC-VA, I texted my husband and asked if we could move back to northern VA — there are library positions in Fairfax County and we’d be close to most of my best friends. (Also, there are so many SAHMs in NoVa and literally any day my son and I go out in my town, we are the only people at the playground or the library or even the closest local zoo some days!) This will be a work in progress, clearly, considering we have a pretty well-established family life and joint network of friends in the greater Boston area, plus I love our house and our town — being able to walk to the beach doesn’t hurt either. Alas, we will see what transpires in the years to come.

Anyway, back to topic… I spoke with my friend about her school’s online public access catalog (OPAC) and then I spent some time research an additional OPAC to compare/contrast the two and make a recommendation to my pretend employer. Aaah — a chance to write a memo! Like most things that excite literally nobody, I am excited at the chance to do some formal writing. I’m not sure about administrators in schools, but I feel like my appreciation of formality helps navigate some of the murkier waters of school admin. Also, I’m a huge fan of procedure and protocol — it soothes my anxiety and gives me a solid sense of stability.

My friend’s school currently uses Destiny; it’s been a process to transition but she reports that while there’s a great learning curve, there’s also a lot more control over how to set things as up than there was in their previous OPAC: Sirsi Symphony. After touching base with her, I figured I’d reach out a librarian I’ve worked with in the past at a local community college.

The feedback I got about the OPAC at the community college was interesting. They use Evergreen, which is an open-source catalog. In truth, I am fascinated by open-source and have used open-source materials for students in the past. Further, I learned that Evergreen is able to be molded to fit the needs of the college’s consortium. Prior to the community college switching to Evergreen (per the urging of the consortium), they used the OPAC, Millenium, which was not as user-friendly.

It is clear that I now have at least four separate OPACs to look into. I also was interested in one called myLibrary (which is created by iii, the creator of Millenium). My next steps are to further research these five examples of OPAC and put together a considerate, well-planned MEMO to send to my future principal (hopefully he/she likes procedure and formality!).

 

end-of-year goals

About halfway through November, I realized I didn’t set any written goals aloud but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working towards some. I recently met with a nutritionist who I talked to about trying to lose enough weight to get within my healthy zone — I know that more than weight counts for health and I’ve been definitely working on my health this year. I have lost twenty pounds with minimal effort and have maintained that loss through many trips and even more cupcakes. Still, I want to match that loss in 2020.

With the nutritionist, she recommended I actually increase my carbs intake. I’m certainly not on a low-carb diet and I eat lots of potatoes but she recommended using more oats, brown rice, and pastas. I also talked to her about incorporating more plant-based meals into my life. Before I met my husband, I rarely ate meat because I won’t touch raw meat and thus won’t cook it — it’s really easy to eat plant-based when you refuse to handle any proteins. I decided to largely go back to that (and take my family with me). My husband was easily on board because so many of his runner friends told him that moving toward a plant-based diet would help improve his running time.

Incorporating more grains and eating less meat kind of go hand-in-hand in my mind, so this has been a fairly simple transition. Trader Joe’s makes it easy enough to buy meatballs if the kids want to add meat to a pasta dish and last week, we bought a rotisserie chicken and my husband broke it down so that there was the option of adding chicken. 11 & 13 (especially) are big on meat eating; 4 is like me — he could take it or leave it. This is a central part of our end-of-year goals; basically, intuitive eating with foods and nutrients.

Additionally, I have been focusing on moving more. I have struggled to get into a routine and my nutritionist asked why I felt the need to be in a routine. She suggested I look into ClassPass, which has been great. My old yoga studio in the city participates, as do several in my immediate area — these classes coupled with my gym membership on campus and my at-home cardio equipment and weights should have me covered. So, my goal is to get to at least two yoga classes a week — I can typically fit them in on weekends and then take further advantage on days my husband works from home. On other days, I can just do cardio at home or use the spin bikes/Expresso workouts at the gym.

So, my goals around fitness are to keep on this path — do what I feel like doing and if I don’t feel like doing anything, try to talk myself into getting in a 10-min yoga video or a mile run. So far, this has been working for me and I’m hoping to continue to push forward with continuing this way.

Lastly, I’ve been straightening my hair more regularly, which has given me a big boost — hair, eyeliner, and mascara accompanied by high-waisted ‘mom jeans’ and crop sweaters.

With all this being said, here’s to ending 2019 in such away that encourages me to keep eating carbs and plants, moving my body in ways that push boundaries and ways that make me feel healthy, and getting myself ready for tasks like the grocery store.

national adoption day

Every year, we try to observe and celebrate National Adoption Day. Our Gotcha Day is one of the most special days I’ve experienced, but we don’t tend to celebrate it wholly because it’s a mere two days after our son’s birthday. We want to give our little man all of the celebration he deserves for being so resilient and amazing and so we use the distance from his birthday to observe this special time.

Each National Adoption Day, we’ve celebrated with a special treat (usually, one involving actual sugar and not just nuts — 4 considers almonds a ‘special after-dinner treat’) and read all of our adoption picture books. 4 knows that he’s adopted; it’s something we talk about often and try to have open and honest communication about. We always want him to be able to ask questions and talk openly about his feelings now and of course when he better understands what adoption means.

National Adoption Day is such a special day for so many families. I understand that adoption started by a child being separated by his/her bio family and I’m sure there is a lot to digest and process at some point about that. I have several friends who are adopted and several more who’ve adopted (two of my sorority sisters adopted their beautiful littles and are also adopted themselves). I am so grateful for their support and openness to answering questions when I’ve had them.

I always like to take the time to think of 4’s village when National Adoption Day rolls around. We are so fortunate to have so much love showered on our little guy and even more so that we keep in touch with his former foster family. His former foster mom is amazing and she’s also his Godmother; the most special piece about maintaining a relationship with her (aside from our friendship) is the bond 4 shares with his former foster sister. I call her little girl Mother Hen — she’s only a year older than 4 but just loved him to pieces when he was a baby and they still share that bond when they’re together.

I joke that Mother Hen is 4’s ride or die; sometimes he’ll talk about her and say they’re going to drive her mom’s car for an adventure. I just picture them joyriding as teens — it’s a good thing they don’t live close-by so that this isn’t a true possibility but their bond is special and I cherish it for my son. This year for National Adoption Day, we will go through our pictures from his adoption and will read our favorite books: The Tummy Mummy and Wish are two of my personal favorites.

We try to ensure that our little love always knows how special he is and how loved he is by everyone who’s entered his life. I mean, we are talking about a small child who brought a clinic team (nine physicians from nine different departments) to tears as they beamed with pride over his growth. I love celebrating him and celebrating this special day as a family filled with joy on this special day.

 

More on Dewey

I have been slugging my way through the Allison Kaplan’s Catalog It! (2016) for the last week and a half. This is in no way an ‘easy read’ — further, I finding myself feeling equal parts frustrated and defeated at times because I am not used to feeling overwhelmed by information nor am I accustomed to frustration that comes from constantly referring back to previous chapters to understand the numbers, symbols, and acronyms.

Aaaagh!

One thing I do know is that I am happy technology has advanced as such that so many school libraries are moving toward automation. In between my frustrating moments, I’m thinking to myself, “My goodness, I wish there was an app so I could practice using this…” Who even am I these days?!

One thing remains constant in my mind — if I’m having difficulty piecing this all together, how can I expect students I work with to use it in an intuitive fashion? Now, I get that when I was growing up, society didn’t really indulge anyone on how intuitive something was or wasn’t; however, technology has moved our society in the direction of iOS and Google and thus it makes the most sense to try and figure out what is the most intuitive way to organize materials for students.

Incidentally, I look forward to discussing my library friend’s OPAC and her school’s overall organization of the library — she works in a secondary school, and thus works with students in both middle and high school. I am really looking forward to picking her brain about genre-fictation in the coming weeks because more than Dewey explains, this seems to make more sense to me. I’m also curious to learn if there are more ‘cutting edge’ technologies employed by school libraries.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to slog through the last remaining exercises in the text and see to it that I frame my thoughts about how my knowledge of Dewey can help shape the experiences of my future students.

Note: I did Google DDS apps and found LibraryTools

bad medicine

Last weekend, 4 and I went on an adventure to our nation’s capital: There, we visited playgrounds, went to the National Zoo with friends, and dined at TrueFood more than once — we also ate doughnuts and pizza! It was a really decadent weekend, full of mommy-4 time and I loved every second of it. 4 is now an expert at train travel and taxi travel (thanks to the RideSafer) — the number of compliments he gets at the airport for getting his own bin and putting his backpack and jacket in show his savvy when it comes to air travel.

Along our journey from northern VA to the zoo, we got out at Farragut West and walked around for a bit. We were running early and I wanted to show 4 where I used to work (across the street from the WhiteHouse). I pushed him in his stroller a bit and we made our way back to Farragut North to take the red line train to Woodley Park. We took the elevator down to the lower level and then went to board the next elevator to the train platform when we ran into our first joint encounter with a woman who was clearly in a space. Of course the elevator wasn’t working, so we turned around and had an employee turn off the lock so we could access it. As we waited for the elevator, the woman had a very boisterous moment which was followed by taking pills.

All in all, 4 was exposed to language and activity I’d rather not him see but realized that at some point I would need to address. Given 4’s life experiences, I always want to have an open line of communication when it comes to drugs and experimentation. This is something my husband and I have spoken about tirelessly and always figured we’d start addressing this deliberately at an early(ish) age. So, when 4 asked why the woman was screaming, I took it as a chance to open the doors of communication.

I wasn’t sure how to really approach the idea of drug abuse, but given that two of my cousins and an uncle lost their lives to overdose, I felt like I could deliver information about the habit/behavior without judgment/lessening the value of the person; thus, I introduced him to the term of ‘bad medicine’ and I explained that sometimes people take bad medicine because they want to feel a certain way or feel better about things but instead it makes them sick. Then, we talked about how we can’t take Zarbees (honey cough syrup) when we aren’t sick because it won’t work the right way with our bodies.

Keeping things in line with 4’s understanding and allowing the lines of communication to remain open are of the utmost importance when discussing such heavy matters. Considering, he has been talking about this since shows that he is processing what we talked about and what he saw — which leaves me hopeful that as he grows, he will continue to work to understand the epidemic facing our society, show empathy, and make the best choices he can.

The Card Catalog

This week’s (and next’s) topic is about cataloging — the mere topic takes me back to when I was a girl and used to enjoy sifting through the card catalog at the local public library. Looking back on my childhood habits, there were no surprises when I wanted to major in English and honestly, I don’t know how it took me this long in life to come around to library media — I’ve always been a lover of books and organization so honestly, this makes total sense.

Anyway…

I’ve been really stressed about the readings this week. Typically, I start my reading on Sunday and finish on Monday or Tuesday but because I was traveling with 4 over the weekend, I only had the chance to read an article via phone once he’d gone to bed (the tone really put me off and I told myself I’d finish the rest of my work at home). Here we are: It’s Wednesday — and I’m just now diving into the text.

As I started reading Allison Kaplan’s Catalog It! (2016), I instantly connected the idea of cataloging books to how I organize my closet. (I would share a picture but shamelessly, I’ve asked my husband to move his clothes to the spare room so that I can completely overtake the walk-in…) I organize all of my clothing by style1 (type of item), style2 (length of item), and color of item; colors dictate the order of style and my shoes are organized in their original shoe boxes by style and color. By all means, my love of organizing (which also spreads to our pantry, refrigerator, linen closets, etc) seems to align perfectly with how I can understand the concept of organization for the library classroom.

In an effort to pivot, I tried to reconcile in my mind the organization of books via index cards into the searchable databases found online. I use the online library catalog from my local public library with great frequency (and also the one at university). What really stood out to me in this week’s reading was differentiating between keyword searches and Lexile-level searches (P49-50).

Much like Google, a keyword search can yield an abundance of results which can be both good and bad — learning to sift and understand the patience around this are keys to learning for our students. So often, we are all used to instant gratification and thus when we don’t find exactly what we are looking for in an instant, we give up and move onto something else. Working with students to maximize keyword searches seems like a great way to plan an entire library lesson (HELLO, databases!) and thus show how to access the online catalog with keywords AND the database subscriptions to ensure that students are able to maximize their time and energies in the library classroom. (As an aside: Being a college professor for the last nine years, I’m constantly in shock [and awe] with how many students do NOT know how to access online databases especially considering how many local high schools have subscriptions. Louder for the people in the back: Wikipedia is not a reliable source! I digress…)

In addition to keyword and subject-based searches, the book mentions the ability to search based on Lexile level. I plan to ask my librarian friend about this for her school’s network because I think anything that levels reading as such is great. I am going to not get too excited though until I talk to my friend to see if this is even at all a realistic thought (I also posted for classmates’ thoughts/experiences on this). I also look forward to asking about curriculum objectives being linked to the school library catalog (P75) because this was something that really struck me.

In my mind, I’m picturing this very accessible and engaging catalog that allows all members of the school community a place to search and find resources, so I’m trying to keep my calm in setting realistic expectations (at least until I talk to my friend about her school’s/district’s OPAC. In the meantime, I’ll continue reading through Catalog It! and see what else jumps out at me.

 

cry when you get home

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of taking 4 to DC to celebrate his birthday (belatedly) by visiting BeiBei at the National Zoo. We had a blast and I logged nearly 25 miles on foot over the course of the four days there. Traveling with a toddler isn’t all panda bears and doughnuts, though; my son goes to bed at 7:30PM each night and we try to stay on schedule when traveling, thus I had a bit of time to read on my phone in the dark each night (because if I went to bed at 7:30, I’d be up and ready to party by 3AM).

One article I read over the weekend was about teacher burnout in urban school settings: https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/teachers-therapy-trauma-philadelphia-20191107.html

In this article, it was mentioned that a PD session implored teachers to be strong for their students and thus need to maintain their cool until the school day ends. This brought back so many memories of behaviors and conversations I’ve had with fellow teachers I’ve worked with.

When I started teaching, I loved the work I did — I spent countless hours planning and reading and preparing and prepping for my students’ success. After two years in DC Public Schools, I learned of an opportunity in northern VA that would cut my commute and seemed like a similar enough fit. I took my skills there and eventually became a department chair before leaving for MA. I’ve been teaching at the community college level for the last nine years and still have the same emotional load to carry as I did when I first began.

For years, I’d cry the duration of my morning and/or afternoon commutes. The weight of my students’ plight sat heavy in my heart and many days, I couldn’t really handle the thought of what a weekend or school vacation brought to their lives. My physical and mental health suffered and I used many sick days battling illness and/or tears. I thought that when I transitioned to higher education, I’d leave behind all of the fret I dreaded each day.

I was wrong.

The last two years have increased my stress-load; especially last year when I had a handful of students who partook in a form of self-harm. Again, managing the emotional load took a toll on me — I was drained of energy and filled with dread to take on my days. In some ways, I’m grateful that students are more aware and willing to share their experiences so that they can receive the help they so dearly need; on the other hand, the empath in my really struggles to separate the school day with my personal life.

Taking time off to figure out how to move forward career-wise has been good for me. I’ve been able to spend tons of time with my family and am in a much better headspace (I’m sure all of the yoga helps with this too). I am wondering how the emotional load changes when moving away from urban education and into more suburban settings. Believe me, I understand that all districts have their issues — I’m just trying to figure out how to balance the emotional load with the work and personal loads.

I am hoping that this time I am using to stay at home with 4 and reflect and take classes will help guide my thoughts and release my mind so that I’m fresh to go when 4 is ready to start kindergarten; until then, I’ll keep getting myself into healthy habits so that I can be set up for as much emotional and physical success as possible when the time comes.